October 1, 2008 – Thousands of disabled state veterans will lose a tax break if they don’t contact the federal Department of Veterans Affairs requesting proof of their disability.
The VA on Monday told Gov. M. Jodi Rell that because of a computer system change in July, the agency will not mail forms to veterans that verify their disability ratings for local tax purposes. The forms must be filed with local tax assessors today.
The last-minute announcement left state officials on Tuesday scrambling to get the word out to more than 20,000 disabled veterans and stunned veterans’ advocates.
“This is going to be a big problem because veterans really count on the tax break,” said Al Church, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Disabled American Veterans.
Eligible veterans get exemptions on the assessed value of their homes and cars, based on their disability rating. Veterans must declare their service-connected disabilities annually. Historically, every September the VA has mailed a 20-5455 form that veterans use to verify service-connected disabilities.
David Leonard, director of the VA’s Hartford regional office, said the VA converted to a new payment records system that no longer allows the form to be issued to disabled veterans, excluding retired veterans. Veterans must now request the form from the federal VA. The change affects disabled veterans in nine states that provide state and local state tax relief for the veterans and surviving spouses.
As soon as his office learned of the change about a week ago, Leonard said he began working with the state to get the word out to veterans. “We weren’t aware of the impact this was going to have. We’re going to do everything we can to work with the state and [state Veterans Affairs Commissioner] Linda Schwartz’s office to assure that when requests are received, they are addressed immediately,” he said.
Rell said Tuesday that her office is working with Leonard and is asking local officials and tax assessors to give veterans more time to submit disability verification letters.
Schwartz said it felt as if the federal VA had pulled the rug out from under state veterans.
“I don’t know why it took so long to let us know,” she said.
Disabled veterans can request the form from the VA’s regional office in Newington by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by faxing a signed request to 860-665-7654.
Veterans without access to e-mail or a fax may obtain a form by calling the state Department of Veterans Affairs’ information line at 866-928-8387, or visiting a nearby veterans office.