More than 7,000 of Chautauqua County's 14,000 veterans have not applied for a tax break which would allow them to save hundreds of dollars per year.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was at the Chautauqua County Veterans Services Office in Jamestown on Thursday. He has launched a two-pronged plan to help ensure veterans returning home to Chautauqua County from Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving benefits that will allow them to afford a home.
"First, I am urging the VA to include the universal application for New York's property tax exemption to all veterans who are discharged and considering homeownership," Schumer said. "Second, I am asking the powerful Internet company trade association - with members like Facebook, Google and others - to find new ways to reach our younger veterans and spread awareness of federal and state veterans' benefits to those who are just now getting out of the service. The spring real estate season is starting early this year and is in full swing in Jamestown now."
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Thursday only half of the county’s veterans take advantage of tax benefits available to them.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
With the existing property tax exemption in New York, municipalities are able to provide veterans eligibility to receive the exemption from the required property tax rate. The amount of the exemption varies based on whether the veteran served in peacetime or in combat, and whether the veteran has a service-connected disability. Cold War-era veterans are eligible for a 10- or 15 percent reduction in the assessed value of their home, while veterans who served in a time of war can received 15 percent off their assessed value.
Additionally, veterans who served in combat zones, including recipients of expeditionary medals, are entitled to an additional 10 percent reduction, and veterans with a service-connected disability can receive an additional reduction equal to one-half of their service-connected disability.
Schumer was joined by County Executive Greg Edwards; Douglas Diers, Chautauqua County Veterans Service director; Veteran and Legislator Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point; Bill Servis, Vietnam Veterans of America; Bill Daly, administrative director for County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency; and local veterans' advocates.
"For years, we've tried to find ways to connect better with the Veterans Administration at the federal level, because our goal, and all of our veterans' workers goal was to become the equivalent of what we used to know as the welcome wagon," Edwards said. "I have absolute confidence that with our Senator, Charles Schumer, on the case pushing this case, it will be a whole new world, and there will be new opportunities for us to do that."
To be eligible for the exemption, an applicant must be a qualified veteran, or the spouse of a qualified veteran. To apply, a veteran needs to complete a two-page application and submit it to the local municipality's assessor office, along with a copy of their DD-214 to affirm they were honorably discharged.
If the veteran is also applying for the extra disability benefit portion of the exemption, they must also submit copies of U.S. Veterans Administration documents to affirm their service-connected disability rating. Veterans only have to apply once and will continue to receive the exemption in subsequent years. Veterans are only required to refile if they move, or their service-connected disability rating changes.
An application for Veterans Exemption from Real Property Taxation must be filed with the local assessor. Veterans are encouraged to check with their local assessor when applications must be submitted in order to meet local deadlines.