Combat-injured veterans tax relief

righting a wrong

Of all the things that politicians do that gets people’s dander up,  then-President Obama signed into law  a bill that rights a wrong for combat-injured veterans.   For more than a hundred-thirty thousand  veterans whose combat injuries ended their careers,  the government has ended taxing their severance pay.  The veterans affected served from 1991 (Desert Storm) through the present.

The IRS bulletin :

The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016, enacted December 2016, allows certain veterans who received lump sum disability severance payments additional time to file a claim for credit or refund of an overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment. The law directed the Secretary of Defense to identify disability severance payments paid after January 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, but were later determined to be nontaxable and to provide notice of the amount of that payment. The Department of Defense is mailing letters to affected veterans (letters 6060-A and 6060-D) in July 2018.

What this means for some veterans

Veterans discharged from military service due to medical disability may receive a one-time lump sum severance payment. Disability severance pay is taxable income unless the pay results from a combat-related injury or the service member receives official notification from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approving entitlement to disability compensation.

Anyone who received a disability severance payment that was taxed and determines later that the payment qualifies under one of the rules above can file a claim for credit or refund for the tax year in which the disability severance payment was made and was included as income on a tax return.

For veterans who received a lump sum disability severance payment after January 17, 1991, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 may provide additional time to claim a credit or refund for the overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment.

What you need to do

You must complete and file IRS Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for the tax year the disability severance payment was made carefully following the instructions in the notice mailed by the Department of Defense in July 2018. You must mail the claim generally by the later of:

  • 1 year from the date of the Department of Defense notice, or
  • 3 years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or
  • 2 years after tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made.

If you did not receive the notice from the Department of Defense and you received a disability severance payment after January 17, 1991, that you reported as taxable income, you can still file a claim as long as you attach the necessary documentation to your Form 1040X. You may contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Services to obtain your documentation for submission with the required Form 1040X. See the FAQs for additional information.

Text of the 2016 law:

veterans: a hand UP

Good news!

home loans

The VA has released guidelines for 100 percent financing, up to $35K, for work to rehabilitate- repairs a home including energy-efficiency upgrades.  Work has to be completed within 90 days of start.  Courtesy of the SourceWeekly.

in-home care

The Medical Care Foster Home program.  With all the news about homelessness, Government bureaucratic failures and indigent veterans,  some good news for aging veterans.  But why do you have to DIG to find out about it?  In an Iowa-based online journal, a report that looks at a Maryland veteran’s residence that fosters other veterans.  An alternative to nursing homes and  living on the street  Foster care in a private home.  It’s a $20M annually-funded program that is currently in 42 states and Puerto Rico.   And it has oversight- the licensed caregivers can shelter no more than 3 individuals in a home, and meet strict guidelines, are reviewed, must have various certifications and annual recertification/ training, and each veteran fostered is part of a VA-funded healthcare program, with onsite visits and audits. (Not at all like that story in Southern California years ago where a “caregiver” with a criminal past cheated an older veteran out of his savings – in his own home- until he died from neglect.  She’s serving time in prison.)

quality of life

If you look through Google News for specific topics, one can find good things in all the noise that is generated these days.   And services that individuals and universities -or their employees do to help encourage veterans.   As a thankyou to local veterans,  the Laramie Boomerang  reports that the University of Wyoming in Laramie, is holding a second -annual Vets to Nets clinic on its tennis courts this weekend (June 23 – 24, 2018).

 

tip-top VA nursing care

With all the promised “hope and change” from the last President’s Administration,  care for veterans by the VA was plagued by abyssmal failures across the nation.   In the last two years, there have been some very significant changes, when leadership down throughout a facility are focused on quality care.   One story that highlights superior care and service to veterans is a VA nursing home in Poughkeepsie, New York.

one veteran’s delayed benefit

Serving honorably in the U.S. military, a veteran who was deported to Mexico, Hector Barajas, gets well-deserved news: U.S. citizenship. ( https://www.nbcsandiego.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Deported-Army-Vet-Granted-U_S_-Citizenship_San-Diego-478353393.html )   And he did not just while away his time in Mexico,  but served fellow deported U.S. military veterans – opening a Tijuana VA Clinic.   With all the nonsense about non-citizens demanding rights and privileges of citizens, as well as their supportive legislators and lobbyists who brazenly chastise this country and citizens, it seems that justice is finally at hand for someone who put skin in the game.  Barajas -Verela had been brought to the US when he was seven.   In 1995, he enlisted in the Army and served in the 82nd Airborne.  He had an incident with a firearm in 2002, resulting a year in prison and was deported.   After Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the United States has seen more veterans with substance abuse, civil and criminal issues.   A deportation should not have been punishment for an honorably discharged veteran.   After California Governor Brown, pardoned him last year,  it enabled Barajas to obtain citizenship.

150 year history: citizenship for service

In 1862,  a law granted expedited naturalization to foreigners serving in the U.S. military.  If you were willing to die for America, you should be able to become a citizen was the rationale.  Unfortunately, between 1875 and 1917,  racism clothed in a quota system hindered the Asian-born from the same privileges.  But the Spanish-American War brought change to that thinking.  For most of the 20th Century, ending in 1992 with the end of an American military presence in the Philippines,  Filipinos could enlist in the military.  They would gain skills, have a successful career and earn a retirement.  It was a path to citizenship due to a government immigration policy that serving during a conflict could enable naturalization.    In 1990,  an Executive Order by President H.W. Bush declared that any military member, Active Duty, Guardsman or Reservist could apply for citizenship without a residency requirement.  And since July 3,  2002, President George Bush signed an Executive Order that all non-citizens serving since September 11, 2001 could immediately apply for citizenship.  Its provisions included veterans of past wars and conflicts. But apparently, in 2009,  the U.S. again amended the policy of enlistment and subsequent naturalization to only those who were in legal possession of a Green Card at the time of enlistment.

It is a fairly complex issue when a state government refuses to follow Constitutionally-granted federal laws on immigration.  Worse, for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation continued support or calls for repeal,  persons affected are not just students at prestigious universities using scholarships, taxpayer support, and university grants,  but also  honorably-serving military member (s).   Many of these foreign-born enlistees have skills, particularly in certain language dialects, and received entry by virtue of the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program.

President Obama’s Administration is praised for DACA, under him began restricting the enlistment of those subject to the legislation.  By introducing more-stringent vetting, the Executive Branch wanted to identify potential security risks, those with a history of criminal behavior,  and those with ongoing foreign allegiances.   The issue now is under review by President Trump,  but ending the DACA program and potentially deporting the now-adult children will harm those who want to – or are now serving in the military.  Politics may again ‘trump’ the President.   While President Trump may truly want to treat “Dreamers” with respect and fairness, there are Congressmen who may force the issue. =

It is perhaps up to those of us who have served honorably in uniform, to let our elected officials -most of whom have not served in uniform – know that grandstanding about  DACA, is not just about rebellious state officials, lobbyists with agendas, and one group of students using resources that are denied to legally-entitled students;  this also affects our brothers and sisters in uniform.  With all the televised nonsense about foreign flag-waving, non-citizen students, laborers, and tenured professors demanding rights and privileges,  I will gladly support a foreign-born sailor, soldier, airman or marine who want to serve the nation he resides in, becoming a citizen before any of them.

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VADM H. Denby Starling, II — honor365

Vice Adm. (ret) Starling began his last assignment as commander of Navy Cyber Forces at its establishment on Jan. 26, 2010. There he was responsible for organizing and prioritizing manpower, training, modernization and maintenance requirements for networks and cryptologic, space, intelligence and information operations capabilities. He concurrently served as commander Naval Network Warfare Command, where he oversaw the conduct […]

via VADM H. Denby Starling, II — honor365

dog days at work

It's a Dog's Life

One of the best examples of community is how we give of our time, and of our money to the less fortunate.  While most recognize that members of our own species needs aid,  love and compassion, there are others that we can help.  I was introduced to a few examples of this today.   Sometimes, it is noteworthy to recognize those who help rescue canines in need.

Labs and More,  San Diego

Several times a year, at the main campus in Carlsbad, my company hosts expos for charitable organizations in San Diego – supporting a children’s hospital, or fighting cancer,  or health and wellness,  or disaster preparedness.  Or like today,  when a few San Diego animal rescue groups came with their furry ambassadors to raise awareness in the community.   The volunteers who organize and man these outreach programs wear their hearts on their sleeve.  These all-volunteer groups raise funds to support…

View original post 228 more words

Cuban Missile Crisis

As a veteran and retired Navy Senior Chief, wearing a t-shirt celebrating Navy Chiefs is a point of pride, even in San Diego with a large population of veterans, Active Duty and families with members of the military in them.

While shopping at a Lowes Saturday afternoon,  a gentleman thanked me for my service and we chatted as two veterans are likely to do.   Gene’s service as a Comms Officer at SECOND Fleet, the commander of all afloat naval forces in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean, occurred at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

That was almost fifty-six years ago.  In six decades, millions of American (and a number of foreign-born) men and women have served or continue to serve in the armed forces.  Travel, learning self-discipline, gaining a better perspective on many topics,  and useful work-related skills.  Many took advantage of the college benefits to become very skilled professionals in everything from agriculture to zoology.

And yet for many who have served in combat, in combat zones, or even when injured in training or other military-related periods,  there has been sixty years of failure to live up to promises by the Government.  Mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness, and incarceration plague veterans who have served honorably but became only statistics.  And with every election cycle, promised of change may cause a stir, but then either never are completely realized, or get the budget axe.

I am one of the fortunate.  I have a good post-military career.  I have a support system that is independent of the government. And I have good memories of camaraderie, as well as some challenging memories of the bureaucratic foul ups and health issues from military service.   With a population that increasingly is self-interested, emotionally-fragile, rigidly opinionated, and in many cases unprincipled,  the graying veterans like me may spent more time reminiscing at a Lowes, or a Target, or in the park.   You cannot really ever hide the walk, the bearing, or the “USA!” branded clothes and pro-veteran opinions.

On the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is one article for further reading

 

an Ulchi by any other name

“Saretsky, Eric W. CTMC (UFL N39 COPS3)” <xxxxx> wrote:
It’s 6 AM in El Cajon and I’m hoping that you’ve been able to sleep. I know how hard it is for you when you are in the middle of problem-resolution (baby-sitting) teachers and students!
I’ll be here all night, so I am just sending you lots of virtual hugs to comfort you!
Love you,
me

My wife found and shared with me old email we exchanged over ten years ago when I was on a Navy Reserve assignment to COMSEVENTHFLT AOR.   It was my second visit to  Yokosuka, Japan.  Seven years earlier, in 1998 or 1999, I had been on Active Duty, aboard the USS CORONADO,  when it visited Japan and Korea.   That previous time,  I had only just begun dating my future wife, and our exchanges by email were very slow and tedious.  This,  from a ship that was “state of the art” in most things electronic.  In 2006 I had been a Reservist nearly six years, married five years and when I received orders to the SEVENTH Fleet for ULCHI FOCUS LENS,  it was my first time in seven years that I was again on sea duty.  And email was quite a bit more advanced in comparison.

My assignment aboard the USS BLUE RIDGE during UFL was interesting work, simulating tactical intelligence options, “PsyOps”( (psychological efforts to dissuade North Koreans from participating in the event of hostilities) and so forth.  Other teams had different scenarios to develop.   One of the things I learned, working with a joint unit of intelligence professionals ( Reservists who were also civilian experts in the fields they supported in uniform),  is that some battlefield commanders, i.e. the Active Duty Army general heading up this exercise, are “warhead on forehead” types and not given to deep consideration of other forms of military conduct.  I had previously seen that in a prior year working with an Air Force team who were reluctant to employ a new technology- because it was new, and not part of their manual (printed before the technology was in development).

Were I to do it again,  I would again prefer to be a Navy Chief Petty Officer aboard ship.  There is truth in Rank Has Its Privileges.  While a Reserve Commander from my unit was also on this same Exercise,  he had neither the camaraderie, nor the access to good chow that came with being a Chief in the BLUE RIDGE CPO Mess.  It’s a tradition that all Navy Chiefs past and present are one, and all Navy units’ CPO Mess are one Mess

  new Chief Petty Officers initiated into the BLUE RIDGE CPO Mess (Sept 2006)

One other thing that seems to remain constant over the years since I last donned a uniform, is the fondness for change – in uniform styles, acronyms and Joint Exercise names.   When I was reminiscing about ULCHI FOCUS LENS,  online I found that this Joint exercise was subsequently changed to ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN.   In the decade that this has been in use,  I presume the Pentagon is probably searching for a new name.  “ULCHI FREEDOM MAGA”?  Anyone?  It undoubtedly will be huge.

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article:  U.S. Army STAND-TO! | Ulchi Freedom Guardian

the measure of a Man

In hindsight, one of the things I miss the most about military service, is the camaraderie.  In particular,  when independently- acting individuals, which all civilians are,  go successfully through the crucible that begins in boot camp or basic training, that shared experience is indelibly stamped on one’s character. Sit three individuals from three different eras and three different branches of the military, and quite soon all will be talking, laughing and swapping tales as though they knew each other for decades.

From boot camp, individuals are shaped and reshaped into a highly-effective team in their units, in field operations and exercises, in ships or aircraft,  armored vehicles or in combat squads. There is a common jargon and understanding that comes from overseas assignments, difficult environments, passable chow, and either adrenaline-pumping action or numbing boredom.

And one day, it all comes to a end.  A final enlistment concludes with retirement, and with the hanging up of the uniform,  so end also the phone calls from your peers or your “reporting senior” (the officer you report to).  Also,  the periodic transfers, carefully-written evaluations, frequent deployments, and daily Physical Training ( running along the beach at 5AM) – and periodic assessment – are left to others.

Sadly, unless the now-retired military member obtains employment in a profession closely allied to the military,  the camaraderie of the Chiefs’ Mess: the traditions, courtesies, and respect that a Chief Petty Officer has earned in the naval service are only weakly understood by a civilian employer and less so by your never-serving civilian supervisor.

Fortunately for many of my friends in uniform, a transition from military life to a civilian career or self-employment went smoothly. Bringing the same focus to task accomplishment, a university degree, or a business resulted in continuing success.

Takes one to know one

The last time I boarded a vessel the size of the Allure of the Seas, it was gray and I was an enlisted volunteer(ed) carrying equipment. While an aircraft carrier does not deploy lounge chairs nor launch aircraft, on this voyage, my wife and I saw divers launch into a pool several decks above the waterline. This was all part of an entertaining acrobatic and sychronized diving show.

However, the most entertaining part of this trip has been having brief conversations with passengers who are fellow veterans. You see, I wore my “Retired Navy” ballcap boarding in Florida and disembarking on our first port of call. From the first greeting in the line with a retired Bo’sun while getting registered at the embarkation terminal, to the Air Force vet my wife and I sat with at a dinner, to the Navy Vietnam Nam-era airdale, there have been a lot of quick greetings and instant recognition.

” I can recognize veterans”, one Navy wife said.  I think she actually said, she could “smell ’em a mile away”, but I knew what she meant. I think people who served have an instant kinship. One of my fellow passengers, a man and his wife about half my age went snorkeling with my buddy, me and four others at our stop in Haiti. He smiled knowingly, when I remarked how cool it was to be zooming away toward our dive spot in a RHIB. Most Navy people recognize this acronym as Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat. Yet I think he or possibly his wife, was Dutch or German.

Yeah. The folks who are frequent cruise vacationing people also seem to have that camraderie. Many start around our age. I think cruise veterans and particularly Navy veterans get the best new sea stories to swap with one another from trips like this. It does “take one to know one”.

(Image) The last time I was off the coast of Haiti (USS PETERSON)

Veterans benefit

It is a long time in coming, but f you served, you may again be eligible for GI Bill Education benefits that you may have thought expired.

Sharing news from the Veterans Administration:

Dear Fellow Veterans and Colleagues,

As you know, the recent passage of the Harry W. Colmery Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” enacts several changes to the GI Bill that will positively impact Veterans and their families. Some of the changes became effective the day the law was signed, some next fall, and some in the future. In the months to come, I’ll be updating you on how this new law impacts VA education benefits and what actions Veterans may need to take.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the legislation that immediately went into effect with the President’s signature, and what it means for you.

The 15-year time limitation for using Post-9/11 GI Bill – The 15-year limitation to use benefits is removed for Veterans who left active duty on or after January 1, 2013, children who became eligible for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship) on or after January 1, 2013, and all Fry Scholarship eligible spouses.

There is no action you need to take; if eligible, the limitation is simply removed for you.

Restoration of Benefits due to School Closure – We are now authorized to restore benefits and provide relief to Veterans affected by school closures or disapprovals.

If you attended courses or programs discontinued from January 1, 2015 to August 16, 2017, and attended an accredited institution of higher learning, and did not transfer any credits to a comparable program, entitlement will not be charged for the entire period of your enrollment. The law also provides separate criteria for partial benefit restoration for school closures after January 1, 2015.

To apply for restoration, we will develop a web page with instructions, information, and a form to complete and return. I will update you when this page is available, and we’ll post an announcement on our main GI Bill page and social media sites.

Independent study programs at career and technical education schools covered by GI Bill – This allows anyone eligible for GI Bill to use their benefits at an accredited independent study program at an area career and technical school, or a postsecondary vocational school providing postsecondary level education. A bit of background on this provision: before the passage of this law, most non-college degree programs weren’t approvable if any portion of it was online. This change allows those programs to be considered for approval even if some or all of the instruction is online/not in a classroom.

There is no action for you to take here, as these programs will go through the normal course of approval by the appropriate State Approving Agency. Any new programs will be added to our GI Bill Comparison Tool.

Reservists who had eligibility under the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) and lost it due to sunset of the program will have that service credited toward the Post-9/11 GI Bill program – We are in the process of identifying the approximately 2,800 Reservists affected by this and will send them letters with instructions.

I will update you when the letters go out, and what to do if you did not receive a letter but feel you may be eligible for this restoration. We will also post more information on the GI Bill web and Facebook pages.

These changes will greatly benefit our nation’s Veterans by providing expanded access and opportunity to access education benefits. I will continue to update you as we work out the details of this legislation.

As always, thank you for your service.

Regards,

Curtis L. Coy
Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity
Veterans Benefits Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington, DC 20420
VA Core Values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, Excellence (“I CARE”)

armed with coffee, savvy, and “can-do”

When I was in the military, my role -besides ALL the other roles that I was given, was to maintain electronic communication equipment.  Really, this was an ironic career choice.   I should have gone into the social sciences and language.  The irony is that,  for more than 30 years,  I have been very capable in problem-solving.  When I lack the specific skills I am not afraid to ask questions – usually over strong coffee.

for veteran success

In the military and in an industry, to be effective, a person has to be capable in the role they were hired to do; possess attitude and work ethic for team success, do more than what is necessary and to be creative in problem solving.  At times, it is knowing the proper department person to contact for a quick -turn shipment,  a service request,  or  who stocked a particular adhesive for a repair done outside of the production chain of command.   To advance personally and professionally, a veteran often stands out by mentoring new employees and providing a team manager a “go-to” person.  In the workplace today, there are so many social contracts, sensitive subjects,  and human factors which are at odds with the department production goals and veterans “can-do”, get-the-job-done expertise.  While almost every enterprise challenges workers to do more with less, a veteran generally wants a product that a military end-user would have perform flawlessly when needed.  It might take more veterans in each business unit to overcome some individuals who do not challenge plans, goals, and promises made by leadership,  and to challenge those peers who do only what is necessary to maintain their position.  b3882-10051720openhousecolor397

Problem-solving skills include experiences in a military career to develop civilians into capable specialists.   Raised in an environment that does not cater to individual wants,  does demand personal sacrifice,  and teaches attention to detail,   a veteran is unfazed by office politics,  used to changing priorities from managers and figures out what gets the job done.  Sometimes the response is a cheery dose of salty language.   Circumventing the labor to schedule, exchange email, and discuss tools and equipment needed is a skill many military veterans are well-versed.   The veteran has frequently used a barter program, the unofficial currency in the military, to accomplish a task.  At other times,  it means having the confidence to draw a stopping point and get more hands on deck to troubleshoot a complex set of issues.

working smarter

Once upon a time, I would work myself into burn-out.  I no longer set impossibly-challenging goals and am able to call in reinforcements without hesitation.     Being creative in solving issues, and not volunteering but being assigned, may get a  ‘hanger queens’ successfully leaving my test station.  I leave it to others to foul it up.

Patton can’t wallop away “fatigue”

An article I read online about veterans who are suing the military to upgrade their discharges, indicates an ignored mitigating factor was their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It was a stigma for soldiers in many conflicts to suffer ‘combat fatigue’ and the military did not have any mental health programs to help their suffering.  World War II’s most infamous case of a leader who abused soldiers suffering what we know today as PTSD, was General Patton.

I do know what it is like to live with someone who suffered with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Thirty years ago, I was in a relationship with a woman whom I came to learn was not schizophrenic but rather suffering from PTSD.  In the course of dealing with her middle of the night terror attacks, suspicious looks, angry stares, horrible accusations and anorexia,  I was not trained, nor was I sufficiently mature enough, emotionally, to help.   At the time I was in the Navy, stationed at an installation outside Washington, D.C.   Over a period of several weeks everything came into the light.   My job performance started to suffer badly.  I was exhausted;  one Monday,  I failed to go to work at all.   And then,  banging on my door, my supervisor, a Chief Petty Officer in whom I confided my struggles,  had come to check on us.

Instead of being brought before NJP – nonjudicial punishment,  my supervisor verbally reprimanded me, and took charge- giving me direction about how I should lead my household.   In the late 1980s,  mental health, counseling – family or marital, and the host of ills that military members succumb to in combat  was still in its infancy.  And if PTSD was hardly recognized in the civilian population, how much less so for our veterans.   I found resources for us to attend counseling.  I would love to say that everything turned around and became goodness and light.  It did not.  Less than ten years later, I learned that she had succumbed to her health problems.   For those suffering mental health issues,  it is always continuing steps in recovery.  But the sufferer has to be as engaged in getting healthy as those around him or her remain committed to helping.  It is time for the military – and the VA – to make every effort to alleviate the mental health issues that were aggravated or incurred as a result of military service.   It is only right to help warriors with tools and understanding who are suffering.