U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

Benefits in my backyard

New Jersey, Minnesota and Massachusetts

Jonathan Kaupanger
February 12, 2018 - 2:00 pm
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Programs to help New Jersey’s homeless veterans are second to none.  Minnesota vets gave damn good job protection. But, if you want tax exemptions and free schooling, you’ll need to be a veteran from Massachusetts. Just over a million veterans call these three states home and here’s a few things you should check out since you earned them!

New Jersey

To stay in any one of the Garden State’s three veteran’s homes, you’ll need an honorable discharge.  The homes are open for National Guard/Reserve retirees, spouses and Gold Star Parents.  Widows/widowers must be at least 50 years old and have been married to the veteran for at least 10 years.  A two year state residency gives you priority for admission.  Fees to live in one of these homes is based on your income.

The Transitional Housing Program is a great program the state offers for homeless veterans.  It’s divided into three segments; treatment; self-reclamation and community reintegration.  Each phase is three to six months long and is an individualized treatment program.  Admission to this program requires a long-term agreement, focusing on psychological, social and vocational rehabilitation.

For New Jersey vets looking to buy a home, the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) should be your first stop.  HMFA has low interest rate mortgages and is run through the Veterans Administration home buyer program. 

For state taxes, if you were a New Jersey resident before you joined the military, your active-duty income isn’t taxed as long as you meet these three conditions. You didn’t have a permanent home in the state during the tax year, you had a home outside of the state during the year and you spent less than 30 days in the state during the tax year. Military retirement pay and survivor’s benefits are not taxed in NJ, regardless of the recipient’s age or disability status.

The state has an annual Veterans Property Tax Deduction of $250! You need to have a state residency, active wartime service, honorable discharge, own property and fill out an application.  Widows/widowers of vets qualify as well.  For more information, check with your local tax assessor’s office.  Another exemption is the Disabled Veteran Exemption.  You’ll need a 100% disability, certified by the VA to get this one.

Eligible vets and their surviving spouses can get a monthly New Jersey Catastrophic Entitlement of $62.50 if they are a New Jersey resident with a permanent service-connected disability rating from the VA. If their wartime service resulted in loss of sight, amputation of both hands, both feet or one hand and one foot.  Other service-connected issues that qualify you to take part of this program include hemiplegia, paralysis, osteochondritis, multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia. 

When testing for state jobs, qualified vets who get a passing score are placed at the top of open competitive employment lists.  This means regardless of a civilian’s score, vets get the jobs first.  You will need at least a 10 percent disability.  Spouses of disabled vets get the same treatment.

The state has several education programs for veterans. POW and MIA tuition benefits mean FREE undergraduate college tuition. War Orphans Tuition Assistance program gives children up to $500 per year for college or equivalent training. Veterans Tuition Credit Program and the New Jersey National Guard Educational Benefits round out the education programs.  State tuition programs can’t be used with any other federal programs, like the GI Bill.

The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website is here.  

Minnesota

There are five state run veterans’ homes in Minnesota.  One includes an Adult Day Center which has several different types of therapeutic health services. Admission is typical for state run homes like this, honorable discharge, entered service from Minnesota or are a current resident and have at least 181 consecutive days on active duty. Spouses of eligible vets who are at least 55 years old and meets residency requirements are also eligible. 

Military and retirement pay are not taxed in the state. Disabled vets with a 70 percent or higher can qualify for a reduction of the assessed value of their home. The reduction varies depending on the amount of your disability and some surviving spouses can qualify for this as well.

The MN Veterans Preference Act (VPA) gives vets limited preference over non vets when it comes to public employment.  The VPA also give protections for vets against unfair dismissals and demotions.  With VPA, you have a right to a hearing before dismissal.

Vets can use the Minnesota GI Bill to help with educational costs.  Full-time undergrad or graduate students can get up to $1,000 per semester with a max of $10,000 for their lifetime.  There’s a program for apprenticeships and OJT where you can get up to $2,000 per year for either program.  This program is also a way for employees to get money for hiring vets too. Requirements are pretty simple, be a Minnesota resident, under 62 years old and be enrolled in a Minnesota institution.

The Surviving Spouse & Dependent Education Benefit program is for children of vets who either died on active duty or as a result of a service-connected condition. You can get a bachelor’s degree without paying tuition and get an additional $750 per year for fees, books and supplies. For more info, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Services. 

Massachusetts

Residential and long-term care is offered to veterans at two state run homes. The state also gives funds to non-profit orgs that help homeless veterans. Some of the services include, emergency homeless shelters, group residences and single-room occupancy housing quarters.

Tax exemptions are plentiful in the Bay State for vets. Military retirement pay is not taxed.  Disabled vets can get property tax exemptions of $400 – $1,500. Spouses and surviving spouses can get this as well. There’s a tax exemption for motor vehicles for disabled vets if the vehicle is owned and used for personal needs.  Disabled vets can even qualify for a sales tax exemption, but this is only for motor vehicles. 

Disabled Veteran Annuity is paid twice a year, on Aug. 1 and Feb. 1, for 100 percent disabled vets. The $2k annual distribution is available for vets, their spouses and Gold Star Parents. The Welcome Home bonus is provided to vets who lived in the state just before joining the military. 

Massachusetts vets with a state civil service exam score of 70% or higher get to go to the top of the list.  If you apply for a promotional exam, you get two points added to your score. There is even a “professional appointment” in the Commonwealth if you apply for civil service jobs where there isn’t an exam.  Basically vets are pushed to the top of the hiring pack.

Tuition waivers are available for all Massachusetts vets if they are going to state colleges or universities, but it is dependent on space-available. Massachusetts National Guards Education Assistance Program provides 100 percent tuition and fee waivers for soldiers attending a state college, university or community college program.  As long as you are in good standing, you can continue in these programs until you’ve hit 130 semester hours.

For more info on these or other program, check out the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services. 

Next week, we’ll look at the state VA benefits available for the 900,000 veterans living in Oregon, Oklahoma and Kentucky. 

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