Benefits in my backyard

Jonathan Kaupanger
March 08, 2018 - 1:44 pm

Photo by Senior Airman Joel Pfiester/U.S. Air Force

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Buying a home in Iowa and Mississippi is made easy for veterans but the tax breaks in Kansas are great for both veterans and employers who hire vets, too!

Iowa

There’s one veterans home in Iowa. Cost is based on your need and spouses may be eligible for admission. The one stipulation is the veteran must have an honorable discharge.

Once you retire, the Hawkeye State won’t tax your military retirement pay or even your survivor benefits. Vets have an exemption to part of their property tax, as long as they served on active duty during a war or at least 18 months during peacetime. If you’re a veteran with a 100 percent service-connected disability rating from the VA, you are entitled to 100 percent exemption of tax on your home.

Injured veterans who call Iowa home can apply for the Injured Veterans Grant Program.  This program provides a total of $10,000, in four increments as a way to give immediate financial assistance to veterans can have family members with them while they recover from their injuries.  The injuries must have happened in the line of duty while in a combat zone or in a zone where the veteran receives hazardous duty pay.  The injury needs to have happened since Sept. 11, 2001. 

It’s too late to apply for this next grant for 2018, but consider it for next year, the Military Homeownership Assistance Program is available for service members who are buying a home in the state. Normally the grant is for $5,000 and you can use it in combination with a Plus grant, which would give you a total of $7,500 that you can add to your down payment. Requirements are that the veteran must have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2011 and bought a home after March 10, 2005. If you were injured while on active duty between Aug. 2, 1990 and April 6, 1991, then you qualify as well.

Iowa vets with an honorable discharge have five points in employment preference when applying for state jobs. Veterans who receive a VA disability or pension payments get an additional five points added to their final test score.

State education benefits include the War Orphans Educational Aid. Children of veterans killed in action after Sept. 11, 2011 are eligible for up to $11,844.00 each year in tuition assistance. This is available through the age of 26.  For dependents of vets who were killed in action before 9/11, you can get $600 per year up to the maximum of $3,000 total for education.  Residency requirements for this are in effect.

The state has IDVA Benefit Specialists on staff to help you with any questions you may have regarding your veterans benefits.  Benefit specialists can also represent you with federal VA claims too.  You can check out these and more benefits by visiting the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs website

Kansas

If you want to stay at one of Kansas’ two veterans homes you’ll need an other than dishonorable discharge, be disabled, indigent or willing to pay for care. If there’s space available, spouses may live here too.

Military retirement pay is not taxed in Kansas. Non-veteran taxpayers in the Sunflower State can choose to donate income tax refunds or additional money to the Kansas Military Emergency Relief Fund.  This is used to help military families with the cost of food, housing, utilities and medical services while the service member is on active duty.  You can check with a Veteran Service Representative for more information. 

Disabled vets can claim a homestead refund. You’ll need to be a state resident, have an honorable discharge and at least a 50 percent permanent disability received while on active duty. Surviving spouses can claim this exemption until they remarry. 

Active duty service members deployed outside of the country for at least six months can defer payment of property tax for up to two years. You won’t have to pay vehicle tax on the first two vehicles if you are a full time member of the Kansas Guard or Reserves. 

There is a veterans’ preference in the state when applying for civil service positions, but there is a catch.  The preference only applies to the initial employment and first promotion only. You will need an honorable discharge to receive this. Spouses of vets with a 100 percent, service-connected disability, surviving spouses of vets who were killed in action or the spouse of a prisoner of war receive this as well. You’ll want to check with the state employment center before expecting this benefit. 

Since 2015, Kansas also lets private businesses set up veterans’ preferences for hiring too. The policy does need to be in writing and applied consistently, so it's important to ask about when interviewing for a job in Kansas.

There’s more information, including recreational benefits, at the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office website

Mississippi

There are four veterans homes located in the Magnolia State. To live in one of these homes, you’ll need an honorable discharge and a medical need for nursing home care. There is a fee to live in these homes, but spouses may also be eligible for admission.  If you have a VA adjudicated service-connected disability of 70 percent or more, then fees are waived.

Retirement pay from the military is not taxed. If you have a service-connected 100 percent disability and an honorable discharge, then you are exempt from all Ad Valorem taxes on the value of your home. Un-remarried surviving spouses can claim this exemption too.  There’s even a state tax exemption for employers who hire vets who have been unemployed for six consecutive months.

The state has a special program to help veterans buy a home too.  The Mississippi Veterans’ home Purchase Board gives low interest mortgage loans to eligible vets and unmarried surviving spouses.  The veterans will need to be a Mississippi resident before entering active duty and be a resident for two consecutive years before applying for the loan. 

Qualified vets receive five points for state job tests and 10 points are given to qualified disabled veterans. If a time comes where state layoffs happen, veterans are given preference and additional preference is given to disabled vets too. 

Here’s the link to the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board website

Next week, we look at benefits available for the not quite half a million veterans living in Connecticut, New Mexico and West Virginia.