Submitted by Kevin Ballard.
For those who served in the military, there is great honor in remaining in the community closest to where military service terminated. There are a select few in this population who have arduously navigated the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) process for receiving a disability rating connected to their military service. For the disabled military veteran, the decision to remain in a community is often tied to education, military benefits, healthcare, the job market, or the small business community. In Washington, one of the many benefits disabled military veterans appreciate is the property tax exemption. Washington state is one of 9 states currently placing a personal income restriction on disabled military veterans receiving a property tax exemption. The current law related to disabled military veteran property tax exemption must be changed.
Here are some related statistics:
- 1.9 million veterans live in the United States with a disability rating of 70% or higher (US Census)
- 490,717 military veterans live in WA State (US Census Bureau)
- In September of 2020 there were 150,243 military veterans receiving disability compensation in WA https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/SpecialReports/State_Summaries_Washington.pdf
- In FY 2019 there were a total of 59,720 military veterans receiving disability compensation at a rating of 70% or above in WA State. Of these, 19,996 were compensated at the 100% disability rating. Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Enterprise Integration, United States Veterans Eligibility Trends & Statistics (USVETS) 2019. Prepared by National Center for Veterans Analysis & Statistics, January 2021, www.va.gov/vetdata
- The military veteran community in WA State is declining every year by approximately 1.22%. https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/SpecialReports/State_Summaries_Washington.pdf
- Approximately 6.1 million people in WA State are over the age of 18. https://ofm.wa.gov/washington-data-research/population-demographics
- The median property tax paid annually in WA State is $2631. https://www.tax-rates.org/washington/property-tax
- As the population of Washington State grows by over 1% annually, we see a declining number of military veterans in our state by approximately the same percentage. This 1% decline in the military veteran population is the national average.
The current laws related to property tax exemption conflate two separate categories of property taxpayer into one form of exemption. (RCW 84.36.381) Senior low-income and disabled military veterans are in these two classes eligible for property tax exemption in WA State. The combining of these classes complicates and creates government waste through the creation of boards and committees that are not needed. There certainly should be a Senior low-income threshold for property tax exemption. There should also be a separate disabled military veteran property tax exemption. An income qualifier for a disabled military veteran property tax exemption does not recognize the service and sacrifice of this underrepresented community and conflating this community with a separate population of persons exempted by income status is a legislative non sequitur.
Washington State must decide if they wish to recognize the service and sacrifice of the disabled military veteran community in a meaningful and impactful way. WA State has the 11th highest number of military veterans in the nation. Again, WA State is one of 9 states in the US that tie a personal income requirement to a property tax exemption for disabled military veterans. County tax assessors, legislators, and government bureaucracies in these 9 states must continuously manage these income requirements through routine evaluation and constituent input. 41 states have made the determination that service and sacrifice of our disabled military veterans should be recognized with some level of property tax exemption void of any personal income qualifier. When we recognize that the disabled military veteran population in WA State is declining every year, then this should be an easy decision for the legislature to remedy. There are 41 other states to model a truly impactful and meaningful property tax exemption for our disabled military veteran community.
The disabled military veteran property tax exemption should be a stand-alone law, easy to understand, not based on a combined household “disposable income” and encompassing the greatest number of eligible disabled military veterans possible. I urge Representative Mari Leavitt, Representative Dan Bronoski and Senator T’wina Nobles to make meaningful and impactful legislative changes to the current RCW, detach the disabled veteran exemption from an income requirement and make Washington state property tax exemption as honoring to the sacrifices of our disabled veteran community as the exemptions found in 41 other states.