(davwi.org) – Last week, the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance went even further in demonstrating Wisconsin’s enduring commitment to the state’s veterans by voting on an omnibus tax motion that included a dramatic increase in funding for the increasingly popular Wisconsin Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit -- $23.8 million in GPR.
The Governor’s budget proposal fully funded the program by increasing funding by $6 million in FY12 and $8.1 million in FY13,
However, based on program usage re-estimates since that time, the committee voted to further increase funding for the program by $9.7 million to keep it fully funded, or an additional $5.4 million in GPR in FY12 and $4.3 million in FY13.
Despite the gradually diminishing state veterans population since the Wisconsin Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit was first created in 2005, there has been substantial, unanticipated growth in the number and percentage of veterans and surviving spouses who have become eligible for the credit that is not explained by eligibility expansion for the credit alone.
In fact, while the overall Wisconsin veterans population has fallen by more than 10 percent over the last five fiscal years, the number of Wisconsin veterans with any level of service-connected disability has grown by more than 21 percent since FY06. The number of totally and permanently disabled Wisconsin veterans has grown even faster, an increase of 25.5 percent over the same period.
There are likely several factors causing this increase in SCD veterans and the even greater growth in the number of totally and permanently disabled veterans, including at least the following:
- A growing number of newly service-disabled veterans from the current era, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans
- A growing number of veterans from the current wars who are immediately rated totally and permanently disabled at or following discharge from military service
- A substantial number of new presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange, Gulf War Illness, and endemic diseases, leading to an increase in the number of newly service-connected and increased SCD ratings
- The progression of time following Agent Orange and Gulf War exposures is resulting in worsening health and new onset SCD conditions with long incubation periods (like cancers, serious neurological and other diseases, etc.), leading to more and increased SCD ratings
- Some have suggested that the poor economy may be impacting some veterans' knowledge about, and decisions to seek new or increased VA SCD ratings
Additionally, VA claims typically take a long time until final adjudication, especially with appeals. When the claim is finally adjudicated, the date of award is generally backdated to the date of claim. This may very well have an impact on the ability of veterans who become newly eligible for SCD and simultaneously the Wis. property tax credit being eligible to receive the credit retroactively for one or more tax years.
The service-connected death eligibility provision for the credit may also have an impact on increasing the number of surviving spouses newly eligible for the credit, since a veteran need not be rated totally and permanently disabled at the time of death in order to qualify.
Eligible veterans and surviving spouses receive the full amount of the credit as a state income tax refund if they do not have any state income tax liability for that year.
The initial proposal for the Wisconsin Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit was developed by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs after WDVA leaders were approached by one of DAV’s Milwaukee-based National Service Officers, Maurice Jackson.
On behalf of DAV, Jackson specifically and directly requested WDVA leaders take action to help get a disabled veteran property tax credit created in Wisconsin. A few months later, in early 2005, the legislature introduced the WDVA-led legislation and it was enacted shortly thereafter.
1) Wisconsin Veterans Population is Decreasing
FY06 (Sep. 30, 2005): Total number of Wisconsin veterans = 466,054 (http://dva.state.wi.us/Webforms/Data_Factsheets/GDX_FY2005.xls)
FY11 (Sep. 30, 2010): Total number of Wisconsin veterans = 417,654 (http://dva.state.wi.us/PA_veteransdata.asp)
Change, FY06 to FY11: A decrease in the total number of Wisconsin veterans of 48,400, or 10.4%.
2) Number of Wisconsin Veterans with Any Level of Service-Connected Disability is Increasing
FY06 (Feb. 6, 2006), Number of Wis. veterans with any level of service-connected disability = 45,026 (http://dva.state.wi.us/Webforms/Data_Factsheets/GDX_FY2005.xls). This equals 9.7% of the total state veterans population.
FY11 (Sep. 30, 2010): Number of Wis. veterans with any level of service-connected disability = 54,701 (http://dva.state.wi.us/PA_veteransdata.asp). This equals 13.1% of the total state veterans population.
Change, FY06 to FY11: A decrease in the total number of Wisconsin veterans of 9,675, or 21.5%.
3) Totally and Permanently Disabled Wisconsin Veterans is Increasing, and at a rate even faster than the growth in number of veterans with any level of disability
FY06, Number of Wis. veterans with schedular 100% SCD rating = 4,147. ((Feb.6, 2006) (http://dva.state.wi.us/Webforms/Data_Factsheets/Comp_Cases_byState_Degree_of_Disability.pdf)
FY06 (Sep. 2005), Number of Wis. veterans with schedular TDIU rating = 3,536. (Sep. 2005) (http://dva.state.wi.us/Webforms/Data_Factsheets/2005_WI_Unemp.pdf)
FY06 TOTAL: 7,683, or 1.6% of the total veterans population and 17.1% of all Wis. service-disabled veterans
FY11, Number of Wis. veterans with schedular 100% SCD rating = 5,018 (see attached, VA)
FY11, Number of Wis. veterans with schedular TDIU rating = 4,625 (see attached, VA)
FY11 TOTAL: 9,643, or 2.3% of the total state veterans population and 17.6% of all Wis. service-disabled veterans
Change, FY06 to FY11: An increase of 1,960 totally and permanently disabled (SCD 100% and TDIU) Wisconsin veterans, a 25.5% increase.
--Anthony Hardie, Madison, Wis.