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Special state benefits for service members, veterans

By Raymond Taylor

SUN Columnist

The State of Colorado offers special benefits for its military service members and veterans including Retired Military Pay tax exemptions, state employment preferences, education and tuition assistance, vehicle tags, as well as hunting and fishing license privileges.

Eligibility for some benefits may depend on residency, military component and veteran disability status.

Benefit highlights

State tax advantage: SCR06-001 has passed and will be on the November ballot. It provides a property tax exemption for 100-percent SC disabled veterans.

Retired military pay: Members of the armed forces can exclude up to $20,000 in any one taxable year from their retirement pay.

U.S. Armed Forces retiree: Military disability retired pay: disability portion — length of service pay; member on Sept. 24, 1975 — no tax; not member on Sept. 24, 1975 — taxed, unless combat incurred. Retired pay — based solely on disability: member on Sept. 24, 1975 — no tax; not member on Sept. 24, 1975 — taxed, unless all pay based on disability and disability resulted from armed conflict, extra-hazardous service, simulated war, or an instrumentality of war.

VA Disability Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: not subject to federal or state taxes.

Motor vehicle tax 

No fee shall be charged to certain disabled veterans or ex-POWs who have established their right to benefits under public laws. Applies to subsequent vehicles, but only one at a time.

Education benefits

Tuition assistance: Any member of the Colorado National Guard is eligible for state tuition assistance, up to 100-percent tuition paid at any Colorado state-funded school, depending on funding available. State funding can be used in conjunction with federal tuition assistance. Deadline for spring semester is Dec. 1. Deadline for fall semester is July 1. Summer deadline is May 1 (if funding is available).

Colorado National Guard member must serve two years for each year granted.

Beginning July 1, 2000, any new member of the Colorado National Guard eligible for state tuition assistance must have a minimum of six months of service in the Colorado National Guard. Interstate Transfer (ISTs) and In-Service Recruits (ISRs) are waived from this requirement.

As of 1 July 2005, the State Tuition Assistance (TA) program is no longer a payback program; to get TA the member must be in drilling status with the Colorado National Guard. If the member leaves drilling status during the semester/quarter for which they are receiving TA, the member must reimburse the department for the whole amount of TA received for that semester. For those members who received TA prior to July 1, 2005, (to include summer 2005) the service requirement of one year for each semester sponsored PRIOR to July 1, 2005, still applies.

Must maintain a 2.0 grade point average.

Tuition assistance for children of POWs, MIAs or disabled/deceased ARNG: Free tuition in certain state-supported schools for children of prisoners of war or persons missing in actions who were Colorado residents when they entered the armed forces, or for children of Colorado National Guardsmen who died or were permanently disabled while on state active duty limited to dependents who do not qualify for Federal Education benefits.

Operation Recognition

Operation Recognition is a program to award high school diplomas to deserving and qualified WWII, Korea and Vietnam era veterans. Operation Recognition is authorized by Colorado state law and is offered by the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Association of School Boards.

Employment assistance

State active duty employees receive 15 days of paid military leave per year.

Eligibility: Colorado National Guard.

Employment preference (Civil Service fights): Disabled veterans shall have 10 points added to their grades and non-disabled veterans shall be credited with an additional five points for “state employment.” For city and county governments that have a “merit system” in place.

License plates

The state provides plates at no cost to the veteran that include: recipients of the Medal of Honor, recipients of the Purple Heart, to certain disabled wartime Veterans, special disabled (50 percent-plus) veterans license plates, and special license plates for former POWs. Plates for honorably discharged Veterans may be purchased for nominal fee. There is a “Valor Plate” for those veterans who received the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force DSC and for survivors of Pearl Harbor and/or their surviving spouse.

Medical benefits

Dental coverage and full medical for line-of-duty.

Eligibility: Colorado National Guard.

Hunting and fishing privileges 

Fishing license: No fee for 1) a member of the Armed Forces stationed as a resident patient at a military hospital or convalescent station; 2) any resident patient at a USDVA hospital located within the state; 3) any veteran who is permanently and totally disabled.

A free lifetime combination small-game hunting and fishing license for any resident veteran with a service-connected disability of 60 percent or more.

Miscellaneous benefits 

State Veterans’ Home admission preference is given to veterans, spouses, widows and mothers at State Veterans Center, Homelake, Colo., with 40 operating beds in the domiciliary unit and 60 beds in nursing care service; at the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home at Florence, Colo, with a bed capacity of 120 beds; Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home at Rifle, Colo., with a capacity of 100 beds; Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home at Walsenburg with a capacity of 120 beds; the Fitzimons State Veterans Home, located in Denver, with a capacity of 180 beds.

Burial allowance

County allowance of up to $50 for burial and up to $50 for setting markers for pauper veterans.

Veterans Trust Fund 

A fund established from the Master Tobacco Settlement provides funds to chartered veteran service organizations, state veteran nursing homes, the Division of Veteran Affairs and the state veteran cemeteries for the operations and maintenance of facilities, and/or veteran homeless shelters and transportation programs.

Trust Fund grant

The American Legion Trust Fund grant for 2012-2013 has been approved and the funds are now available in Archuleta County.

This is your notice that funds have been released. Ensure you apply for travel through the Veterans Administration at VAMC Albuquerque whenever possible.

Please note: The Trust Fund grant has directed a change of rules. All requests for travel/lodging reimbursement must have the following: Printed copy of appointment, copy of receipt for gas payment and/or receipt of lodging payment. Payment from Trust Fund will be to the amount on receipts: No receipt — no payment. In addition, The Trust Fund will not pay past reimbursements on any travel made prior to funds being available, as it is not authorized by state law.

If a veteran is eligible for VA travel payments, no reimbursements are authorized through the Trust Fund grant.

Useful links

For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll and for filing in the VSO office.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108. Second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans. Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans. Every other Monday 6 p.m., St. Patrick Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministry (Veterans). Every Thursday at 9 a.m., Buffalo Inn.

Important information

Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: (970) 247-2214.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.

This story was posted on September 13, 2012.