Military Connection: Tax Considerations for Those Who Serve

taxtime

By Debbie Gregory.

When serving in the military, many sacrifices are made. There’s the relocation, leaving friends and family behind. There’s the threat of personal injury from being in harm’s way. As an acknowledgement of the debt we owe those who serve, the government acknowledges extends special privileges to reimburse military members in the form of tax advantages.

Combat pay perks offer a freedom from taxes. You qualify if you serve in a combat zone as an enlisted service member, or as a warrant officer, for any part of a month. This enables all of your income from that month to be exempt from federal taxation. For officers, the monthly exclusion is capped at the highest rate of enlisted pay, plus any hostile fire or imminent danger pay you may receive. The geographic areas considered tax-qualified combat zones are listed on the IRS website. Moreover, the IRS rules allow tax-free combat pay to be used for an IRA account. Since an IRA can grow, tax-deferred, until you withdrawal the money, contributing more now can provide a savings boost over the years.

Knowing that the last thing you want to do when you’re away defending our country is worrying about your taxes, the government offers an extension. While can’t put your taxes off forever, you and your spouse may qualify for a deadline extension of at least 180 days from when you return from combat. Extensions are available for filing returns, paying taxes, making claims for refunds, and contributing to IRAs.

Additionally, service members are awarded extra help when it comes to satisfying the “two out of five years” test for capital gains. This is especially helpful when selling a home. They are allowed to suspend the test period, for up to 10 years, when they’re on qualified extended duty. Extended duty is defined as assignment to a duty station a minimum of 50 miles from a primary residence for a period of 90 days or more.

Under the refined Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, military spouses can now choose to file as if they still lived in their previous state. This means a spouse could have the potential to save a lot of money if their previous state has lower tax rates or no income tax at all. In most cases, joint returns must be signed by both spouses. However, if your duties keep you away from your spouse and from your home, you can grant power of attorney to your spouse to file a joint return on your behalf.

Military service personnel can also receive assistance with moving deductions, separation assistances, and more. For complete details, you can download the IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, which will summarize most important military-related tax topics. You can also order it by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676.)

Alternatively, if you are stationed and residing overseas, you are allowed an automatic two month extension to file your return and pay any taxes, without requesting an extension. If you are unable to file your return by the automatic extension, you can request an additional extension to October 15th by filing Form 4868 before the initial two month extension date. However, any tax due payments made after June 15th will be subject to both interest charges and failure to pay penalties.

 If you are experiencing a tax problem that is causing you economic harm or has not been resolved through normal channels, you can contact the Taxpayer Advocate.

Military Connection: Petraeus Pleads Guilty. Your Thoughts?

U.S. prosecutors recommend criminal charges against Petraeus - N.Y. Times

By Debbie Gregory.

On March 3, 2015, at a federal court in Charlotte, NC, retired Four-Star Army General David Petraeus pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of mishandling classified information. In exchange for his plea, the 62 year-old will receive two years probation and a $40,000 fine. There is talk across the U.S., especially in the military and Veteran communities, about the righteousness of the charges and the leniency/strictness of the sentence.

Gen. Petraeus served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for just fourteen months. This followed a celebrated military career that included serving as commander of the Multinational-Force in Iraq, commander of U.S. Central Command (US CENTCOM), and commander of U.S. and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

In November, 2012, Petraeus was forced to resign his position at the CIA when his affair with  biographer Paula Broadwell, a major in the Army Reserve, became public. The affair was exposed following an FBI investigation into anonymous threats made against Dr. Scott Kelley and his wife, Jill. The investigation revealed that Broadwell had made the threats. The Kelleys were friends of Petraeus, along with many high-ranking military personnel. The FBI was able to link Broadwell’s access to the Kelleys through Petraeus.

More than two years after Petraeus’ resignation, and two and a half years after he ended his affair with Broadwell, the FBI and the Justice department were considering felony charges against Petraeus for his actions during the affair.

An April, 2013 search of Petraeus’ home yielded eight 5 x 8 inch black notebooks that Petraeus used for keeping personal notes. However, these  notebooks  contained war strategies, security codes, and the identities of covert operatives from his time in the military and as CIA director.

Petraeus signed a statement when he resigned from the CIA stating that he didn’t have any classified materials in his possession. But the main controversy comes from allegations that Petraeus gave Broadwell access to the notebooks during their relationship to aid in the writing of his biography.

Many claim that this is a smear campaign against Petraeus, while others wonder why felony charges weren’t brought against him. Some are wondering what the big deal is, since Broadwell, a military officer, had top secret clearance. Others still are of the belief that Petraeus is avoiding jail time due to a double standard in Washington.

We all have our own opinions, and we’re curious as to what you think. We hope you will comment on this story on our Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/militaryconnection?ref=hl

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Petraeus Pleads Guilty, Your thoughts? By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Should Caregivers of Pre and Post 9/11 Veterans Get Same Benefits?

caregivers

 

By Debbie Gregory.

Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans (VA) has provided programs that administer benefits and resources for family members who serve as caregivers to disabled military Veterans. These programs offer as much as $2,300 per month to the approximately 7,000 spouses, children and other loved ones of Veterans of the post-9/11 era. This generation is the only one that such benefits are approved for.  And there are many caregivers from previous generations who deserve consideration under these programs as well.

But for over the last forty years, thousands of disabled Vietnam Veterans have had their spouses and other family members serve as primary caregivers, with little to no support. They help their Veteran loved ones with personal hygiene, dressing, , eating, and ambulating around the house or around town. When family members assist disabled Veterans with daily functions that they can no longer do, it keeps them from going to a nursing homes. And according to a 2014 study conducted by the Rand Corporation, providing this necessary care for their loved one saves the VA around $3 billion each year.

The last week of February, thousands of caregivers and supporters were in the Washington D.C. to urge politicians to expand the same benefit to caregivers of all Veterans. Leading the charge was  Veteran Service Organization Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

In 2014, there was legislation, introduced on Capitol Hill, that would have expanded benefits for caregivers, but the bill did not gain enough support to succeed.

It is the hope of the supporters that by spreading the word about the plight of caregivers they could gain traction for legislative approval to get these Veteran families the help they need and the consideration that they deserve.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: The Plight of the Caregiver: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Non-Profit Connects Veterans to Service Dogs

TBBF

By Debbie Gregory.

In the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, a list of “unalienable rights” outlined by the founding fathers stated that every human has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The belief in these rights is a part of what compels our nation and its citizens to greatness. There aren’t any Americans that do more to secure these rights than the men and women who serve in our armed forces. That is why, when their service is complete, there are organizations such as The Battle Buddy Foundation to help ensure that Veterans maintain the freedoms they fought to protect.

The Battle Buddy Foundation (TBBF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity,  founded by Veterans for Veterans. TBBF is on a mission to ensure that Veterans and their families have access to programs and services that will help them transition and acclimate back to civilian life. This mission is accomplished by 1) providing service and therapy dogs, at no cost,  to Veterans from all eras, who suffer from a variety of afflictions and limitations. 2) Connecting Veterans to a network of organizations that offer resources and opportunities in the areas of housing and employment. 3) Constructing a community of peer support for Veterans and their families through a variety of programs, events and social media.

TBBF was founded by Marine Corps Veterans Kenny Bass and Joshua Rivers, along with Bass’s brother, Jon Campbell. Bass, who served with the Marine infantry, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, serves as the Executive Director of TBBF.

In Iraq, on July 20, 2003, Bass was wounded by an IED. Since that day, Bass has suffered from many afflictions as a result of his service, including Behcet’s Disease, hearing loss, and PTSD. Although Bass was prescribed a service dog in 2012, he had difficulty in locating an organization to provide the dog. This need led to the formation of TBBF as a solution.

With the services, resources and opportunities that TBBF facilitates, Veterans are in a better position to reap the benefits of their service and their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

To find out more about The Battle Buddy Foundation, and its programs and events, please visit  them on the web at tbbf.org.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Non-Profit Connects Veterans to Service Dogs: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Trucking Industry Vows 50,000 Veteran Jobs

TCA

By Debbie Gregory.

At MilitaryConnection.com, we take pride in providing one of the best resources on the web for Veteran employment. We are always thrilled to hear about Veteran hiring initiatives, and eagerly facilitate a connection between that company or industry and a Veteran who is looking for work.  One such industry-wide hiring initiative was recently publicized, as the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) announced that it has committed the trucking industry to hiring 50,000 Veterans over the next four years.

The TCA is a trade association that focuses on the truckload component of the motor carrier industry. The TCA represents dry van, end-dump, flatbed, inter-modal container, and refrigerated carriers in 49 states (all but Hawaii), as well as in Canada and in Mexico.

The TCA is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s hiring initiative Hiring our Heroes to deliver its own Veteran hiring program within the trucking industry, called Operation Heroes to Highways.

The trucking industry has embraced hiring Veterans into  well-paying and highly needed positions in all aspects of the industry, from drivers to salesmen,  dispatchers to mechanics and more. Veterans are highly sought after for their versatility, trainability and dependability, all of which are key components to quality employees in an industry that is vital to our nation’s economy.

One of MilitaryConnection.com’s allies, C.R. England, hires Veterans and trains them, providing “Honored Veteran” trucks that are painted with patriotic themes.  All the highways across America can see the pride that the Veteran drivers have in their service, and that their company has in their Veteran drivers.

Trucking companies are invited to participate in Operation Heroes to Highways by dedicating a minimum number of future hires to military Veterans, and making a pledge to that number in the next 30 days. Carriers who participate will be recognized on the Heroes to Highways online Wall of Valor, and will also receive commemorative Challenge Coins from Heroes to Highways.

Veterans, who are looking to embark on their civilian careers, are invited to research careers in the trucking industry. There are plenty of opportunities for well-paying jobs and advancement, even becoming a small business owner/independent contractor by driving their very own truck. A great start is our very own Jobs Page.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Trucking Industry Vows 50,000 Veteran Jobs: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Massive Marine Training Exercise in California

MEFEX

By Debbie Gregory.

In February 2015, more than 1,800 Marines and Sailors combined for one of the largest military training exercises in history for a scenario that simulated a full-scale war.

The massive joint-exercise was conducted by the I (One) Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) at Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton in Southern California. The MEF-level exercise, or MEFEX, lasted ten days, and simulated the deployment of more than 50,000 U.S. military personnel, in case of a sudden outbreak of  war. The last time a full MEF was deployed was for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The MEFEX coincides with Marine Corps Commandant General Joseph Dunford’s stated expectations for the Marines Corps to be both mentally and physical prepared to deploy and fight anywhere, at any time.

Each individual combat unit conducts constant preparedness training. But it is mission essential that exercises of the size of this MEFEX are conducted so that U.S. forces, from top to bottom, are familiar with the necessary workings of such a large scale deployment. This is also the best way to handle any snags in planning during real world operations.

For this training, the IMEF, comprised of nearly all of the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, Miramar, Twentynine Palms, and in Yuma Arizona, were pitted against a Marine Corps training group made up of approximately 60 service members and contractors.

The MEFEX focused on getting Marines from sea to shore. Then the I MEF carried out ground and air attacks against the opposition, simultaneously working on supplying their forces and defending against cyberattacks.

While the simulated deployment destination was a fictional country, the reality is that such training would be vital if the need arose to apply this sort of operation to a real world situation.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Massive Marine Training Exercise in California: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Senate Bill S.210 Aims to Help Military Spouses

military-spouse

By Debbie Gregory.

The Senate Committee on Finance currently controls the fate of an important bill affecting military spouses. The bill will extend tax credits to military spouses who must renew or transfer a professional license after their spouse’s   permanent change of station (PCS) order.

Concern regarding military spouse employment has been the springboard for many government and private-sector initiatives over the last few years. The introduction of “The Military Spouse Job Continuity Act of 2015,” Senate Bill: S.210, is legislation that falls in that category.

If approved, S.210 would provide military spouses with a tax credit of up to $500 to cover the cost of renewing or transferring a state-issued professional license.  The text of the bill, at this time, does not specify which licenses are covered. But it can be assumed that  licenses for the following would be covered: teachers, lawyers, physicians, nurses, realtors, realtors, therapists, general contractors and commercial drivers would be included, among others.

Several states already offer independent provisions for out of state professional licenses and certificates held by military spouses. But, at this time, no states are offering a tax credit or fee discount.

According to a 2014 spouse employment report conducted by the Military Officers Association of America, 35% of employed military spouses require a professional license to work in their chosen profession. Military families spend an average of $280 to transfer or renew a professional license after a PCS move. While the provisions of the legislation won’t cover the costs of all professional license woes, it will definitely help to ease the financial burden on military families.

The Military Spouse Job Continuity Act of 2015 is not the first attempt to provide this type of credit for military spouses. Every year since 2009, bills that read very similar to S.210 have been introduced on Capitol Hill, only to fail. But this year’s S.210 looks promising, as it is already gaining traction in the Senate.

This year’s attempt at the legislation was introduced on January 21, and then referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. Be sure to keep an eye on S.210 and all other pieces of legislation that interest or pertain to you, and make sure to contact your elected leaders to make sure that they are made aware of how to cast their vote on your behalf. It is not just your right to do so, but many would contend that it is your duty as a citizen.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Senate Bill S.210 Aims to Help Military Spouses: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Allegations of Mistreatment at Military Hospitals

WTU

By Debbie Gregory.

Patriotic Americans have been concerned with the treatment of wounded, sick or injured Veterans. Over the past year, an increasing number of accusations and increased scrutiny of conditions within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system have been  hot topics in the media. But while the nation’s focus has been on VA healthcare, we might also have to start looking at the conditions of Department of Defense (DOD) medical facilities, as complaints of mistreatment at military hospitals are surfacing.

The Army has ordered an investigation into complaints of harassment and mistreatment from staff members of the Warrior Transition Units (WTU’s) at three medical facilities in Texas. Allegations from wounded soldiers at Fort Bliss, Fort Hood and Fort Sam Houston have described growing concern over these units’ ability to meet the medical requirements of caring for the wounded, sick or injured, while maintaining military discipline.

Complaints ranged from patients being required to stand watch for extended periods of time despite medical orders that require them not to. Additionally, soldiers, under heavy sleep medication, were allegedly being ordered to fall-in for early morning formation. Soldiers being “treated” at these Warrior Transition Units also described a boot camp-like atmosphere, with staff members name-calling patients, as well as accusing some wounded, sick or injured soldiers of malingering. Of course, not every soldier who spent time in a WTU complained of their treatment. But even if one wounded, sick, or injured soldier was treated in such a way by a healthcare professional or an employee in the VA healthcare system, there would be hell to pay… and rightfully so.

Some of the complaints come from soldiers who have PTSD and claim that staff members accused them of lying about their condition and  taking advantage of the system. Could you imagine what would happen if just one soldier assigned to a WTU committed suicide after such treatment?

This type of conduct is in opposition to everything that the Army and all service branches have been trying to provide for their wounded, sick or injured personnel.

Service members deserve better.

The Army is not officially commenting on the ongoing investigation. But Army officials claim to believe that the complaints received are all isolated incidents, and not representative of a trend found among the 25 WTU’s Army-wide.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Allegations of Mistreatment at Military Hospitals: By Debbie Gregory

MilitaryConnection:Local Support For Veterans Works

local

By Debbie Gregory.

You volunteer for the military. You serve, you sacrifice, and hopefully, when you’re done, you come back to a better life for you and your family, right? But a recent survey released by the Orange County Community Foundation revealed that 61% of post-9/11 Veterans said they were having issues adjusting to a civilian lifestyle. At fault may be the increased instances of PTSD, at an alarming 44%, compared to 24% of pre-9/11 Veterans.

The study collected information from 1,227 Orange County Veterans through paper and online surveys, along with group interviews. The study extended to all branches of the Armed Forces, with roughly 40% of respondents having served in the Army, The remaining 60% was made up of 25% from the Navy, 21% from the Marine Corps, and the final 14% from the Air Force and Coast Guard.

During a presentation at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa, Anthony Hassan and his colleagues released their project titled “The State of the American Veteran: The Orange Veterans Study.” Hassan, a retired Air Force officer, is the director of the USC School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families. He emphasized the necessity of this data being collected at the local levels, with this study in particular being the first comprehensive essentials assessment for Veterans in Orange County. Hassan stated, “Without local data, people aren’t listening.”

As noted in the study, 74% of post-9/11 Veterans did not have guaranteed employment when they separated, and a staggering 71% answered that they did not receive any assistance in finding jobs. Almost 30% are currently unemployed and are actively seeking employment. Probably most disturbing is that 40% of respondents feel that employers view them as “broken” or potentially dangerous.

Also surprising is that 50% of Orange County Veterans who participated in the survey reported having difficulties with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the very agency that is supposed to make their lives better.

We owe those who have served a huge debt.   Paying that debt and providing necessary services and resources must be accomplished on a local level in order to be effective.