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Disabled vet pay excluded from state aid limits

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(The Center Square) – Disabled veterans in Pennsylvania no longer have to claim their monthly benefits as income when applying for state aid programs.

Gov. Josh Shapiro signed a bill Monday excluding disability payments from eligibility calculations used for property tax exemptions, the Education Gratuity Program, Veterans Temporary Assistance Program and the Military Relief Assistance Program.

This bill would ensure more disabled veterans can access important programs and services,” said prime sponsor Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg. “Our disabled veterans made significant sacrifices for our country and this bill would make sure their disability payments do not disqualify them from other state benefits.”

Roughly 638,000 veterans live in Pennsylvania, of which 30.5% are disabled, according to U.S. Census data. Three-quarters of veterans are over the age of 55 and 6.1% live below the poverty line.

During a veterans assistance event in November, Mastriano said although the General Assembly is at odds on most issues, supporting former servicemembers is not divisive.

“We’re taking small steps here to improve life for each of you,” he said.

On June 7, the upper chamber passed legislation that would exempt federal aid and attendance payments from calculations for tax relief. In Pennsylvania, veterans with a 100% disability rating that also fall within the income eligibility guidelines don’t pay property taxes.

Most states grant property tax breaks for veterans. Pennsylvania is one of 22 states and the District of Columbia to do so for 100% disabled veterans (as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs). Another 16 states give property tax breaks to veterans who are less than 100% disabled, and eight others give property tax breaks without a disability requirement.

Though most states offer disabled veterans property tax reductions, the issue is a live one in Pennsylvania because the commonwealth has the ninth-highest property taxes in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation.

When changes to the property tax do come, it’s usually in the form of targeted tax relief, rather than a general decrease. Shapiro brokered a $134 million expansion of the property tax and rent rebate program in 2023. Before the passage, the program benefited about 430,000 residents.

Anthony Hennen contributed to this report.

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