As we approach what I view as the most solemn holiday of the year, I want to take the time to remind everyone of the true importance of Memorial Day. It isn’t about retail sales or an excuse for a three-day weekend. Memorial Day pays tribute to those who served and never returned home.
As a military dad with one son still on active duty, I know the stakes are high for the men and women who chose to serve. Unfortunately, with less than 1% of the population in the military and the total number of veterans shrinking every day as we lose our greatest generation of World War II veterans, the general population doesn’t see this patriotism with their own eyes or rarely knows someone who exemplifies it.
For those of us living, who have not given the last full measure of devotion, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to remember, to honor these fallen Americans. Truly remembering means that after our fallen heroes gave everything to get their brothers and sisters home, we have to ensure our vets get everything that they earned, from good health care to a good job.
We are increasing our efforts to work with other agencies and organizations to provide our veterans with whatever they need. Our Veterans Services Agency works collaboratively with Bridges in New City to implement the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support program. This program provides Veteran-to-Veteran support for veterans who understand the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Earlier this year I signed two resolutions that help reduce real property taxes for veterans, an Exemption for Cold War Veterans and an Alternative Veterans Exemption. The Cold War Veterans Exemption calls for indefinitely extending the property tax exemption available to veterans of the Cold War. The law was scheduled to expire statewide this year, but local governments have been given the opportunity to extend their participation. The law provides a maximum 15 percent tax exemption on a veteran’s primary residence that cannot exceed $40,000.
The Alternative Veterans Exemption calls for increasing the maximum allowable exemption for wartime, combat and disabled veterans. The new law would increase the home value cap for the exemption to $250,000; up from $180,000. The law provides a 15 percent assessment reduction to vets who served during a time of war (capped at $75,000); an additional 10 percent assessment reduction to vets serving in combat zones (capped at $50,000); and an additional assessment reduction to vets who incurred a service-connected disability (capped at $250,000).
Society reserves the right to ensure fair and balanced treatment based upon contributions to that society. Few endeavors are worthier of that than to acknowledge those who wrote a blank check to Uncle Sam for an amount up to and including their life. If not for our veterans, the liberties we enjoy in this country would not be here, and I think the least we can do is to afford them some assistance in dealing with the day to day cost of living here in Rockland.