New property tax exemption helps thousands of disabled vets in Cook County

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Veterans who own a home in Cook County and are at least 70% disabled pay no property tax dollars. But many have not called for the exemption of disabled veterans.

27-Dec-21 ?? Few Vietnam War veterans had the nerves of steel to Robert duvall as Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in the 1979 film, Apocalypse now.

?? I love the smell of napalm in the morning, ?? Duvall (right) said in the film, one of the most compelling stills of war ever made.

War is hell, and most Americans would agree that disabled veterans deserve more than a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge for their service.

That’s why in 2015, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law calling on disabled veterans to receive a substantial reduction on property taxes. In many cases, vets pay no tax dollars if the US Department of Veterans Affairs certifies the owner is at least 70 percent disabled.

Today, 6,083 Cook County homeowners who have been awarded the Standard exemption for disabled veterans of the evaluator Fritz Kaegi are exempt from property taxes. Collectively, the exemption saves these disabled veterans $ 33.1 million in property taxes ?? an average of $ 5,450 per property.

The exemption for disabled veterans grants an annual reduction in the equalized assessed value (AVE) of the veterinarian’s primary residence, provided the property is occupied on January 1 of the assessment year. The amount of the exemption depends on the percentage of disability as certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A veterinarian with a 70 percent disability is exempt from property tax. A disabled veterinarian with 50 to 69 percent service-related disability will benefit from a $ 5,000 reduction in the AVE. A veterinarian with 30 to 49 percent disability will receive a reduction of $ 2,500 in the AVE.

In Chicago ?? and all of Cook County ?? the exemption lasts for the lifetime of a disabled veteran, although it must be reapplied annually, with the VA’s certification that the applicant remains at least 30 percent disabled. When the veterinarian dies, his surviving spouse can continue to receive the benefit unless the surviving spouse remarries.

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Among the evidence required to qualify for the tax break for disabled veterans in Illinois is a letter from the VA detailing the percentage of disability related to veterinary service.

To receive the disability rating, veterinarians must provide the VA with proof from private or military physicians of the following:

?? A current physical or mental health problem.

?? An injury, illness, or exposure to something toxic that happened while they were in the military.

?? Evidence that the current health problem stems from something that happened during their service.

Qualifying disability conditions can include chronic back pain, severe hearing loss, scar tissue, ulcers, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and traumatic brain injury. A vet could be considered 50 percent disabled for sleep apnea or flat feet.

The monetary rewards can be substantial. A Northwest Side vet who was seriously injured in combat in Vietnam in 1966 has paid no property taxes on his modest three-bedroom ranch house for the past 6.5 years starting in mid-2015.

In 2006, before he qualified for the disability exemption at the 70 percent level, his property taxes were $ 5,234 and in 2007 they peaked at $ 6,897. That’s an average tax bill of $ 6,110 for the two years.

Over the next seven years, from 2008 to 2014, through aggressive calls and the Homeowner Exemption and the Seniors Exemption, the tax bill averaged just $ 3,272 per year. So between mid-2015 and 2021, with the additional disability exemption, he probably saved over $ 21,268 in property taxes.

Despite their service, many Chicago and Cook County vets have not requested the disabled veteran exemption and should immediately take action to mitigate the huge impact of the 2021 reassessment in the city. Visit the Cook County Assessor’s Office website (and select Exemptions from the menu at the top of the page) or call 312-443-7550.

Critics say exemptions undermine integrity of property tax system

While on active duty from mid-1969 to mid-1971 as a US Navy sailor on the aircraft carriers USS Ranger and USS Midway during the Vietnam War, owner of Northwest Side Dean Karouzos suffered severe hearing loss while his squadron was on combat missions in the Gulf of Tonkin.

?? On the USS Ranger, my daily post during combat missions was next to an interior wall barrier for our ship’s starboard forward launch catapult, ?? remembers Karouzos. “Our 12-hour shifts coincided with combat operations. As a result, the pounding of the catapult on launch was extremely close to my left ear. ??

Karouzos says he was proud to have served, but now, as a 74-year-old retiree, he suffers from hearing loss, especially in his left ear.

(Right) A young Dean Karouzos aboard the USS Ranger in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Dean Karouzos

?? My left ear canal collapsed to about half the size of my right ear canal, ?? he explained.

Critics of the exemption for disabled veterans and other exemptions for the elderly, say they undermine the integrity of the property tax system.

Chicago Sun-Times analysis published on October 1, 2021, pointed to US senator Tammy duckworth ?? one from Illinois ?? most prominent combat veterans ?? and other affluent Chicago area veterans for accepting disability benefits.

Photo by James C. Svehla

Duckworth has accepted $ 37,842 in tax relief on his primary residence at Hoffman Estates since 2015 as a 70% certified disabled veteran. She lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004. She now uses a wheelchair.

?? I ?? am surprised that someone is interviewing the veterans ?? who were wounded in the service of their nation in a combat zone ?? access the benefits, ?? said Duckworth (left).

Photo by James Svehla

This writer believes that any member of the military who serves and is disabled in combat deserves all the perks America has to offer. Gung-ho!


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