Taxes from A to Z (2015): V is for Veterans Benefits (Forbes)
Under the Tax Code, income is reportable and taxable unless otherwise excluded. Fortunately, when it comes to veterans’ benefits, those paid under any law, regulation, or administrative practice administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are completely excludable. Excludable benefits for veterans includes educational benefits, including education, training, and subsistence allowances. Likewise, benefits under a dependent-care assistance program are not taxable. Excludable benefits for veterans also include compensation and accommodation for disabilities. Specifically, disability compensation and pension payments for disabilities paid either to veterans or their families as well as grants for homes designed for wheelchair living and for motor vehicles for veterans who lost their sight or the use of their limbs are not taxable. Payments made under the compensated work therapy program are similarly excludable. Death benefits for veterans and their families are also excludable. Veterans’ insurance proceeds and dividends paid either to veterans or their beneficiaries, including the proceeds of a veteran’s endowment policy paid before death are not taxable, as are death gratuities paid to a survivor of a member of the Armed Forces who died after September 10, 2001. Any interest on those insurance dividends you leave on deposit with the VA are also excludable. Finally, any bonus payment by a state or political subdivision because of a veteran’s service in a combat zone is tax free.
Home Depot volunteers build houses for veterans (NBC-Connecticut)
Some 100 volunteers from Home Depot spent Thursday painting walls inside the complex at 232 Arch Street in New Britain, Conn., which will soon house up to 20 veterans in need. “We’ve been doing it ever since the store opened 35 years ago when Home Depot first started,” said Ed Boice, manager of the West Hartford Home Depot, “and all these people here today are volunteering on their days off, and it’s just a great feeling.” The woman overseeing the project for Veterans Inc., Brenda Heller, said the volunteers “absolutely” sped things up. “The time, money, and effort that we would have had to spend to make that happen is fast forwarded into one day by 100 orange shirts and volunteers from the Veterans Inc. side, Home Depot, and even GE volunteers came out today, so it’s an incredible day of collaboration,” she explained. One carpenter, Patrick Wheeler, said he was giving back to Veterans Inc. as a way of saying “thank you” for what it’s given him. “I stay at Veterans Inc. in Worcester, for right now,” he said. “My business crashed, I had some tragedy in my life, homeless, actually, and Veterans Inc. kind of took me in.” Veterans Inc. will take in up to 20 additional veterans in New Britain on May 1 if work continues as scheduled.
Army vet writes children’s book to explain PTSD to kids (Huffington Post)
Mental health disorders can be so complex that many adults can’t comprehend them. So, how exactly do you explain them to children? Army veteran Seth Kastle encountered this problem with his own young family after returning from deployment. Kastle struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and found it difficult to communicate what was going on in a way that they would understand. So Kastle channeled a relatable activity — reading — and penned Why Is Dad So Mad?, a children’s book about a family of lions in which the father is suffering from PTSD. The story depicts the father lion’s struggle through a raging fire inside of his chest, which was mirrored from a description of Kastle’s own PTSD. Through the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Kastle raised more than $6,000 to help hire an illustrator and get the book published. Approximately 11 to 20 percent of recent veterans suffer from PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Kastle told NBC News that he hopes the project can help other military families who may be going through a similar struggle. “No matter what, when they’re mad or sad at you, they still love you,” Kastle’s 6-year-old daughter Raegan told NBC News. “There’s always a fire in his heart, but no matter what, I know there’s love.”
Obama pushes to train veterans for solar (The Hill)
The Obama administration is aiming to train 75,000 workers — many of them military veterans — for the solar power industry. The goal is a 50 percent increase from President Obama’s last commitment on solar training, announced last May. Obama will announce the goal along with efforts to achieve it Friday at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, the White House said. A major part of the initiative will be programs to attract outgoing military personnel and veterans into solar training, including community college programs. The Energy Department’s Solar Ready Vets program is a key component, the White House said in a fact sheet. The training initiative will be launched in coordination with the Defense Department at 10 military bases. “Service members will learn how to size and install solar panels, connect electricity to the grid, and interpret and comply with local building codes,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “This accelerated training will prepare them for careers in the solar industry as installers, sales representatives, system inspectors, and other solar-related occupations.” The Veterans Affairs Department will also contribute to the goal by encouraging states to approve solar workforce training for GI Bill benefits.
Veterans do ‘last paddle’ on Suwannee River (Florida Today)
They called it the “Last Paddle.” And for a group of military veterans, ages 84 to 91, it will probably be the last long-distance canoe trip, though none is quite ready to give up paddling. World War II veteran Bill Logan, 87, of Cocoa, and a group of four other men set off last week on the Suwannee River for a five-day trip. “It was a very good undertaking,” said Logan, who organized this and an original trip in 1998. “I enjoyed it.” The men, five of whom have been canoeing together for nearly two decades and seven others, set out on a three-day trip down the Suwannee River from near Live Oak to a campground about 28 miles away. They completed the trip Saturday. It was billed as the “Last Paddle,” but the men said it does not mean they have given up paddling, but they likely will not make another long-distance trip. They said they enjoy it so much that they will find a place to camp and paddle without going too far from shore. “When we meet, it is such a camaraderie,” said Harry McDonald, 91, the oldest on the trip. “We laugh when we meet and we laugh until we say goodbye.” McDonald, of Melbourne Beach, said the friends usually rehash funny things that happened to them on other trips. Once an alligator scurried, sending one of the men scrambling, even though it was running away. On another occasion, one of the men was bathing in the river when the engine of a boat with several people broke down in front of their camp and the bather ran and hid behind a tree until he could get his clothes back on.
Purple Heart found under bus bench sparks search for WWII vet (The Washington Times)
A Purple Heart medal found under a bus stop bench just outside Denver, Colorado, has sparked a search for an elderly veteran who possibly served during World War II. John McDermott, 25, found the medal, which is awarded to military personnel who were wounded during service, on March 11 in Commerce City. He was on his way to work at the time. “I opened it up, and I felt my heart slow down a little bit. I took a deep breath and was like, ‘Wow. Someone is going to be missing this.’ I’m thinking whomever this might belong would be in their 90s,” Mr. McDermott told ABC April 2. Mr. McDermott said he believes the veteran must be older because along with the medal was “Peterson” school tassels from 1940. “Because this [medal] doesn’t have a name, it’s very challenging,” to find the owner, said Zachariah Fike, who runs the nonprofit Purple Hearts Reunited, told ABC. The Vermont-based organization has returned 150 Purple Hearts and other military honors since July 2012, the station reported.
Marine who lost leg in Afghanistan to climb Mount Everest (KFSN-ABC)
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville lost his leg in an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan, but that won’t stop him from climbing Mount Everest. In April, he trains to hike Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles. In time, he’ll be scaling the world’s tallest peak. “Anything is possible. You just have to set your mind to it,” Linville said. Linville is training with the help of the Heroes Project, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that has helped six different amputated veterans scale the highest mountains on six different continents. Mark Zambon climbed Mount Kilimanjaro after both his legs were blown off in Afghanistan. “Early in the recovery, I recognized that the loss of my legs carried with it the potential to own my life, control me and very much put me in the place. Climbing that mountain allowed me to break the back of that threat,” Zambon said. Tim Medvetz, who’s not a veteran himself, founded the organization and has led every climb. “The Heroes Project is here letting them know, ‘Hey man, we appreciate what you did for us, I appreciate what you did for me,'” Medvetz said. Last year, Medvetz and Linville attempted to climb Mount Everest, but stopped after a group of sherpas died in an avalanche. They’re determined to reach the summit this year. “It’s going to be a crazy feeling. I’m just going to break down and love the moment,” Linville said.