A Warrior’s Tale – Updated

( – promoted by navajo)

Crossposted from Daily Kos

Last Veterans Day I published a diary which you may recall titled Thank You for Your Service, which related the sad story of a Pottawatomi from Kansas who’d served twenty years in the U.S. Army, only to discover after those twenty years of service that his home state of Kansas had been robbing him by wrongfully withholding state income tax from his miltary pay.

This retired Master Sergeant has been trying for the years since to recover that money.

The diary gave an overview of the way the laws differ from state to state and had a few helpful tips for avoiding future occurences but precious little in the way of solid means of recovery for past injustices.

What follows is an update of how this process works in my home state of Arizona.

Those who recall the diary will remember that I advised that Kansas veteran that his best hope of recovery lay through the organized political power of the veterans organizations. It happens he is a member of the American Legion, so I advised him to start there.

By sheer happenstance shortly thereafter I met a candidate for State Commander of the American Legion here in Arizona. Armed with his card and email address I sent him a copy of the diary, and asked him to look into this matter as it concerns Arizona Native American veterans. Mr. George Cushing, the Legion official, is a busy man, and it took him a while to get back to me. The tale becomes twisted from here, so a brief recap will have to do.

First I was made privy to an email to Mr. Cushing from a high level Arizona state government official who recognized that the same situation had occurred here in Arizona, and that many Native vets had refund money coming, but that in the state’s ridicuously tight economic circumstances getting it out of the legislature would be problematic.

I wanted to publish the text of that email in a follow up diary, but only, of course, with the permission of the writer. Several days of phone calls and emails concluded with the Legislative Liaison for the Department of Veterans Services sending me a very discouraging email in which he cited a state tax ruling that basically declared the funds unrecoverable. This was a major setback.

Then, this morning, there was another email from the American Legion official which he encouraged me to “share with our Native American comrades.” Reproduced in relevant part, it read

Mr. George Frank from the Department of Revenue at (602) 716-6025 was the person who called  us  and stated that those whom had tax taken out while on military active duty can file a AZ Form 140 Resident or a AZ Form 140 Non-resident.  I have attached hereto for you the necessary forms, with both the instructions and booklets for filing.

In other words, Arizona Native American veterans who had a reservation address of record during their military service can recover wrongfully withheld state income taxes by filling out AZ Form 140 as appropriate.

Eligible Arizona vets can contact me through this blog site, or deal with Mr. Frank directly, for assistance in reclaiming their hard earned dollars.

None of which directly helps our Kansas Pottawatomi brother, but puts Arizona in line behind New Mexico and Connecticut in doing right by Native American veterans and leading other states in the right direction.

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Some Good News for Indian Country

( – promoted by navajo)

by DaNang65 – Veterans Affairs Correspondent

Cross posted to Daily Kos

It’s not nearly often enough that good news comes to Indian Country. But last week Preident Obama signed Public Law No. 111-269, the Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act.

Introduced by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick whose district includes 11 different tribes

– Hualapai Tribe

– Havasupai Tribe

– Hopi Tribe

– Navajo Nation

– San Carlos Apache Nation

– San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe

– Tonto Apache Tribe

– White Mountain Apache Nation

– Yavapai-Apache Tribe

– Yavapai-Prescott Tribe

– Zuni Pueblo Tribe, the largest Native American population of any Congressional district in the country, this bill corrects a hardship on our Native American disabled veterans and their survivors contained in the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA), administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

 

It is well recognized that, historically, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups. The reasons behind this disproportionate contribution are complex and deeply rooted in traditional American Indian culture. In many respects, Native Americans are no different from others who volunteer for military service. They do, however, have distinctive cultural values which drive them to serve their country. One such value is their proud warrior tradition.

“The two programs authorized for Indian tribes under NAHASDA are the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) which is a formula based grant program and Title VI Loan Guarantee which provides financing guarantees to Indian tribes for private market loans to develop affordable housing.”

According to the Veterans of Modern Warfare

Congress passed NAHASDA in 1996 to allow tribal communities to more easily access housing grants. The program provides support to families who make less than 80 percent of the median income of their area. While it has helped folks in Indian Country, an oversight has allowed Veterans disability and survivor benefits to count as income, causing some former service members to be made ineligible for much-needed housing assistance.

To make a long story short, disabled Native American veterans and their survivors were penalized in their eligibilty for housing support by counting their disability or survivors pensions as income in determining their eligibility for the housing grants. Put another way, having surrendered life or limb for Uncle Sam, these veterans and their families were less able to secure adequate housing than their fellows who had stayed at home. The patent injustice of this practice caused Rep. Kirkpatrick to work with the Navajo Housing Authority to write the bill she introduced which became H.R.3553, passing easily through the House and unanimously through the Senate.

Among her other legislative accomplishments, Rep. Kirkpatrick introduced H.R.2879 much of which became folded into S.B.1963,  Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, promoted in the Senate by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), the IAVA and others,  and signed into law by President Obama on May 5, 2010 as P.L. 111-163. A principal benefit of this law in Indian Country is that it provides for Native American veterans, who often must travel long distances to receive VA health care, mileage reimbursement at the same 41.5 cents per mile that federal employees receive, as well as funding suicide prevention programs.

Since no good deeds ever go unpunished, Nate Silver rates Ms. Kirkpatrick, an unusually productive fresh(wo)man Representative, as having about a 15% chance of re-election. The tribes really, really need to GOTV.

I cannot report on veterans issues without once again beating my bodhran about Retroactive Stop Loss Pay. If you know any veteran or the survivor of a veteran who was “stop lossed”, that is, kept in the miltary beyond their enlistment expiration, they are owed $500 per month for every month they were stop lossed. But they must apply before December 3rd, it’s use it or lose it time. The linked website makes the whole process as simple as following a few links.

A special h/t to jimstaro for bringing the Indian Veterans Housing Act to dKos’ attention.