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Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans

February 24, 2023

By Raymond M. Roberts, Esquire

There are a number of federal and state benefits that are provided to veterans who honorably served the nation.  One of the lesser-known benefits offered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a property tax exemption for disabled veterans.

In 1988, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed the Disabled Veteran’s Real Estate Tax Exemption (Chapter 89, Title 51).  This program provides a real estate tax exemption for any honorably discharged veteran residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who is 100% disabled and has a financial need.

The criteria for eligibility are as follows:

  • The veteran must be honorably discharged.
  • The veteran must have served during a period of war as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (see below for dates).
  • The veteran must have a total or 100% permanent service-connected disability rating by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or as the result of military service the veteran is blind or paraplegic or has sustained the loss of two or more limbs (see below for details).
  • The veteran must be a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • The veteran must occupy the real estate for which the exemption is sought as his or her principal dwelling.
  • The real estate must be owned solely by the veteran or by the veteran and his or her spouse as tenants by the entireties.
  • The veteran can demonstrate “financial need.”

What is a “Period of War?”

 The United States Department of Veterans Affairs regulations define “period of war” as the following dates:

 WW II  December 7, 1941  December 31, 1946
 KOREAN CONFLICT  June 27, 1950  January 31, 1955
 VIETNAM ERA (If service was in the Republic of Vietnam)  February 28, 1961  May 7, 1975
 VIETNAM ERA (If service was not in the Republic of Vietnam)  August 5, 1964  May 7, 1975
 PERSIAN GULF WAR  August 2, 1990  Continuing

What disabilities qualify the veteran for the real estate tax exemption?

The veteran’s disability must be service connected.  A “service-connected disability” is an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated beyond normal progression during active military service. Service-connected disabilities can apply to both physical and mental health conditions.  The Veterans Administration provides benefits for honorably discharged veterans based on degree of disability.  If you receive VA benefits and have a disability rating by the VA of 100%, you are eligible for the real estate tax exemption.

In addition, if you have a service-related injury which resulted in you becoming blind or paralyzed, you are eligible for the exemption.  To be “blind,” the veteran’s visual acuity must be three-sixtieths or ten two-hundredths, or less normal vision as a result of injuries received in service.

To be “paraplegic,” the veteran must have bilateral paralysis of the upper or lower extremities of the body as a result of injuries received in service.

Finally, you are also eligible for the exemption if you suffered a service-connected injury during a period of war, which resulted in the loss of two or more limbs.

Again, the key provision here is that the disability must arise from a service-connected injury.  If your injury arose from a car accident when you were on leave or any other activity that was not part of your military service, it is not service related, and you will not be eligible for the exemption.

How is financial need established?

  •  Veteran must prove financial need according to the criteria established by the State Veterans Commission if their annual income exceeds $95,279, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Applicants with an annual income of $95,279 or less are given a rebuttable presumption to have a need for the exemption.

What happens after the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs certifies a “financial need” for the Disabled Veterans Tax Exemption and eligibility criteria has been verified?

The County Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes will grant the tax exemption. Cases that have been granted tax exemption will be reviewed every 5 years to determine continued need for exemption from certain real estate property taxes.

What happens to the exemption if the disabled veteran passes away?

If the qualifying disable veteran passes away, the exemption from real estate taxes will be extended to the unmarried surviving spouse upon the death of the eligible veteran provided that the State Veterans’ Commission determines that such spouse is in need of an exemption.  The deceased spouse must be living in the subject property and have been legally married to the qualifying disabled veteran.  If, after the exemption is extended to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse remarries, the exemption will terminate.

Contact the County Veterans Affairs Director in the county you reside to apply for this program.

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