To the editor:
My heart goes out to all widows/widowers who have
lost their loved ones who served their country. And if their loved
ones were the main providers I know all too well, not only having to
deal with the shock and despondency over losing your loved one, but
also the panic and anxiety of how you will now be able to make ends
meet. I am sure that for many as it was for me, you had to sell your
homes and rearrange your lives. My husband was not blessed with
disabilities from the Vietnam War, but he was blessed when the VA
deemed his disabilities to be “service-connected” and gave him a
percentage of disability pay each month. He also received the
Standard Homestead Exemption for Veterans with Disabilities being a
What I found out recently was quite by accident, and although it is
a blessing, I would gladly give up this blessing to have my husband
and best friend back. Nonetheless, I vowed I would write about this
in hopes of getting word out to veterans who are experiencing
disabilities due to their service and urge them to apply to the VA
and see if they qualify for VA service-connected disability
payments, as well as widows/widowers of service-connected veterans
who WERE receiving disability payments from the VA. You can contact
your county Veterans Assistance Commissioner who will walk you
through everything veteran-related, or you can opt to go to the VA
I must have missed the news articles when they came out, so were it
not for a friend of mine attending a seminar I would not have known
that Governor Rauner, in August of 2015, signed bills into law that
would not only help and Increase “service-connected” veterans with
various property tax exemptions, but their widows as well. (Widows
can’t have remarried).
A service-connected veteran means 1) a veteran who has sustained
physical and/or emotional injuries due to serving their country, 2)
has sought compensation assistance for these injuries through the
VA, and, 3) the VA is paying them a certain amount; percentage-wise
in disability payments.
When my husband was alive, he qualified for the standard Homestead
Exemption for veterans with ‘service-connected’ disabilities. We got
a property tax ‘break’ because of this exemption. We still ended up
paying property taxes …just a lesser amount. This exemption applied
only to my husband so when he died in 2013, as his widow, this
property exemption ended.
When my husband died he was deemed 90% service-connected (disabled)
through the VA due to his exposure to Agent Orange while serving
over in Vietnam which resulted in many health issues, and eventually
ended up taking his life in February 2013. As a widow, when the
majority of our income came from my husband, especially in the days
when full-time jobs are hard to come by and you can only rely on
part-time jobs, I have found it a struggle to make ends meet as I
live check-to-check, not to mention the absolute void of having my
best friend with me.
A friend of mine who works for an agency serving the senior
population in another county was attending some training seminars a
couple weeks ago; one of which was on veteran’s benefits. When she
got home, she told me that as a widow, (and according to the
percentage the VA deemed my husband ‘service-connected disabled’), I
qualified for not paying any Illinois property taxes at all.
Even after my friend told me this I did a search and could not find
any articles in my or the surrounding county’s newspapers about
this. I thought this had to be one of Illinois’ best-kept secrets!
My friend gave me the name and phone number of the gal who gave the
veterans seminar who was a Veterans Assistance Commissioner in
another county, as my county’s Veterans Assistance Commissioner
position was recently created and he was in training. After
submitting my husband’s VA award letter that stipulated his
disabilities were “Service-Connected” and the percentage the VA
deemed him disabled, I was told I qualified.
How much of a property tax exemption the veteran or his
widow/widower receives is based on the percentage the VA has deems
(or deemed) the veteran as disabled. The bill Governor Rauner signed
greatly increased the ‘disabled homestead exemption’.
Here’s the law that seems to be Illinois’ best- kept secret:
DISABLED VETERANS HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION (PTAX –342)
The following qualifications must be met to receive the Standard
Exemption for Veterans with Disabilities (SHEVD) under 35 ILCS
“Be a veteran (i.e., an Illinois resident who has served as a member
of the United States Armed Forces on active duty or State active
duty, a member of the Illinois National Guard, or a member of the
United States Reserve Forces and who has received an honorable
Have a service-connected disability of at least 30 percent that is
issued by the
United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
Qualifying property must be residential real property (any portion
that is used for commercial purposes does not qualify).
[to top of second column in this letter]
Own and occupy the property as primary residence on January 1 of the
assessment year or lease and occupy a single family residence on
January 1 of the assessment year and be liable for the payment of
Property’s equalized assessed value (EAV) after state equalization,
is less than $250,000. (Any portion of the property owned by a
veteran with a disability that he or she rents to another individual
or entity for more than 6 months is presumed to be used for
Public Act 99-375 increases the exemption amounts in 35 ILCS 200/15
lowers the service -connected disability threshold to qualify for
beginning with the 2015 tax year for property taxes payable in 2016.
Senate Bill 107 provides a multi-tiered set of exemptions from local
property taxes for homeowners who have a service-connected injury,
with a disability of at least 30 percent.
1) A reduction in equalized assessed value (EAV) of property of
$2500 is granted if the percentage of service-connected disability
is between 30% but less then 50%.
2) A reduction in EAV of $5000 is granted if the percentage of
service disability is at least 50 percent but less than 70 percent.
3) A total exemption from taxes is granted if the percentage of
service -connected disability is at least 70 percent to 100 percent.
Our county tax bureau did know about this bill, they just weren’t
advertising it. Our county Veterans Assistance Commissioner, who was
recently hired and was in training did not know about this bill but
he learned quickly; and our County Treasurer’s office did not know
about this bill either; as I stated….this is Illinois’ best- kept
Normally, you would take the following items to your own county’s
Veterans Assistance Commissioner, who would verify the information,
then they would give you a form to take to your county Tax Board
office, where you would then fill out the tax board’s disability
form. Since my county’s Veterans Assistance Commissioner did not yet
have the form as he was in training, I needed to take the following
to our county Tax Office:
1) My marriage certificate
2) My husband’s death certificate
3) My husband’s VA award letter that states the % of
service-connected disability the VA was paying him disability for
4) Something stating I owned was living at and paying taxes on this
property on January 1st of 2016, of which I submitted my paid tax
bill from 2015 showing it was paid in installments in 2016.
I then filled out the county tax board’s form. I asked if I go could
back retroactively to recoup any of the taxes I shouldn’t have been
paying the prior year, (2015). They told me yes and that you can
only go back ONE TAX YEAR, so I would get a refund for the 2015
taxes I paid. They told me my refund check would be issued by the
County Treasurer’s Office.
Just so you know: On August 17, 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner signed
5B 107 into law as Public Act 99- 0375.
Governor Rauner also signed into law that day, the Veterans with
Disabilities Exemption for Specially-Adapted Housing Act. (35 ILCS
This exemption may be up to a $100,000 reduction on the assessed
value for certain types of housing owned and used exclusively by a
veteran with a disability in which federal funds have been used for
the purchase or construction of specially adapted housing. The
exemption is valid for as long as the veteran, the spouse, or the
unmarried surviving spouse resides on the property. Federal and
state financial assistance is provided for service-connected
veterans with disabilities for the purpose of acquiring or
remodeling suitable dwelling units with special fixtures or moveable
facilities made necessary by the veteran’s permanent and total
service-connected disabilities as determined by the U.S. Department
of Veterans’ Affairs.
Beginning with the 2015 tax year, the exemption also applies to
housing that is specifically constructed or adapted to suit a
qualifying veteran’s disability if the housing or adaptations are
donated by a charitable organization, and the veteran has been
approved to receive funds or the purchase or construction of
Specially Adapted Housing through the U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs. This exemption is also available on a mobile home owned and
used exclusively by a veteran with a disability or his or her
For a single tax year, the property cannot receive this exemption
and the Homestead Exemption for Persons with Disabilities or
Standard Homestead Exemption for Veterans with Disabilities.
Well, I hope this information gets spread far and wide and helps
some ‘service-connected’ Illinois veterans and/or their
widows-widowers as I know that every little bit helps. It was truly
an act of God that my friend attended that seminar and told me about
this, so I am ‘paying it forward’ in trying to share this
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