A measure to clear up a lingering tax refund issue affecting disabled veterans and bring much-needed relief appears to have stalled.
House Bill 209 aims to allow for retroactive application of tax refunds for veterans whose disability designations were years in processing by the VA. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Lee Hawkins, David Clark, John Meadows, Calvin Smyre, Bill Hitchens and others, would amend the current code to allow for retroactive eligibility of up to three years for tax refunds, which is not the case currently. In the House, the measure passed 167 to 0. In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by Butch Miller. It was read twice before the Senate, the second reading coming March 15, a requirement for a vote. The bill never came up for vote before the end of the session, meaning it will have to wait at least another year. With the 2017 session adjourned, it will have to wait another year to be passed. Should it be passed then, it likely would not go into effect until January 1, 2019.
The issue has popped up at numerous Board of County Commissioners meetings recently, with the vote ending with a denial for veterans in each case because the commissioners felt like they had no choice given the current laws. A recent case saw them deny a tax refund request from Jamie Johnson Kagels. Kagels was notified via the VA in June of 2016 that she was deemed a disabled veteran effective August 2013. She had requested a refund of $5,745.49 for 2014, 2015, and 2016, but County Attorney Dennis Davenport noted that law does not allow for retroactive application of refunds.
“I agree it’s heartwrenching, but the fact remains it’s how the law is written. Denial is the only option,” said Commissioner Randy Ognio at that meeting. “We’ve just got to get the law changed.”
Asked Tuesday afternoon about the progress of the change, Davenport said, “It’s going in the right direction, but we’re in the same place until at least 40 days into next year.”
Law changes at the state level move much more slowly than what can be done at the local level.
“This is a change to general law, and it’s very difficult to change general law,” said Davenport. “This affects the entire state of Georgia.”