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It takes ‘more than a note from a doctor’ for a veteran to qualify for a disability rating

It’s also important to stress that the majority of veterans who receive disability ratings are average income earners or retirees, not high income earners.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, visits the Chicago Veterans’ Home on the Northwest Side in November, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

On Sunday, the Sun-Times reported on property tax exemptions, including exemptions for disabled veterans, with a focus on the exemptions given to Sen. Tammy Duckworth and other Illinois politicians. I am a Vietnam veteran diagnosed with a 100% disability, and I feel that parts of the article may not reflect how difficult it can be for the majority of veterans to receive a favorable disability rating from the Veterans Administration. It takes far more than a note from a doctor.

Further, I believe the majority of veterans who receive disability ratings are average income earners or retirees, not high income earners.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes. Letters should be approximately 350 words or less.

I applied for an increase in my disability rating in January, 2020, and it was not approved until May, 2021. That time frame is actually unusual because many cases take years before a decision is granted, and they often involve multiple appeals within the VA and in the federal courts.

The decision in my case was based entirely on medical reports by doctors at the Hines VA Medical Center, where I receive treatments; and it still required two separate medical examinations by medical personnel associated with Logistics Health Incorporated, a firm contracted by the VA to verify the extent of a veteran’s particular disability.

There may be a need to examine whether some income level is appropriate for determining the amount of the tax exemption provided. However, I feel the discussion should be based on an informed understanding of the lengthy process involved in determining VA disability ratings; and the income of most of the veterans who are receiving these tax exemptions.

Robert Whitfield, Hyde Park

Property tax break for disabled vets is only fair

I question the headline on the Sun-Times Sunday story about property tax exemptions: “They pay zero property taxes, so you pay more.”

Among those paying zilch are Sen. Tammy Duckworth and former Ald. James Balcer, both of whom receive a tax break given to disabled veterans. That a few disabled veterans pay little or no taxes should not make a large difference in how much the rest of us pay. Those property taxes are spread over many homeowners. Your headline shows none of that nuance and is offensive.

As a Cook County Property taxpayer, I’m grateful to disabled veterans. If I need to pay more on my tax bill and am able to walk on two legs and sleep well without pain or nightmares, I call that a fair trade-off.

Trina Hayes, Olympia Fields

Standing with veterans

For their service and sacrifice, veterans earn various benefits. The GI Bill (and its updated version) has allowed millions of veterans to receive a higher education. It can be argued that the middle class came into being because of the benefit that World War II veterans earned, and used.

That’s why we were so disappointed by the implication in a Sun-Times story that wounded and disabled Illinois veterans were somehow freeloaders because they used a benefit they earned — exemption from property tax. Specifically, we were disheartened by the implied argument that Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who gave both of her legs in service to this country, shouldn’t receive this benefit.

These kinds of arguments hurt all veterans, and hurt military recruiting, making us less secure. Veterans should never feel as if their benefits are being threatened, or being called into question. And they certainly should never be made to feel like they’re mooching off society if they choose to use their benefits. Those thinking about military service should know that America will always stand by the commitment it makes to our servicemembers, that the benefits they will have earned will always be there for them. Otherwise, we may lose innumerable recruits.

Let’s stand by our veterans and protect the benefits they’ve earned, not demean them.

US Army Veteran Mike Pounovich Minooka
US Marine Corps Veteran Mike Terranova, Chicago
US Marine Corps Veteran Neal Deuser, McHenry
US Air Force Veteran Brian Simmons, Romeoville
US Navy Veteran Mike Porfirio, Lyons Township

Disabled veterans gave their all

The Sun-Times “Watch Dogs” investigative reporting over the years has informed the citizens of Illinois and exposed corruption as well. The exhaustive research and reporting is commendable. This time, though, I have to call foul.

It’s one thing to expose the corruption that allows wealthy people and corporations to pay zero property taxes. Gaming the system by hiring high-priced attorneys and knowingly cheating the taxpayers of Illinois should not be allowed. Stay on that story.

But veterans have risked and even given their lives for this country. Many come back from their service to our country as only shells of themselves, broken mentally, emotionally or physically, or all three. Veterans have done what most of us do not have the courage to do.

I believe it would be acceptable if Illinois considered caps on tax exemptions based on income and disability percentages. Millionaires and billionaires should be required to pay their fair share of taxes. But I also believe that disabled veterans who are not millionaires should keeping getting the exemptions. It’s the least we can do for those who have given so much.

Kim Foster, South Loop