Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece. The writer is not employed by Military Times and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Military Times or its editorial staff.
Our nation’s veterans have served and sacrificed to defend our rights and freedoms and to keep us safe. They have faced incredible challenges, long periods of separation from family and friends, as well as physical and psychological injuries that can last a lifetime.
Brandon Davis of Greenwood, Arkansas, is one such American hero who was injured in service to his country. Brandon was deployed to Iraq with the 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas National Guard when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb.
Brandon was separated from the service as a result of injuries he sustained during that event. He, like many others who were injured during the course of their service, was paid a lump-sum disability payment to help him as he moved into the next stage of his life.
Congress had intended that these payments be tax-free so as to not penalize these veterans for their years of dedicated service. However, we learned that the Defense Department had improperly taxed some severance payments to these combat-injured veterans due to the limitations of the department’s automated payment system. This was an unjust error that needed to be corrected so these wounded warriors could receive the benefits the fully earned.
I introduced the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016, which directs DOD to identify veterans who have been separated from service for combat-related injuries and received a severance payment that was improperly taxed by the federal government. It instructs DOD to determine how much the combat-wounded veterans are owed and allow veterans who have been improperly taxed to recover the withheld amounts.
As Congress neared the final days of the second session of the 114th Congress earlier this month, my colleagues and I were able to pass the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act.
I am incredibly proud that Congress came together in a bipartisan way to recognize the importance of this issue and to help right a wrong inflicted on some of our combat-injured veterans. This legislation will directly impact thousands of veterans who found themselves in a situation where they were denied their full benefits through no fault of their own.
Now, Brandon Davis and thousands of other veterans whose severance payments were improperly taxed have the opportunity to file amended tax returns that will help them recoup any payments that were withheld. This bill also places the onus on DOD to identify those veterans whose payments were wrongly taxed and to notify them of the error and the opportunity to recover that money.
We must live up to the promises our country has made to those who have taken the oath to defend it. They have earned these benefits and I am committed to making sure that Brandon and all of our veterans receive what is owed to them, along with our undying gratitude and appreciation.
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was elected to his second term in November. He serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.