After receiving a bill for $6,000 in back taxes, the widow of a soldier killed in the Fort Hood shooting did not know what to do and feared she may lose her home. Though Fort Hood has not been deemed an act of terrorism, Oklahoma legislators are attempting to grant the families of the Fort Hood shooting similar benefits.
On Nov. 5, 2009, a U.S. Army major at Fort Hood shot and killed 13 people and injured more than 30 others. Newlyweds at the time, Jennifer Hunt’s husband Jason, 22, was one of the soldiers that was killed that day.
At the time of the shooting, Jason Hunt was gearing up for an Iraq deployment, and he and his wife had just bought a home in the Fort Hood area.
Though the shooting at Fort Hood resembles an act of terrorism, the Defense Department has categorized it as an “act of workplace violence.” Due to this classification, family members are not entitled to the same federal benefits as those who are terrorism survivors. It was not until last year that the U.S. Army started an investigation into whether or not the shooting was in fact an act of terrorism. If Fort Hood changes its classification, the victims and their families may be eligible for benefits and even may be awarded the Purple Heart.
According to the CBS Houston website, “Hunt said she was misinformed at the time of her husband’s death and believed that she qualified for a property tax exemption granted to survivors of terrorism. But this year, she was notified that she was ineligible for the benefit and received a $6,000 bill for back taxes.
‘I was ready to hand over my entire life savings,” Hunt said. “When a military person dies, most people look at you and think you must be rolling in the cash now. My husband split the life insurance policy he had 50/50 between me and his parents, so I paid off our house and my college debt, and I don’t have anything left after that. The $200 a month we get from the military will make us or break us.’”
When the Cleveland County Treasurer, Jim Reynolds got word the back tax bill Hunt owed, he reached out to his brother, Republican from Oklahoma City, Rep. Mike Reynolds, who according to CBS Houston, “drafted legislation that would address Hunt’s situation. Rep. Reynolds previously served in the U.S. Air Force and both brothers were raised in a military family.”
Currently, members of the military who are killed in action in combat zones are given tax relief. According to the TaxPolicyCenter.org, “The Victims of Terrorism Tax Relief Act of 2001 extends these benefits to victims of the 9/11 attacks, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and the post-9/11 anthrax attacks at an estimated cost of $190 million in 2002 and $360 million from 2002 to 2011.”
The bill drafted by Reynolds and Bercheen is scheduled to be heard for the last week of session.
On Monday Hunt got teary eyes when back tax department supervisor presented her with the receipt of her past due property taxes paid in full by three anonymous donors. What a great surprise for Memorial Day!
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