Veterans Day should be about more than a chance to get a good deal on a new flat screen TV ahead of the holidays, although there’s nothing wrong with getting a bargain.
A break on the sticker price also benefits the men and women who serve our country, many of whom struggle financially as they transition back to civilian life. And I applaud the special deals companies offer to military veterans and their families this time of year, from free meals to special retail discounts.
But for many financially struggling veterans and military families, the annual retail discounts offer little more than a tease, rather than respite from their monthly scramble to pay household bills. They need financial relief that is more permanent and predictable.
Congress is debating a tax credit as part of a larger package that offers that kind of financial lifeline to veterans and other workers. On the table is a mix of personal and business credits that can become permanent. Among them are two credits that make a big difference in the lives of military families: the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). These are targeted, pro-work tax benefits that help millions of families nationwide afford basics and move into the middle class. Many families that stand to benefit include a veteran or active service member.
About 2 million veteran and military families nationwide claim the EITC, the refundable portion of the CTC, or both. In about a quarter of these households, a family member is actively serving in the military. In the rest, someone in the home is a veteran.
An estimated 86,000 Georgia military families claimed the credits in 2012.
Military families who claim the EITC and CTC are typically in lower-wage jobs. They’re working their way up the economic ladder and the tax credits give them a hand up. The credits boost income, helping families make ends meet.
The tax credits also provide a strong safeguard to keep military families out of poverty. We can all agree veterans are owed a dignified quality of life when they come home. The tax credits are a critical piece of that commitment. The credits today combine to keep more than 100,000 military families nationwide out of poverty each year.
Military families sacrifice to help preserve our freedoms. It’s our duty to make sure Georgia veterans can provide for their families. These pro-work tax credits do just that.
Key provisions of the EITC and CTC will expire at the end of 2017 if Congress doesn’t act soon. In Georgia, 48,000 veteran and military families stand to lose some or all of their benefits if the provisions aren’t either extended or made permanent.
A single veteran with two children who earns $14,500 as a full-time minimum wage worker could lose her entire $1,725 child tax credit.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Congress is set to consider billions of dollars in potential tax changes before the end of the year. They should seize the chance to make permanent the expiring pieces of the EITC and CTC. Georgia’s delegation represents one of the largest military constituencies in the country. Our representatives can play a key role in saving these critical pro-veteran credits.
So, by all means, pick up the tab when you see someone in uniform at a restaurant this week and thanks to all the stores that offer veterans a break at the cash register for this special day of honor. But Congress needs to get serious about providing real financial help to those who served. Let’s make permanent the tax credits that make their lives more manageable.
Jon Keen grew up in an Army family and served on active duty as an infantry officer, leading paratroopers in combat during two tours to Afghanistan. He is the co-chair of Georgia Veterans United and a member of the Truman National Security Project.