From: J. Stuart Cundiff

Columbus

During this recent Memorial Day time of remembrance for the veterans who served their country, many making the supreme sacrifice, I’d like to point out a glaring discriminatory practice by the state of Indiana that prevents some disabled veterans from receiving benefits that they are not only deserving of, but also need. Indeed, if some disabled veterans were not barred from receiving these benefits, it is just possible they would not be among the scores of homeless that we see on the streets of almost every city in Indiana.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program exists to assist deserving folks pay utility bills, weatherization, etc. A person needs to qualify, of course; the assistance is for low-income people. The disparity in the program is this: A person receiving Section 8 housing, food stamps and Medicaid is qualified because none of the assistance is considered income. Throughout the manual governing LIHEAP, there are exceptions and exemptions for income. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Disability from black lung disease.
  • Victims of Nazi persecution.
  • Certain children (including adult children) of Vietnam veterans, who were born with spina bifida.

Their income is excluded when computing benefits.

However, a veteran’s disability income is considered unearned income. It is further exacerbated by referring to disability income as “unearned income is payment for which there is no corresponding performance of work or services.” What?

A person enters the military, raises their right hand, swears to defend their country against all enemies foreign and domestic, and while in the service of their country they receive a disability — physical or mental — and that is referred to as “no corresponding performance of work or services.”

Neither the federal Internal Revenue Service nor the Indiana State Revenue Department considers disability pay as income. Both consider it tax exempt.

I have brought this situation to the attention of the politicians (no action), veterans organizations (no action), the broadcast media (no action), selected mayors around the state (no action) and the lieutenant governor’s office. (I was told, “We are not in a position to review this matter at this time.”)

In this time of remembrance all of the attention that veterans receive is well-deserved and well-appreciated. But let us not forget the veterans — especially disabled veterans — the rest of the year. Make it possible for them to receive the benefits they have earned.

What can be done? Eliminate that portion of Section 401.2 of the Indiana Low Income Home Energy Program that reads: “Unearned income … veteran’s disability.”