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For disabled vets, the check is in the mail

Posted: July 22, 2012 - 12:14am

The term “the check is in the mail” is a time-worn phrase generally understood to mean the opposite, using the U.S. Postal Service as the scapegoat for a missing payment.

In the case of disabled veterans overcharged on their property taxes for the past four years, finding a scapegoat will be a little harder – but at least the check actually will be in the mail.

County officials around Georgia didn’t find out until this spring that a change in federal guidelines in 2007 granted larger homestead exemptions to qualified disabled veterans.

As often is the case, the change was buried in a larger federal law. Members of Congress apparently did little to alert their constituents or their local governments. The Georgia Department of Revenue at first inexplicably brushed it off as not their job to notify counties. It finally took relatively new Revenue Commissioner Doug McGinnitie to let everyone know – but by then, four years of overcharging had occurred.

That means counties, including Columbia and Richmond, are having to go back through years of records to figure out who qualified for the exemption, in which year, and to calculate how much of refund they’re owed. It’s a tedious, line-by-line process, which is why the checks won’t be in the mail until around November.

It’s bad enough that the federal government could have such a startling influence on local government. But shouldn’t it also take responsibility for making sure everyone knows what that means?

By the way: Those vets would owe penalties if their payments had been late all those years. Shouldn’t their refunds at least include interest?

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