HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Pennsylvania is home to the fourth-highest veteran population in the country, with roughly 800,000 thousand veterans. According to the Housing Assistance Council, over 120,000 Pennsylvania veterans have a service-connected disability rating.  

In Pennsylvania, veterans who are 100 percent permanently disabled, and who meet additional requirements, can receive 100 percent property tax relief through the Real Estate Tax Exemption Program. However, those who are not 100 percent disabled, don’t receive any property tax relief. 

“These men and women, they sign a blank check up to, and including, their life,” said Joe Benacci, the Director of Veteran Services for Erie County.  

Benacci is also a veteran and has been advocating for more tax relief for those who’ve been injured while serving the country. 

“Anything will help for veterans who went off to war or went off and served their country, whether it was home based or foreign based and were injured. It's something they deserve and they earned,” said Benacci. 

“The reality is their lives aren't the same,” said state Senator Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery/Berks). “Let's make it easier for them by taking a little bit of the pressure off by reducing their real estate taxes. They often carry injury or illness from their time in the service that prevents them from continuing to work and have valuable income coming in. Sometimes they are only living on their disability payment and their social security,” she added. 

Pennycuick, an Army veteran, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 844 and recently introduced the bill with her colleague, Sen. Rosemary Brown (R-Lackawanna/Monroe/Wayne). The bill would allow a disabled veteran’s property assessment to be reduced in accordance with their disability rating, as declared by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, before their property is taxed. 

Under the proposed legislation, reduction in property assessments would be as follows:  

  • For a disability between 10% and 30%, the reduction would be $7,500. 
  • For a disability between 30% and 50%, the reduction would be $10,000. 
  • For a disability between 50% and 70%, the reduction would be $12,500. 
  • For a disability of at least 70%, the reduction would be $15,000. 

Benacci and Pennycuick, both Army veterans, believe SB 844 is a good first step, but say disabled veterans deserve more, especially with rising costs. 

“Because right now people are really struggling with inflation. Real estate taxes never go down, they always go up,” said Pennycuick. “It's a challenge, it's something we all have to face, and I think that the time is now,” she added. 

“Inflation is outgrowing any type of advantage you're getting. Some of these veterans benefits have been sitting on the books for many, many years, which again, is good. But they need to be looked at every once in a while to see how we can maybe better them,” said Benacci. 

Disabled veterans who have been honorably discharged and have a service-connected disability would qualify, but only primary residences would be eligible for this program. Senate Bill 844 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration in July.