In an impressive chamber in the Dirksen Building, Senator Akaka of Hawaii gaveled the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs into session. A group of men and women, wearing buttons saying – Military Spouses, We deserve a Home State Too – sat and waited. A Director in the VA and others from his office went first, discussing a wide array of VA Compensation and Benefit bills. Then, the second panel began. AmVets, The American Legion, The VFW spoke first, on Vets issues. And all three gave their support for Senate Bill 475. Then a Legislative Attorney, American Law Division, in the Congressional Law Service gave an opinion on the MSRRA – and brought up constitutional questions. The last line in his written presentation concerning exemption of spouses from taxation in the jurisdiction the service member is stationed in resonated with all of the spouses there –
Any inquiry on the constitutionality of the question would likely hinge on whether exempting the spouse from taxation outside of his or her home state assists the servicemember to “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation?”
The quote comes from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dameron v Brodhead, a case concerning the SCRA (Servicemembers Civil Relief Act). For those of us in the chamber, the answer was very clear.
This LINK will take you to the Video – Rebecca’s testimony is minute 88, Senator Burr’s supportive message is at minute 98.
Rebecca Poynter was the last speaker, and put the case for the MSRRA succinctly and clearly. Personal property rights, taxation and voting in our “home of record” are the points that the MSRRA is seeking to change. She gave examples of spouses who have been badly affected by tax/home state problems; a military spouse who almost lost her clearance and job when a tax nightmare erupted with three states all arguing over where she owed taxes, the IRS got involved as did her employer; A spouse trying to get her degree, but cannot find an online course in the new state she just PCSed to, but her “home of record” state has one. Spouses who need to take classes, but can’t afford the non resident tuition. is a hardship many of us can empathize with, since most of us can’t afford to finish a degree in just one assignment cycle – when you move, and if you can keep taking classes in that program online – you are suddenly now a non resident! Voting – do we want to vote in our current state, or the state we plan to retire in, where some of us own property already? As for me, we still own a house in our home state, the local elections are important to us. After all, we worry about the town the house is in, the state of the local roads, the water tower, the police department.
Senator Richard Burr (R.NC) questioned the Legislative Attorney – wondering why there was a constitutional question, since military spouses have already been given certain rights concerning contracts and leases, that can be adjusted due to military moves. Since those rights are already there and were put into law by Congress, why is there a problem with expanding those? Senator Burr has requested an answer to this question soon. I for one, will be very interested in this answer.
NOW is the time to make phone calls. If your Senator is one of those who is a co-sponsor, please call and say thank you. If your Senator isn’t a co sponsor, please call.Here’s a link for information about the bill. Call the Senator of your “home” state, the Senator of the state you live in now, the one from the state you just PCSed from. Ask your family members to call their Senator as well. Military Spouse Appreciation Day is coming up – let’s make sure we show our elected officials how we’d like to be appreciated!