Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today highlighted the testimony of a Des Moines small business owner who hires many military reservists and veterans and educated the Senate's tax-writing committee about the hardships of such employment and possible tax changes to encourage businesses to hire reservists and veterans.
"Here's a small business owner who makes a point of hiring military reservists and veterans and faces hardships at his business for doing so," Grassley said. "Congress should do everything it can to encourage employers to hire military reservists and veterans, knowing these men and women might be called to serve at any time."
Dr. Mark Darrah, president and chief executive officer of Athena GTX, Inc. of Des Moines, testified before the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing on the effect of tax and fiscal policies on the military community. Grassley is ranking member of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over tax policy.
Darrah told the committee that his business develops advanced wireless medicine products such as medical vital signs monitoring devices that are desired by the military, with several employees who are retired service members or have served in reserve and National Guard units. Many have been recalled and/or served. He described the challenges of maintaining compensation expenses such as health care benefits for the reservist's family and hiring temporary workers to fill in for deployed employees. Click here to read Darrah's testimony.
Grassley said the testimony will help legislators determine whether Congress should enact additional policies to help reservists and veterans. Grassley strongly supported two key pieces of legislation on these issues that were enacted in recent years, the Military Family Tax Relief Act of 2003 and the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008. Among other provisions, included in these laws were a temporary tax credit for small employers of reservists called to active duty, a permanent extension of an election to include combat pay as earned income for purposes of the earned income tax credit, an allowance for reservists called up for active duty to withdraw unused funds from a health flexible spending account, and an exclusion from income payments made to offset adverse effects in housing values that result from military base closures.
"We can never thank enough those who are serving or who have served in the Armed Forces. However, we often overlook the many day-to-day sacrifices on the part of those who serve and their families," Grassley said. "Congress needs to continue to consider to what extent the tax laws need to be changed to alleviate the special hardships placed upon the military and veteran communities and employers."
Grassley has been active on reservist and veteran issues on several fronts. In each of the last three years, the Internal Revenue Service has hired more than 1,000 military veterans, exceeding Grassley's request that the agency hire at least 1,000 veterans. Grassley initiated the veterans hiring effort after realizing that the Treasury Department, including the IRS, lagged behind other federal agencies in hiring newly returned veterans, even though the department had significant vacancies.
Last year, Grassley welcomed the enactment of legislation he cosponsored to help members of the military benefit from the first-time homebuyer tax credit. Before this correction, members of the military were penalized by the credit's structure. The correction gave military personnel serving outside of the United States more time to qualify for the credit. It also eliminated the repayment requirement for military personnel forced to sell as a result of official service. The legislation also excluded from tax any payment to military personnel to compensate them for loss in home value resulting from base closure.
Apart from tax work, Grassley has worked to address the ongoing and growing backlog of veterans' claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He also cosponsored successful legislation that will ensure timely, sufficient and reliable funding for the VA health care system. This legislation was supported by all major veterans' organizations as well as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Grassley also has worked to include several beneficial provisions in the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. This new law corrects a number of deficiencies in how the U.S. cares for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, enhances VA support for family caregivers, and expands mental health services. In 2009, Grassley received the American Legion's Distinguished Public Service Award for his work on issues important to veterans.