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Legal office provides military benefits refresher

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Service members and their families may face unique challenges throughout their careers.

Fortunately, there are resources and benefits available to assist service members navigate the not-so-ordinary obstacles.

Auto Vehicle Excise Tax: Service Member Exemptions

Under Massachusetts law, all residents who own and register a motor vehicle must pay an annual motor vehicle excise tax. 

Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, there are service-related exemptions for vehicles owned by military members who are not legal residents of Massachusetts, but who reside and register personal vehicles here pursuant to military orders. This exemption also extends to the service member’s spouse.

For eligibility, service members must present a letter from their military command to the local tax assessor. Once approved, no further action is required to maintain the exemption in any subsequent year.

VA Home Loan Changes: Removal of VA Loan Limits in 2020

Veterans and active-duty service members will have more borrowing power because of the Blue Water Veterans Act of 2019, which became effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Before the new law, the Department of Veteran Affairs set limits on the maximum loan amounts they would guarantee without requiring a down payment. Because of this new legislation, the VA eliminated loan limits for borrowers with full entitlements to VA loans.

It is important to note, however, that the removal of loan limits does not mean unlimited borrowing power without a down payment. Service members still need to have sufficient income and meet a lender’s credit requirements to qualify for the loan amount.

Post-9/11 GI Bill: Transfer to Spouse and Dependents

The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children.

Family member use of transferred educational benefits is subject to the following rules:

Spouses may start to use the benefit immediately. Spouses may use the benefit while the member remains in the armed forces or after separation from active duty. Spouses are not eligible for monthly housing allowances while the member is serving on active duty.

Children may start to use the benefit only after the individual making the transfer has completed at least 10 years of service in the armed forces. Children may also use the benefit while the eligible individual remains in the armed forces or after separation from active duty.

A child may not use the benefit until he or she has attained a secondary school diploma, or has reached the age of 18. Children are entitled to the monthly housing allowance stipend even though the eligible individual is on active duty.

For further information on any of these topics, contact the legal office at 781-225-1410 or visit https://www.hanscom.af.mil/Units/Hanscom-Legal-Office/.