Did you know that there are around 35,000 Puerto Ricans enlisted in the United States military? Every year, tens of thousands of brave people from the island risk their lives for the U.S.
Like most veterans, former service members from Puerto Rico earn certain benefits for their sacrifice. The only problem, however, is that many of those service members don’t know what those benefits are.
Because Puerto Rico is not a U.S. state, many veterans aren’t sure which benefits apply to them.
So, what are the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico veteran benefits? Read on to learn more about the rights of former service members from the territory.
1. Free University (in Puerto Rico)
Most American service members benefit from the GI Bill, which helps fund college and trade schools for veterans. Unfortunately, this legislation does not cover Puerto Rican veterans.
In place of the GI Bill, the United States government has introduced special educational support meant to benefit Puerto Rican veterans.
All service members from the island have the right to waive their tuition at the University of Puerto Rico. They also have the option to claim free tuition at a number of local, Puerto Rican universities.
Children of Puerto Rican service members can also pursue more affordable education.
Veterans from the island can get a 50% discount on their children’s University of Puerto Rico tuition. This discount also applies to other, local institutions of higher education.
2. Funeral Insurance
Nobody likes to think about their own funeral. Nonetheless, the fact of the matter remains that funerals can be extremely expensive.
These days, a funeral can cost upwards of $7,000. For most families, the burden of that cost is just too high to bear.
Luckily, many Puerto Rican veterans and National Guard members qualify for something called “funeral insurance.” Funeral insurance is a type of coverage that will pay for a percentage of one’s burial costs.
In the case of Puerto Rican service members, funeral insurance will cover up to $3,000 of burial-related expenses.
In order to qualify for this benefit, a late service member’s family must prove two things.
First, the family must show that the deceased was less than sixty years old. Second, the family must demonstrate proof that the deceased was a member of the military or the National Guard.
3. Tax Benefits
This might be one of the most confusing veteran benefits in Puerto Rico.
Veteran status aside, Puerto Ricans already pay different taxes than Americans from the mainland. As a result, many Puerto Rican service members may wonder to what extent they receive military-related tax breaks.
The good news is that Puerto Rican veterans’ benefits do extend to taxes. Read on to learn what kinds of tax breaks exist for Puerto Rican veterans.
Income Tax Rules for Active Members
The tax situation for active Puerto Rican members of the United States military service can be complicated.
The reason for this is that most civilian Puerto Ricans do not have to pay federal income taxes. As long as these Puerto Ricans live and work on the island, they do not have to pay the U.S. federal government.
While this situation is beneficial to most people on the territory, it doesn’t necessarily help active service members. In fact, many active service members from Puerto Rico no longer qualify for these exemptions.
All Puerto Rican service members who are stationed outside the island must pay federal income taxes.
Luckily, however, this rule only remains in place throughout the time of a person’s service. If a Puerto Rican service member leaves the military and resumes living on the island, they will regain their tax benefits.
Income Tax Breaks for Veterans
Once a Puerto Rican service member retires, they can gain way more than their previous federal income tax exemption. Veterans from Puerto Rico actually qualify for local tax breaks within the commonwealth.
Any veteran with Puerto Rican residency qualifies for an income tax exemption of up to $1,500. If two veterans are married to each other, this amount increases to $3,000.
It is important to keep in mind that this number pertains to the income taxes owed specifically to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans living on the mainland do not qualify for this tax exemption.
Property Tax Breaks for Veterans
Puerto Rican veterans do not just benefit from income tax breaks. They also receive significant tax breaks on their properties.
Any former service member is exempt from paying taxes on up to $5,000 of appraised value on their primary residence.
This basically means that the owner of a $150,000 apartment wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the full $150,000 property. Instead, they would pay their taxes as if the property was worth $145,000.
While this tax break might sound great, this perk does not last forever. Puerto Rican veterans only qualify for this benefit over the course of ten years.
Spouses of late Puerto Rican veterans can also benefit from this tax exemption. These military widows and widowers, however, only receive this perk as long as they do not remarry.
Property Taxes for Disabled Veterans
Disabled Puerto Rico veterans’ benefits include extra tax benefits, regardless of where they are from. Since many disabled veterans were injured in a military context, the United States government provides them with extra benefits.
In Puerto Rico, fully-disabled veterans earn a 100% tax exemption on their properties. In other words, fully disabled veterans in Puerto Rico do not need to pay property taxes at all.
Partially-disabled veterans are also eligible for major property tax breaks. If a vet can prove that they were injured during active duty, he or she can earn a property tax exemption of up to $50,000.
This means that a partially-disabled veteran would pay taxes on a $150,000 condo as if it were only worth $100,000.
Learn More About Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Veteran Benefits
Veterans of the United States military qualify for many benefits. However, veterans from Puerto Rico receive sightly different perks, due to the territory’s unique relationship to the U.S.
Contact us to learn more about Commonwealth of Puerto Rico veteran benefits.
VetLink Solutions specializes in helping veterans apply for the benefits that they deserve. We would be more than happy to assist you in this process.