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Click on PDF for Annual GA MOAA Conference Agenda

GA Gov Brian Kemp LTC Barry Gardner (GA MOAA President) COL Mayo "Biff" Hadden (Ft Benning Chapter President) GA First Lady Marty Kemp

You Are Not Forgotten -- that's the central phrase behind the POW/MIA remembrance movement that honors America's prisoners of war, those who are still missing in action and their families.

Many of our service members suffered as prisoners of war during several decades of varying conflicts. While some of them made it home, tens of thousands more never did.

Here is how how this important movement got started, what it means and how you can help recognize it.

POW/MIA Recognition Day

POW/MIA Recognition Day is commemorated on the third Friday of every September, a date that's not associated with any particular war. In 1979, Congress and the president passed resolutions making it official after the families of the more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs pushed for full accountability.

During the first POW/MIA Recognition Day commemoration, a ceremony was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., while the 1st Tactical Squadron from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia flew the missing man formation. Most ceremonies since then have been held at the Pentagon, and many smaller observances have cropped up across the nation and around the world on military installations.

RelatedA Missing ID Card Spent 50 Years in Vietnam. Now It's Coming Home

The point of POW/MIA Recognition Day is to ensure that American remembers to stand behind those who serve and to make sure we do everything we can to account for those who have never returned.

POW/MIA Numbers

In order to comprehend the importance of this movement, all you need to do is look at the sheer number of Americans who have been listed as POW/MIAs.

American POW Numbers

According to a Congressional Research Service report on POWs:

  • 130,201 World War II service members were imprisoned; 14,072 them died.
  • 7,140 Korean War service members were imprisoned; 2,701 of them died.
  • 725 Vietnam War service members were imprisoned; 64 of them died.
  • 37 service members were imprisoned during conflicts since 1991, including both Gulf wars; none is still in captivity

American MIA Numbers

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 83,114 Americans who fought in those wars are still missing, including:

  • 73,515 from World War II (an approximate number due to limited or conflicting data)
  • 7,841 from the Korean War
  • 1,626 from Vietnam
  • 126 from the Cold War
  • 6 from conflicts since 1991

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State Tax Update: Latest on Grassroots Work to Exempt Military Retirement 

By: Tony Lombardo

JUNE 01, 2022

State Tax Update: Latest on Grassroots Work to Exempt Military Retirement

From left, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp; LTC Barry Gardner, USA (Ret), president of MOAA’s Georgia Council of Chapters; COL Mayo “Biff” Hadden III, USA (Ret), Fort Benning Chapter President; and Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp. (Photo by Trish Hadden)

Is your state still fully taxing retirement pay? MOAA National serves in an advisory capacity for state-specific issues such as income tax exemption. Please contact your local MOAA council as state legislation must originate at the state level.

Military retirees in three states soon will be eligible for significant tax breaks, with South Carolina and Oklahoma exempting all military retirement income from state taxes, and Georgia exempting a portion of that income for residents under age 62.

MOAA members and affiliates took part in some of the lobbying efforts to secure these new provisions. Here’s an update on these new laws, as well as work underway in Rhode Island on similar tax relief.

Georgia

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law exempting up to $35,000 of military retirement income from state taxes for state residents under age 62. All residents are eligible for a $17,500 military retirement pay exemption, while those declaring Georgia-earned income up to $17,500 can declare an additional amount equal to the income claimed.

Georgia residents ages 62 to 64 can claim a $35,000 exemption on any type of retirement income, while those over 65 can exempt $65,000.

The Georgia law takes effect for the 2022 tax year.

“It was a long, hard battle, but it worked out,” said LTC Barry Gardner, USA (Ret), president of MOAA’s Georgia Council of Chapters. “Every chapter talked to their state rep, their state senator and push this, stressing the brain drain.”

Gardner gave special praise to Georgia Council Legislative Chairman Col. William "Les" Arent, USAF (Ret), who "herded from the Council level."

"He's been working this legislative affairs thing for a good seven, eight years," Gardner said. "He’s always been right there with us."

Gardner said the tax break sends a message to newly retiring military based at Georgia installations.

“You’ve served here in Georgia, and now is your chance to continue serving in the state and contribute your expertise in the state,” he said.

The bill does not address survivor benefits and does not cover members of the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service or NOAA.

https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/61451    CLICK CURRENT VERSION
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South Carolina

Gov. Henry McMaster signed H. 3247 into law on May 13, exempting all military retirement income from South Carolina taxes beginning with the 2022 tax year. The South Carolina Veteran Coalition, with leadership from MOAA members, spearheaded advocacy efforts in support of the change.

“It has been an eight-year journey. It’s a hallelujah day for us,” said Col. Tom Robillard, USAF (Ret), who serves as the vice president for legislative affairs for both MOAA’s South Carolina Council of Chapters and the Columbia Chapter. Robillard also co-founded MOAA’s State Legislative Forum, which allows state-level advocates to discuss experiences and best practices.

[RELATED: MOAA Changemaker 2020: Tom Robillard]

Robillard said a combination of factors led to the legislative victory. The timing was good -- the state was experiencing an excess of funds and had created a new tax on internet sales. And while that played a role, Robillard said a unified drumbeat from nine veterans service organizations made this a reality. In terms of strategy, he said one-on-one meetings between legislators and their constituents proved critical to convey the message.

Robillard said Council President Maj. Gen. Michael Akey, USAF (Ret), and Council Vice President Linda Caldwell, a former Army captain, led the way.

"We are just so thrilled for our fellow veterans that they have this long-awaited exemption,” Caldwell said, adding that this move will keep military retirees in the state. “This is just a huge plus for South Carolina, which is an awesome place to live.”

Robillard said the bill also benefits survivors, although it does not include nonmilitary uniformed services personnel. “That’s probably another battle down the line,” he said.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill May 26 granting full exemption on military retirement pay.

SB 401 takes effect beginning with the 2022 tax year and would expand the state’s existing tax break for military retirees, which covers 75% of their earnings.

“We’re thrilled about it,” said Lt. Col. Ed Petersen, USAF (Ret), president of MOAA's Oklahoma Council of Chapters. “Looking at the number of surrounding states that already had this it was pretty obvious it needed to be done.”

State Sen. Adam Pugh, a former Air Force officer and a member of the senate since 2016, told the Tulsa World the bill would attract “highly trained professionals” to the state to “help fill the gap in critical industries like aviation and engineering, which will be an incredible boon for our economy.”

Petersen, at risk of sounding like the Chamber of Commerce, noted the state already had clean air, clear skies, cosmopolitan cities (Tulsa and Oklahoma City), a low cost of living, and friendliness to spare.

“Bottom line, this is just another item on the list,” Petersen said of the new exemption. “And one that might tip Oklahoma in favor.”

[RELATED: Check Out This Ranking of the Best (and Worst) States for Military Retirees]

The bill does not cover members of the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service or NOAA.

 

Rhode Island

The FY 2023 Rhode Island state budget proposal includes a phased approach to exempting military retirement pay, beginning with a 20% reduction for the 2023 tax year.

The exemption would increase an additional 20% until the 2027 tax year, when the full amount would be covered. Gov. Dan McKee included the change in his proposal, which is now in the state house (H 7123) awaiting consideration.

The measure would not address USPHS or NOAA income, nor would it affect survivor benefits. Rhode Island has no military retirement-specific tax breaks on the books, though taxpayers over 65 are able to exempt a portion of their income if overall income levels fall below a given threshold -- $87,200 for individual filers in 2022. Learn more about the exemption at this link (PDF).

Tony Lombardo

Tom Lombardo spent 15 years working in journalism, most recently as the executive editor of Military Times. As director of audience engagement, he oversees online and print content teams for MOAA’s Communications Department. Follow him on Twitter.

Georgia Council of MOAA
Georgia Council of MOAA
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