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Volume 11 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 3

Opinions of Counsel index

Alternative veterans exemption (member of exempt class) (Coast Guard) - General Construction Law, § 13-a; Real Property Tax Law, § 458-a:

A veteran of the United States Coast Guard may receive an alternative veterans exemption on his or her residence provided all other statutory criteria are satisfied.

We have been asked if service in the United States Coast Guard qualifies for purposes of the alternative veterans exemption (Real Property Tax Law, § 458-a). Assuming such service was during a defined period of war or the individual received an expeditionary medal, and he or she was discharged or released under honorable conditions, in our opinion, such service does qualify for exemption purposes.

As we noted in 8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 72:

[A] comparison of the statutory definitions included in section 458-a and those in section 101 of the United States Code, relating to veterans benefits, indicates that the definitions in the New York statute are derived from and based upon those in Federal law (see, 8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 69). The term “veteran” is defined in Federal Law [sic] (38 USC § 101(2)) as “a person who served in the active military, naval or air service . . . ” . The term “active military, naval or air service” is defined in section 101(24) . . . as including “active duty” which is defined in part as “full-time duty in the Armed Forces. . . .” 

We then went on to note that the term “Armed Forces” is defined as “the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard . . .” (38 USC § 101(10); emphasis added). Similarly, section 13-a of the New York State General Construction Law defines “armed forces of the United States” as including the “army, navy, marine corps, air force and coast guard” (emphasis added).

Accordingly, assuming the other statutory requirements (e.g., residency) are satisfied, qualifying service in the Coast Guard entitles a veteran of such military branch to the alternative veterans exemption.

February 2, 2001