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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 72

Opinions of Counsel index

Alternative veterans exemption (member of exempt class) (foreign government service) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458-a; 38 U.S.C. §§ 101, 109:

Service in the wartime military of a foreign government does not constitute service which qualifies the individual for the alternative veterans exemption.

We have been asked whether a United State citizen who served in the wartime military of a foreign government during World War II is eligible for the alternative veterans exemption. The veteran has a certificate of eligibility from the Veterans Administration, and has received some veterans benefits, including a VA loan on his residence.

The term “veteran” is defined in paragraph (e) of subdivision one of section 458-a as “a person who served in the active military, naval or air service during a period of war and who was discharged or released therefrom under honorable conditions”. There is nothing in the State statute referring to the nation for which the veteran provided service.

However, a comparison of the statutory definitions included in section 458-a and those in section 101 of Title 38 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 the Federal law (see, 8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 69). The term “veteran” is defined in Federal Law (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) of the United States Code as including “active duty” which is defined in part as “full-time duty in the Armed Forces. . .” (38 USC §101(21)(A)). The term “Armed Forces”, in turn, is defined as “the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. . .” (38 USC §101(10); emphasis added; see also, General Construction Law, §13-a).

Accordingly, in our opinion, the term “veteran” within the meaning of section 458-a of the RPTL means the veteran of one or more of the above-named United States armed services. An individual who provided wartime military service only to a foreign government does not qualify for New York State’s alternative veterans exemption.

The fact that the individual is entitled to benefits under Federal law based upon such service does not alter our interpretation of the statute. For example, section 109 of Title 38 of the United State Code extends certain benefits to discharged members of certain allied forces. Specifically, section 109(a) authorizes the Veterans’ Administration to provide medical care to World War I and World War II veterans of allied nations under reciprocal agreements requiring the reimbursement of expenses. Section 109(b) provides that United States citizens who are World War II veterans of allied nations are entitled to benefits under chapters 31 (“Vocational Training”) and 37 (“Homes, Condominiums, and Mobile Home Loans”) of Title 38. Section 109(c) provides that, under certain conditions, World War I and World War II veterans of the Czechoslovakian or Polish armed forces who have been United States citizens for at least ten years are entitled to medical services under chapter 17 (“Hospital, Etc. Care”) of Title 38. Nevertheless, as indicated above, an applicant’s entitlement to certain benefits under Federal law based upon his service in the armed forces of a foreign government is not determinative of his eligibility for the alternative veterans exemption, because such service does not render the individual a “veteran” within the meaning of Federal law.

March 21, 1986

Updated: