OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma ranks first in the average amount veterans receive annually in disability payments, said Joe Kintsel, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs executive director.
The average annual amount provided to individual veterans in Oklahoma is $8,593 per year, he said.
“There are a lot of veterans that get quite a bit more,” Kintsel said. “Some probably do just live on their disability. Others supplement the income they have. Probably in most cases, it supplements other income.”
The figure is based on the Annual Benefits Report for fiscal year 2022 published by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The figure is $450 per year more than the nearest ranked state.
“We aren’t just barely ahead,” Kintsel said. “We are ahead by quite a bit.”
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North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Georgia round out the top 5 in this category, according to the state agency’s analysis from the federal report.
Nearly 37% of Oklahoma’s veterans participate in the disability benefits program, just behind Nebraska.
Oklahoma has 290,000 veterans, of which 104,000 have some level of service-connected disability.
The agency estimates that more than half of Oklahoma veterans who may be eligible for compensation for injuries or medical conditions from military service have not yet applied.
Kintsel said his agency aggressively works to make veterans aware of the benefits that are available.
“Veterans can work and still get the payments,” Kintsel said. “Some are so disabled they are not able to work. Most disabled veterans are able to still seek private employment and work.”
Those who need assistance with filing a claim for a service-connected disability can call 405-523-4000 or go to oklahoma.gov/veterans.
Policymakers have worked to make Oklahoma an attractive place for veterans.
Last session, lawmakers passed and Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 401 to eliminate the remaining income taxes on military retirement benefits.
“That is huge,” Kintsel said. “The states around us have done this.”
Removal of the income tax on military retirement makes Oklahoma more competitive in attracting veterans to Oklahoma, Kintsel said.
Veterans who served 20 years in any branch of the military can receive retirement, Kintsel said.
Many military retirees go into a second career once they leave the service, Kintsel said.
They pay taxes on retirement income they earn in the private sector.
“They tend to be solid citizens and community leaders,” Kintsel said.
Veterans who are 100% service-connected disabled get a sales tax exemption for up to $25,000 on purchases per year in Oklahoma, reduced rate car tags for up to two vehicles, waiver of excise tax on one motor vehicle purchase every three years, and a waiver of ad valorem taxes on their primary residence, Lane said.
Veterans who are rated 70% service-connected disabled or higher are eligible for free nursing care in any of Oklahoma’s seven state veterans homes, Lane said.
Other benefits for disabled veterans include reduced rate hunting and fishing licenses, free admission to state or federal parks and state museums, and burial in state or federal veterans cemeteries, Lane said.