A disabled veteran was properly denied a property tax exemption on her New Jersey residence because her injuries were not a result of “active service in time of war,” as required by the statute. Generally, a veteran claiming an exemption from real property taxes for a dwelling must prove that his/her disability resulted from injuries during “active service in time of war.” Active service in times of war means (1) service after September 11, 2001; (2) service in a theater of operation and in direct support of that operation; and (3) a service-incurred injury or disability while engaged in such service. In this case, the taxpayer suffered injuries during an Army training exercise in Missouri. Although the injuries did not preclude the taxpayer from continuing her military service, she was not sent overseas and remained in the U.S., assigned to the “Rear Detachment” for her unit in Afghanistan. Subsequently, the taxpayer applied for an exemption, which the Tax Court denied on the grounds that, although she was completely disabled as a result of her military service, her injuries did not occur “in direct support” of military operations in Afghanistan. The taxpayer’s argument, that the amendments to the statute sought to do away with geographic limitations for purposes of granting exemption benefits, was rejected because the inclusion of the geographical requirement was purposeful and the tax-exemption statutes were to be strictly interpreted. Further, the taxpayer contended that she was exposed to the experiences of war and, being disabled as a consequence of such service, as a matter of policy, should result in entitlement to the claimed tax relief. However, the taxpayer’s argument was rejected, since her injury was attributable to a fall she suffered during her Missouri basic training or during her role performing at the Rear Detachment, and therefore she failed to satisfy any of the statutory requirements to merit an exemption.
Fisher v. City of Millville, New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, No. A-3351-15T3, July 7, 2017, ¶402-092