Monday, February 7, 2011

Stop Loss Backpay Compensation, VA Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits, Taxes, and TurboTax

by 13Stoploss

I would like to formally apologize and thank the United States Government for taxing my Stop Loss Backpay Compensation. Despite being deployed to a combat zone in 2005-2006 for twelve months of my fourteen month involuntary extension, I was wrong to criticize that $800, essentially 80% of the pay received for the two extra non-deployed months ($500 per month x 2 months = $1000; $800 = 80%), had been taken from my Stop Loss Backpay Compensation received in February 2010.

Government, you were right and now I am thankful that this earned income allows me, an unemployed full-time student with three dependents, including an unemployed single-subject-credentialed science teacher for wife, to receive the Earned-Income Tax Credit bringing my tax return to -$241.

Oh, wait.

But on my University 1098-T, my non-taxable, not-supposed-to-be-reported Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are included in the sum in Box 2. But if I subtract my education benefits, like it says on IRS Publication 970, page 8:

“Payments you receive for education, training, or subsistence under any law administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are tax free. Do not include these payments as income on your federal tax return.”

I get a completely different and generous positive result.

So does that mean I assume my 1098-T is wrong and that I can make the manual calculation myself And, if I am audited, am I in the wrong for not entering into Box 2 what my 1098-T erroneously says?

Help?

Anyone?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How?

by 13 Stoploss

I’ve been meeting with a VA Psychologist since late September, just after Brian died, for PTSD related help. I can’t say whether or not this helps or works, but I can say that it is comforting and that I have been challenged with different thoughts and emotions that ask me to think. One of the things that Dr. M has said, repeatedly, is that we often hide behind avoidance.

Am I avoiding anything?

I’ve posted a lot of my thoughts on the internet for the world to see. Type my alias, or my name into a Google search and there I am. I’ve made it available, at the expense of privacy, for the world to see and read.

(I’m just one guy, right? Is my story any different than any other stop-lossed veteran?)

In early January, I was interviewed/filmed for ½ of one episode of a four-part Canadian mini-series documentary on “The Science of Behavior” with Dr. Ray Novaco and graduate student and veteran Oscar Gonzalez of UC Irvine. I don’t know if what I filmed will be in the final version, after edits, but there was a moment after my part was finished, where outside, before walking away, the director opened up to me.

He said something like, “Man, I don’t know how you guys did it, or what you went through…I just, I can’t imagine war.”

And then I blabbed on about… about what? What the hell do you say to something like that? Was he opening up to me? Was he trying to connect with me? Was it some sort of off-camera moment that he liked to use to get a more intimate portrait of his subjects?

Something Dr. M. said today reminded me about this. I thought about what I said to the director and how embarrassed I felt because I had no summation, no closing argument, nothing to make sense of it all in the moment.

I felt like a fool.

And so when I talked to Dr. M, I wondered, how do I make sense of this? There are plenty of students at school that I meet who ask me, “What’s it like over there?” “Is it hot?” “Have you killed anyone?”
I typically shrug these questions off.

But how do I tell someone who is really interested in how I feel, how we prepared for death? How do I tell someone what it was like in 2003/2004, when we had no armor on our Humvees, what it was like to roll out knowing we had no protection? How do you tell someone that your life depended strictly on luck, and that we had no official way to prepare for death?

In’sha’Allah?

We were young, nearly all of us overgrown children with guns and bombs. We fucking did what we had to because we had no other choice.

I remember leaving on patrol at night, jumping onto the back our Humvee in a convoy of four. The open road, west of Mosul in late 2003/early 2004, was desolate. I wore black leggings and fleece and a baklava under my KPOT. We couldn’t see anything, even with NVG’s on. If someone wanted to, they could have blown us up with a string of IED’s and we wouldn’t have known who or where it came from.

I had to face this thought every night: how the Missus would take it, knowing that every night, I rolled out knowing that I could die instantly? Even painlessly? That if I was lucky, I would make it to Germany, or to Walter Reed, a vegetable, and never again be what she remembered I was on the morning I left?

How do you relate this thought, this emotion, this flippant feeling to someone who honestly, heartfeltedly says they can’t imagine? How do you say that we were dumb enough to do this everyday? That we had no choice? That we were young and dumb? Or that we didn’t want to, that we were scared, but did it because we had to?

For no other reason than we had to?