FREE VITA TAX PREP ON BASE

Yep, you heard that right!

At this very moment there are uniformed warrior-gods not only ready to engage the enemy, but prepare your taxes (which can be quite the battle too).

Many U.S. military installations across our great nation and around the world are collaborating with the IRS to offer free, in-person tax preparation services for active duty members, retirees and dependents. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA, our active duty and their families have one less thing to worry about in a lifestyle that can often times be filled with uncertainty.

According to Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, the Executive Director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, “Taxes for military members are complicated, noting frequent moves, deployments and the fact that tax laws change every year. The VITA preparers receive extensive training through the Defense Department and the IRS on the situations faced in the military community, such as combat zone tax benefits, extensions to file and pay, and special rules for the earned income tax credit.”

Have I had my taxes prepared by VITA? You bet your sweet return I have! (Full disclosure: a few years back I went to the dark side and had my taxes prepared by a national chain. In fact, I paid the fees to have 4 years of VITA returns checked. Not a single mistake was found. Very impressive to say the least.)

Gather your tax information for the past year (and an up-to-date power of attorney if your spouse is deployed) and head on over to your local VITA offices. Make sure to bring along your bank information that include routing numbers, as well as original social security cards of all dependent family members.

You will find professional, uniformed personnel under the guidance of an expert overseer that are able to file both federal and state returns. The entire process is free, all you have to do is make that appointment!

The deadline to file this year is April 17 with military members serving outside the United States receiving an automatic two-month extension.

VITA is a wonderful way our country gives back to our service members and their families who sacrifice so much.

So get going!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Welcome Home Commitment

The year: 2005

The place: El Centro, California

The temperature: a balmy 115 degrees

If you have never heard of El Centro, think the desert scene in Star Wars, Return of the Jedi (it was filmed there) – and we’re talking surface-of-the-sun hot. We were on the tail end of our 5th cross-country Permanent Change of Station (PCS) from Virginia to California with our (then) 5 children and one dog. A proper Saharan caravan on its last leg.

It was then that our minivan tires began to give. I remember looking behind from the front-seat of our car with concern, and seeing five red-faced children staring nervously back. They were dripping with sweat in our vehicle-turned-sauna. Our panting dog sat atop a stack of suitcases, like some busted-up driveway lion, guarding nothing in particular. We had turned off the air conditioner, as it was serving no purpose other than raising our engine temperature. Outside, it was simply too hot, and the system could not keep up.

But suddenly, on the horizon – an oasis! Wait a minute…is it a mirage? No! A Walmart Super Center!

To us wayward travelers, it was as if we had stumbled upon the Fountain of Youth. We limped into the auto bay, handed over the keys and apologized to the mechanic for the yet-to-be identified smell of the interior. I considered pulling the food off the dash board and then thought hmmm – warm lunch for later. I walked away not caring if I ever got back into the van again.

As I watched my children frolicking in the freezer section, I pondered our current situation. We had prepared for the move and traveled so far only to be caught off guard. Again. We were stuck in the moment, with a most unlikely sanctuary suddenly appearing.

For many Veterans, transition may be like a desert experience. After years of forward progress, professional success and reliable constants, they come to a sudden stop where there appears to be no help in sight.  An abrupt halt they thought they were prepared for but perhaps were not.

Our military and their families acknowledge there are certain constants in this lifestyle of choice. We know a deployment is always in our near future, as well as moves, multiple school changes for our children, and an ‘interesting’ housing choice at each station. Let’s not forget the most important constant of all: separation and retirement. You might be Captain America right now, but at some point, the military is going to break up with you. It is a reality.

While meeting sudden, emergency needs like ours in 2005, Walmart also recognizes the long-lasting constants. They recognize that life can get hard, and they recognize the connection between their company and Veteran hiring needs.

In 2013 the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment was started in an effort to identify and hire Veterans. Leaving the military can be one of the most difficult transitions a Veteran will face, and Walmart guarantees a job for all eligible, honorably discharged U.S. Veterans separated from active duty since Memorial Day of 2013. The company has a goal of hiring 250,000 Veterans by the end of 2020 and have already reached over 75% of that goal.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 1,300 new Veterans and their family members return to civilian life every day. 1,300! The transition from active duty to civilian life can be difficult at times, and for some, debilitating. Walmart is attempting to bridge the gap understanding the elite nature and capabilities of our Veterans and their spouses. They recognize the honorably discharged Veteran is a highly-trained, expertly skilled leader with a desire to achieve, long after separation from the military.  The company has recognized the need and recently announced that it has hired more than 194,000 Veterans and promoted more than 28,000 to positions of greater responsibility nationwide since 2013.

But wait…there’s more…Walmart is not done yet.

In a first-of-its-kind event, Walmart co-sponsored Veteran EDGE, a three-day conference and training summit dedicated to Veteran-owned businesses.  The corporation is passionate in their desire to assist Veterans and their spouses in search of meaningful careers not just through their hiring programs but also through entrepreneurial efforts. An all-in for Veterans not simply to find them a job but to assist them throughout their entire career journey.

Through a partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Veteran EDGE was held February 16-18 in Austin, Texas.  The conference targeted Veteran and military spouse small business owners from across the country by providing opportunities for networking and the sharing of business ideas.

More than 5 million Americans are employed by the more than 2.5 million Veteran owned businesses in the U.S. generating more than 1.1 trillion in sales annually. Needless to say, Veteran owned businesses play a vital role in our nation’s economy.

And I should point out that fewer than 1% of our country’s citizens currently serve in the armed forces.

For Veterans and their families, transition can be a very unstable and constantly shifting environment. But, Walmart recognizes the value in supporting and hiring this superior group as employees and potential leaders of their corporation. And just as they worked to get us back on the road to our new duty station, so Walmart works to get our Veterans on their way to a bright future.

Consider the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment an anchor and a new constant in your time of transition.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

To learn more about Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment and overall support to veterans, service members and their families, visit www.walmartcareerwithamission.com

To learn more about the first-of-its-kind Veteran EDGE event, visit https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/veteranedge/

Going Once, Going Twice… SOLD!

Have you ever attended an auction? Held that funny paddle in your hand? Fought it out with someone across the room for that fabulous antique dresser and won?

Well I am here to let you in on a little secret. Your closest base has an auction for you to attend, compliments of the U.S. government.

Just when you thought you had memorized all the acronyms out there, allow me to share one more: DRMO.

DRMO is the abbreviation for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. I have included the link for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Services (DRMS), which is a broader scoping explanation of what surplus auctions are all about.

As far as I could find, there are twelve different versions of this description (some use redistribution rather than reutilization, etc.) but what it really comes down to is that bases all around the country must unload their old or unwanted surplus and you, my friend, are the beneficiary.

Simply search the abbreviation DRMO and then your installation name. Information should pop right up.

The auctions are held annually or bi-annually in warehouses, hangars, storage facilities and sometimes in parking lots both on base and off.

There are traditional auctions where one registers and purchases a paddle with a number. There are also first-come, first-served with lines wrapping around the event hours before the doors open!

All auctions have some sort of preview prior to the event. Whether it is a walk-thru the day before, a walk thru the morning of, or a glossary of items being auctioned in an online catalogue on the installation website, you will know what’s being sold so you can formulate your game-plan.

But whatever the case, show up early and have plenty of cash.

My experience with the DRMO auctions are somewhat extensive…my first was a live bid auction. I watched with anxious anticipation as a beautiful cherry desk came across the stage. The auctioneer began to call the cadence that only an auctioneer can and before I knew it I was the proud owner of a solid cherry desk purchased for $45.00!

You must have the ability to pick up your newly acquired goods immediately so I pulled my minivan around to the loading dock for pickup. As I turned the corner I saw six identical cherry desks. How fun I naively thought. I handed the gentleman my receipt and he politely let me know that I better move fast if I wanted to get all six desks out by the end of the day.

Mama say what?

You see friends, I had failed to do the walk-thru and missed that the desks were sold as a pallet of desks, meaning a group. I purchased six gorgeous desks for $45.00! A steal in its own right but what a nightmare getting them home and storing them. I subsequently sold all six and learned a valuable lesson of auction etiquette. Make every effort to research what you are purchasing and by all means do the walk thru.

Over the years I have seen camping equipment, old bowling alley pins, daycare supplies and furniture, old hotdog and cotton candy machines from the recreation checkout and more military equipment than one could imagine.

My favorite however, is when the base needs to unload their old glassware, serving pieces and pub furniture from the different social clubs on base. My biggest score ever was a pallet of 180 wine glasses for $22.00! This particular auction was at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska and the auction was a walk thru style set up. A huge hangar was filled with old and surplus items that needed to be unloaded in order to make room for the new items. The wine glasses were in piles on the floor. I grabbed as many as I could and made an offer.

The collection has been a wonderful addition to my entertaining cache. I have used them at weddings, Christmas parties, brunches, and large scale neighborhood events. Remember though, we are all on weight limits for our household goods so I encourage you to be very selective about what you bring on board. Check out my post, “So were you overweight when you got here?”  to better understand weight guidelines and consequences.

Do your research and go with a group, make it a unit outing. Be forewarned, auctions can be very addictive so pace yourself.

Have you attended a DRMO auction? Share with us your experiences, your finds and that big score!

Entertainingly yours,

Cassie