- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

RAYMOND, Neb. (AP) - A blind man in eastern Nebraska hasn’t received any aid from a state program that helps low-income homeowners with disabilities keep their homes, despite repeated requests.

Mark Scheel, 56, was rejected from the homestead exemption program after applying for property tax relief. The rejection letter said blindness isn’t among the disability conditions that allow a nonveteran in Nebraska to qualify for the program, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2rKPCyl ) reported.

Under state law, homestead exemptions are given to nonveteran homeowners with disabilities based on mobility. Only people “who have a permanent physical disability and have lost all mobility, such as to preclude locomotion without the regular use of a mechanical aid or prosthesis.”

Scheel lost his driver’s license and became unemployed after being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 1996. Scheel was divorced in 2008, and his only form of income is his Social Security disability check.

“You really watch your budget,” he said. “It gets really close, but I have a lot of good friends. They take me to the store. They help mow.”

He said he has contacted state lawmakers to inquire about the rejection, but nothing has changed.

“I don’t understand their (lawmakers’) thinking on this,” Scheel said.

Nebraska’s homestead exemption program began in 1965 for low-income veterans with disabilities whose homes had been paid for mostly by the Veterans Administration. Lawmakers later adjusted income and home value requirements, and added other disability categories. The most recent addition is an exemption for homeowners who have developmental disabilities.

Senators considered expanding the program in 2007 to homeowners who are blind, but nothing passed.

“This isn’t a choice,” said Joe Sloup, a friend of Scheel’s who helps on the property. “Why shouldn’t he be able to get a tax exemption?”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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