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N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.30(b) provides that the surviving spouse of a military veteran who meets the statutory requirements for a property tax exemption is also entitled to the exemption which "shall continue during the surviving spouse's widowhood or widowerhood."
Plaintiff was married to a veteran who met all the statutory requirements except that he was not "declared to have suffered a service-connected disability." Although the veteran passed away in 1989, the United States Veteran's Administration declared in 2014 that he suffered from a service-related disability as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange, thus qualifying him for an exemption. As a result, plaintiff filed for a surviving spouse exemption.
Because plaintiff had remarried in 1993, the court determined plaintiff did not qualify for the exemption. The court interpreted the property-tax-exemption statutory scheme and concluded the Legislature intended the right to an exemption for a veteran's surviving spouse continued only during her widowhood from the veteran. The right to the exemption was extinguished upon her remarriage notwithstanding that she, at the time of her application for the exemption, was again widowed after the passing of her second husband in 1997. Recognizing that statutes granting property tax exemptions are subject to strict construction, the court held: "It is not our intent to deny a tax exemption to the widow of a disabled combat-veteran. But it is not our role to amend statutes to ordain what we may deem laudable."