Launched in 2018 with the support of Citi Community Development, the CSUN VITA Clinic’s Veterans Initiative Program (VIP) seeks to help more veterans file their annual tax returns by connecting them to crucial services and supporting their efforts to improve their financial situations.
Approximately 2 million veterans are eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits aimed at strengthening their financial resiliency, according to the IRS. A 2014 study by the University of Southern California found that an estimated 325,000 veterans lived in Los Angeles County, with an additional 12,000 joining annually.
Fortunately, the CSUN VITA Clinic is ready to assist. The CSUN VITA VIP provided training to 28 veterans to become IRS-certified tax preparers. The trained veterans have served in various service branches going as far back as the Vietnam War.
This year, approximately 3,200 veterans were served by a VITA site in Los Angeles County, including 559 at the CSUN VITA affiliated sites. CSUN VITA helped veterans receive, on average, $1,211 in federal Earned Income Tax Credits and $4,013 in federal refunds.
Ohannes Ordoghlian, a senior accounting major and VIP program coordinator, noted that though the challenges are numerous, they pale in comparison to the sacrifices veterans have made.
“I try to visit all of the sites that provide services to veterans,” Ordoghlian said. “I like having the peace of mind that my staff is receiving the appropriate support and guidance. I also like to be there to assist the veterans in any way that I can. I like helping the veterans and knowing that I’m making a difference.”
Referrals from other veterans is key to the program’s success.
“Money is a sensitive issue for many veterans,” said Anabel Lawson, a senior management major and United States Marine Corps veteran. “They tend to follow up on information provided by people they trust. As veterans ourselves, I and other volunteer tax preparers are uniquely prepared to connect with veterans. Trust is very important.”