By Karen Hunt
When wounded veterans are well enough to go home, life can become a collection of day-to-day struggles. But with hard work, help and the support of family and friends, their hopes and dreams may take wing again.
At the University of Idaho, the Operation Education program aims to remove some of the hurdles that could otherwise get in their way.
Alumnus and volunteer Jim Pilcher – a certified public accountant with Hayden Ross, PLLC – strives to unblock a wounded warrior’s path to financial security. With full backing from his firm, Pilcher provides free financial planning and tax preparation for veterans and their families through Operation Education.
“We offer a full range of financial planning services,” says Pilcher. “We also provide assistance with income tax preparation.”
Hayden Ross became involved with Operation Education after Heidi Linehan, co-founder of the program, approached Pilcher with the idea of providing services to scholars.
“Heidi Linehan worked for us before working at the University of Idaho,” says Pilcher. “She was looking around for someone to fulfill an advisory role for the scholars.”
Pilcher, who served in the Navy ROTC program at the University of Idaho, wanted to assist veterans in the process of tax preparation and financial planning. It’s his way of giving back.
“I enjoy hearing their stories, where they served and what they experienced,” says Pilcher. “There’s a great deal of satisfaction of taking one of their problems off their plate.”
Pilcher isn’t the only one who gets satisfaction from helping scholars. Students also appreciate the help that Pilcher is providing. It gives them peace of mind to know their finances are taken care of, and there’s someone there to walk them through the process.
And the veterans are grateful for the guidance. Pilcher says: “The appreciation they show for what I do is overwhelming.”
Pilcher adds that while the Internal Revenue Code always allows students to deduct the cost of tuition, it does not allow them to deduct some of the other expenses paid for with scholarship funds. That’s when it’s nice to know an accountant who keeps up with the year-to-year changes in the tax code.
The additional financial planning offered by the accounting firm can serve as a valuable, lifelong road map for veterans and their families. Such forward-thinking strategies help veterans meet the many life challenges they’re bound to face. Long-term plans can pave for such things as home ownership, a child’s college education and eventually retirement.
“It’s important to know the impact your decisions will have on your financial security,” Pilcher says.
The financial planning program is offered to scholars through the Operation Education Scholarship Program free of charge.