MCLEAN, Va. (WUSA) — When a wounded warrior dies, their spouse could be left in a pile of financial trouble.
In two weeks, Virginians will be asked if they want the state to help those spouses who've sacrificed so much.
Spouses like Patty Horan. Eleven years ago her husband, Army Captain Pat Horan was shot in the head in Iraq. Miraculously, he survived, but with a traumatic brain injury that took away his ability to walk and talk.
His wife Patty was there every step of the way, pushing for treatment and therapy.
"Many years ago I couldn't talk. Now I'm here talking. I couldn't read, at all," explained Pat.
Through hard work, Pat learned to read, walk again. But he's 100 percent disabled with vision loss, epilepsy, weakness on his right side and loss of the use of his right arm.
Pat often travels to Walter Reed for medical treatment. They're able to in McLean, close to Walter Reed and family, thanks to Virginia's property tax exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans.
If something happened to her husband, Patty would probably have to move. And she would lose that property tax exemption.
"About 60 percent of our income is his VA's compensation. In the event he passes away, that compensation goes with him. So does the 17 percent caregiving money that I get from the VA. So if Pat passes away, there will be many decisions to be made, my financial situation will completely change and most likely I will have to move," said Patty.
Current state law continues the property tax exemption only if the grieving spouse stays in the same house.
On November 6, Virginia voters will be asked whether the law should be changed to allow surviving spouses to move and still claim the exemption.
"They should be rewarded. What she's done for me, she's been with me for 11 years since I got hurt and she's pretty much with me almost every day," said Pat.
"It's supporting military spouses that have sacrificed almost as much as the wounded veteran, honestly. My life is forever changed. It's just a wonderful way to give. A little extra financial support in a time of grief," said Patty.
Most states do have property tax exemptions for 100 percent disabled veterans. Most do not allow those exemptions to travel with the surviving spouse.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Pat Horan is the brother-in-law of WUSA9 reporter Peggy Fox, who wrote this story.