Top 3 Headlines on WHSV.com December 17

These are the most viewed headlines on WHSV.com for December 17. Stories with available video will have a link in the headline.

Renting Troubles In Harrisonburg

Reporter: Charles House II

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV)  -- Newer properties in Harrisonburg are giving students more options and competitive rent.

That may be good for students, but it is a problem for renters in the area.

The foreclosure of University Fields last month may be a sign of future trouble for renters.

With new properties like Aspen Heights being built, it makes renting older properties more difficult. Renters have cut pricing and offered other incentives, as well as tried to diversify.

"Something that may have used to of been 100 percent student rentals may now be 70 percent students and 30 percent residential tenants so that they can fill the vacancies that they have because of the amount of student rental properties," said Paul Riner, owner of Riner Rentals.

The trouble with renting may be a sign of a nation wide problem, as rentals increased by less than .5 percent this year.

 

 

Volunteer Fire Departments Feeling the Heat from Affordable Care Act

Reporter: Garrett Wymer 

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) -- Volunteer fire departments across the country are feeling the heat from Obamacare, amid concern that the Affordable Care Act could spell their doom.

"The budget is going to be stretched really, really, really thin, and a lot of departments cannot afford this right now," said Mike Fisher, the Dooms Volunteer Fire Company chief and a car salesman in Staunton. There is a growing fear that the health care law could close volunteer fire departments.

"If they don't have the personnel, the service is going to suffer. If they don't have the personnel, the citizens are going to suffer," said Fisher.

The problem lies in the uncertainty surrounding the law and how the IRS treats volunteer firefighters. Under the ACA's employer mandate, volunteer fire departments could be forced to offer insurance if they have more than 50 full-time volunteers.

"Clearly that was not the intent of the legislation," said Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.). Warner is sponsoring a bill in the Senate to exempt volunteer first responders from the ACA's employer mandate.

"The main thing is we should not penalize volunteer firemen or rescue squad workers who do a great job for their community all over Virginia, but particularly up and down the Valley," said Warner.

"We need to get this House bill passed, and the Senate, that the fire departments and rescue squads are exempt because it's going to hurt the service to the people. And that's who the Affordable Care Act is supposed to protect: the people," said Fisher.

The bill Warner is sponsoring is not the only step he has taken on this issue.

He also sent a letter to the treasury secretary, dated Monday, trying to see if there is an administrative fix before it becomes a problem.

Warner says it is not a problem yet because we are not exactly sure how the IRS would handle that situation.

A similar bill also has been introduced in the House to fix this "unintended consequence," which seems to be on politicians' radar at this point.

Warner said any time you are talking about a major piece of legislation, Congress never gets it 100 percent right.

 

Military Pensions Could Be Cut Under Proposed Budget Deal

Reporter: Estephany Escobar

Waynesboro, Va. (WHSV) -- Under the proposed federal budget deal, the military pension cost of living raises would be cut by one percent for retirees under the age of 62.

Jeff Jones who served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years said this would impact his yearly budget.

He uses his pension as part of his income. "It is enough to say I have to do things differently this year or next year when that happens. Tighten the belt like everybody does. Tighten the belt here and there," said Jones.

He said when he enlisted, the government offered retirement benefits for serving more than 20 years. "There is that little aspect that we are being betrayed, again by people who don't know what the military is like," said Jones.

According to political analyst David McQuilkin, pensions are a large portion of the military budget.

"Military as well as federal are easy targets, they don't have many opportunities to resist or to complain so those are the ones they attack first," said McQuilkin.

According to the Military Officers Association of America, a group that opposes the deal, those who retire after serving 20 years would see a 20 percent cut by the time they are 62. For a retiring Sergeant First Class, this could mean an average loss of $3,700, according to the MOAA.

This could add up to about $80,000 over 20 years.

Jones said Congress should look at other areas it can cut its budget.

"There were times on those 20 years that I could have or would have or was putting my life on the line for my government and they said this is what would happen if you do that and now they say they won't," said Jones.

McQuilkin said he expects the Senate to pass the budget deal but it may be a close vote. He said some Republicans may not vote for the budget deal, if they are seeking reelection.

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