Veterans must wait for bonus

Despite overwhelming approval of Issue 1, money must be borrowed to implement the program.

By Marc Kovac

COLUMBUS — It likely will be at least a year before veterans of recent and ongoing military conflicts in Iraq and the Middle East receive state bonus payments approved by voters Tuesday.

That’s because it will take time for the rules for the program and the bonds backing the payments to be finalized by state officials.

Jim Gravelle, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, said it could be about a year before checks are issued, though other states have taken longer to implement comparable programs. For example, Pennsylvania took 18 months.

With Tuesday’s passage, the constitutional amendment will allow the state to borrow up to $200 million to pay cash bonuses to Ohio military men and women who served in the Persian Gulf, Aftghanistan and Iraq. This includes those serving in current conflicts in those areas, plus veterans involved in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Veterans will be paid $100 per month, up to $1,000, for time served in those areas. Those serving in the military at the time but in other locations will get $50 for each month served up to a maximum of $500.

Families of veterans who died in action will be eligible for a $5,000 death benefit. Similar cash bonuses were approved by voters and paid to veterans of other wars and conflicts dating back to World War I.

But it will take months before the bonus payments are in veterans’ hands. After the secretary of state certifies Tuesday’s election results, the Ohio Department of Veterans Services will begin developing rules for the bonus payments, outlining the application process. A state lawmaker panel, the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, has to sign off on them before they’re final. The process is expected to take about three months, Gravelle said.

Afterward, the state’s Public Facilities Commission will have to borrow money to pay for the program. The commission will do so through the sale of bonds. Those funds will be used to hire staff and rent office space needed to implement the program. The bonds process is expected to take about three additional months, Gravelle said.

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