By Marc Kovac
Nearly 42,000 Ohio veterans have received bonus payments from the state totaling about $33 million, including about $1.4 million in the Mahoning Valley, since the program was launched more than a year ago.
The funds are being provided through a voter- approved bond issue to honor military men and women who have served during conflicts in the Middle East.
“Our veterans have earned this bonus, and the money is theirs to spend however they need or want to do that,” said Tom Moe, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, in a statement. “They may spend it to pay down bills or they may spend it on something they want, but it’s safe to say that a significant amount of what they get is going back into their local economies.”
In November 2009, voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing the state to borrow up to $200 million to pay cash bonuses to Ohio military men and women who served at least 90 days of active duty in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq in current conflicts in the area, plus those involved in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
That includes those who served from Aug. 2, 1990, to March 3, 1991; since Oct. 7, 2001, in Afghanistan; and since March 19, 2003, in Iraq.
Eligible veterans are being paid $100 per month, up to $1,000, for time served in those areas or $50 a month, up to $500, for those serving in other locations. 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.
To date, Franklin County in central Ohio had the highest participation rate, with 4,500-plus applicants receiving more than $3.6 million in payments, according to statistics released by the veterans department this week.
Bonuses in Cuyahoga, Montgomery, Hamilton and Summit totaled between $1.5 million and $2.3 million in payments.
More information about the bonus program is available online at www.veteransbonus.ohio.gov or by calling 877-644-6838.