By Marc Kovac
The state has paid nearly $65 million in bonuses to veterans of recent and ongoing military conflicts, via a constitutional amendment approved by voters five years ago.
Trumbull County had 1,457 claims totaling more than $1 million. Mahoning County had 1,345 claims totaling about $963,000, while Columbiana County had 692 claims totaling nearly about $513,000. And Stark County had 2,303 claims totaling more than $1.7 million.
More than 80,000 military men and women have received the payments to date, according to new statistics from the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
In November 2009, voters signed off on 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 those areas, plus those involved in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
Eligible veterans are being paid $100 for each month, up to $1,000, for time served in those areas or $50 a month, up to $500, for those serving in other locations at the time. Families of veterans who died in action are eligible for a $5,000 death benefit.
Persian Gulf War-era veterans had to apply for the payments by the end of last year. Veterans who served during the most recent Iraqi conflict (between March 19, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2011) have until the end of this year to apply, while there has been no deadline set yet for those who have served during the Afghanistan war.
Similar cash bonuses were approved by voters and paid to veterans of other wars and conflicts, dating back to World War I, though the deadline for those payments has long since passed.