COLUMBUS - Ohioans gave their approval nearly 10 months ago, and the state Tuesday began accepting applications for cash bonuses for an estimated 200,000 veterans of recent wars.
"No amount of compensation is an adequate measure for the sacrifices that they have made on our behalf, but these checks will perhaps help to make a mortgage payment, put food on the table, or start a savings account," said Gov. Ted Strickland.
The bonuses continue an Ohio tradition that dates to World War I, this time providing checks to veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans may receive $100 for each month they honorably served up to $1,000 if they were in the war zone and $50 per month up to $500 if they served elsewhere during that period.
Veterans who were medically discharged because of war injuries may receive bonuses of $1,000 in addition to the active service bonuses to which they are entitled. The immediate families of those killed in action may receive bonuses of $5,000 plus up to $1,500 in active duty bonuses while survivors of veterans who died from causes other than combat may receive up to $1,500.
Applicants must be Ohio residents and have been residents at the time they entered service.
Those who believe they may qualify may visit www.veteransbonus.ohio.gov to download applications that must be signed before a notary and mailed to the state with documentation verifying their service. Those with questions may call 1-877-OHIOVET.
In November, 72 percent of voters authorized the borrowing of up to $200 million for the bonuses. Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce, the son of a Vietnam War veteran who was later murdered, reported that the state has issued the first increment of $50 million in bonds to cover the first round of bonuses.
Dan Lanthorn, service director of the American Legion of Ohio, said that despite last year's ballot issue, there's little information available about the program.
"There seems to be some concern that the Gulf War period was relatively short," he said. "A number of people who served after those dates won't be eligible and aren't aware of that because the publicity has not been given yet to the program."
The eligibility period for the Persian Gulf War is Aug. 2, 1990, through March 3, 1991. The war in Afghanistan covers the period of Oct. 7, 2001, through the point at which the president declares an end to hostilities.
The war in Iraq covers March 19, 2003, through its yet-to-be-decided end.
The proposal initially ran into a roadblock when some lawmakers objected to taking on $200 million in additional debt to pay for it.
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