Tax-free bonuses await eligible Ohio veterans
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The clock is ticking for Ohio veterans who served during the Iraq war to receive taxpayer-funded thanks in the form of checks.
The end of this year — the three-year anniversary of the declared end of the war — marks the deadline for those who served in active military anywhere in the world between March 19, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2011, to claim the Ohio Veterans Bonuses approved by voters in 2009.
Those who’ve served at least 90 days of active duty during the Afghanistan war since Oct. 7, 2001, also may claim the tax-free bonuses. Since that war continues, no deadline has been placed on that bonus.
Seventy-two percent of voters agreed in 2009 to authorize borrowing of up to $200 million to pay for bonuses for what was estimated at the time to be 200,000 veterans who served during the Persian Gulf War in 1990 and 1991 and the two then-ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The deadline for the Persian Gulf War has passed.
Mark McKinney, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Military Services, said the bonuses continue an Ohio tradition dating to the Civil War.
As of June 30, 81,409 veterans have claimed about $65.6 million. Although voters approved up to $200 million, the state has borrowed just $83.4 million to date to cover the tab.
“At the time this was put together, we had two open-ended wars,” Mr. McKinney said. “Nobody knew what the ceiling was, quite frankly, in terms of the number who would serve or the dollars. The estimates were on the high side just to make sure we would be able to cover it.
“The number deployed since 9/?11 is between 75,000 and 80,000,” he said.
Veterans are eligible for $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 on top of 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.
The family of veterans who died from noncombat causes may receive up to $1,500.
An applicant must be a current Ohio resident and have been a resident at the time he or she entered service.
The department continues to receive calls from Ohioans who say they were unaware of the bonuses awarded years ago for World War II and the Vietnam and Korean wars. But the windows for applying for those bonuses closed decades ago.
For more information or to start the application process, call 1-877-644-6838, visit veteransbonus.ohio.gov, or visit a county veterans service office.