ISSUE 1: Ohio’s Vets Would Benefit

Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series examining state issues to be decided by Ohio voters in the Nov. 3 election.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Cash-strapped Ohio will take on an additional $200 million in bond debt to compensate Middle East war veterans if voters say “yes” to Issue 1 on Nov. 3.

On Election Day, voters across the state will decide Issue 1, which would authorize Ohio to issue $200 million in bonds to compensate veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

Resulting funds would pay for the administration of the veterans’ retirement funds. Ohio veterans serving in conflicts prior to the Gulf War have received the benefits, but such stipends to war veterans were discontinued for those serving after 1990.

If Issue 1 is passed, the Ohio Department of Veterans Services would provide compensation to people serving active duty in the U.S. armed forces at any time during the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. These veterans would have to be Ohio residents at the start of active duty service and currently be Ohio residents.

The state would provide stipends of $100 a month – up to a total of $1,000 – for the Ohio veterans and would provide stipends of $50 a month – up to a total of $500 – for Ohio veterans who served elsewhere during the conflicts.

In addition, the family members of qualified deceased Ohio veterans could apply for a $5,000 death benefit.

Supporters say these bonuses not only would show the state’s veterans that Ohio appreciates their service, but also help them transition from the military back to civilian life once their tours of duty are complete.

No arguments were submitted to the Ohio Ballot Board opposing Issue 1, and the ballot board pointed out only that the issue would authorize Ohio government to spend more in bond money.

Ohio faces a budget shortfall of $850 million over the next two years, according to state budget estimates.

“I believe it is very important to show our support of our veterans, and their families, who have served overseas,” said Ohio Sen. Jason Wilson, D-Columbiana. “It’s the right thing to do.

“We have given benefits to veterans since the Civil War, and we haven’t in recent times,” he added. “It’s disrespectful.”

Ohio Rep. John Domenick, D-Smithfield, said that while the money to be spent is a large amount, buying bonds to pay the veterans will help to soften the economic blow over a longer period of time.

“After every war since the Civil War we have done this,” he said. “The veterans should get their money.”