Bill to link veterans to OH bonuses via tax info

Voters in 2009 approved a $200 million bond issue funding bonuses for eligible veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq war eras. But there has been concern thousands still may not know about the money.
Associated Press
Jul 7, 2013

 

Army veteran Wilbur Benson said he probably would have missed out on his Ohio veterans' bonus if a relative hadn't told him about it, and there has been growing concern that perhaps thousands of eligible veterans may still not know that money is available.

Voters in 2009 approved a $200 million bond issue to fund the bonuses meant as a way to thank veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq war eras, and veterans officials have worked to publicize that benefit. But a bill now in the Legislature would use Ohio income tax returns to help locate those veterans and prevent them from missing out on the bonuses up to $1,500.

Democratic State Rep. Connie Pillich, of suburban Cincinnati, said her bill would provide space on income tax returns for taxpayers to indicate whether they, their spouses or dependents were on active military duty during the specified bonus periods. Ohio's tax commissioner would then forward those names, addresses and terms of service to the Department of Veterans Services so it could contact the veterans directly about the bonuses and other potential benefits.

"It sounds like a good idea for reaching veterans like me who may not have heard about the bonuses," said the 43-year-old Benson, of Hamilton, who expects to get about $500 for his service in the Persian Gulf era.

Because basic contact information would be the only data shared, Benson and another Army veteran, Charlene Jorge, said they don't have any privacy concerns.

"Not as long as it's just basic information, so veterans could be contacted," said Jorge, 35, of Cleveland, who received $1,000 for her Iraq service. "I think we need to know who our veterans are."

Veterans officials around the state have no way of determining just how many veterans haven't claimed their bonuses, but said there could be as many as 90,000.

"By taking this small step, we can help link veterans to benefits and services that would help them," Pillich said.

The Ohio Department of Taxation is neutral on the bill. Spokesman Gary Gudmundson said the department does work with other agencies to fulfill legislative requirements including redirecting refunds to people owed back child support, but he believes this would be the first time Ohio's taxpayer base information would be used for direct outreach to taxpayers.

The Department of Veterans Services hasn't weighed in on the proposal, but will monitor it.

"It's an interesting concept," department spokesman Michael McKinney said.

The nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures was not aware of any states with pending legislation or laws adding check-off boxes for veterans on their state tax forms, but some states are trying to identify veterans for benefit purposes in other ways, center policy associate Alice Wheet said. Two bills are pending in New York on the veterans' issue: one would create a veterans' clearinghouse to help identify those eligible for benefits, another would require new forms for state and local agencies in health and other service areas to ask whether clients or their family members have served in the military. Those identified would be advised of any available benefits assistance.

A bill passed this year in Oregon instructs that state's Human Services director to share names and addresses of service members and veterans with the state's Department of Veterans Affairs when those individuals make written inquiries about certain benefits, Wheet said. Another bill passed last year directs the Bureau of Labor and Industries to ask individuals seeking its services about their veteran status and share that with Oregon's Department of Veterans Affairs.

Pillich's bill, co-sponsored by three other Democrats, recently had a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee. Pillich said she isn't aware of any direct opposition, but acknowledges it can be difficult to get a Democratic-backed bill through the Republican-controlled House.

Republican House Speaker William Batchelder had not had a chance to review Pillich's bill, but the speaker will work with the sponsor and the committee "to determine the potential course of action," Batchelder spokesman Mike Dittoe said.

Pillich is challenging Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel in next year's elections, and both are military veterans.

Mandel is monitoring the bill, spokesman Chris Berry said.

"I hope partisan politics can be put aside to help veterans," Pillich said.

Ohioans currently can identify themselves as veterans on driver's license renewals. The state recently approved a direct mailing to those Ohio veterans with birthdays of 1950 or later in case any qualify for the bonuses.

 

Comments

Simple Enough II

I was against this from the get go, we just put everyone in debt for $200+ million just to say thanks? I know, I know we did it for other vetrans, but times have changed. Instead we should have worked harder to prevent them from losing their jobs or homes (though their will always be the ones that caused their own problems). Just to be reminded, just serving in theater doesn't mean everyone went outside the wire or even served at a FOB, for every trigger puller there is something like 7 support personell.

CAPNTIM50

@Simple Enough II
Why not just change your name to Simple Minded!
Every Veteran deserves every benefit he or she can get, and more!
There are those whom served only during the Cold War, and will get nothing! And they 'Won' the peace of the threat of communism that the world faced for 50 years! No medal, no ribbons, no parades. But they served proudly.
You are wrong is so many ways. It takes everyone, forward units, and the support units, and everyone else to lead our military to accomplished it's mission.
You are completely wrong!

ladydye_5

Simple Enough II - all I can say is WOW.

deertracker

Is that you GI Joe?

Simple Enough II

Hey folks, read what I wrote again. Yes I did serve, I served, I served 4 honorable years in the Corps.

CAPNTIM50

@Simple Enough II,
Well obviously you forgot about why you served. You've forgotten all the times the military had to do more with less. You've have forgotten those Veterans whom have become forgotten by their own country.
In this day of a broken VA system, with Veterans being released back into society without the help they really need. How dare you complain about a few dollars that each Veteran gets. Their not becoming rich from this money. Are you rich?! And have you forgotten where you came from? Why don't you take a drive through the OVH cemetery, and think about it! Visit with those whom served and now past.

Simple Enough II

Capntim50, I remember why I signed up, I also know what it is about serving your country. I also saw guardsman throw up the medical card as the (said in their own words, this isn't what I signed up for), I know guardsmen who went and got married shortly before deploying for the extra bennies, then had a traditional wedding upon return. Yet the citizen soldier who actually has a sense of morals ends up returning to a position that was eliminated or a home in foreclosure due to no fault of his own, where was the help? Just forget it, I guess I can't convey what is wrong with the situation.

CAPNTIM50

@Simple Enough II,
It's as I said. Those who deserve the bonus is every Vet who served. The system is a mess as I stated. Today's Vet's that are missing limbs are on a waiting list to have a home built for them so they can move about with ease. Their now living where they can't even move from one room to another.
Medical care is sub standard. You get a Nurse Practioner instead of a Doctor for all clinics the VA has. If anyone should be drafted, it should be the Doctor's and specialist Doctor's.
No one cares about the military or the Veteran's after they served until it's election time. Then they say they care. What have you done for a Veteran lately?