Columbus -- The state has paid out nearly $55 million in bonuses to veterans of recent and ongoing military conflicts, thanks to a constitutional amendment OK'd by voters.
That's according to new statistics released by 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. The list includes those who served from Aug. 2, 1990 to March 3, 1991; since Oct. 7, 2001, in Afghanistan.
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. Families of veterans who died in action are eligible for a $5,000 death benefit.
According to Mike McKinney, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, Persian Gulf War-era veterans have until Dec. 31 to apply for the bonuses. Veterans who served during the most recent Iraqi conflict have until the end of 2014 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.
To date, 64,688 claims have been made by eligible veterans.
Franklin County led the state with 5,870 claims totaling more than $4.7 million, followed by Cuyahoga County (4,065 $3.1 million), Montgomery County (3,107 claims, $2.2 million) and Hamilton County (2,484 claims, $2 million).
Summit was fifth with 2,450 claims totaling nearly $2 million, followed by Stark County with 1,834 claims totaling about $1.4 million.
Veterans in Portage County filed 703 claims totaling close to $601,000.
Additional information about the bonus payment program is available online at www.dvs.ohio.gov.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.