The clock is ticking for veterans of the war in Afghanistan to apply for up to $ 1,500 in bonuses before the program closes in three years at the end of 2024.
In 2010, Ohio voters approved the sale of up to $ 200 million in bonds to fund a bonus payout program to thank veterans, but the money is running out and many veterans have not applied yet.
The Ohio Department of Veteran Services estimates that there are 32,000 Afghanistan veterans in Ohio. The state has received about 19,000 bonus applications, but a veteran can apply multiple times.
Government officials are looking for ways to pump an additional $ 2.7 million into the program so qualified veterans can get the money. Exactly where the money will come from has not yet been determined.
“Our best estimate shows that we still need somewhere near $ 2.7 million to complete the program, and we are determined to add at least that amount to the fund,” said Jeffrey Rapp, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Veterans. Services.
Resources for veterans:“Even the toughest warriors have to take a knee”: Ohio leaders highlight resources to know war in Afghanistan ends
Ohio voters approved up to $ 200 million in bonds, but the state sold only $ 83.7 million, based on claims history and the expectation that U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Instead, the Americans remained in Afghanistan until August 2021, when President Joe Biden withdrew troops.
Ohio lawmakers approved an additional $ 500,000 for the program in the latest two-year state budget law, bringing the current balance to about $ 1.28 million.
‘A greeting to service’
The lack of money is not the only problem of the program. Although the bonus information has been published on OhioVets.gov, it is not actively being marketed elsewhere right now.
“We plan to launch a campaign that will reach the maximum number of qualified Ohio veterans to ensure they get full use of this well-deserved benefit, but that message is still taking shape,” the Ohio Department of Veteran Services said in a written response to questions about the program.
Doreen Lafferty, a military veteran who received a $ 1,000 Ohio bonus for service in Iraq, said the cash infusion came at a time when her family was having a hard time. But beyond the economy, Lafferty said the bonus was a meaningful recognition of her service.
“It’s just a kind of salute to service, but at the state level,” said Lafferty, a benefits specialist for the Franklin County Veteran Services Commission.
Lafferty urges veterans of the war in Afghanistan to apply for the bonus before the three-year window closes. “Do not let that clock run out,” she said.
Ohio voters approved veteran bonus programs after World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The current program provided cash bonuses to veterans from the conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. The application window is closed to veterans of the wars in the Persian Gulf and Iraq.
“It’s a truly valued recognition of the service the veterans did. It’s tied to a specific service and time they spent away from the family,” said Buck Bramlish, director of the Franklin County Veterans Services Commission.
How to apply
Veterans can find an application online or visit their local county veterans service organizations for assistance. Although an application can be completed online, documentation of Ohio residency and military service must be submitted and the signature page must be notarized.
To qualify, veterans:
A qualified veteran or active duty member may receive $ 100 for each month, up to a maximum of $ 1,000 spent on active service in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001.
Qualified veterans can receive an additional $ 50 per month, up to $ 500, for active service elsewhere in the world since October 7, 2001.
Laura Bischoff is a Reporter for the United States TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.