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ODVS announces sunset of Ohio Veterans Bonus

Ohio Department of Veterans Services, Press Release

Two years ago — Aug. 30, 2021 — the United States officially ceased its military involvement in Afghanistan. As a result, the Ohio Veterans Bonus program associated with the Afghanistan Conflict, which the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) administers, is nearing its completion.

Through the support of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and the State Legislature, a $9.5 million measure was included in the state's recently enacted biennial budget in order to sustain the program, which will sunset in one year. The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) authorized that transfer to the ODVS agency.

These funds will ensure that ODVS can make a rigorous final push to pay every eligible veteran — including those who may have been denied payment because of correctable technicalities or other impediments. The money total is based on Department of Defense deployment figures and the number of applicants and payouts that already have been made to Ohio veterans.

The Ohio Veterans Bonus program offers a bonus for those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces after Oct. 7, 2001. Once a veteran has received $500 for service anywhere in the world or $1,000 for service in a designated country, or the maximum $1,500 bonus, the veteran is not eligible for additional funds, even if they served in multiple conflicts. Those service members who completed their deployments in Afghanistan and have not yet applied for the Ohio Veterans Bonus can do so up until Aug. 30, 2024.

Since 2010, the Ohio Veteran Bonus has paid $77.7 million to more than 97,000 veterans from the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Historically, the vast majority of applicants are eligible. The current number of payouts for Ohioans who served in Afghanistan is 19,865. (Note: This figure reflects the number of applications that have been paid, not the total number of recipients, since an applicant can apply until they receive the maximum bonus. In fact, a veteran could apply three or four times before they receive a full $1,500.)

"I am thrilled that Governor DeWine and the Ohio Legislature have fully funded this program so that all who served during the Afghanistan conflict receive the Bonus they have earned,” said Maj. Gen. (U.S. Army, retired) Deborah Ashenhurst, ODVS Director. “This bonus is a wonderful form of gratitude, like a heartfelt 'thank you' from the citizens of Ohio. We at the Department of Veterans Services are doing everything we can to encourage all eligible veterans and service members to apply."

Bonuses for U.S. military members date back to the post-Civil War era. The Ohio Veterans Bonus was approved by Ohio voters via a constitutional amendment in 2008.

As far as bonds that have been issued to support the program, $50 million was issued in the first quarter of FY2011, $15.7 million-plus was issued the first quarter of FY2012, and $18 million was issued in the fourth quarter of FY2014, for a total of $83,731,677.60.

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Ohio Veterans Bonus Notes:
• The Ohio Veterans Bonus program received 770 applications in FY2023, requiring a payout of $401,220.
• A total of 677 claims were paid in FY2023.
• As previously mentioned, the Bonus has paid out nearly $78 million on more than 97,000 claims in its existence. Most all of that has been supported by bonds.
• Based on data available from the VA and other sources, there are approximately 32,000 Afghanistan veterans in Ohio.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, Article VIII: Section 2r. (D) (7) (E): "On retirement of all of the obligations issued under this section and payment of all valid claims for cash compensation made within the time limitations under this section, the department shall make a final report to the general assembly. Any balance remaining in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq conflicts compensation fund or the Persian gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq conflicts compensation bond retirement fund shall be transferred or disposed of as provided by law."