Senate District 18
John Eklund
Column: Honoring the Service and Sacrifices of Ohio's Veterans
A Guest Column by State Senator John Eklund
November 10, 2016

Veteran’s Day is a time to express our gratitude for the current and former members of our Armed Forces. Originally established as Armistice Day in 1919 to commemorate the end of the First World War, the day was later changed to Veterans Day to honor all American service members.  

Home to nearly 850,000 veterans, Ohio has the sixth largest veteran population in the country. Each year, an additional 10,000 service members identify Ohio as home when transitioning from military service to the civilian workforce. The primary mission of the Ohio Department of Veteran Services is to help connect these men and women with job opportunities, education, and the benefits they have earned by virtue of their service.

As employers search for qualified workers to fill good-paying jobs all across the state, veterans are in high demand for their exceptional character and skills. I am proud to have co-sponsored legislation in the Ohio Senate requiring our state institutions of higher education to translate military training and coursework into meaningful credit toward degree completion. This common sense legislation helps our veterans complete their degree and accreditation programs in less time, allowing them to begin their careers and provide for their families.

Ohio is also helping veterans determine eligibility for the benefits they have rightfully earned. The Ohio Department of Veterans Services, in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Medicaid, is required to assist veterans in determining which federal healthcare benefits they are eligible to receive and to aid them with program enrollment. These steps help our veterans make informed decisions and ensure necessary treatment is received.

Stringent red-tape, combined with lengthy wait times, has made it difficult for many veterans to easily provide proof of their veteran status, which is often needed for employment applications, hospital services, and retail and dining discounts. Earlier this year, Ohio passed legislation to help veterans obtain standardized state-issued identification cards recognizing their military service. Making these cards readily available is one simple way we can make life a little easier for our veterans.

In the state’s most recent budget, we cut income taxes for all Ohioans to the lowest levels since 1982. Adding to this tax relief, I supported legislation increasing the homestead tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 for veterans with severe and permanent service-related disabilities. The same legislation also exempts disabled veterans from burdensome income restrictions in place for the homestead exemption. For many disabled veterans, this exemption can provide the assistance necessary for them to continue to afford living in their own homes.

In times of war and in times of peace, our military men and women put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country and the principles it represents. Our reverence for these patriots, and respect for the flag they have fought to protect, demonstrates our gratitude for their incredible sacrifices.

My colleagues and I in the Ohio Senate will continue to find new ways to make Ohio a better place for our veterans to live, work and raise a family. I hope you will join us this Veterans Day, and every day, in honoring Ohio's military veterans. To these men and women, we owe our deepest gratitude.

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