October 1, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
56°F

Older veterans irate they were never told about state bonus

MEDINA — Clarence Kinkelaar wants his bonus for serving in the Korean War.

“I never heard of this,” said Kinkelaar, 77, of Liverpool Township. “Can I still get my bonus?”

The answer is no, according to the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.

Veterans have been offered tax-free bonuses by the state since the Civil War, Veteran Services spokesman Mike McKinney said.

However, there are strict deadlines to apply for the bonus. If they missed the deadlines, McKinney said, they missed out on their bonuses.

“Unfortunately, we can’t turn the clock back,” McKinney said. “They had an end date, and those times have passed.”

For Korean War vets like Kinkelaar, the deadline for applying was 1959 — almost 54 years ago.

Veterans of the Vietnam War only cashed in if they applied by 1978. The World War II deadline was in 1950.

There are more than 11,000 living veterans from these wars in Medina County, but McKinney could not obtain data on how many collected their bonuses.

It appears quite a few did not.

The Medina County Veterans Services Office received several calls Monday from veterans wondering how they can obtain their bonuses.

The calls came after a story was published Wednesday in The Gazette about bonuses available to veterans of the Gulf wars and the Iran and Afghanistan conflicts.

“What we’re getting is Vietnam vets who are trying to collect their bonuses now,” said Veterans Benefits Consultant Deborah Connelly. “I’m sure we’ll get more coming in as the week goes on.”

Vietnam vets who missed out could have received bonuses as high as $3,000 — about $10,000 when adjusted for inflation.

Joan Jellison, 67, of Montville Township, was among the residents who had questions.

“My brother was in Vietnam, but apparently that bonus expired 30 years ago,” Jellison said.

Jellison’s brother, Tom Rasmussen, 65, lives in Trumbull County. She contacted Veterans Services there on his behalf.

She was disappointed to learn the deadline had long passed. She said her brother wasn’t the only one who missed out.

“I have a feeling a lot of people don’t know about this bonus,” Jellison said.

Richard Cordray, who was Ohio’s attorney general when bonuses for veterans of the Mideast conflicts were approved by voters in 2009, said that his office received many calls from Vietnam veterans who said they didn’t know about their service bonuses.

“We should not let this unfortunate oversight happen again,” Cordray wrote in an October 2010 press release stressing the need to alert veterans about the new bonus program.

McKinney agreed on the need to spread the word.

“I hope that veterans who missed out will inform the veterans of modern wars so we can avoid this in future generations,” he said. “Everybody who can apply should apply.”

Veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars have until at least Dec. 31, 2013, to apply.

At least dozens of Medina County’s 2,300 eligible veterans have applied in person at the county Veterans Services office.

More may have applied directly to the state by visiting veteransbonus.ohio.gov.

Among those who have received their bonuses is Tim Ryan, 64, of Wadsworth, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Persian Gulf War.

Ryan said he received about $1,200 as his bonus in 2007 or 2008.

“I’m not sure where I heard about it from,” he said. “I don’t know if I saw it on TV or if it was in the pamphlets they gave me when I left.”

Contact Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Deadlines for filing for bonuses
• World War II: July 1, 1950
• Korean War: July 1, 1959
• Vietnam War: July 1, 1978
• Persian Gulf War: Dec. 31, 2013
• Afghanistan War: to be determined
• Iraq War: Dec. 31, 2014