Ohio bill would require state employees to ask veterans ‘the question’

State employees would be expected to determine veteran or military status in routine interactions

A new bill introduced by Ohio State Sen. Niraj Antani would require state employees to determine a citizen’s veteran status in routine interactions.

The bill would meet a need identified by the Department of Defense, calling on states not only to become more military-friendly, but also to alert veterans to available services and benefits.

It’s about communication, Antani, a Miamisburg Republican, said in an interview Monday.

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“It will require every state agency, when someone interacts with that state agency, to inquire whether you are active-duty military or a veteran,” he said. “When you go to renew your driver’s license, when you go get a fishing license, anything like that, this bill will require them ... to inquire whether someone is of active-duty military or veteran’s status.”

The bill “will ensure our veterans and retirees can access the support they need and bring those veterans to more Ohioans,” Elaine Bryant, executive vice president at the Dayton Development Coalition, said in a release from Antani’s office.

Making the Buckeye State more welcoming to military families and retirees has long been a priority for state leaders. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, with north of 30,000 military and civilian employees, is the state’s largest employer at one site.

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In a virtual signing ceremony in June 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 16, a bill said to benefit Wright-Patterson Air Force Base families who move into Ohio but don’t automatically qualify for lower in-state college tuition reserved for longtime state residents.

The rationale for the change was simple: Make Ohio more attractive to military families, advocates said at the time.

Also signed in June with the same goal in mind: House Bill 287, which allowed reciprocity for Medicaid home and community-based service waivers for active-duty military family members with special needs when families move to Ohio for military assignments.

The governor also signed Ohio Senate Bill 7 in a January 2020 visit to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. That bill requires state occupational licensing agencies to issue temporary licenses or certificates to uniformed service members and their spouses who are validly licensed in another jurisdiction and have moved to Ohio for military duty.

The requirement is simply a springboard for a state employee to let veterans and active-duty military members know about benefits.

“It’s one thing for us to pass all of these great bills,” Antani said. “But we need to make sure they know about them.”

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