Study finds Ohio counties vary in helping veterans
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Military veterans seeking emergency financial assistance might get it depending on which Ohio county they live in.
A Dayton Daily News analysis of veterans service commissions in the state’s 88 counties found a wide range of response rates. For example, Miami County in western Ohio spent more on financial assistance than 80 other counties, and was much more willing to approve applications than nearby Montgomery County, which includes Dayton and a much larger population.
The Miami County veterans service commission spent 69 percent of its budget on aid. Montgomery County rejected nearly a third of aid requests, one of the highest denial rates in the state, the report found. Harrison County in eastern Ohio spent only 7 percent.
David Fierst, an Army veteran and commission president, said the Montgomery commission wants to help as many veterans as possible, while also looking out for taxpayers who include veterans, “so they have an interest in us properly administering the funds as well.”
The commissions have broad discretion in how to allocate spending on resources and benefits for veterans.
The Daily News report published Thursday followed a recent state study that showed that the funding each commission receives varies widely since it’s based on a percentage of the county’s property tax collections and its veteran population, creating disparities between urban and rural areas.
The 88 counties spent a total of $19.8 million on emergency aid in 2012, the Daily News reported. The assistance is meant for short-term needs for housing, groceries or utilities.
Miami County Veterans Service Commission President Joe Goetz said his agency is becoming stricter, limiting veterans to three emergency aid applications annual for up to $700. It also set a lifetime maximum of $10,000 and began giving out vouchers for groceries instead of cash in some cases.
Clark County, which includes Springfield, doesn’t restrict numbers of applications, but has a higher denial rate than Miami.
“It’s for short-term emergency situations; you’ve gotten into an emergency, not a case where you’re overextended and you need help every month, because we can’t do that,” said Cathy Ater, director of Clark County’s veterans commission.
Some veterans complain that financial assistance should be handed out evenly based on need, not location.
“If the guys need $3,000 to $4,000, they ought to get it,” said Bob Bailey, 90, a World War II Navy veteran who lives in Warren County in southwest Ohio. “If they need $20, they ought to get it.”