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Legislation would give vets financial breaks

We have many people to thank for America’s rise to greatness.

From dynamic public officials to dedicated laborers to successful businessmen and religious leaders, look through the pages of America’s history books and you see the names and faces of men and women who have helped shape this country’s ideals and have played an important role in the growth and success of our land.

But perhaps the greatest, most influential group of Americans — people who deserve our thanks and gratitude year around — are the thousands of brave, selfless veterans who have traveled and fought in all reaches of the globe to protect our freedoms and preserve our way of life. They are true heroes in every sense of the word.

Sunday was Veterans Day, and in communities across the country, our war heroes were honored through local parades and veterans’ ceremonies. In fact, I attended several Veterans Day events in the 17th District.

Begun as a way to commemorate the service of the soldiers who fought in World War I almost a century ago, Veterans Day has become an important opportunity to honor the sacrifice of all our nation’s military personnel.

The General Assembly has also taken steps to honor Ohio’s veterans and improve benefits for military personnel and their families. Last week, the Ohio House passed a comprehensive veteran benefits package aimed at not only bettering the lives of Ohio soldiers and their families but also strengthening our economy in the process.

First, the proposal, House Bill 372, would exempt military pensions from the state’s income tax, saving Ohio’s 38,640 retired servicemen and women more than $23 million. Currently, 35 other states exempt all or part of military pensions from their state income tax, leaving Ohio in the dust when it comes to attracting and retaining skilled military retirees to live and work here after their service is complete.

These people have not only laid their lives on the line to protect our homeland, but have the potential to contribute greatly to our economy. A similar measure was introduced in the Senate earlier this year, Senate Bill 19.

HB 372 also targets soldiers who go off to fight and return home to learn that they can’t work right away because their professional license has expired. The bill would help ease this transition from military service back into a civilian career, by giving soldiers returning home from service, a six-month window to renew any professional licenses that may have expired. Finally, HB 372 would waive probate court costs — which can total up to $500 — for military families who have a loved one killed in action.

After passing the House last week, the plan now comes over to the Senate for continued debate and discussion.

Our veterans are special people, and they deserve to be treated as such. Not everyone has the dedication, bravery and selflessness to volunteer to put their life on the line for their country.

Therefore, we must do everything we can to honor their service and thank them for putting so much on the line to protect this place we all hold so dear.

Sen. John A. Carey represents Ohio’s 17th District.