Bill would provide equal benefits for vets

Published 9:50 am Friday, October 30, 2009

The brave men and women in our nation’s military share a passion and commitment for service.

Not only do they risk their lives fighting to defend our freedoms across the globe, but many of these brave professionals move on to work in government, philanthropy or become leaders in their local communities once their tours of duty are complete.

The state of Ohio has hundreds of hard-working employees who have served or continue to serve in the United States Armed Forces, Army Reserves or the Ohio National Guard.

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These people demonstrate the same dedication working for the people of Ohio as they did serving our country in the military.

However, it was recently brought to my attention that some of these workers are not receiving the same benefits as their fellow veterans.

Several months ago, I received a letter from a gentleman in the 17th Senate District who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and is currently an employee of the state of Ohio.

He explained that while he is able to purchase the time he served in the military and count those years toward his eligibility for retirement from his state job, this purchased time does not factor into his longevity credits.

These credits, in most cases, determine the amount of vacation time a state employee can accrue, as well as their ability to qualify for certain salary increases. Conversely, under current Ohio law, membership in the Ohio National Guard is recognized as prior state service for both retirement and longevity credits.

The men and women in our nation’s armed forces fight for the interests of all Americans, and their contributions to Ohio are just as valuable as the service of their counterparts in the Ohio National Guard.

Therefore, their service should be recognized equally by the state of Ohio.

Earlier this year, I introduced Senate Bill 20, legislation that would allow state employees, who have prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces or Army Reserves, to count their military service time toward their longevity and vacation credits.

The bill was recently approved by the Senate State & Local Government & Veterans Affairs Committee 7-0 and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

SB 20 would help ensure that all state employees who have served bravely in our military, whether in the Armed Forces, Army Reserves or the Ohio National Guard, have access to equal benefits.

While some may argue that the state cannot afford to provide additional benefits during these difficult economic times, I believe it would be wrong to balance the budget on the backs of our veterans.

These men and women put their lives on the line for our state and this country and now they have chosen to continue their public service working for the people of Ohio.

The least we can do is ensure they are treated fairly and are granted the benefits they deserve.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.