Keeping Our Promise to Ohio’s Veterans

Nan Whaley speaking with two men in an industrial setting

Ohio has one of the highest populations of veterans in the United States, and we owe these men and women more than a day of recognition each November — we owe them our full support in their return to civilian life through all its phases: reentry, community choice, job search, family support, and aging. Just as Ohio is a location of choice for defense facilities and bases — Wright Patterson Air Force Base, ISC Cleveland Coast Guard Base, and Youngstown-Warren Air Reserve Station — we must become a location of choice for veterans when it is time for them to leave service.

Nan’s policy is guided by the belief that all veterans living in are Ohio are entitled to:

  1. The right to live in health and age with dignity;
  2. The right to a job and the tools to thrive;
  3. The right to shelter and housing;
  4. The right to justice.

Under Nan’s leadership as Governor, Ohio will once again honor its sacred obligation to our veterans and their families. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case under recent gubernatorial administrations.

As Governor, Nan will allocate capital and operating funding to establish at least 15 additional veterans home facilities, adding at least 1,000 new beds for veterans in our state. Because Ohio currently only has two state veterans homes — one in Georgetown and one in Sandusky — this will alleviate the choice many families face of whether to send their veteran to a home for quality care or whether to keep them nearby. Our Governor has the ability to build new homes for our veterans, but isn’t taking advantage of available federal funding to do so. Our state is literally leaving money on the table to help support our veterans by not investing in veterans’ homes. That won’t happen under Nan’s watch.

But Ohio’s veterans also need support as soon as they re-enter civilian life. Nan will ensure veterans have the resources they need to re-enter civilian life by building OhioVetsConnect — a centralized, one-stop online portal for veterans to access and secure services including health care, jobs, training, education, and benefits — and establish a mentorship and navigator network, OhioVetsCorps. Nan will also replicate Dayton’s successful model that reduced veteran homelessness to nearly zero during her first term as mayor and will expand and fund Veterans’ Dockets so that veterans in our justice system are treated with dignity.

The Right to Live in Health and Age with Dignity

Today, Ohio veterans are forced to choose between receiving quality care at an often distant veterans’ home or staying close to their family and community. That is because Ohio’s two veterans’ homes — located in Georgetown (southern Ohio) and Sandusky (northern Ohio) — only provide 750 of the 2,184 beds that are allocated by the federal VA. Federal funds are available to pay for these additional beds, but Ohio is leaving them on the table. Currently, more than 100 veterans are waitlisted for beds in these distant facilities. Until new beds are added in these veterans homes or more homes are built, Ohio will not receive its fair share of VA construction or operating support for aging veterans.

In order to take full advantage of available federal funding and ensure that Ohio’s veterans are able to age with dignity — while living close to home — Nan will:

  • Allocate capital and operating funding to establish at least 15 additional small-scale veterans home facilities, adding at least 1,000 new beds. Ohio veterans and their families live in all 88 counties. Establishing these additional homes throughout the state — so that they are accessible to all Ohio veterans, and provide the home-like, intimate environment that aging veterans prefer — prevents families from having to choose between quality of care and proximity to loved ones. These homes will be built either by using the VA’s small-scale options model or by repurposing Ohio’s vacant nursing home facilities as veterans’ homes.
  • Secure Ohio’s fair share of matching funding from the VA to support these facilities. Because Ohio does not have the full number of authorized veterans beds, it is not able to take advantage of federal funding that is allocated to the construction and operation of these homes.
  • Build multi-generational links between young Ohioans and aging veterans by partnering with Ohio National Guard community centers. Ohio’s aging veterans can and should be a great resource for our state, connecting with and serving as mentors to young people.

The Right to a Job and the Tools to Thrive

After leaving military service, roughly 80% of veterans leave their first job within 12 months. Ohio veterans need a reliable resource that connects them to the tools and services within their communities they need to succeed in finding the right job, and stabilizing their new lives in the community. For this reason, veteran support services should extend one to two years past the initial reentry phase. As Governor, she will:

  • Build OhioVetsConnect — A user-friendly, online portal that will take over where Military OneSource leaves off*, providing a one-stop-shop for veterans to access and secure services including health care, jobs, training, education, and benefits. This portal will help to create synergy between the federal VA and state and local veterans’ services.
    *Military OneSource, the Department of Defense portal, is only accessible to veterans for 365 days after end of service.
  • Establish the OhioVetsCorps — Members of the OhioVetsCorps will function as a robust community benefit navigator network designed specifically to support veterans’ unique needs and coordinate their access to benefits, including health care, mental health supports, housing, jobs, and education. This new group will be organized in a similar model to AmeriCorps, which offers pay and educational benefits to participants. Additionally, OhioVetsCorps members will be credentialed, which will help them transition to civilian care industry jobs (i.e., nursing, EMT, social workers, etc) if they so choose. This program is based on the belief that veterans supporting veterans is the most effective way to reach vets in need of support.
  • Providing lifelong targeted training and certification for vets and their family members — For every job transition, veterans and their family members will be able to receive training for available local jobs through workforce training boards, community colleges, or apprenticeship programs, tailored to the special needs of both able and disabled vets.

The Right to Shelter and Housing

Ohio is falling short in providing veterans access to shelter and stable, affordable housing. After experiencing a reduction in veteran homelessness between 2014 and 2019, Ohio’s veteran homelessness rate rose by nearly 10% in 2020. This is because veterans face several barriers when it comes to maintaining housing. Although veterans have significant resources to become homebuyers through VA loans, 1 in 5 veteran homeowners over the age of 75 struggle to keep pace with the costs of an aging housing stock in need of repairs and renovations. Additionally, high housing costs put veteran renters at a higher risk of eviction. In Ohio, an eviction filing stays on a veteran’s record, hurting their credit and access to future housing. Finally, even if a veteran receives housing assistance, many face discrmination from landlords who are unwilling to accept renters who will pay with HUD-VASH vouchers.

As Governor, Nan will build on her experience as Mayor of Dayton where, during her first term, veteran homelessness was reduced to nearly zero. As Governor, she’ll expand that successful model to the rest of the state. To further combat veteran homelessness, Nan will:

  • Invest in ‘housing first’ to make veterans homelessness rare, brief, and one-time through the Capital Bill and Ohio Housing Financing Agency tools.
  • Increase funding for veterans’ home repair and renovation programs through the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.
  • Make it illegal for landlords to turn away a veteran simply because they intend to pay their rent through HUD-VASH vouchers.
  • Support the bipartisan SB158 to create a statewide eviction expungement process and work with the Ohio Supreme Court to ensure that all Ohio courts utilize their powers to seal records.

The Right to Justice

Nan believes that veterans courts in Ohio should be accessible to every veteran, regardless of their zip code. Unfortunately, “too many veterans are still coming into contact with the justice system due to treatable conditions” and service-related disabilities, such as traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance use, and mental health issues that complicate their recovery and rehabilitation. The absence of veterans courts in every community and county exacerbates these problems.

That’s why, as governor, Nan will expand, promote, and fund Veterans’ Dockets (similar to Ohio’s successful drug courts) for rapid, timely, and appropriate legal support to veterans struggling to stabilize their lives. Additionally, Nan will:

  • Link Veterans’ Dockets to the Ohio Veterans’ Corps. This would link Ohio’s court system to a robust community benefits navigator network designed specifically to support veterans’ special needs and coordinate their access to benefits, such as health care, mental health supports, housing, jobs, and education.
  • Extend the reach of Ohio’s justice system by utilizing virtual arraignment and other court procedures, so that everyone has access to justice, no matter their zip code.
  • Cover access and extend the reach of treatment options, such as in-patient drug treatment and health and mental health services via telehealth and support networks using state resources as necessary for services not insured by the federal VA or already provided through local ADAMH boards.

Putting Nan’s Plan into Action

Ohio veterans risked their lives for our freedom; addressing these issues can’t wait. That’s why, on Day One of her administration, Nan will establish the Ohio Veterans 2035 Task Force to bring together a diverse group of veterans from all conflict eras; Active, Reserve, and National Guard members; officer and enlisted ranks; and representatives from the Veteran Service Organizations to build a comprehensive, well-organized, and accessible veteran care over the next decade.

The Ohio Veterans 2035 Task Force will provide detailed recommendations to Ohio’s Department of Veterans Services around all areas of need in the veteran community, with a focus on expanding access to professional support services to connect veterans and their families to good-paying jobs, shelter, and affordable housing, comprehensive legal support, and services that support a healthy life at any age. The task force will also focus on ensuring that Ohio’s veterans get their fair share of federal funding to support all stages of their post-service journey. This task force will be charged with setting 1, 5, 7, and 10-year goals and with mapping out a strategy for veterans reentering civilian life.

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