Recognizing The Sacrifice Of Military Families
A Guest Column by State Senator Scott Oelslager

The population of veterans in Northeast Ohio continues to grow.  Personal growth and education opportunities for our veterans are a critical initiative of the Ohio legislature.  Earlier this year, members of the General Assembly passed House Bill 488, which was sponsored by Representatives Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) and Al Landis (R-Dover.)  House Bill 488 ensures that the relevant educational and training experience of Ohio’s military personnel and veterans are taken into account when determining equivalency for the issuing of degrees, workforce licenses and certifications.  I co-sponsored this bill to provide accessible and affordable education opportunities for our military families.
First, House Bill 488 requires the Chancellor of the Board of Regents to develop standards and procedures for awarding college credit for military experience.  Through this provision, we created a military articulation and transfer assurance guide and developed a statewide training program to teach college staff to translate military experience into college credit.  This bill prohibits a college from charging a fee to student veterans who are applying for this experience.
Second, House Bill 488 requires that every college or university establish a Veterans Service Office and a single point of contact for veterans on campus.  This ensures that the issues impacting veterans on campus, such as receiving benefits or searching for employment, will continue to receive the attention they deserve.
Finally, House Bill 488 strengthens Ohio’s law in one more positive way.  It enhances the criminal penalties for felons who commit identity fraud against active duty service members and their spouses.  Identity fraud is on the rise and service members are more at risk due to their personal information being available to the public.  During times of deployment, service members rush to take care of family and business issues.  They may not be aware that their personal information has been compromised.  This bill adds a private right of action to empower identity fraud victims to face their offenders by pursuing a civil judgment.  Because of this, Ohio now has one of the strongest laws in the country for punishing those who commit fraud against our military.
I also co-sponsored House Bill 85 (Gonzales-R, Terhar-R).  House Bill 85 allows permanently and totally disabled veterans to file for a homestead tax exemption before they reach the age of 65.  The bill increases the amount, from $25,000 to $50,000, of the homestead exemption that is available to qualified homeowners who are disabled veterans.
I am proud to be part of a state body that acts on initiatives to improve services to our military members.  I look forward to ensuring that we recognize the sacrifice of our military families.  Both House Bill 85 and House Bill 488 passed in May 2014.

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