Each of Ohio's 88 counties has a veterans' service office to help veterans understand what benefits are available to them and their dependents and to help them apply for these benefits. Each veterans' service office also has a Veterans Service Commission (VSC), whose members are responsible for overseeing the work of that office.

While this article focuses on the work of the Stark County VSC, it provides an overview of the types of services available to veterans and their dependents throughout Ohio.

Q: What kinds of services does the Veterans Service Commission offer for veterans and their dependents?

A: The Stark County Veterans Service Commission (SCVSC), for example, serves 30,000 veterans, the 6th largest population of veterans in Ohio. The SCVSC provides three basic services for veterans and their dependents: financial assistance, service officer assistance, and medical transportation. The SCVSC team includes five appointed commissioners representing various national services organizations, including the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Vietnam Veterans of America, as well as five accredited County Veterans Service officers, an accredited executive director and assistant director, two finance specialists, three managerial staff members and three support staff members.

Q: What financial assistance is available?

A: The SCVSC offers a needs-based program that provides short-term basic living needs for Stark County veterans, their spouses, dependent children and surviving spouses.

Q: How would I qualify for financial help?

A: You must have served in the armed forces on active military duty for purposes other than training and you must have been discharged under honorable conditions. You may also qualify if, while serving on "active duty orders for training" (such as basic training or schooling), you suffered a service-connected disability that is recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense.

Q: What kinds of financial assistance is provided?

A: The SCVSC may assist you with basic living expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, food, personal hygiene costs, and clothing.

Q: What is "service officer assistance"?

A: The county's veteran service officers will help you file for federal and state benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the State of Ohio. They can also connect you with local agencies through the office's partnerships.

Q: What types of federal benefits could veterans and their dependents receive?

A: Benefits include service-connected compensation for an injury or disability, a disability pension for a wartime veteran or a surviving spouse, healthcare, education for the veteran, children, spouse or surviving spouse, assistance through the Home Loan Guarantee program, and insurance, such as life or mortgage insurance, and burial and memorial benefits. The SCVSC can also assist with discharge upgrades, locate military records, and provide military awards or decorations.

Q: What type of state benefits are available?

A: State benefits include access to one of the two Ohio Veterans Homes facilities (one located in Georgetown and one in Sandusky), the Ohio War Bonus program, compensation from the Military Injury Relief Fund, free Ohio hunting and fishing licenses, qualification for benefits under the Homestead Exemption, information about and application assistance for the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship, the provision of high school diplomas, access to a variety of educational programs, and free license plates.

Q: What kind of medical transportation assistance does the SCVSC provide?

A: The SCVSC provides van transportation to the community-based Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Parma and contracts with the regional transit authority to provide transportation to Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center for medical appointments.

Q: I don't live in Stark County. How can I find a Veterans Service Commission in my county?

A: You can find a listing of the Veterans Service Commissions for all of Ohio's 88 counties at http://dvs.ohio.gov/HOME/County_Veterans_Service_Offices or by calling 877-OHIO-VET (877-644-6838).

This "Law You Can Use" consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by De Ann M. Covey, Assistant Director, Stark County Veterans Service Commission.

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.