Senator seeks support for veterans bill

By Janelle Patterson – Special to The News and Sentinel , Parkersburg News and Sentinel      

MARIETTA – Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, is looking to garner support from not only the 30th District in Ohio but across the state for a bill that was inspired by one experience with a veteran and his family.

Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, speaks to veterans Monday at the VFW Post 5108.

“A few years ago I met this young man who had returned home from Iraq,” said Gentile. “I talked with him about what he was doing and how he was readjusting to civilian life and then I talked with his grandmother and she asked me how I could help him to find a job.”

That story became the basis for not only work to put veterans through two- and four-year programs in higher education two years ago but also the genesis of Senate Bill 18, to be considered this year by legislators in Columbus.

Gentile fielded questions about his newly proposed bill at a town hall meeting Monday at VFW Post 5108 and said the bill would help both returning veterans and small businesses obtain financial success. About 20 people attended.

“We have a moral obligation to provide opportunities to this group of men and women who have served honorably for our country,” said Gentile. “I would like to see our small businesses be rewarded for hiring these individuals and securing those unique leadership and disciplined skill sets that these servicemen bring back.”

Gentile said Senate Bill 18 is modeled after a federal tax incentive to hire qualified veterans but would put the tax dollars back into the hands of small local businesses.

“This is a refundable income tax credit,” he said. “That’s up to a 40 percent return or roughly $2,400 saved by the business owner that they can then turn around and reinvest in their business and grow.”

A qualified veteran under the bill would be an individual who is receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, one who has been unemployed for four or more weeks or one living with a disability.

“Those are the most vulnerable individuals and this is to target that population and get them back on their feet and into the workforce,” he said.

Ronnie Davis, 68, of Marietta, a Vietnam War veteran, said he was pleased to hear about the goal of Gentile’s bill at the meeting.

“That should help because finances are the biggest concern and reason for suicides in veterans,” he said. “They are at their most vulnerable within the first three years out of service but especially if they are unemployed.”

Speaking both as a recently returned serviceman from Cuba and as a coordinator for veterans in need of intensive services, Jared Smith said disconnect between service time and civilian life becomes the largest hindrance in transitioning into the workforce.

“I was ready to go home and see my family after a year of being away from them, not paying attention to the out processing,” he said. “That’s what a lot of these men and women go through but then they get back and they don’t know how to translate their work experience into getting a job.”

Smith said there is a disconnect between the services they are exiting and the states’ job services to connect them with opportunities.

“Every service has their own transition assistance program,” he said. “If we can capitalize on that and have things like this bill in place, maybe that can help (veterans) when they get out.”

Gentile thanked Smith, Davis and the others who contributed to the town hall meeting and asked that business owners who have had good experiences hiring veterans and have recognized the skills that they bring to the civilian workforce communicate those experiences with him and other lawmakers in order to convince leadership in Columbus to support the bill.

“We want to hear from you about the timeliness and leadership that these men and women bring to the table,” he said.

For more information about the bill or to submit comments email gentile@ohiosenate.gov.