Created on Monday, 30 September 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Veteran services agencies across Ohio are spending an estimated $1.2 million a year trying to locate and get information to military veterans about benefits, but reaching them remains a challenge, a newspaper reported Monday.
The county agencies pay for billboards, newspaper ads and other outreach efforts aimed at finding veterans, the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/18jMhI8 ) reported.
State veterans officials say they have compiled about 829,000 veterans' names and addresses through a cooperative effort with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles that began in 2009, but are still working out ways to effectively share that information.
"We've had a lot of technical and legal challenges we had to work with before we could share with the counties," said Mike McKinney, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. "We had to make sure the list was protected."
Only four counties have elected to get the list since it became available through a secure online portal for county agency use this month, the newspaper reported.
Officials with Warren County's veterans service commission says it spends a lot of money on postage trying to reach veterans, but a major outreach effort by mail in 2008 resulted in a response rate under 10 percent.
"If they send a list down here, then we'll try to use it but we're not going to spend our money uselessly if we're not getting the results, said Tom Britton, president of the Warren County agency.
An April letter to the state from Montgomery County officials said a list of 44,900 veterans available to the county since 2011 "was so difficult to interpret and read that we have not used it for any purpose."
McKinney says Ohio has used the statewide list to mail fliers about upcoming events or notify veterans about bonuses.
The state also advocates for veterans in the legislature, administers the Ohio Veterans Bonus program and maintains more than 2.1 million veterans' records dating back to World War II, officials said. Much of the state agency's $80 million budget goes to operate two veterans homes.
The state co-sponsored a conference for female veterans over the weekend providing information on veterans services and resources.