The Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition (OVFCC) is never surprised to hear about veteran and fraternal organizations giving back to their communities. We’ve seen it many times. And many more.And more still. The generosity of veterans and fraternal groups to not only their members, but also their communities is truly something to behold, especially in our current age of economic uncertainty.
That’s why it shouldn’t come as a shock that the Warren, Ohio VFW Post #1090 has continued this tradition of compassion by donating money to fund a funeral and military honors for a recently deceased veteran.
Russell Benson died suddenly in June, and after calls to different national organizations fell upon deaf ears, Benson’s nephew, himself a Staff Sergent in the US Army, called the VFW Post. And the VFW took up arms for one of their own.
“‘[Benson] needed help,’ said Rolla Airwyke, VFW Post 1090’s Quartermaster. A former Marine and veteran of the Vietnam war himself, Airwyke uses his position to distribute charity funds to veterans and their families in times of need…
Aiurwyke invited Benson to meet him at the post, 611 High St., and after talking with the soldier wrote him a check from the charity fund to cover half of the bill from the funeral home…”
Post 1090 is also one of many state-wide posts suffering due to recent judicial and legislative rulings with regards to charitable gaming, and the post itself, a town mainstay for 90 years, is running out of time and money, much of which was brought in by electronic charitable raffle machines that the State’s Attorney General has declared illegal.
Stories like the one above are good, and speak to just how great the support of veterans and fraternal organizations can really be. But the postscript – the AG’s decision, and a VFW Post clinging to financial life – is really the issue that should be addressed. Else those like Staff Sergeant Benson might still be on the phone trying to find a way to bury his uncle.
There are a lot of ways to gamble legally in Ohio but some people in our great state are still finding ways to do so illegally. This has always been an issue in the state, and now the Ohio Casino Control Commission is looking into over 30 places where such illegal gambling may be occurring.
Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, said yesterday that his agency is investigating at least three dozen such locations. He said there could be hundreds more in storefronts and strip malls around the state. They are not limited to large urban areas; many thrive in smaller cities and towns…
Skill games have been around for many years. They are supposed to be based on the player’s skills, unlike slot machines, which are based on chance. Skill games faded out as Internet cafes proliferated but had a resurgence when DeWine and state lawmakers cracked down on the cafes in the past two years.
Crackdowns on illicit gambling isn’t new, at least by the Ohio Attorney General’s definition of what constitutes a skill game versus a game of chance. Where the AG’s office had once spent much of their investigative time and money cracking down on Electronic Video Raffles used by veterans and fraternal posts to raise funds, the crack down on these other, very illegal operations is a welcome change, especially in the eyes of the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition, an organization focusing on raising money for charities, not for owners of illegal businesses.
“Its been a long time coming. The OVFCC has stated often that we didn’t understand why the state seemed to only care what we were doing but didn’t care about the illegal skill and sweepstakes machines that have been operating forever,” said OVFCC President Bill Seagraves.
Merle Pratt,OVFCC Secretary, agreed, stating, “The major difference between the OVFCC raffles and the illegal skill and sweepstakes machines is that we have raised $10 million for charity and they have raised $0 for charity.”
The Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition (OVFCC) applaud Congress and President Obama for passing, and signing, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. This legislation addresses issues that are important to the care of our veterans and their families both in Ohio and across the United States. The act addresses many of the veteran’s issues that the OVFCC has worked tirelessly to address though charitable initiatives. These issues include equality, education, health and safety, and quality of life.
Specifically the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 will provide the following benefits:
Sexual Assault, Harassment, and Incompetent Senior Officials
The legislation would improve the delivery of care for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military. In addition, the VA secretary would be given the authority to immediately remove incompetent senior executives based on poor job performance or misconduct such as sexual harassment. An expedited appeals process through the Merit Systems Protection Board would prevent political firings or other abuses of the new personnel power, such as retaliation against whistle blowers.
Bolster VA Staffing
The legislation would provide the VA funds to hire additional primary and specialty health care providers along with other clinical staff to increase the department’s capacity to provide high-quality health care to our nation’s veterans. The measure also would provide enhanced incentives to attract more doctors and nurses and other health care professionals to the VA. The VA’s Access to Care Audit found that the need for additional doctors, nurses and other medical providers was the highest barrier or challenge to access to care.
Add Space for Veterans Care
The VA’s physical infrastructure plays a significant role in its ability to provide timely, quality care to veterans in a safe environment. The legislation would provide funds to enter emergency leases for facilities that would directly improve veterans’ access to care.
Authorize New Clinics
The legislation would authorize VA to enter into 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and Puerto Rico. In many instances, these leases would improve access to care closer to veterans’ homes and increase the availability of specialty-care services in these locations.
Veterans Choice Card
The legislation would allow veterans who have had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment with the VA to seek care from a private physician, a community health center, a Department of Defense health care facility or an Indian Health Center. Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility also would be eligible for this program.
The legislation would expand the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship to include surviving spouses of members of the Armed Forces who die in the line of duty while serving on active duty.
In-State Tuition for Post-9/11 GI Bill
The legislation would let veterans eligible for education benefits under the Post 9/11 GI qualify for in-state tuition.
The bill would extend a program about to expire which provides housing for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injuries.
When Corporal Alex Haworth returned from to his North Olmstead, Ohio home, it was not before going through myriad difficulties. Haworth is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and his return home was delayed substantially by a stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his injuries stemming from a suicide bomber’s attack. While three of Haworth’s friends perished in the attack, the Northeast Ohio native recovered from his injuries stateside.
But sometimes when it rains, it pours. Not only did Haworth have to overcome devastating injuries, but the home he previously purchased for his family was in complete disrepair. With seemingly no other option on the table for the young veteran and his growing family, it was up to the North Olmstead VFW to step in to help a brother in arm in need.
Check out the video below to see the outstanding efforts of VFW Post 7647 to support a young man who served his country and was awarded a Purple Heart.
Democratic Candidate for Ohio Governor Ed FitzGerald (courtesy: edfitzgeraldforohio.com)
The battle for the Ohio Statehouse continues to heat up, as the Buckeye State prepares for the race between incumbent Governor John Kasich and Democrat Candidate Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. While there are many issues that will affect voters statewide, one of the most important for Ohio’s veterans concerns how lodges and posts are able to raise funds to support their locations and local charities. To that end, Executive FitzGerald thinks that removing electronic charitable raffle machines could be a death sentence for many veterans and fraternal groups in Ohio.
“You have to say ‘do you really want to say good-bye to those organizations as a whole?’ Because that’s what’s going to happen,” FitzGerald said. “That’s what I’ve committed to, is to say, look, if you’re going to take that revenue stream away from them, what is going to replace it?” FitzGerald said he recently began studying the issue and has not yet made any policy pronouncements.
The answer, according to Kasich, is the Ohio Lottery’s plan to put 1,200 electronic slot machines into lodges and posts, but many veterans, as well as the Executive Board of the OVFC, vehemently oppose that plan, since it puts the majority of profit to Intralot, a Greek company, as opposed to the posts and lodges:
Forty percent, or about $7 million, would go to the lodges and posts from the new machines. Many vets oppose the lottery plan because they say their own electronic raffle games provide a greater payoff.
While House Bill 325 has stalled in the Ohio Legislature, the stance of a gubernatorial candidate supporting veterans and fraternal organizations is certainly something to consider when heading to the polls this fall.
The 2014 General Midterm Elections are November 4th.
The Late Nichelle McKnight and her son, Zaden (courtesy WDTN-Dayton)
The continuing, tragic story of Nichelle McKnight, an Air Force Reservest, who, along with her son Jaden, was murdered, has shown not only how a tragedy can bring a community together, but also how a community can pay back one of its members. The local VFW chapter, Huber Heights #3283, already paid for McKnight’s funeral, but the Post has stepped up in a huge way, also putting the money forward to cover the cost of a bronze headstone.
The ongoing legal fight between the OVFCC and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office took a turn in favor of the Veterans and Fraternal groups late last week, as the Franklin County Common Pleas Judge in the case ruled against the Attorney General’s motion to dismiss the case. In so doing, the OVFCC’s case should continue to trial, with a major battle in its favor.
While McIntosh’s ruling is preliminary, it could foreshadow a future decision. He concludes that electronic raffle machines are bingo games which are “conducted by licensed organizations for charitable purposes,” and thus are not prohibited by state law.
The case will likely continue to trial later this year, as members of the OVFCC continue to seek legal recourse for continuing to support local charities and organizations using the funds raised with the OVFCC program and the electronic charitable gaming machines the Coalition provides.