June Olsen double majored in economics and educational psychology at the University of Washington and currently works as a writer on all things education.
Benefits for veterans are an essential component of our country’s military program. Of course, there are federal veterans’ programs that provide a range of services and advantages for current and returning veterans, but the policies and implementations can vary from state to state. Two of the most important areas in which veterans can receive benefits are education and health care. Often, a returning veteran needs re-education in order to integrate back into society—and without an accredited degree, career options are limited. Health care is also a vital provision, particularly for veterans who have been injured or disabled as a result of their service.
Oklahoma is considered one of the most veteran-friendly states—perhaps one of the top two in the nation. How does the veterans’ program in the state of Oklahoma compare to others in the country?
Health care: Oklahoma’s veteran centers and health benefits
Oklahoma has a total of 14 veteran health centers – 12 state-operated out-patient clinics and 2 federal medical centers for veterans. Oklahoma scores high marks for the number of facilities available to veterans. Eligibility requirements for care in these centers include 90 days or more of consecutive service during a major conflict, from World War II through the Iraq War. Veterans living with a significant disability are able to use these facilities with no out-of-pocket costs, and all disabled veterans have access to treatment at a reduced rate. The medical care provided by Oklahoma’s centers for veterans include social, recreational, dietary, laboratory, X-ray, and pharmaceutical services for both in-patient and outpatient care.
Oklahoma’s education benefits for veterans
Following the post-9/11 revision to the GI Bill, which provides educational assistance to veterans and shifted funding from a flat allowance per month to tuition assistance that aligns with each state’s public higher education costs, Oklahoma has seen a surge in veterans receiving education benefits and in expenditures for education and vocational training. During FY 2010, 12,708 veterans received education benefits in Oklahoma, a 38 percent increase from the previous year and that number is expected to grow. Oklahoma also participates in the Veterans Educational Assistance Program, which matches voluntary contributions from military pay toward education at $2 for every $1 contributed.
Other perks for veterans in Oklahoma
In addition to the benefits for education and health care, the state of Oklahoma provides a range of benefits for veterans and their families. For example, disabled war veterans are exempt from personal property taxes, and also pay no sales taxes on purchases up to $25,000. A bill to extend the sales tax exemption to veterans’ surviving spouses, SB 46, is currently pending in the legislature. Veterans in this state can also receive guaranteed home loans. Finally, Oklahoma offers reduced charges on motor vehicle registration and license plates and free hunting and fishing licenses to disabled veterans.
How other states measure up
While some states provide excellent care for veterans, others don’t perform quite so well. Michigan, for example, is possibly the worst state for veterans’ benefits. On average over the last fifty years, Oklahoma has paid out the 5th highest veteran disability benefit in the country. Altogether, Oklahoma is a welcoming state for veterans, with a variety of services designed to take care of critical needs and provide the essential tools for veterans to re-integrate into society.
The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.