Political briefs – June 21


DEWINE LAUNCHES ONLINE CLAIMS PROCESS FOR ROCK SALT SETTLEMENT FUNDS – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a new online claims process to allow local governments throughout the state to request a share of an $11.5 million settlement with Morton Salt Inc. and Cargill Inc. over past rock salt sales to public purchasers.

Ohio public entities that bought rock salt from Cargill or Morton between July 2008 and June 2011 may be eligible to receive a share of the settlement. In order to receive settlement money, agencies must submit a claim to the Attorney General’s Office listing their eligible salt purchases.

The deadline to submit a claim is Aug. 7.

Claims can be completed and submitted online at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/RockSalt.

“We worked hard to ensure that this settlement would benefit local governments and the people they serve,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We want to get this money into the hands of local governments as soon as we can, and we want to make sure that each community gets its fair share of available funds.”

Attorney General DeWine’s office is sending letters to Ohio public entities believed to have contracted with Morton or Cargill to buy rock salt during the eligible timeframe. Additional purchasers may be affected, and any eligible public purchasers are encouraged to submit a claim.

Following the claims period, the office will allocate settlement proceeds proportionally, based on the amount of salt an agency purchased during the July 2008-June 2011 time period. Settlement checks likely will be mailed to local government agencies later this year.

VA FINALIZES RULE TO EXTEND BENEFITS TO RESERVISTS EXPOSED TO AGENT ORANGE RESIDUE – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) applauded news that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released a final decision that qualifies reservists who served on Fairchild UC-123 Provider (C-123) aircraft, that were previously contaminated with Agent Orange, as veterans so they can receive proper healthcare and disability benefits. On June 10, the senators blocked the confirmation of Dr. David J. Shulkin, President Obama’s nominee for Under Secretary for Health of the VA, announcing the hold on his confirmation would remain in place until the VA released a final decision. Oregon Health and Sciences University has been a leader in research recognizing the impact of Agent Orange on C-123 reservists, which include reservists at Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio.

“All servicemembers exposed to Agent Orange residue deserve the same benefits, whether they flew on missions that used the chemical or they worked on planes still contaminated by it years later,” Brown said. “I thank Secretary McDonald for his action to extend healthcare and disability benefits to C-123 reservists. These veterans have waited too long to receive benefits that they earned.”

“These veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service on contaminated aircraft were injured serving our country, and we owe them the best care possible,” Merkley said. “Whether they were active duty or reservists, their sacrifices should be recognized. I’m glad the VA has finally reached the right decision and the affected veterans will receive justice, and I thank Secretary McDonald for getting this done.”

“I’m glad the VA has finally acknowledged that these C-123 veterans, who were exposed to the hazards of Agent Orange, deserve medical care and benefits,” Wyden said. “While this decision is long overdue, I’m encouraged that the agency heeded our calls to change course and ensure that these veterans will receive the care they deserved from the start.”

Previously, the VA argued that C-123 reservists did not qualify as “veterans” under the statute used to determine eligibility for VA benefits unless they were injured and incurred a disability or died from that injury during the period of training. In April, Brown, Merkley, and Wyden joined their Senate colleagues in a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald, arguing that the VA’s interpretation is incorrect based on two precedent-setting legal memorandum from the VA’s Office of General Counsel that considered reservists as “veterans” even if the disability from their injury did not manifest until after the period of training. The senators called on McDonald to use the VA’s existing statutory authority to grant benefits to C-123 reservists.

DEWINE WARNS OF LOTTERY SCAMS – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned Ohioans to avoid lottery and sweepstakes scams as the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots grow.

“Whether or not you play the lottery, it’s important to beware of scams,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Con artists often call people telling them they’ve won millions, but if you receive a call saying you’ve won the lottery, it’s almost always a scam.”

In 2015, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than 400 complaints about sweepstakes or prizes. Most consumers do not lose money, but dozens of individuals have reported losses ranging from $12 to more than $200,000.

The scams often begin with a phone call or a letter claiming the consumer has won a few million dollars through a lottery or sweepstakes. In order to collect the winnings, consumers are told to wire a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to cover fees or taxes. In reality, they haven’t won a prize, and any money they send will be lost.

Individuals who send money once usually will be contacted again and asked to send more money to cover taxes, customs fees, or other costs supposedly associated with delivering the winnings. As long as the victim continues to send money, the scam artist will keep calling.

Signs of a lottery scam include:

Winning a lottery you don’t remember entering.

Calls from a lottery or government agency saying you’ve won millions.

Receiving an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars.

Having to pay a fee to collect your winnings.

Having to send money via wire transfer or prepaid card.

Having to call an 876 (Jamaican) area code phone number.

Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to take the following steps to avoid scams:

Don’t trust someone who says you won a lottery you did not enter. If you didn’t buy a ticket, you didn’t win.

Don’t wire money or pay a fee to receive your winnings.

Don’t give out your personal information to someone who contacts you unexpectedly over the phone or through email.

Be skeptical if you are asked to call an out-of-country phone number in connection with a lottery or sweepstakes win.

Be skeptical if you receive an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars. It could be a counterfeit check used as part of a scam.

If you have older relatives or friends, look for signs that they have been targeted by lottery scams. Red flags include unusual banking activities, wire transfer receipts, or an increased number of phone calls made to them.

Consumers should report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.