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Veterans

  • Lightford proposals helping youth, minority teachers and veterans now law

    Sen. Kimberly A. LightfordSPRINGFIELD - Measures led by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) increasing counseling sessions for minors, expanding eligibility for a minority teachers scholarship and promoting the awareness of cancer in veterans were signed into law on Friday.

    Minors 12 years and older seeking counseling will receive more sessions without having to receive prior consent from a guardian under one of the recently approved laws. House Bill 3709 allows counselors to continue serving youth in circumstances where seeking parental permission may be detrimental to the youth.

    “Young people, especially LGBTQ and homeless youth, may sometimes feel like they have no one to turn to in dealing with hardships. They will now have more accessibility to counseling, and I hope it will encourage our youth to seek help when they need it,” Lightford said.

  • Hastings’ law to streamline credit transfers for veterans signed into law today

    Sen. Michael E. HastingsTINLEY PARK - One of the biggest challenges returning servicemen and women face is figuring out how military training credits transfer to college credit.  

    To tackle this hurdle, State Senator Michael E. Hastings’ measure House Bill 3701, to direct Illinois higher education institutions to establish a policy for awarding academic course credit for military training, was signed into law today.

    “Illinois’ veterans have valuable on-site educational experience,” Hastings said. “It’s our duty and honor to ensure returning veterans receive credit for the life and academic skills they learned while serving our nation.”

  • Cullerton: “This one small change will eliminate unnecessary hurdles for military families who have already lost too much”

    Police Memorial 2016VILLA PARK - To assist military families State Senator Tom Cullerton’s (D-Villa Park) legislation to update the Line of Duty Compensation Act, was signed into law today.

    The Line of Duty Compensation Act provides for death benefits to be paid through the Court of Claims when law enforcement officers, firemen and military service men and women are killed in the line of duty.

    Cullerton had heard from the Attorney General’s Office about a claim filed by the wife of a U.S. Army serviceman who was killed during Operation Freedom Sentinel which is not currently included in the act.

  • Tom Cullerton’s measure to combat veterans’ suicide epidemic signed into law

    Sen. Tom CullertonVILLA PARK- Illinois veterans may soon have another outlet for therapy, thanks to Villa Park Democrat, Tom Cullerton.

    This is Cullerton’s first initiative from the Veterans Suicide Taskforce that signed into law today.

    “Our veterans are our community’s heroes. Illinois’ military members and veterans put their life on the line every day, now is the time for us to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”

    Cullerton’s Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans is now law.

  • Lightford measure creates Veterans’ Cancer Screening Program

    lightford 050317SPRINGFIELD- In response to concerns surrounding the lack of awareness surrounding the importance of cancer screening among veterans, Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) passed legislation through the Senate today that establishes the Veterans’ Cancer Screening Program.

    “Early cancer detection can make all the difference for many who are diagnosed,” Lightford said. “We know that a number of veterans were exposed to conditions that could result in cancer, and it is important that we are raising awareness and helping our veterans get screened.”

    Senate Bill 838 directs the Department of Public Health to promote awareness of cancer in veterans by:

    • Distributing information regarding the risks of cancer in veterans and benefits of early detection
    • Promotion of information about counseling
    • Establishment of referral services and screenings
    • Beginning January 1, 2018, public service announcements publicizing the importance of cancer screening for veterans

    The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.

  • Cullerton, Hastings work to advance monumental veterans legislation

    Veterans presser 050317SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is working to combat alarming veterans suicide statistics in the nation.

    According to a recent study by the U.S.  Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S.

    This week, Cullerton advanced House Bill 2647 with bipartisan support out of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee.

  • Hastings passes plan to streamline training credit transfers for veterans

    hastings 050117SPRINGFIELD— One of the biggest challenges returning servicemen and women face are figuring out how military training credits transfer to college credit. 

    To tackle this hurdle, State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) passed Senate Bill 736 to direct Illinois higher education institutions to establish a policy for awarding academic course credit for military training.

    “Our nation’s heroes have on-the-job training,” Hastings said. “It’s my honor to work with higher education facilities and the state legislature to ensure returning veterans receive credit for the valuable skills they acquire during their time in the military.”

    After talking to many returning veterans, Hastings found the current system is imprecise. This creates a complicated and inaccurate process to translate military experience into college credits at Illinois’ universities and community colleges.

    There are a number of reasons for the confusion, the main reason being the descriptions for military training and college courses do not always match up perfectly. Also, military acronyms on transcripts may also mean different classes or curriculum based on each branch of service. 

    Often it becomes a matter of the higher education institutions willingness to research ways to find equivalent civilian academic courses. A standardized system will end confusion and create an easier transition for our military personnel.

    According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, over 773,000 veterans are now using their GI Bill benefits to go to college, spending a collective of $11 billion a year.

    “Repeating coursework promotes a slow and unnecessarily expensive educational process for veterans,” Hastings said. “Here in Illinois, we have workforce shortages for registered nurses, EMTs and other medical specialties. Who is better equipped than our returning servicemen and women to fill these job openings?”

    Hastings’ initiative will require community colleges and universities to submit their policies for awarding credit to the Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board for review before June 30, 2019, and before June 30 every other year afterwards. 

    “This entire process can be complex and discouraging,” Hastings said. “It’s our duty to create an easy transition for Illinois’ veterans into civilian life, not force them through overcomplicated bureaucracy.” 

    Hastings passed Senate Bill 736 with bipartisan support, and it now moves to the House for consideration.

  • Tom Cullerton passes measures to help combat veterans’ suicide epidemic

    tcullerton crwdfndSPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has advanced plans to tackle issues found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.

    Cullerton passed Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.

    “We need to get to the root of veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said. “We can only tackle this problem after we have a complete picture of cause of this problem. This is a simple way to collect statistics and honor Illinois’ veterans.”

    The idea was suggested by DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgenson, who indicated that veteran suicide was under reported since Illinois death certificates do not include information on the history of U.S. military service.

    “Our veterans are our community’s heroes. Illinois’ military members and veterans put their life on the line every day, now is the time for us to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”

    Cullerton also passed Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans.

    Under current law, the DVA isn’t required to provide information or resources on how a veteran might obtain a service animal.

    “The DVA should be a one-stop shop for our veterans,” Cullerton said. “There is a stigma within the veterans’ community on using traditional treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  We haven’t been able to explore the effects of using service dogs as alternative treatments since there is a lack of awareness in the veterans’ community.”

    Cullerton hopes this small step will help make service dogs readily available to veterans to cope with PTSD. Among who have used or are aware of service dogs there is a high demand. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.

    “Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could be the key to ending the veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.

    Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now move to the House for consideration.

  • Murphy streamlines property tax exemptions for disabled veterans

    sm houseSPRINGFIELD- State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) advanced legislation through the Illinois Senate today to prevent disabled veterans from being forced to reapply for the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption every year.

    The exemption is available to veterans with service-related disabilities. 

    As of 2015, veterans with a 30 percent - 50 percent disability can receive $2,500 exemption, those with 50 percent - 70 percent receive a $5,000 exemption, and veterans with at least a 70 percent disability are exempt from paying property taxes.

    “These property tax exemptions are a small token to show our thanks for making these great sacrifices for our country, but forcing disabled veterans to reapply every year is duplicative,” Murphy said. “My proposal removes the legal barriers that force them to reapply and make their lives just a bit easier.”

    Senator Murphy’s legislation, Senate Bill 1437, passed the Illinois Senate with a vote of 55-0. It will now head to the Illinois House. 

  • Martinez: American heroes should not be deported

    martinez 050616CHICAGO — In response to a judge ordering that U.S. Army veteran Miguel Perez Jr., who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, must be deported, Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) issued the following statement:

    “Miguel Perez Jr. put his life on the line for the United States and should not be deported, which will separate him from his family and leave him without an adequate support system.

    "Mr. Perez, like many of our returning soldiers, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Here in Illinois and throughout the United States, we need to focus on strengthening employment, mental health and substance abuse programs to help veterans transition back into civilian life.

    "We should be enormously grateful for the sacrifices members of the armed forces make on our behalf. Deporting American heroes is wrong. I urge Governor Rauner to approve Mr. Perez’s clemency request when it gets to his desk.”

  • Hastings seeks to honor first African American Army general

    Hastings generalSPRINGFIELD- State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) advanced a resolution to honor General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. by designating a day in his honor.

    Senate Resolution 212 seeks to declare August 2, 2017 as General Benjamin O. Davis Sr. Day to honor his extraordinary legacy of service and dedication to our nation.

    “It is extremely important for us to take the time to honor the sacrifices and milestones General Davis Sr. accomplished during his service to our nation,” Hastings said. “In his 50 years of service in the U.S. Army, he became the first African American general in the United States with a promotion to brigadier general. This is a big deal and a small example of the path and progress he carved out for future generations to come.”

    General Davis Sr. entered Howard University in 1897. A year later he enlisted as a volunteer soldier in the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War.

    “General Davis sought out ways to help our country,” Hastings said. “During divided times, he looked for ways to reunite our troops. This is testament to his leadership and character.”

    General Davis was appointed to the Committee on Negro Troop Policies, where he helped solve racial problems within the military and was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for combating segregation in the armed forces.

    “I’m proud to represent a VFW named in his honor,” Hastings said. “My hope is everyone will take a second to read about his life. Let’s keep him in mind when we face adversity and work toward ending discrimination once and for all.”

    Hastings urges area residents to visit his website, www.SenatorHastings.com, to read General Davis’ full biography and resolution honoring his life and the legacy he left behind.

    SR 212 passed the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs with bipartisan support and will move to the full Senate for consideration.

  • Munoz pushes to expand access to veterans’ rehabilitation program

    munoz 031517SPRINGFIELD — Veterans could soon gain expanded access to rehabilitation treatment through the Veteran and Servicemember Court program under a proposal that was approved in the Senate Criminal Law Committee yesterday. The measure, sponsored by State Senator Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), allows veterans to request to participate in the Veterans Treatment Court after sentencing.

    Often veterans do not recognize they have a problem or want to address the issue until after sentencing.  At that point, under current law, they are no longer eligible to receive assistance.

    “Unfortunately, a number of our veterans are struggling with substance and alcohol abuse as a result of their time in the Armed Forces, and we need to make sure they can take advantage of programs that help with their reintegration,” said Munoz, an Army veteran.

    The Veterans Treatment Court is a structured system that requires participants to report to meetings with a probation officer, report to appointments with a VA case manager, attend drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs as required, and adhere to other recommendations and requirements.

    Veterans who complete the VTC program may have their original charges dismissed, have their sentence terminated or be discharged from any further proceedings.

    Senate Bill 1312 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

  • Tom Cullerton advances measures to combat veterans’ suicide epidemic

    Senator Tom Cullerton
    SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has started tackling obstacles found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.

    Cullerton advanced Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.

    “We need to get to the cause of veteran suicide,” Cullerton said. “The only way to tackle the problem is to have a complete picture. This is a simple way to collect statistics and honor Illinois’ veterans.”

    The idea was suggested by DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgenson, who indicated that veteran suicide was under reported since Illinois death certificates do not include information on the history of U.S. military service.

    “These are our nation’s heroes. They took care of us, now it is our time to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”

    Cullerton also advanced Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans.

    Under current law, the DVA isn’t required to provide information or resources on how a veteran might obtain a service animal.

    “The DVA should be a one-stop shop for our veterans,” Cullerton said. “There is a stigma within the veterans’ community on receiving traditional treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  We haven’t been able to explore the effects of using service dogs as alternative treatments since there is a lack of awareness in the veterans’ community.”

    Cullerton hopes this small step will help make service dogs readily available to veterans to cope with PTSD. There is a high demand from returning veterans for service dogs as alternative treatment. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.

    “Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could one of the keys to ending the veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.

    Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs with bipartisan support.

  • Hastings expands scope of veterans’ property tax exemptions

    hastings 021717SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) advanced a measure to expand veterans’ property tax exemptions to all qualifying surviving military spouses.

    “Military spouses have already made the ultimate sacrifice,” Hastings said. “This property tax exemption was meant to honor the families of our fallen heroes. Military families shouldn’t miss out due to a legislative technicality.”

    Currently the Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption only applies to surviving spouses whose veteran obtained an exemption prior their death or a veteran killed in the line of duty prior to 2015.

    SB 82 extends the Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption to all surviving spouses of qualifying disabled veterans or veterans killed in the line of duty.

    “This change will help restore this legislation to its original intention: to honor the sacrifices made by military spouses and families,” Hastings said.

    Senate Bill 87 passed the Senate’s Committee on Veteran Affairs with bipartisan support.

  • Hastings helps centralize veterans’ resources

    hastings 011017SPRINGFIELD- Illinois veterans and active duty military personnel may soon have additional guidance while searching for veteran resources at Illinois higher education institutions.

    State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) advanced Senate Bill 705 to require all state universities and colleges to post a veteran services guidebook on their websites.

    “It’s crucial for our returning heroes to be able to find available veterans resources with a click of the mouse,” Hastings said.  “This guide will serve as a tremendous resource as Illinois veterans and military personnel make important educational decisions.”

    Under this initiative, each public institution that serves more than 1,000 students is required to employ a Coordinator of Veterans and Military Personnel Student Services on each campus.

    Hastings believes the coordinator will serve as a centralized source for information on benefit programs and any available services for student veterans and military personnel.

    “We need a one-stop shop for all available veterans’ resources ,” Hastings said. “This guide will help serve that purpose and move the state toward centralizing veterans services to guarantee state and local military programs are readily available.”

    Senate Bill 705 passed the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs with bipartisan support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

  • Link pushes to expand veterans’ tax credit

    link042116SPRINGFIELD – All surviving spouses of servicemen and women could be able to claim a property tax credit thanks to legislation being pushed by State Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills).

    The legislation, Senate Bill 87, would extend the Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption to all spouses of military members who would have otherwise been eligible for the credit.

    “We should honor the sacrifice that many families make for their country when their loved ones go off to protect us,” Link said. “This is just one small thing we can do as a state to respect that sacrifice.”

    Currently, if the veteran died prior to 2007 then the spouse would not be eligible for the tax exemption even though they would have otherwise qualified.

  • November 11 and year round, Senate Democrats support veterans

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  • Bertino-Tarrant helps veterans learn about available services

    jbt vetsbrkfstState Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) recently held a Veterans’ Breakfast.

    At the Veterans’ Breakfast, an estimated 60 veterans learned about programs and services offered by Homes for Heroes, Kendall County Veterans Assistance Commission, Military Mama Network and Will County Veterans Assistance Commission.

    “I’m honored to provide a small thank you and opportunity for area veterans to meet with representatives from different organizations who could help them access the benefits and services they’ve rightfully earned from their service to our nation,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

    Bertino-Tarrant spoke to attendees briefly about a new law she sponsored which creates a program at the Illinois Finance Authority allowing veterans to apply for and receive a loan to start a business.

    Attendees also heard from guest speaker Grant Swinger of the Illinois Attorney General’s Military and Veterans Rights Bureau. He provided an overview of the bureau, which is dedicated to ensuring veterans and active duty military service members receive the benefits they have earned.

    Some veterans expressed concerns about the problems they face in trying to get assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Bertino-Tarrant and Swinger sympathized with these concerns and let them know that the Illinois Attorney General’s Military and Veterans Rights Bureau can be a good resource for help when they run into difficulties.

  • Bush’s legislation helps vets overcome addiction, supports Veterans’ Homes

    bush 052516SPRINGFIELD — Illinois drivers will have an opportunity to support Veterans’ Homes.  Veterans will have more options to seek treatment for addictions and the local veterans’ assistance commissions will have greater ability to partner with drug courts. Veterans seeking treatment will be helped under two new laws sponsored by State Sen. Melinda Bush.

    “The men and women who choose to be warriors for our country take on great personal risk and sacrifice,” said Bush, D-Grayslake. “Too often, they are at an elevated risk of addiction. This law gives power to our local organizations and drug courts to collaborate and offer our veterans more options for better treatment.”

    The new law enacted by Senate Bill 3401 will allow veterans’ assistance commissions to provide mentoring, mental health and substance abuse programs in conjunction with Veteran & Service members Courts, that were specifically created to help veterans facing addiction.

    The governor also signed House Bill 6149, which lets Illinois drivers sign up to support veterans’ homes with a new specialty decal under the state’s streamlined universal license plate and decal system. Funds from the specialty decal will go toward the Illinois Veterans’ Home Fund, which supports the organizations that aid and care for veterans with disabilities.

    “The new universal license plate with specialty decal will be available for purchase next year. They are a great way to pledge financial support towards a worthy cause,” Bush said. “I encourage any driver who wants to honor those who served and sacrificed to consider the Veterans’ Home specialty decal.”

    The provisions under Senate Bill 3401 and House Bill 6149 take effect Jan. 1, 2017. Beginning that day, drivers may sign up for the Veterans’ Home specialty decal by completing the following steps.

    1. Visit:http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/motorist/licplate.html
    2. Scroll down the page and click on “Specialty Request / VSD 702.”
    3. This will bring up a new page. On this new page, print and complete the Specialty License Plate Form. Under the section “Name of Specialty Plate Being Requested,” write “Veterans’ Home Plate.”
    4. Mail the completed copy of the Specialty License Plate Request Form and a $26 check made out to “Illinois Secretary of State” to the address on the form.

    Please note that this form has to be mailed to the Secretary of State in Springfield at the office address stated on the form. This cannot be done at your local Driver Services Facility.

  • Murphy’s bill to protect veterans signed into law

    murphy hiedSPRINGFIELD – Many businesses offer discounts to veterans to thank them for their service to our country. Unfortunately, occasionally non-veterans will pose as military members to try to take advantage of these discounts.

    To cut down on people falsely impersonating veterans, State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) passed legislation through the Illinois Senate earlier this year to make it a petty offense to falsely impersonate a veteran. The proposal was Senator Murphy’s first bill as a State Senator and was signed into law by Governor Rauner today.

    “Veterans have given so much for our country we need to make sure their sacrifices are not taken advantage of by people trying to take advantage of the system for their own financial gain,” Murphy said.

    Illinois will now join several other states including Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with similar “Stolen Valor” laws.