SPRINGFIELD- 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.
SPRINGFIELD — 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.
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.
SPRINGFIELD- 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.
SPRINGFIELD- 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.
SPRINGFIELD – 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.
State 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.
SPRINGFIELD — 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.
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.
SPRINGFIELD – 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.
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) supported legislation signed by the governor this morning that ensures veterans who are eligible for the status of veterans for Illinois identification cards have access to them.
The Secretary of State began issuing ID cards with a veteran designation in 2015. Senate Bill 2173 expands the program to include National Guard members who have not been called to active duty. Furthermore, it clarifies that the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs will certify and verify the status of veterans for the ID cards.
Harris released the following statement regarding the new law:
“These identifications give veterans an easy way to prove their status and be able to receive all of the services they have earned and are rightfully eligible for. We need to continue providing our veterans with tools that make their lives easier as a gesture of gratitude for their service.”
SPRINGFIELD – Legislation that will ensure members of the armed forces and reservists receive designation as a veteran on their driver’s licenses and state IDs was signed into law today.
State Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) was a chief co-sponsor of the measure in the Senate. It was initiated because some Illinois National Guard members were concerned that they would not be designated as a veteran because they were not called to active duty.
“People who serve our country and make sacrifices for our freedoms deserve to be identified as veterans and have access to benefits,” Stadelman said. “Besides giving these veterans some well-deserved recognition, the new law will also save them a little money.”
Under the new law, Illinois National Guard members and reservists who have not been called to active duty can receive the veteran identification on their drivers licenses and identification cards.
“This bipartisan initiative is good for veterans, and I am glad the governor signed it into law,” Stadelman said.
Last year, the governor signed into law a bill Senator Stadelman sponsored that requires the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs to set up a program allowing those with a veteran's driver's license to qualify for discounts at some businesses.
The legislation approved today, Senate Bill 2173, is effective immediately.
CHAMPAIGN- Illinois National Guard members will soon be able to receive veterans status on Illinois identification cards thanks to State Senator Scott Bennett’s initiative that was signed into law today.
Senate Bill 2173 addresses complaints from National Guard members not being classified as veterans since they had not been called to active duty by the President of the United States, Congress or the Governor of Illinois.
“It’s our duty to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans regardless of their rank or what branch of the military they are in,” said Bennett, a Champaign Democrat. “This is one simple step we can take to work toward giving veterans benefits they deserve.”
Senate Bill 2173 also clarifies that the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs will certify and verify the status of veterans for Illinois identification cards.
“Our veterans have served to protect our values, now, in turn, it is our job to honor the sacrifices they have made,” Bennett said. “We need to do whatever we can to honor our nation’s veterans.”
Senate Bill 2173 was signed into law on Friday, July 15 and goes into effect immediately.
SPRINGFIELD –A proposal to streamline veterans identification that passed the Senate in April was signed into law by the governor today. Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago) co-sponsored the measure.
"With all of the services available to veterans, it only makes sense that Illinois streamline how these men and women carry identification," Mulroe said. "These men and women have served our country, so I think this is the least we can do."
The measure allows the Secretary of State's office to receive advice on how to best proceed with veterans IDs. The new veteran-specific IDs and drivers licenses would be available to all members of the armed forces.
Following the signing today, the bill becomes effective immediately.
VILLA PARK- Illinois National Guard members will soon be able to receive veterans status on Illinois identification cards thanks to State Senator Tom Cullerton’s initiative that was signed into law today.
“We need to honor all sacrifices made by our veterans, especially in Illinois,” Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat said. “This is one simple step we can take to work toward giving veterans benefits they deserve.”
Cullerton served in the Army from 1990 to 1993 as an infantryman. He draws on his own experiences to improve the lives of people in his district and those throughout Illinois.
“Serving our country is one of the most honorable things you can do,” Cullerton said. “And in return, it’s our duty to provide our returning veterans with resources to honor the sacrifices they have made to protect our values.”
Senate Bill 2173 goes into effect immediately.
SPRINGFIELD – A five-story, 200 bed veterans home on Chicago’s northwest side has stood vacant and half completed since June of last year. The home became a victim of the Illinois budget impasse. Thankfully, construction is set to resume thanks to Senator John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago).“It’s outrageous that projects like the Chicago Veterans Home ever got caught in the line of fire with the budget impasse,” Mulroe said. “These men and women served their duty to this country, and we can’t get our act together enough to ensure that they have a dedicated facility at their disposal?”The project broke ground in September of 2014, with a price tag of $70 million, slated to be completed midway through this year. The US Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to reimburse the state for up to 65% of the cost to build the facility. However, when funding for the project was not approved, local residents and veterans began to fear the worst.
SPRINGFIELD – Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) responded to a court decision on Tuesday that will require the State of Illinois to add Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) to the medical marijuana pilot program currently underway in Illinois.
“It is long overdue that people suffering with post-traumatic stress, a medical issue recommended by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, will finally be able to participate in a program that can relieve some of their symptoms,” Hastings said. “This was about protecting the health and safety of veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress.”
The judge in the ruling criticized Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah for not listening to the review board.
“Director Shah hid from the people when it came to making a decision that could affect thousands of Illinois veterans who wanted relief from their symptoms,” Hastings said. “Rejecting their right to know why Shah denied post-traumatic stress for the medical marijuana program is simply unpatriotic.”
The state has 30 days to comply with the court order to add PTS to the medical marijuana program. Governor Rauner currently has Senate Bill 10 on his desk that would bring the state into compliance with the court order.
SPRINGFIELD— Legislation that will help veterans become business owners was signed into law Friday by the governor.
Senate Bill 324, sponsored by Bertino-Tarrant, will create a program at the Illinois Finance Authority that would allow veterans to apply and receive a business loan. The program will be similar to agribusiness and farming programs administered by the State Treasurer.
“Despite having leadership abilities and valuable skills from their time in the service, fewer and fewer veterans have the opportunity to go into business for themselves,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “We need to have programs in place that help veterans become business owners. This initiative is a key part of giving our veterans the resources they need to own a business, create jobs for others and fulfill their potential.”
VILLA PARK - According to a recent U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs study, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in this country.
To stop this alarming trend, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and the Task Force on Veterans’ Suicide will hear from veterans, health care professionals and community groups to investigate the causes to and prevention of suicides among returning Illinois veterans.
“Every life we save will have an everlasting impact on families across our community and nation,” Cullerton said. “Our mission is clear: we need to reduce all statistics to zero suicides.”
SPRINGFIELD — Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) is continuing her push for deported veterans to be returned home to the United States.
Martinez passed a resolution out of the Senate last week encouraging the President of the United States and members of Congress to return veterans who have been deported to their families and communities in the United States.
“We need to end immoral deportation policies and allow our veterans, who are American heroes, to be reunited with their family members,” Martinez said.
The deportation of veterans is a topic that has drawn attention nationwide in the media, sparking outrage and prompting mobilization of veterans’ advocates.
After fighting for our nation, many veterans struggle to integrate back into society and can develop substance abuse issues and legal problems. Some of these veterans, despite having legal permanent residence prior to serving in the armed forces, are deported to Mexico.
“Better support systems need to be in place for our veterans when they come home,” Martinez said. “After everything our service members do to keep us safe and secure, we owe them the resources they need for a smooth transition into civilian life.”
Martinez recently met with veterans and advocates in the Capitol who are supporting her resolution.
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