National organization commends
Illinois for generous benefits offered to veterans and their
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VFW: Other states now trying to
emulate Illinois' successful programs
[APRIL 1, 2006]
SPRINGFIELD -- According to an article published
in the April edition of VFW Magazine, published by the national
Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, the state of Illinois is
leading the way when it comes to assisting the veterans in its
population. The article, entitled "Illinois Serves as Beacon for
State Benefits," commends many of Illinois' programs that assist
veterans and their families, including the Military Family Relief
Fund, the new Veterans Cash instant lottery ticket, education
scholarships for veterans and their dependants, and Gov. Rod R.
Blagojevich's initiative to provide all Illinois veterans with
comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage called Veterans
"We've worked very hard over the past three years to get these new
programs implemented. It is very important to this administration
that we take care of the brave men and women who fight for our
freedoms. This is a small token of appreciation for what they have
done and continue to do for all of us living in the United States of
America," said Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Roy
Article from VFW Magazine, April 2006:
Illinois Serves as
Beacon for State Benefits
provide generous benefits for veterans and National Guard returnees,
while others lack them and are attempting to emulate successful
By Kara Petrovic
The future is
always uncertain for GIs returning from the war zones in Afghanistan
and Iraq, as well as those gearing up for deployment. That's why the
Defense Department is working more closely with state governors and
legislatures to ensure that veterans and Americans in uniform, along
with their families, receive adequate benefits.
While federal VA
benefits like the GI Bill and home loans are commonly used, most
veterans forget or are unaware of the benefits available from
Many states offer
support to National Guard families, but not all. Officials are now
researching what neighboring states provide veterans and the
National Guard, and trying to discover solutions.
more opportunity to plan for the future is one of the most important
things we can do," Indiana Gov. Joseph Kernan told Air Force Times.
like California, are not only looking at Illinois' veterans
benefits, but also emulating its National Guard programs.
duplicated Illinois' Family Relief Program, which was developed to
help activated National Guard and reservist families suffering from
financial hardships. In one year, however, the Golden State's fund
paid out only $7,687 to three families from among 7,000 California
GIs who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to an article
in the Los Angeles Times.
disappointing when compared to Illinois, which paid out more than
$3.4 million to some 6,000 National Guard and Reserve families since
the program's birth three years ago.
113,000 citizen-soldiers versus Illinois' 27,000.
1,500 Illinois National Guard members and reservists are on active
duty in Afghanistan or Iraq.
director Eric Schuller said the program started when Gov. Rod
Blagojevich asked the state's legislature for $5 million for general
contributions and close ties with veterans organizations, as well as
fundraisers, primarily fund the Illinois program.
$20 Million in
In January 2005,
Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled the Illinois Veterans Health
Initiative for soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Brave men and
women have sacrificed everything for our safety," Quinn said. "Yet,
they return from war only to face another battle at home -- the
battle for basic health coverage."
Quinn said the
program will help those suffering from physical or mental health
problems or lacking adequate health care.
provides $500 grants to citizen-soldiers regardless of need, as well
as $3,000 grants to those injured in the line of duty, said the Los
Angles Times piece.
Illinois has paid
out $272,000 in line-of-duty death benefits to every soldier --
regular, Guard or Reserve -- KIA or killed while training for
deployment so far, according to the Times.
States also provide
recently discharged veterans and their dependents with an array of
On Feb. 10,
Illinois launched its newest program, Veterans Cash, a $2 lottery
scratch-off game, which is the first instant ticket in Illinois
lottery history where 100% of proceeds will go to support the
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
With a top prize of
$20,000, Veterans Cash is expected to generate more than $3 million
in net revenue each year.
"Our veterans risk
their lives to defend our freedoms and liberties," said Blagojevich.
"These brave men and women deserve our continued appreciation and
respect even long after they've retired from service. The funds
generated from Veterans Cash will help veterans get the services and
benefits they have earned."
Net revenue from
the ticket sales will be deposited into the Veterans Cash Fund, an
interest-bearing account in the state treasury. The fund also will
provide service or underwrite additional research relating to: PTSD,
veterans homelessness, health insurance and disability benefits.
benefits vary. Illinois provides a four-year educational scholarship
for discharged veterans -- comparable in some ways to the GI Bill --
that covers full payment of tuition and fees at seven
state-supported institutions of higher learning. The scholarship
amount is based on total number of credit-hours being taken.
scholarship also is offered to dependents of POWs/MIAs and
offers educational assistance to eligible veterans to attend
colleges tuition-free or at discounted rates. The state also grants
preference in filling civil service jobs.
Both states give
cash bonuses, too. Massachusetts provides a bonus to veterans who
were residing there immediately prior to entry into the armed
forces. Illinois provides bonuses to vets of the 1991 Persian Gulf
War, Vietnam, Korean War and WWII, plus to Vietnam POWs and
success comes from the top," said Director Roy Dolgos of the
Illinois Department of VA. "The governor [Blagojevich] has a strong
outreach to the vet community and lets them know about all the
benefits we have. The governor said he'd do anything he can for
veterans and that they deserve whatever we can give them."
also are on the rise. Wisconsin developed its I Owe You campaign in
2000. Before the program, Wisconsin vets were not applying for
federal VA benefits at the same rate as veterans in other states. In
fact, they ranked 42nd out of 50 states in terms of dollars received
for VA benefits, according to the state's Web site.
The program has
since increased awareness of services and allowances for qualified
Supermarket of Veterans Benefit/Veterans Benefits Information Fairs
to increase awareness of VA benefits.
Department of Veterans Affairs also backs the armed forces. Its
Mission: Welcome Home ambassador program pairs past war veterans
with recently returned vets and their families. Since August 2005,
more than 25 Wisconsin VFW Posts have adopted military units to
provide support and assistance as part of the program.
To determine what
services are available from your state, see the list of state VA
agencies published in the April 2005 issue of VFW and contact them.