"The federal government may have turned its back on our veterans by
shortchanging them on the disability and health care benefits
they've earned, but we are doing things differently in Illinois,"
Blagojevich said. "We owe it to the men and women who bravely put
their lives on the line in defense of our freedoms and our
liberties. With the expansion of the LaSalle Veterans Home, we will
be able to provide better care for more of our veterans, and we will
also create more jobs and strengthen the economy of the LaSalle
In order to address the long-term health care needs of
older Illinois veterans, the governor ordered $13 million in funding
to be released last September for the construction project. The
Health Facilities Planning Board gave its approval Jan. 23 for the
expansion of the facility. The
Illinois Department of
Veterans' Affairs expects to break ground for the project this
The 80-bed expansion will allow the home to admit 40 residents
into the Alzheimer's unit and 40 into the skilled-care unit, as well
as hire 60 to 65 additional employees.
Since opening in 1990, the
Veterans Home has seen a steady increase of applications each
year. The increased interest in the LaSalle home is due to its
location and quality of care for residents. The facility is 90 miles
southwest of Chicago, where almost 600,000 veterans live.
The 62,410-square-foot additions will more than double the size
of the facility. In addition, approximately 8,142 square feet of the
building will be renovated.
The additions will include a new kitchen, dining room, activity
areas, patient storage, laundry areas and offices for the staff.
"I'm proud to say that, thanks to the efforts made by the
governor, we are now moving forward to provide long-term health care
for those Illinois veterans who can no longer take care of
themselves," said Roy L. Dolgos, director of the Illinois Department
of Veterans' Affairs. "I commend the Health Facilities Planning
Board for recognizing the need for these additional living spaces
for our brave men and women who put their lives on the line for this
A Chicago Sun-Times investigation in 2004 found that Illinois
veterans were receiving thousands of dollars a year less in
disability pay from the federal government than veterans from other
states were getting. According to the report, only 6 percent of the
state's nearly 1 million veterans received disability payments,
while the national average was 10 percent.
In response, the governor directed the Illinois Department of
Veterans' Affairs to hire 25 new service officers and deploy them
around the state to help veterans apply and receive for the federal
compensation and benefits they're entitled to. The officers' primary
responsibility is to assist in applying for nearly $400 million in
federal money that goes unclaimed each year by the 26.4 million
veterans across the country.
Additionally, the officers will be able to help veterans connect
with a variety of services, including education, vocational
training, low-interest home loans and counseling. The service
officers will also serve as a liaison between the state and the
federal Veterans Administration.
During his State of the State address last month, Blagojevich
proposed a new state program to ensure that uninsured, low-income
Illinois veterans have access to affordable, comprehensive medical
coverage. Under the first phase of Veterans Care, a program jointly
designed by the governor and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, veterans who don't
have health insurance and don't live within driving distance of a
federal VA clinic would be covered. Participants who take part in
the pilot program would not be charged a monthly premium.
Prescription drugs and doctor's office visits would require a very
To be eligible for Veterans Care, a veteran must:
Be between the ages
of 19 and 64.
Have been uninsured
for the past six months.
Live at least 50
miles from the nearest VA medical center.
Have a household
income below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
Not have been
dishonorably discharged from service.
[to top of second column]
According to a 2004 study by Harvard Medical School, of the 26.5
million veterans living in the United States, 1.7 million are
without insurance. More than one in three veterans under age 25
lacked health coverage, as well as one in seven veterans age 25 to
44 and one in 10 veterans age 45 to 65.
Since the beginning of his administration, Blagojevich has taken
other executive and legislative action to help the state's 1 million
Creating the Abraham
Lincoln Medal of Freedom to honor and recognize the service of
members of the Illinois Army and National Guard who are
mobilized in support of the war against terrorism.
Helping thousands of
veterans get federal and state benefits at the July 9, 2005,
Supermarket of Veterans' Benefits in Chicago, the largest such
fair in the state's history.
Setting up a
not-for-profit organization known as the Illinois Veterans
Foundation that will partner with corporations, other
foundations and private citizens to assist the state in reaching
out to and helping veterans.
Starting a pilot
program at the Manteno Veterans Home to serve as supportive and
transitional homes for vets.
Creating an Illinois
income tax checkoff program to generate more revenue for
that requires insurance companies in Illinois to cover
post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition hurting thousands of
veterans in the state.
to enact the Family Military Leave Act, which provides the
spouse and parents of a soldier who has been called to more than
one month of active duty with 15 to 30 days of leave time.
allowing the Illinois Department of Revenue to create a
scratch-off lottery game that will help fund grants and programs
to better serve the state's 1 million veterans.
to help soldiers on active duty and veterans get or complete a
allowing for peacetime veterans to be admitted at the state's
that will increase penalties for individuals who fraudulently
try to obtain state benefits reserved for veterans.
to extend municipal hiring preferences to all veterans who
served at least one year of active military duty.
to provide financial assistance to small businesses that lose
employees who are called to active duty during military
to give the state accurate information on how Illinois veterans
are doing in terms of collecting federal benefits in comparison
to veterans from other states.
to give veterans returning from active duty preference in
keeping the jobs they had been offered before being deployed.
to increase property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and
to give National Guardsmen and Reservists a 180-day extension to
file their property taxes.
to eliminate the initial fees for Gold Star license plates,
issued to parents who have lost a child in active service.
to waive camping, hunting and fishing fees for Illinois
residents who are members of the armed forces and are returning
from active duty.
to increase the monetary death benefit given by the Illinois
Department of Veterans' Affairs to families of soldiers killed
in Iraq and Afghanistan, making Illinois the first state in the
nation to offer soldiers monetary benefits in addition to those
provided by the federal government.
to help Illinois soldiers and their families maintain health
coverage and child-care assistance when they are deployed to
[News release from the governor's