"I am so pleased that the governor's office is able to identify a
funding source to compensate these families in need while the
remaining funds work their way through the legislative process for
approval," Duckworth said. "Already going through so much with the
loss of a loved one, they shouldn't have to wait to receive these
benefits. We are taking immediate action to help these 22 families,
and as this war continues we will be taking steps to address the
needs of the growing number of families of our fallen heroes. We are
determined to keep our commitment to those who have sacrificed so
much for our freedoms."
In October 2004, Blagojevich signed
Senate Bill 1668, expanding
Illinois' existing line-of-duty benefit -- initially created for
police officers and firefighters -- to include families of soldiers
killed in the Global War on Terror. The state benefit amounts to
more than $270,000, as adjudicated by the Illinois Court of Claims.
The line-of-duty benefit offered to Illinois service members was
set at $10 million in fiscal 2007. Upon realizing that the cost of
war has been much higher and more tragic than anticipated, the
governor's office requested a supplemental appropriation of $5
million in coordination with the 94th General Assembly last fall to
ensure the fund could continue to meet the growing needs of Illinois
military families for the remainder of the fiscal year. This
appropriation was passed in the Senate, but action wasn't taken in
"We set an example for the entire nation by pledging a
significant benefit, equal to that given to survivors of fallen
firefighters and police officers, to the families of Illinois
service members killed in the line of duty," Quinn said. "These
families have endured a great loss. They should not have to wait
months and years for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn. As
President Abraham Lincoln said, we on the home front have a moral
duty to ‘care for him who shall have borne the battle and for
his widow, and his orphan.'"
The plan unveiled Sunday by the Blagojevich administration
addresses the needs of the 22 families whose claims have been
approved but who are still waiting for the money. The plan calls for
the Court of Claims to pay off four of the outstanding claims in
full amount. A total of $1 million will be borrowed from the
Veterans Care health insurance program and will be distributed
equally to the remaining families awaiting their money, each
receiving $50,000 dollars. The governor's office and the Department
of Veterans' Affairs are again vigorously working with state
legislators this year for a supplemental appropriation bill. Once
this supplemental appropriation is passed by both chambers of the
95th General Assembly, the rest of these families' claims will be
awarded by the Court of Claims, with the most outstanding ones
first. The $1 million borrowed from the Veterans Care health
insurance program will be returned once the supplemental is approved
with an additional requested $1 million from the supplemental for
In the governor's 2008 budget, he increased his request for the
line-of-duty compensation benefits to $15 million.
"The state of Illinois is a national leader when it comes to
innovative programs and initiatives that help our veterans and their
family members. In fact, we are one of the only states that offers
this significant and great benefit, which is a reflection of how
deeply we all care for our brave veterans and their family members,"
Duckworth added. "Both the governor and I have a commitment to these
deserving families in their time of great financial and emotional
need that we are going to keep."
Through the past four years, the Blagojevich administration has
launched a number of initiatives to support Illinois veterans
Veterans Care: Jointly created by Blagojevich and Pat Quinn
and launched in September of 2006, Veterans Care is designed to
provide affordable, comprehensive health care to thousands of
Illinois veterans who do not qualify for coverage through the
federal Veterans Administration.
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Veterans Cash: Launched in February of 2006, Veterans Cash is
the Illinois Lottery's first lottery ticket with 100 percent of the
proceeds to support Illinois veterans. Proceeds from the sale of
this ticket are deposited into the Illinois Veterans Assistance
Fund, an interest-bearing account in the state treasury. The
Illinois General Assembly appropriates this money solely to the
Department of Veterans' Affairs, which awards the money in grants,
funds additional services or conducts research relating to veterans'
post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness, health insurance costs
and disability benefits.
Manteno Home PTSD pilot program: Blagojevich administration
officials broke ground in 2006 on a building that will house a
landmark pilot program to help provide housing and supportive
services for 15 disabled, homeless Illinois veterans at the state's
veterans home in Manteno. The pilot program will serve as a national
model for how to overcome challenges in providing permanent housing
for homeless and disabled veterans, including veterans suffering
from post-traumatic stress disorder, and will help Illinois lead the
nation in preparing for the likely increase in mental health
problems among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The governor has also signed into law numerous pieces of
legislation helping veterans and members of the military, including:
Senate Bill 1279, which is a tax incentive for Illinois employers
to hire our state's military heroes. Employers can earn an income
tax credit of up to $600 annually for every qualified veteran hired
after Jan. 1, 2007. The credit is available for veterans who were
members of the armed forces, the Reserves or the Illinois National
Guard on active duty in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring
Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Senate Bill 916, which protects military personnel and their
families against the inadvertent loss of health insurance after a
tour of duty or an honorable discharge from military service.
The "Let Them Rest in Peace Act," which shields grieving military
families from protests during funerals and memorial services of
fallen soldiers. The law requires protesters to stay at least 200
feet away from family and friends as they mourn soldiers who made
the ultimate sacrifice.
Legislation punishing individuals who falsely claim to be
decorated war heroes. The new law creates criminal charges and
imposes penalties on individuals falsely representing themselves as
recipients of various military honors, including the Purple Heart,
the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross,
the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star and the Bronze
An amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Acts, protecting
Illinois veterans from discrimination in employment and housing.
Under the new law, military status now includes a veteran of the
armed forces of the United States, a reserve component of the armed
forces of the United States, the Illinois Army National Guard and
the Illinois Air National Guard.
A law strengthening consumer protections for active military
members under the Illinois Patriot Plan. The new law imposes
penalties on companies for offenses such as canceling life insurance
policies or turning off heat while soldiers are deployed.
The Illinois Military Families Relief Fund Act, which established
a trust fund allowing the families of Guard members and reservists
to receive emergency financial grants and general financial support,
helping make up the decline in household income that occurs when a
wage-earner is called up to service. Since August of 2003, the fund
has paid out over $5.2 million to nearly 10,000 families, and 25
other states have developed programs similar to the Illinois model.
[Text from Illinois
Department of Veterans' Affairs news release received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]