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The hunt for family relief for veterans -- no easy task     Send a link to a friend

By Pamela Althoff, state senator, 32nd District

[APRIL 24, 2004]  Artists often use optical illusions to hide pictures within pictures. You know the ones I am talking about. These are the pictures that appear to be one thing, but if you look closely you see something else. Sometimes, no matter how hard you look at the picture, you still can't see anything. It becomes almost a personal challenge to see the hidden image. It is frustration that ends only when that moment of illumination arrives and you finally see what everyone else has been seeing.

The families of veterans are experiencing similar frustrations in trying to track down the help they need to stay afloat while their loved ones are serving overseas. They know the benefits exist, but trying to find them is even more frustrating and far more difficult than deciphering optical illusions in a picture.

Many of the servicemen and women serving overseas are part of the National Guard or the Reserves. While they are fighting for their country, they are not home drawing their regular paychecks, which are usually much more than what they make while they are on active duty.

Family relief is usually just a phone call away, but as many veterans told the Senate Republican Task Force on Veterans, knowing where to call and where to find those benefits is often a challenge.

Nearly every branch of the military offers some sort of relief program. The state of Illinois has the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, which allows Illinois National Guard and Reservists serving overseas to apply for a $500 grant. For more information, call 1 (866) 524-4564.

Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka's office offers the Operation Protect and Provide Program, which provides loans up to $10,000 with an interest rate no higher than 3 percent. For more information, log on to the treasurer's site at, or call (217) 557-6436 or toll-free (866) 458-7327, ext. 7.

Organizations offer help, such as the American Legion's Family Support Network. Grocery shopping, child care, lawn care and fixing the family car are just some of the ways the American Legion can help a military spouse. To obtain more information on how the American Legion can help, log on to


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Another place to go is your local Veterans' Affairs offices or other local veterans' offices.

To find your local Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs office, log on to You can also call (217) 782-6641 or (312) 814-2460.

It is my hope that the efforts of the Senate Republican Veterans Task Force will lead to a kind of one-stop shop for veterans to have easy access to the information they need. If we put this information on the Web and in a brochure, families experiencing financial trouble can look at the options available to them from the privacy of their own home and have the convenience of be able to go to one source for the information.

There are many options for veterans available. But what good is it to have these programs if the people who need them cannot find them or do not even know where to look for them? The task force will continue to provide updates on these and other efforts to assist veterans. It is important not only to provide these services and programs to veterans, but also to make sure the people who need the assistance get it. Improving veterans' services and publishing them is a commitment this task force takes seriously.

[Pamela Althoff, state senator]

State Sen. Pamela Althoff represents the 32nd District, which is comprised mostly of McHenry County. Prior to becoming a state senator, Althoff served as mayor of McHenry. Her father was a veteran of World War II.

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