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Veterans

  • Tom Cullerton urges veterans, service persons to take advantage of free statewide legal hotline

    tc 052617VILLA PARK- To better serve Illinois heroes, the state has formed the first-ever statewide legal assistance hotline and coordinated network of legal support services for military personnel, veterans and their families.

    State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is helping spread the word about the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN) to ensure DuPage County residents take advantage of free legal services.

  • Honoring all who served

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  • Tom Cullerton announces new nationwide Veteran ID to help fight identity theft

    tc 052417VILLA PARK- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is excited to announce qualifying Illinois veterans will now have easy access to Veteran Identification Cards or VICs starting November. 

    “Illinois veterans will have nationwide standardized method to prove their military service without the added risks of identity theft,” Cullerton said. “Our military men and women should not have to jump through hoops to receive benefits they qualify for.  This small step will honor our military’s bravery and serve as a reminder that we must never forget the sacrifices they have made for our great nation.”

  • Cullerton’s groundbreaking legislation to streamline veterans’ resources signed into law

    tc 021617VILLA PARK- State Senator Tom Cullerton’s (D-Villa Park) monumental legislation to combat veteran’s suicide in Illinois was signed into law today.

    “One veteran lost to suicide is one too many,” Cullerton said. “This new law applies common-sense solutions to eliminate barriers between veterans and the state resources they qualify for. This initiative wasn’t compiled in haste but over hours and weeks of testimony, input and concerns raised by veterans, their loved ones and veterans’ organizations throughout the state. This is a true testament to their hard work and dedication to our nation’s heroes. I’m proud of the work that went into this measure and to be part of this monumental effort.”

    House Bill 2647 is a collection of comprehensive recommendations to ensure veterans have better access to services, treatment for mental trauma and depression as well as better access to employment opportunities.

    According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S.

    A common theme throughout the process is finding ways to access veterans’ resources promised to the state as well as addressing a disconnect between federal and state resources. House Bill 2647 creates a connection between the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense to help streamline and remove redundancies when returning veterans redeem benefits.

    Some of the provisions in House Bill 2647 include:

    The DVA will be required to reach out to the U.S. DoD to identify veterans returning from units that have experienced heavy casualties, served in high-conflict areas or have at least one member who possibly committed suicide following their service. After identifying veterans DVA will create a proactive line of communication.

    DVA will also work with higher education facilities to address issues that may negatively affect a veteran’s ability to learn in a traditional classroom environment such as exploring the expansion of online classes, moving desks away from windows and crowded halls, and providing veterans’ only instructional hours.

    DVA will be required to proactively reach out to the U.S. DoD to develop a system to allow veterans to file DD Form 214 (discharge papers immediately upon discharge). This is the required form for veterans to receive benefits.

    Lastly, creating collaboration between local chambers of commerce and DVA to create an employer training program to focus on the needs of veteran employees and identify veteran friendly businesses.

    Cullerton, chairman of the Task Force on Veterans Suicide and a veteran himself, hosted multiple hearings throughout the state to hear from veterans, their spouses and community organizations to hear concerns and recommendations to ease some of the struggles returning veterans experience.

    House Bill 2647 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

  • Highway dedicated in honor of fallen Tazewell County soldier

    09082017KI0075 NORTH PEKIN – A state highway was renamed in honor of a fallen Tazewell County soldier today. Part of Route 98 was renamed the “Sgt. Dean Russell Shaffer Memorial Highway” after two Peoria area lawmakers passed a resolution at the General Assembly this Spring.

    State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 20 with State Representative Mike Unes (R-East Peoria) to honor Sgt. Dean Shaffer, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012.

    Sgt. Shaffer was a graduate of Pekin Community High School and was serving with the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division when the Black Hawk helicopter he was on crashed during a medivac mission in Helmand Province, killing on board. Sgt. Shaffer had previously been deployed to Iraq.

  • Veterans with PTSD now eligible for service dogs under new law sponsored by Manar

    manar vet servicedog 082517SPRINGFIELD – Illinois military veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression will be eligible for service dogs through a special program under legislation sponsored by Senator Andy Manar that was signed into law Friday.

    “Service dogs often can offer companionship, stress-relief and motivation to veterans with PTSD or depression that friends and family may not be able to provide,” Manar said. “I am pleased that these veterans now are on the list of people in Illinois who can take advantage of the Helping Paws Service Dog Program and lead more fulfilling lives.”

  • Tom Cullerton fights veterans’ suicide epidemic with a series of new laws

    tc consol 051717VILLA PARK- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is tackling another obstacle found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.

    Cullerton’s measure, 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, was signed into law today.

    “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.”

    Senate Bill 1693 is the second measure signed into law that originated from Cullerton’s Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.

    The first measure, Senate Bill 866, that requires the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans, was signed into law on August 11, 2017.

    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 using 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.”

    The Illinois Veterans Suicide Task Force was formed by a measure Cullerton led in 2014. As co-chairman Cullerton held six hearings throughout the state to investigate the causes of veteran suicide and released a report to the General Assembly in December of 2016.

    The Federal Department of Veterans Affairs and Army state that 10% to 18% of returning veterans are likely to have Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after they return. Some studies suggest that suicide risk is higher among those who experienced trauma due to the symptoms of PTSD.

    Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support. This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. 

  • Lightford proposals helping youth, minority teachers and veterans now law

    Sen. Kimberly A. LightfordSPRINGFIELD - Measures led by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) increasing counseling sessions for minors, expanding eligibility for a minority teachers scholarship and promoting the awareness of cancer in veterans were signed into law on Friday.

    Minors 12 years and older seeking counseling will receive more sessions without having to receive prior consent from a guardian under one of the recently approved laws. House Bill 3709 allows counselors to continue serving youth in circumstances where seeking parental permission may be detrimental to the youth.

    “Young people, especially LGBTQ and homeless youth, may sometimes feel like they have no one to turn to in dealing with hardships. They will now have more accessibility to counseling, and I hope it will encourage our youth to seek help when they need it,” Lightford said.

  • Hastings’ law to streamline credit transfers for veterans signed into law today

    Sen. Michael E. HastingsTINLEY PARK - One of the biggest challenges returning servicemen and women face is figuring out how military training credits transfer to college credit.  

    To tackle this hurdle, State Senator Michael E. Hastings’ measure House Bill 3701, to direct Illinois higher education institutions to establish a policy for awarding academic course credit for military training, was signed into law today.

    “Illinois’ veterans have valuable on-site educational experience,” Hastings said. “It’s our duty and honor to ensure returning veterans receive credit for the life and academic skills they learned while serving our nation.”

  • Cullerton: “This one small change will eliminate unnecessary hurdles for military families who have already lost too much”

    Police Memorial 2016VILLA PARK - To assist military families State Senator Tom Cullerton’s (D-Villa Park) legislation to update the Line of Duty Compensation Act, was signed into law today.

    The Line of Duty Compensation Act provides for death benefits to be paid through the Court of Claims when law enforcement officers, firemen and military service men and women are killed in the line of duty.

    Cullerton had heard from the Attorney General’s Office about a claim filed by the wife of a U.S. Army serviceman who was killed during Operation Freedom Sentinel which is not currently included in the act.

  • Tom Cullerton’s measure to combat veterans’ suicide epidemic signed into law

    Sen. Tom CullertonVILLA PARK- Illinois veterans may soon have another outlet for therapy, thanks to Villa Park Democrat, Tom Cullerton.

    This is Cullerton’s first initiative from the Veterans Suicide Taskforce that signed into law today.

    “Our veterans are our community’s heroes. Illinois’ military members and veterans put their life on the line every day, now is the time for us to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”

    Cullerton’s Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans is now law.

  • Lightford measure creates Veterans’ Cancer Screening Program

    lightford 050317SPRINGFIELD- In response to concerns surrounding the lack of awareness surrounding the importance of cancer screening among veterans, Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) passed legislation through the Senate today that establishes the Veterans’ Cancer Screening Program.

    “Early cancer detection can make all the difference for many who are diagnosed,” Lightford said. “We know that a number of veterans were exposed to conditions that could result in cancer, and it is important that we are raising awareness and helping our veterans get screened.”

    Senate Bill 838 directs the Department of Public Health to promote awareness of cancer in veterans by:

    • Distributing information regarding the risks of cancer in veterans and benefits of early detection
    • Promotion of information about counseling
    • Establishment of referral services and screenings
    • Beginning January 1, 2018, public service announcements publicizing the importance of cancer screening for veterans

    The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.

  • Cullerton, Hastings work to advance monumental veterans legislation

    Veterans presser 050317SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is working to combat alarming veterans suicide statistics in the nation.

    According to a recent study by the U.S.  Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S.

    This week, Cullerton advanced House Bill 2647 with bipartisan support out of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee.

  • Hastings passes plan to streamline training credit transfers for veterans

    hastings 050117SPRINGFIELD— One of the biggest challenges returning servicemen and women face are figuring out how military training credits transfer to college credit. 

    To tackle this hurdle, State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) passed Senate Bill 736 to direct Illinois higher education institutions to establish a policy for awarding academic course credit for military training.

    “Our nation’s heroes have on-the-job training,” Hastings said. “It’s my honor to work with higher education facilities and the state legislature to ensure returning veterans receive credit for the valuable skills they acquire during their time in the military.”

    After talking to many returning veterans, Hastings found the current system is imprecise. This creates a complicated and inaccurate process to translate military experience into college credits at Illinois’ universities and community colleges.

    There are a number of reasons for the confusion, the main reason being the descriptions for military training and college courses do not always match up perfectly. Also, military acronyms on transcripts may also mean different classes or curriculum based on each branch of service. 

    Often it becomes a matter of the higher education institutions willingness to research ways to find equivalent civilian academic courses. A standardized system will end confusion and create an easier transition for our military personnel.

    According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, over 773,000 veterans are now using their GI Bill benefits to go to college, spending a collective of $11 billion a year.

    “Repeating coursework promotes a slow and unnecessarily expensive educational process for veterans,” Hastings said. “Here in Illinois, we have workforce shortages for registered nurses, EMTs and other medical specialties. Who is better equipped than our returning servicemen and women to fill these job openings?”

    Hastings’ initiative will require community colleges and universities to submit their policies for awarding credit to the Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board for review before June 30, 2019, and before June 30 every other year afterwards. 

    “This entire process can be complex and discouraging,” Hastings said. “It’s our duty to create an easy transition for Illinois’ veterans into civilian life, not force them through overcomplicated bureaucracy.” 

    Hastings passed Senate Bill 736 with bipartisan support, and it now moves to the House for consideration.

  • Tom Cullerton passes measures to help combat veterans’ suicide epidemic

    tcullerton crwdfndSPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has advanced plans to tackle issues found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.

    Cullerton passed 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 root of veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said. “We can only tackle this problem after we have a complete picture of cause of this problem. 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.

    “Our veterans are our community’s heroes. Illinois’ military members and veterans put their life on the line every day, now is the time for us to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”

    Cullerton also passed 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 using 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. Among who have used or are aware of service dogs there is a high demand. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.

    “Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could be the key to ending the veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.

    Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now move to the House for consideration.

  • Murphy streamlines property tax exemptions for disabled veterans

    sm houseSPRINGFIELD- State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) advanced legislation through the Illinois Senate today to prevent disabled veterans from being forced to reapply for the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption every year.

    The exemption is available to veterans with service-related disabilities. 

    As of 2015, veterans with a 30 percent - 50 percent disability can receive $2,500 exemption, those with 50 percent - 70 percent receive a $5,000 exemption, and veterans with at least a 70 percent disability are exempt from paying property taxes.

    “These property tax exemptions are a small token to show our thanks for making these great sacrifices for our country, but forcing disabled veterans to reapply every year is duplicative,” Murphy said. “My proposal removes the legal barriers that force them to reapply and make their lives just a bit easier.”

    Senator Murphy’s legislation, Senate Bill 1437, passed the Illinois Senate with a vote of 55-0. It will now head to the Illinois House. 

  • Martinez: American heroes should not be deported

    martinez 050616CHICAGO — In response to a judge ordering that U.S. Army veteran Miguel Perez Jr., who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, must be deported, Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) issued the following statement:

    “Miguel Perez Jr. put his life on the line for the United States and should not be deported, which will separate him from his family and leave him without an adequate support system.

    "Mr. Perez, like many of our returning soldiers, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Here in Illinois and throughout the United States, we need to focus on strengthening employment, mental health and substance abuse programs to help veterans transition back into civilian life.

    "We should be enormously grateful for the sacrifices members of the armed forces make on our behalf. Deporting American heroes is wrong. I urge Governor Rauner to approve Mr. Perez’s clemency request when it gets to his desk.”

  • Hastings seeks to honor first African American Army general

    Hastings generalSPRINGFIELD- 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.

  • Munoz pushes to expand access to veterans’ rehabilitation program

    munoz 031517SPRINGFIELD — 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.

  • Tom Cullerton advances measures to combat veterans’ suicide epidemic

    Senator Tom Cullerton
    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.