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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.

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. 

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 save police dogs signed into law

police dog 081617VILLA PARK- Illinois’ smallest heroes will soon be able to receive medical attention.

State Senator Tom Cullerton’s measure HB 2661 was signed into law today.

House Bill 2661 allows for the transport of police dog injured in the line of duty to be transported to a veterinary clinic or similar facility by emergency professionals.

“Police dogs are often unsung heroes,” Cullerton said. “If there are not any people in line that need to receive medical attention, our state’s police K-9’s should be able to receive the necessary precautions to save their lives so they can return to keeping our streets and communities safe.”

House Bill 2661 puts stipulates in place that require persons to receive medical attention prior to a police dogs transport however, this will allow medical professionals to transport police dogs when necessary.

The average cost for the initial training for a police K-9 can cost a police authority $20,000 to $29,000.

This does not account for maintenance training and general living expenses for the dog.

“K-9’s are a valuable tool but expense tool for police departments,” Cullerton said. “This is an investment in humanity and public safety that needs to be protected.”

House Bill 2661 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support and goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

Sen. Tom Cullerton

tcullerton-hs

23rd Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Appropriations II; Labor; Local Government (Vice-Chairperson); State Government & Veterans Affairs; Transportation; Committee of the Whole; Energy and Public Utilities.

Biography: Born Sept. 20, 1969; studied at the University of Kansas; former village president and trustee of Villa Park; married (wife Stacey), three sons.