SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich today signed legislation that establishes significant, additional death benefits for Illinois soldiers killed in the Global War on Terrorism. The State of Illinois will now offer the survivors of soldiers killed in the line of duty monetary benefits that are in addition to those already provided by the federal government and the state.
“I, again, send my condolences and prayers to the families of the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “This law will provide more financial relief to families suffering tremendous grief after losing loved ones. Families shouldn’t be burdened with how to cope with the loss of steady income and employment benefits, such as medical, dental and life insurance that were once paid by the service member.”
Senate Bill 1668, sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Louis Viverito (D-Burbank) and Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago), makes available to families of soldiers killed in the line of duty during Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom death benefits varying from a minimum of $118,000 to more than $250,000 from the state. The Illinois Court of Claims will have exclusive jurisdiction on how much each family receives.
"The efforts of many in the administration, especially Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, helped to make this benefit increase a reality. I am pleased that, on behalf of all Illinois citizens, I was able to sponsor this change as a demonstration of the deep gratitude we want to extend to the families of our fallen veterans," said Speaker Madigan.
"Abraham Lincoln noted our duty as citizens to 'care for them who have borne the battle'," Lt. Gov. Quinn said. "The legislation signed today by Governor Blagojevich is one more way we as a people are expressing our gratitude to the families of those on the frontlines."
The federal government currently provides for educational expenses, burial benefits, including a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and headstone or marker and burial in any of the 120 national cemeteries across the country, as well as a death gratuity of $12,000 to surviving family members of individuals who die while on active duty.
SB 1668 also changes the name of the Law Enforcement Officers, Civil Defense Workers, Civil Air Patrol Members, Paramedics, Firemen, Chaplains, and State Employees Compensation Act to the Line of Duty Compensation Act. Regular military, reserves, or Illinois National Guard members killed in Afghanistan or Iraq were not eligible for compensation under the previous law.
"This bill will provide additional aid to the families of those killed in the of line duty," said Sen. Viverito. "These additional dollars will be able to provide financial relief to the grieving families of those who have given so much for our country."
“To date, more than 1,000 American lives have been lost while fighting the war in Afghanistan and Iraq – more than 50 of those were brave men and women from Illinois,” said Department of Veterans Affairs Director Roy. L. Dolgos. “It’s vital that we ensure that the families of the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice are taken care of financially.”
SB 1668 is effective immediately.