BELLEVILLE – While participating in an annual Veterans Day program in Belleville, Governor Rod Blagojevich today announced a new, multi-agency initiative designed to arm the state’s more than one million veterans and military service members with important information about state benefits and programs available to them. Speaking to Belleville residents, local veterans, families of military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and members of a dozen local veterans organizations, Gov. Blagojevich explained the Serving Those Who Have Served initiative consolidates critical information for veterans and military members housed in various state agencies into one, user-friendly website, www.il.gov/iserved, and one comprehensive guide.
“Millions of men and women have honorably served our country. They have served all over the world in places like Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we have come to honor all of them. But, honoring and helping our veterans cannot happen just one day a year. Today, I am announcing one way we can help our veterans. The state of Illinois provides a wide array of services for veterans, from assisted living and skilled care facilities to scholarship programs for college students and fishing and hunting licenses for disabled veterans. But finding those services and taking advantage of them isn’t as easy as it should be. Hopefully that will all change,” said Governor Blagojevich.
Housed in more than six agencies, the state offers dozens of different programs and benefits to veterans, military service members and their families. These range from the veteran’s preference for state jobs benefit at Central Management Services to the veteran’s employment and training program found in Illinois Department of Employment Security. The Governor’s new initiative provides Illinois military personnel and veterans with quick access to a wide range of state and federal services to help them take advantage of benefits including health care, job opportunities, legal assistance, education services and financial assistance.
The booklet can be found across the state at 44 IDVA field offices, VA hospitals and clinics, Veterans Resource Centers, Illinois Army National Guard Armories, Veteran Service Organizations and all state agencies. Military personnel and family members can also call a toll-free hotline dedicated to providing information as part of the Serving Those Who Have Served at (800) 437-9824.
There are approximately 975,000 veterans living in Illinois and there are more than 4,300 members of the Illinois Army Reserve and Illinois Air National Guard currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This web site and comprehensive booklet will be a wealth of information by making it easier to find out what type of benefits they’re entitled to," said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Roy L. Dolgos. “We are ensuring that our troops and their families are empowered with information they will need in their daily readjustment to civilian status, and also for those who continue to serve in military capacity. This is only a small token of our appreciation to those who have served.”
Serving Those Who Have Served is the latest in a series of the steps the state has taken to better serve and care for Illinois veterans and military personnel and families. The first law he signed as Governor in February of 2003 made Illinois the first state in the nation to create a Military Family Relief fund to support the families of active, injured or fallen soldiers. This Summer, the Governor signed a bill to amend that law, to also help single men and women. Also this Summer, Illinois became the first state to pass legislation to protect non-active duty guard members and reservists from discrimination when they apply for jobs, loans or rent apartments. The law the Governor signed allows non-active duty guard members and reservists to file claims if they believe they have been discriminated against. And, just last month, Governor Blagojevich signed a new law providing financial support to survivors of soldiers who are killed while on active duty supporting Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. The law makes survivors eligible for death benefits up to $273,000.