SPRINGFIELD – As people across Illinois and the United States prepare for Memorial Day and honor the men and women who have given their lives defending freedom, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that more than fifty families of Illinois soldiers killed in the line of duty fighting the Global War on Terror have received benefits from the state totaling $680,000 since the state increased monetary death benefits to families of fallen soldiers last August.
“Although monetary benefits can never repay a family for the loss of a son, daughter, wife or husband – these benefits do provide the families of our hometown heroes with much needed help when it comes to covering basic expenses, from groceries bills to medicine to child care,” said Governor Rod R. Blagojevich. “Our brave men and women serving overseas are putting their lives on the line to preserve our liberties and way of life, and when they fall in the line of duty, we need to recognize their sacrifice and reach out to their families in their time of need.”
Last August, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation (PA 93-0976) increasing the monetary death benefit given by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) to families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the new law, the monetary compensation was raised from $1,000 to $3,000. The state has paid $150,000 under this benefit.
“The benefit given to my family by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is much appreciated. I appreciate the fact that the state recognizes its fallen soldiers and showed respect for my son,” said Jim Frazier, of St. Charles, whose son, Jacob, died during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Illinois Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Jacob L. Frazier died from wounds sustained from an enemy ambush in Afghanistan. He served with the 169th Company Air Support Operation Squadron and the 182nd Air Lift Wing out of Peoria.
“The increase in monetary benefits is just a small token of our appreciation,” said IDVA Director Roy L. Dolgos. “It’s very important that we financially support the families of those brave men and women who were called to duty to fight for our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Gov. Blagojevich also signed legislation last year that established additional death benefits for Illinois soldiers killed in the Global War on Terror, making Illinois the first state in the nation to offer soldiers additional monetary benefits than those provided by the federal government.
“All of us owe a permanent debt of gratitude to the Illinois soldiers who have given their last full measure of devotion to the cause of defending our democracy”, said Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, an early advocate on increased death benefits for the families of those killed in action in the Global War on Terrorism. “We thank their families giving us these heroic soldiers who are always in our hearts.”
PA 93-1047 makes families of soldiers killed in the line of duty in Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom eligible for a death benefit from the state, varying from a minimum of $118,000 to more than $250,000. The benefit will be adjusted over the years to cover the cost of living. To date, more than $530,000 has been paid out under that benefit.
The federal government currently provides for educational expenses, burial benefits, including a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and headstone or marker in any of the 120 national cemeteries across the country and a death gratuity of $12,000 to surviving family members of individuals who die while on active duty.
“We know that no amount of money can take away the hurt or heal the pain from losing a loved one. We just hope it helps with unexpected bills that may come up and provide some relief from expenses that result from the loss of steady income and employment benefits, such as medical, dental and life insurance that was once paid by the service member,” Dir. Dolgos added.