CHICAGO –On behalf of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Louanner Peters, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Social Services, today joined Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, Roy Dolgos, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and Illinois Lottery Superintendent Carolyn Adams to unveil a new Illinois lottery game called Veterans Cash. Veterans Cash is the first instant ticket in Illinois Lottery history where 100 percent of proceeds will go to support the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will award grants, fund additional services or conduct research on veterans’ issues in Illinois.
“Our veterans risk their lives to defend our freedoms and liberties. These brave men and women deserve our continued appreciation and respect even long after they’ve retired from service,” said Governor Blagojevich. “The funds generated from Veterans Cash will help veterans get the services and benefits they have earned.”
Veterans Cash is currently available at all Illinois Lottery retail locations. Each ticket will cost $2 and have a top prize of $20,000. Veterans Cash is expected to generate more than $3 million in net revenue each year.
“It is more important than ever to care for our veterans, and the Illinois Lottery is happy to play a role by launching Veterans Cash. We’re thrilled to bring the new ticket to our current players and are hopeful that new players will play and discover the Lottery,” said Lottery Superintendent Adams.
Net revenue from the sale of Veterans Cash tickets will be deposited into an interest bearing account in the State Treasury called the “Veterans Cash Fund.” The Illinois General Assembly will appropriate this money solely to the Department of Veterans Affairs to fund additional services or conduct additional research relating to: 1.) Veterans' post traumatic stress disorder, 2.) Veterans' homelessness, 3.) Health insurance costs of veterans, and 4.) Veterans' disability benefits. All grants funded by Veterans Cash revenue will be reviewed and approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“All of us on the home front have the duty to take care of our veterans, our real heroes, who have bravely risked their lives in defense of our democracy," said Lt. Gov. Quinn. "Purchasing a Veterans Cash lottery ticket to support the Illinois Veterans Health Initiative is a voluntary way for the people of Illinois to help our veterans get the health care they deserve.”
“By establishing this ticket as a part of the Illinois Lottery, veterans and their survivors will be able to combat stress disorders, homelessness and other health problems,” said Director Doglos. “I am proud to work with the Lottery and Lt. Gov. Quinn in administering grants that will assist the men and women who have served our country.”
A 2004, Chicago Sun-Times investigation found that Illinois veterans were receiving thousands of dollars a year less in disability pay from the federal government than veterans from other states. According to the report, only six percent of the state’s nearly one million veterans receive disability payments, when the national average is 10 percent.
In response, the Governor directed IDVA to hire 25 new Veterans’ Service Officers (VSO) and deploy them around the state to help veterans apply for and receive the federal compensation and benefits they’re entitled to. Nearly $400 million in federal money goes unclaimed each year by the 26.4 million veterans across the country.
Additionally, the officers will be able to help veterans connect with a variety of services, including education, vocational training, low-interest home loans and counseling. The VSO’s will also serve as a liaison between the state and the federal Veterans’ Administration.
During his State of the State Address last month, Gov. Blagojevich proposed a new state program to ensure that uninsured, low-income Illinois veterans have access to affordable, comprehensive medical coverage. Under the first phase of Veterans Care, a program jointly designed by the Gov. and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, veterans who don’t have health insurance and don’t live within driving distance of a federal VA clinic would be covered. Participants who take part in the pilot program would not be charged a monthly premium. Prescription drugs and doctors office visits would require a very minimal co-payment.
Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Blagojevich has taken other executive and legislative action to help the state’s one million veterans, including:
· Creating the Abraham Lincoln Medal of Freedom, to honor and recognize the service of members of the Illinois Army and National Guard who are mobilized in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
· Helping thousands of veterans get federal and state benefits at the July 9 Supermarket of Veterans’ Benefits in Chicago, the largest veterans’ fair in the state’s history.
· Setting up a not-for-profit organization known as the Illinois Veterans Foundation that will partner with corporations, other foundations and private citizens to assist the state in reaching out to and helping our veterans.
· Starting a pilot program at the Manteno Veterans’ Home to serve as supportive and transitional homes for vets.
· Creating an Illinois Income Tax Check-Off program to generate more revenue for veterans’ homes.
· Signing legislation that requires insurance companies in Illinois to cover Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition hurting thousands of veterans in the state.
· Signing legislation to enact the Family Military Leave Act, which provides the spouse and parents of a solider, who has been called to more than one month of active duty with 15 to 30 days of leave time.
· Signing legislation allowing the Illinois Department of Revenue to create a scratch-off lottery game that will help fund grants and programs to better serve the state’s one million veterans.
· Signing legislation to help soldiers on active duty and veterans get or complete a college education.
· Signing legislation allowing for peacetime veterans to be admitted at the state’s Veterans’ Homes.
· Signing legislation that will increase penalties for individuals who fraudulently try to obtain state benefits reserved for veterans.
· Signing legislation to extend municipal hiring preferences to all veterans who served at least one year of active military duty.
· Signing legislation to provide financial assistance to small businesses that lose employees who are called to active duty during military conflict.
· Signing legislation to give the state accurate information on how Illinois veterans are doing in terms of collecting federal benefits in comparison to veterans from other states.
· Signing legislation to give veterans returning from active duty preference in keeping the jobs they had been offered before being deployed.
· Signing legislation to increase property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and their spouses.
· Signing legislation to give national guardsmen and reservist a 180-day extension to file their property taxes.
· Signing legislation to eliminate the initial fees for the Gold Star plates, issued to parents who have lost a child in active service.
· Signing legislation to waive camping, hunting and fishing fees for Illinois residents who are members of the Armed Forces and are returning from active duty.
· Signing legislation to increase the monetary death benefit given by the IDVA to families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, making Illinois the first state in the nation to offer soldiers additional monetary benefits than those provided by the federal government.
· Signing legislation to help Illinois soldiers and their families maintain health coverage and childcare assistance when they are deployed to fight the War on Terror.
For more information on Veterans Cash please visit the Illinois Lottery website at www.illinoislottery.com and for more information on Illinois veteran programs and initiatives visit the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.state.il.us/agency/dva.