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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 13, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich announces new Veteran Service Officers have helped thousands of additional veterans in first quarter of 2006
Added staff helped more than 5,500 additional Illinois veterans apply for benefits and services in first quarter of 2006

SPRINGFIELD – Building on efforts to help the state’s veterans get the federal benefits and services they have bravely earned, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that more than 5,500 additional veterans and their families have been helped by the state since the hiring and deployment of 25 more Veteran Service Officers across the state at the start of 2006.
 
“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedom.  They deserve every state and federal benefit and service available. The federal government has been short-changing Illinois’ veterans for years.  That’s why we’re expanding services at the state level, so veterans get the help they need,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
 
Last year, Gov. Blagojevich directed IDVA to increase the number of Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) by 50 percent in an effort to improve outreach to the state’s one million veterans and their families. The 25 new VSOs began work in December 2005. The new employees were placed in the following counties: Adams, Champaign, Coles, Cook, Jackson, Kane, Knox, Macon, McDonough, Morgan, Peoria, Sangamon, St. Clair, Winnebago and Williamson.
 
“We should spare no expense in taking care of our veterans -- our real heroes -- who have bravely risked their lives in defense of our democracy,” said Lt. Governor Pat Quinn.  “In the Land of Lincoln, no veteran should go without the services they deserve and I applaud Governor Blagojevich for making Illinois veterans a priority.”
 
Five new offices were opened in the last few months in the Chicagoland area where the majority of the state’s veterans reside. Because of the increased staffing 5,753 additional veterans were served in the first quarter of 2006 compared to the same time frame in 2005.
 
“During their first few weeks on the job, the new VSOs shadowed their colleagues, learning the ropes and department policy and procedure.  Now they’re on their own and doing a great job of informing Illinois service men and women of what their entitlements and benefits are once they make the transition back to civilian life,” said IDVA Director Roy L. Dolgos.
 
VSOs help veterans cut through the red tape and bureaucracy associated with applying and receiving compensation and other benefits from the federal Veterans’ Administration.  Their primary job responsibility is assisting veterans in applying for nearly $400 million in federal money that goes unclaimed each year by the 26.4 million veterans across the country.  For example at the “Supermarket of Veterans’ Benefits” hosted last August during the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, thousands of veterans received help accessing a variety of services, including education and vocational training, low-interest home loans and counseling.
 
The state’s 50 Veteran Service Offices will also serve as a sign-up location for the Governor’s proposed health care initiative for Illinois veterans.  During this year’s State of the State Address, Gov. Blagojevich proposed a new state program, Veterans Care, to help uninsured, low-income Illinois veterans have access to affordable, comprehensive health care. 
 
Under the first phase of Veterans Care, a program jointly designed by the Governor and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, veterans who don’t have health insurance and don’t live within 50 miles of a federal VA clinic would have access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage. Participants who take part in the program would not be charged a monthly premium.  Prescription drugs and doctors office visits would require a very minimal co-payment, ranging from two dollars to five dollars.
 
A full list of veteran service offices can be found on the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs website, www.state.il.us/agency/dva.


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