SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that just three months after going on sale, the state’s first lottery ticket to benefit Illinois veterans and their families has generated more than $1 million for veterans. Veterans Cash is the first instant ticket in Illinois Lottery history where a portion of the proceeds will help fund state programs and services for veterans.
“The success of this special ticket shows just how much Illinoisans support the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect this country and our freedom,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
Proceeds from the sale of this ticket will be deposited into an interest bearing account in the State Treasury called the “Illinois Veterans Assistance Fund.” The Illinois General Assembly will appropriate this money solely to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) who will award grants, fund additional services or conduct research relating to veterans' Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, homelessness, health insurance costs, and disability benefits.
Gov. Blagojevich and the Illinois Lottery launched the Veterans Cash instant lottery ticket on February 10, 2006. Since then, the scratch-off ticket has raised $1,060,086 for new state programs and services that will help Illinois veterans and their families. Veterans Cash is currently available at all Illinois Lottery retail locations. Each ticket costs $2 and has a top prize of $20,000.
“We are very pleased with the public’s overwhelming response to the Veterans Cash lottery ticket. The proceeds from the ticket will be used to fund important programs such as health coverage for uninsured veterans, housing assistance for homeless veterans, and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment for returning veterans,” Lt. Governor Pat Quinn added.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of support Veterans Cash has received and as a result of these tremendous sales, the Lottery will be re-launching a new version of the ticket this month that we hope will continue to drive strong returns for our veterans,” said Illinois Lottery Superintendent Carolyn Adams.
“It’s amazing to see how much compassion the residents of Illinois have shown our veterans by purchasing this special ticket. We’re excited about the new services that will be available thanks to the proceeds from Veterans Cash,” said Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs Director Roy L. Dolgos.
In addition to creating the Veterans Cash game as a new source of support for Illinois veterans, the Governor, working with Lt. Gov. Quinn, also recently won legislative approval for a landmark veterans’ health insurance initiative, Veterans Care. Under the first phase of Veterans Care, approximately 9,000 veterans who don’t have health insurance will have access to affordable coverage. Veterans Care will provide comprehensive healthcare to them at affordable rates, with average monthly premiums of $40. The program will kick off September 1, 2006.
There are 70,000 uninsured veterans in Illinois. The federal Veterans Health Administration (VHA) covers veterans who have service-related disabilities or who have recently returned from active duty, and then, space permitting, covers other veterans who do not have health insurance and have an income below a threshold set by the Veterans Health Administration each year. Veterans who have no access to care and who regularly fall through the cracks are those earning above the VHA threshold, which varies by county based on the local standard of living.
Veterans Care was unanimously approved by both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives earlier this month. To be eligible for Veterans Care, a veteran must meet the following criteria:
- Be between the ages of 19 and 64;
- Have been uninsured for the past six months;
- Be ineligible for VHA and other healthcare programs like FamilyCare;
- Have a household income up to 25% of the Federal Poverty Level above the VHA threshold at the beginning of the program, and if funds permit after 6 months of operation up to 50% of the federal poverty level above the VHA threshold;
- Not have been dishonorably discharged from service.
- Be willing to pay a monthly premium of $40, plus co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions.
In his 2005 State of the State Address, Governor Blagojevich committed to providing $1.5 million in additional funding to increase the number of Veteran Service Officers (VSO) by 50 percent in an effort to improve outreach to the state’s one million veterans and their families. Thanks to the increase in staffing, the VSOs have helped more than 5,000 additional veterans apply and receive compensation and other benefits during the first quarter of 2006, compared to the same time period in 2005.
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 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 July at Chicago’s Navy Pier, many veterans were unaware that they can access 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 new health care initiative for Illinois veterans, which will begin September 1, 2006.