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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2006

Governor Blagojevich acts on pledge to help the state’s veterans get federal benefits through “Supermarket of Veterans Benefits” in Springfield
One-stop-shop links Central Illinois veterans with information about benefits, services and job opportunities; Governor also names state of Illinois’ May “Veteran of the Month”

SPRINGFIELD– Responding to Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s pledge to help the state’s veterans get the federal benefits they have bravely earned, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) today hosted the “Supermarket of Veterans Benefits” in Springfield to assist Central Illinois veterans and their families in signing up for benefits and services, find out about educational opportunities and apply for jobs.  The event was held today at the Illinois Building on the State Fairgrounds in Springfield from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
 
“Our veterans have put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom. It’s unacceptable that the federal government leaves them behind when it comes to the benefits and services they have earned. The ‘Supermarket of Veterans’ Benefits’ will help veterans and their families sign up for federal benefits, find scholarships and find job openings,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
 
The “Supermarket of Veterans’ Benefits” gathered federal and state agencies, veterans’ organizations and private employers to provide veterans with timely information on the many services and benefits that every veteran is entitled to from educational scholarships to medical coverage.  The one-stop-shop will also provide information about job opportunities across the state.
 
Officials from the following organizations and businesses will be on hand to talk with veterans and their families:
 
  • U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs  
  • Quincy Veterans’ Home 
  • Illinois Dept. of Human Services          
  • Illinois Dept. of Central Management Services          
  • Illinois Dept. on Aging 
  • Illinois Dept. of Employment Security         
  • Illinois Secretary of State               
  • VFW              
  • American Legion 
  • Marine Bank   
  • Vet Center             
  • Veterans Assistance Commission 
  • Danville VA Medical Hospital 
  • Illinois National Bank             
  • Lincoln Land Community College
  • Salvation Army             
  • Sam’s Club    
  • Springfield College of Illinois  
  • Social Security Administration  
  • Classic Touch Therapy Massage         
  • Nat’l Assoc. of Systems Administrators
  • Mr. Johns School of Cosmetology   
  • U.S. Border Patrol 
  • Vietnam Veterans of America 
  • Addus Healthcare 
 
“Last year, we held three Supermarkets across the state – one on Springfield, one in Chicago and one in DuQuoin.  The success and appreciation from veterans who participated prompted us to schedule more this year,” IDVA Director Roy L. Dolgos said.
 
Participants can also get information about the Governor’s landmark Veterans Care initiative to provide thousands of Illinois veterans who earn too much to qualify Veterans Administration Healthcare but who do not have health insurance, access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage. The new program will be operated by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services in collaboration with IDVA. The agencies estimate that approximately 9,000 veterans will qualify for this new program.
 
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.
 
The “Supermarket of Veterans’ Benefits” is another key step taken by the Governor to help the state’s veterans at a time when they have been left behind by the federal government, and to honor their courage and sacrifice.
 
This year, through legislative action the Governor:
 
·        Signed legislation to shield grieving military families from protests during funerals and memorial services of fallen soldiers. The “Let Them Rest in Peace Act” requires protesters to stay at least 200 feet away from family and friends as they mourn soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
 
·        Signed legislation that will punish individuals who falsely claim to be decorated war heroes. The new law creates criminal charges and imposes penalties on individuals falsely representing themselves as recipients of various military honors, including the Purple Heart, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.
 
Earlier this month, the Governor announced that just three months after going on sale, the state’s first lottery ticket designed 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.
 
Last month, building on efforts to help the state’s veterans get federal benefits and services, the Governor announced that more than 5,500 additional veterans and their families were helped by the state since the hiring and deployment of 25 more Veterans Service Officers across the state at the start of 2006.
 
During the Supermarket, on behalf of Gov. Blagojevich, IDVA Director Dolgos and Assistant Director Rochelle Crump presented Sam Montalbano, of Springfield, with Illinois’ May “Veteran of the Month” award for his longtime commitment and dedication to the Springfield community. 
 
Montalbano, a Korean War veteran, is a member of the Sangamon County Board, where he serves as Chairman of the Roads and Bridges Committee. He belongs to the VFW Post 10302, American Legion Post 32, Italian American War Veterans Post 15, the Interveterans Burial Detail of Sangamon County and the Church of the Little Flower.  An active member of the Church of the Little Flower, he is the Past President of the Church Lay Council, President of the Men’s Club and the chairman of many other activity groups.  Montalbano received the “Man of the Year Award” and the “Decade Plaque” from the Men’s Club.
 
Montalbano volunteers for the State Journal-Register’s Friend-in-Deed Program, where he heads up the annual breakfast for nearly 600 other volunteers who distribute food, clothing and toys to needy families.  For many years, he has coordinated visits from Santa Claus to local nursing homes and Brother James Court and teamed up with WFMB radio to help raise money for St. Patrick’s and Martin DePorres.


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