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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich announces State of Illinois’ July “Veteran of the Month”
Peoria man and Vietnam vet honored for unwavering commitment to helping other veterans get their benefits

PEORIA – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today named Larry Stimeling, a Vietnam War veteran of Peoria, as the State of Illinois’ July “Veteran of the Month” for his longtime commitment and dedication to helping other veterans connect with the federal and state benefits they have bravely earned.

“At a time when the federal government has left thousands of veterans behind, Larry Stimeling spends many hours each day working hard to make sure other veterans get the benefit they’re entitled to. I salute him for his dedication and commitment,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
 
The Governor’s “Veteran of the Month” award is a distinction that is given monthly to military veterans who excel as community activists and work on behalf of other veterans. 

On behalf of the Governor, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Roy L. Dolgos and Assistant Director Rochelle Crump presented Stimeling with the award during a special ceremony at the Holiday Inn City Centre in Peoria. 

“This is an award that Governor Blagojevich and I implemented to say ‘thank you’ to the brave men and women who have served their country above and beyond the call of duty and continue to serve their community,” Director Dolgos explained.

Larry Stimeling is a United States Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War from 1970-71. He is a member of the American Legion Post 318 in Morton where he is also a Veteran Service Officer, helping veterans file benefit claims and referring them to other organizations that can be of assistance.

“Mr. Stimeling is a great example of what we call veterans helping veterans,” added Assistant Director Crump.  “He helps his fellow comrades by delivering necessary supplies to those who are homebound.”

Stimeling serves as a Commissioner on the Tazewell Veterans Assistance Commission and is a former state director for the Order of the Silver Rose.  For many years, he has been a member of the Dennis Hastert Memorial Education Program, a group that visits different schools of all levels and presents the students with a look of what life was like while serving in the Vietnam War.

The “Veteran of the Month” award highlights the work of community activists who also happen to be military veterans.  Each month,  on behalf of Governor Blagojevich,  Director Dolgos will recognize a different person or group that contributes to the betterment of communities across the state of Illinois.  To nominate a “Veteran of the Month,”  please visit the IDVA’s website at www.state.il.us/agency/dva or call (217) 524-0629 to obtain a list of guidelines and a nomination form.

Since 2003, Gov. Blagojevich has taken several measures and launched a number of initiatives to help the state’s veterans, including:

PROTECTING VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES
 
This year, the Governor signed into law the following legislation:

• Senate Bill 916, which protects military personnel and their families against the inadvertent loss of health insurance after a tour of duty or an honorable discharge from military service.

• Senate Bill 1144, which shields 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. 
• House Bill 4121, which punishes 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.
• House Bill 4822, which protects Illinois veterans from discrimination in employment and housing by changing the definition of military status in the state’s Human Rights Act.  Under the new law, military status now includes a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States, a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States, the Illinois Army National Guard and the Illinois Air National Guard.
• House Bill 4703, which strengthens consumer protections for active military members under the Illinois Patriot Plan.  The new law imposes hefty financial penalties on companies for offenses such as canceling life insurance policies or turning off heat while soldiers are deployed.

EXPANDING CARE AND TREATMENT OF VETERANS
 
Last Spring, Governor Blagojevich signed into law his landmark Veterans Care, a health insurance initiative that will provide access to affordable, comprehensive health care to thousands of veterans across Illinois. The program will help up to 9,000 veterans in Illinois who currently earn too much to qualify for Veterans Administration Healthcare but cannot afford to purchase health insurance in the private market.

Top officials from Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s administration recently broke ground on a new 80-bed addition to the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.  Gov. Blagojevich directed $13 million to build the 60,000-square-foot unit that will allow the facility to serve dozens more of the state’s disabled veterans. The expansion will allow the home to admit 40 residents into the Alzheimer’s unit and 40 more into the skilled care unit, as well as hire 60 to 65 additional employees.
 
HELPING VETERANS GET THE BENEFITS THEY ARE ENTITLED TO
 
Last year, following through on a promise made during his 2005 State of the State Address, the Governor hired 25 new Veteran Service Officers and deployed them across the state to significantly improve the state’s outreach to one million Illinois veterans and their families.  Thanks to the increase in staffing, the VSOs have helped more than 5,000 additional veterans apply and receive federal compensation and other benefits during the first quarter of 2006, compared to the same time period in 2005.
 
On May 20, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs hosted a “Supermarket of Veterans Benefits” where hundreds of Central Illinois veterans were able to get information about their federal benefits and services from Veterans Service Officers, as well as connect with educational opportunities and job openings.  This “Supermarket” followed similar events held last year in Chicago, Springfield and Marion.
 
EXPANDING FUNDING OF STATE PROGRAMS AND SERVICES FOR VETERANS
 
Earlier this year, 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 $1.6 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.

CONTACT:
Januari Smith (217) 558-1544
cell (217) 725-8212



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