GALESBURG, Illinois – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today named Paul N. Peck, of Galesburg, as the State of Illinois’ June “Veteran of the Month” for his longtime commitment and dedication to the veteran community.
“Not only do veterans bravely serve our country in defense of our freedom and liberties. Some of them, like Paul Peck, keep working on behalf of others and stepping up to the plate when help is needed,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I commend and thank Mr. Peck for all of his hard work.”
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 Peck with the award during a special ceremony at The Community Center in Galesburg.
“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.
Paul Peck is a United States Army World War II veteran who served with the 17th Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity. Peck earned the Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge for his service.
Peck serves on Congressman Lane Evans’ Veterans Advisory Committee, where he helped establish a Veterans Outpatient Clinic in Galesburg and Peoria. Peck helped raise money to purchase a van to transport veterans to the VA Clinic in Iowa City.
“Mr. Peck is a great example of what we call veterans helping veterans,” added Assistant Director Crump. “We’re lucky to have someone like Paul out there looking after our well-being.”
He is a long-time member of the American Legion Post 285 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2257. Peck served four terms as the Commander of VFW Post 2257 and during that time he was recognized as an All State Commander and an All American Commander. For the past 20 years, he has represented the VFW on the Knox County Veterans Assistance Commission and chaired the VFW Poppy Day. Over the past decade, he has served as the Chairman of the Galesburg Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony Committee.
Peck helped establish the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Veterans Center in Galesburg, which houses a museum with Stockdale memorabilia, the local state Veteran Service Officer and the Knox County VFW.
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, especially at a time when they have been left behind by the federal government. Initiatives undertaken in 2006 include:
PROTECTING VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES
This year, the Governor signed into law the following legislation:
• Senate 627, which creates the landmark Veterans Care health insurance initiative that will provide access to affordable, comprehensive health care to thousands of veterans across Illinois. In his State of the State address, the Governor proposed the creation of Veterans Care, and in May, both Houses of the General Assembly unanimously passed legislation creating the Veterans Care program. 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.
• 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.
• The Governor also called on Secretary James Nicholson of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to take immediate steps to protect veterans from identity theft and financial devastation in the wake of stolen data belonging to millions of veterans nationwide.
EXPANDING CARE AND TREATMENT OF VETERANS
Top officials from the Governor’s administration recently broke ground on a new 80-bed addition to the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. Because of the dire need of long-term health care for older veterans living in Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich ordered the release of $13 million last September for construction of the 60,000-square-foot unit that will serve dozens more of the state’s disabled veterans. The 80-bed expansion will allow the Home to admit 40 residents into the Alzheimer’s unit and 40 into the skilled care unit as well as hire 60 to 65 additional employees. It will also include five enclosed courtyard areas to provide safe, secure outdoor recreation space for the residents. The new addition should be complete by the end of 2007.
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 VSO’s 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.
VSO’s help veterans cut through the red tape and bureaucracy associated with applying and receiving compensation and other benefits from the federal Veterans’ Healthcare Administration. Their primary job responsibility is assisting Illinois veterans applying for the nearly $400 million in federal money that is available but unclaimed every year by the 26.5 million veterans across the country.
In addition to providing information, the state’s 50 Veteran Service Offices will also serve as a sign-up location for Veterans Care.
EXPANDING FUNDING OF STATE PROGRAMS AND SERVICES FOR VETERANS
The Governor recently announced that just four 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.
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 $1,299,981 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.
Januari Smith (217) 558-1544
cell (217) 725-8212