CHICAGO- Building on his commitment to recognize the efforts of Illinois veterans and provide them with the services and benefits they have bravely earned, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today appointed decorated Iraqi war veteran and experienced health advocate Tammy Duckworth as the new Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA). Ms. Duckworth’s appointment is effective December 15, and requires State Senate confirmation. The Governor also thanked outgoing IDVA Director Roy L. Dolgos for his hard work serving the state’s veterans. Mr. Dolgos will remain in the Blagojevich Administration, as Deputy Director of Administration with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways.
“Tammy Duckworth embodies the new generation of American veterans. She has been an inspiration to people all over the country, showing extraordinary personal strength and speaking out on behalf of soldiers who are coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that as the Director of Veterans’ Affairs, she will inspire her Department to do everything they can to make sure every veteran is getting the assistance and services they’ve earned. No veteran should ever fall through the cracks,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I would also like to thank Roy Dolgos for his hard work at the helm of IDVA during our first term, and for continuing to serve the people of Illinois through his new position at IDOT.”
Ms. Duckworth’s first priority will be to step up IDVA’s efforts to reach out to veterans who lack health coverage and make them aware of the Governor’s Veterans Care health program. Jointly created by Gov. Blagojevich and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, and launched in September, Veterans Care is designed to provide affordable, comprehensive health care to thousands of Illinois veterans who do not qualify for coverage through the federal Veterans Administration. The new IDVA Director will also focus on streamlining and modernizing the tracking and delivery of services the Department provides to nearly one million Illinois veterans.
“I admire Governor Blagojevich’s unbending commitment to giving every person in Illinois access to health care. I look forward to helping to fulfill his goal by making sure our state’s veterans know about landmark programs like Veterans Care, and helping to streamline operations at IDVA so even more resources are going into direct service rather than bureaucracy. As a soldier I fought for my country, and now I thank Governor Blagojevich for giving me the opportunity to fight for my fellow Illinois veterans,” Duckworth said.
A resident of northwest suburban Hoffman Estates, Ms. Duckworth brings considerable managerial experience to her new post as IDVA Director.
As a civilian, Ms. Duckworth was the Manager for District Administration for the Rotary International’s Asia-Pacific Region from 2002 to 2004, with direct supervision over employees in five regional offices in Japan, New Delhi, Sydney, Seoul and Chicago providing administrative services to the organization’s tens of thousands of members. Among her duties were to assist Rotarians as they established new Rotary clubs in Afghanistan and Timor Leste in order to provide public health programs such as polio eradication and access to clean water.
From 1991 to 2001, Ms. Duckworth coordinated the Center for Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University, assisting faculty in researching grants and funding opportunities, presenting research project results at national conferences, and serving as the School of Nursing’s liaison to the media, local governments, and citizens.
As a member of the military, Ms. Duckworth is currently a Major with the Illinois National Guard, working as a safety officer inspecting facilities around the state. Previously she was a logistics officer with the National Guard in Peoria, managing all logistical operations and maintenance for over $1.7 billion in equipment.
She also served as Commander of a 15-ship, UH-60A Blackhawk Helicopter Company, supervising the training for 60 aircrew members and overseeing maintenance for over $50 million in equipment. As Battle Captain and Assistant Operations Officer, she helped with planning, assigning and tracking combat missions of a 500-soldier aviation taskforce in Iraq, and flew over 200 combat hours as a Blackhawk pilot. It was during a mission in November 2004 that a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cockpit of her helicopter and exploded. Ms. Duckworth suffered grave injuries, losing both legs.
Since coming home from Iraq, Ms. Duckworth has remained active in the public arena, regularly speaking to veterans’ groups, testifying before Congress on issues of medical care for returning veterans and running for a U.S. Congressional seat.
As a soldier, Ms. Duckworth received the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medical, and the National Defense Service Medal, along with other decorations, citations and badges.
Ms. Duckworth, who speaks four languages, has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii; an M.A. from the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, and is currently working on a Ph. D. in Political Science from Northern Illinois University.
Dolgos, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army as a military policeman from 1966 to 1968, will be responsible for ensuring a well maintained state highway system, providing rapid and appropriate responses to emergencies involving the state’s highways, as well as providing administrative, budgetary, personnel and operational support to IDOT’s Division of Highways.
“I thank Governor Blagojevich for giving me the opportunity to serve our state’s veterans and to help roll out programs that are making a difference in the lives of thousands of them, and I look forward to my new role at IDOT and to continue serving the citizens of Illinois,” Dolgos said.