CHICAGO – Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director L. Tammy Duckworth today announced Wabash County now has an itinerant Veteran Service Office located at 115 East 3rd Street in Mt. Carmel. The office will assist the over 1,500 Veterans who live in Wabash County this year in applying for benefits from both the state and federal governments.
“The Veteran Service Offices are great resources for our Veterans to receive one-on-one assistance and to learn about what state and federal benefits are available to them. We want to make sure our service men and women know about the benefits that they are entitled to when they return home to Illinois,” Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth explained.
The Wabash County Veteran Service Office houses one of the state’s 73 Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) every third Wednesday of the month. The VSOs offer help to Veterans in applying for and receiving compensation and other benefits from the federal Veterans’ Administration and make them aware of the state resources that are available. 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, and serve as a liaison between the state and the federal VA.
Veterans can receive assistance at the Wabash County office every third Wednesday of the month from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or call (618) 262-7403. A full list of Veteran Service Offices can be found on IDVA’s website, www.state.il.us/agency/dva
VSOs serve as sign-up locations and informational hubs for the state’s programs and benefits, including the following:
· G-I Loan for Heroes – On May 14th, the state announced the G-I Loan for Heroes program, making Illinois the first state in the nation to offer a comprehensive homeownership package to Veterans and active duty service men and women. The program is a $15 million pilot mortgage program to help Illinois Veterans and active duty personnel afford their own homes. The program offers a low-interest rate first mortgage for 80 percent of the purchase price of a new home and an interest-free second mortgage of up to $40,000 dollars for the remaining 20 percent of the purchase price.
· Veterans Care – Launched in September of 2006, 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. Under the first phase of Veterans Care Veterans who don’t have access to health insurance would be covered. Participants who take part in the pilot program would be charged a $40 monthly premium. Prescription drugs and doctors office visits would require a minimal co-payment, ranging from $6 to $15.
· TBI and PTSD Program – Governor Blagojevich and IDVA Director Tammy Duckworth recently announced a program to expand healthcare benefits to Veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will jointly launch a 24-hour, toll-free hotline that provides psychological assistance to all Illinois Veterans. The toll-free number will be staffed by trained clinicians, nurses and at least one trained psychiatrist who are experts in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other psychological issues facing Veterans. Mandatory TBI screening will also be provided for all Illinois National Guard troops returning from deployment. This program is scheduled to start in September of 2007.
· Veteran’s Cash – Launched in February of 2006, Veteran’s Cash is the Lottery’s first lottery ticket where 100 percent of proceeds go to support Illinois Veterans through grants to fund additional services or fund research relating to PTSD, homelessness, health insurance costs, long term care and disability benefits. IDVA encourage Illinois residents to purchase the ticket and at the same time encourages organizations to apply for the Veteran’s Cash grants if they could provide any of these services to Veterans in Illinois.
· Hunting and Fishing Licenses and Camping Permits for disabled Veterans – The annual free hunting and fishing licenses for disabled Veterans are now a one-time, permanent issue. The state also offers free camping permits for disabled Veterans who meet certain criteria.
· Veterans’ Jobs Tax Credit – Employers can now earn an income tax credit of up to $600 dollars annually for every qualified Veteran hired after January 1, 2007. The credit is available for Veterans who were members of the Armed Forces, the Armed Force reserves, or the Illinois National Guard on active duty in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. This tax credit is a great incentive for businesses to hire Illinois’ Veterans, and in turn, receive qualified and dedicated employees.