SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Dan Grant along with members of Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) held an open house yesterday to mark the opening of a new Veterans Service Office at the school. The LLCC office Hall was chosen as one of the locations throughout the state to offer this new service to Veterans.
“The Veteran Service Offices offer Illinois Veterans an opportunity 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,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Dan Grant.
The Veteran Service Office at Lincoln Land Community College is staffed by one of the state’s 74 Veteran Service Officers on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., in room 1135 of Menard Hall. The VSOs offer help to Veterans in applying for and receiving compensation and other benefits from the federal Veterans’ Administration. Additionally VSOs inform Veterans of available state resources. Their primary job responsibility is assisting in applying for the millions of dollars in federal money that goes unclaimed each year by the 23.8 million Veterans across the country, and serve as a liaison between the state and the federal VA.
Veterans may receive assistance at the Lincoln Land Community College office on the first and third Wednesdays of the month from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 P.m. by calling 217-786-2216.
Veteran Service Offices serve as sign-up locations and informational hubs for the state’s programs and benefits, including the following:
• Illinois Warrior Assistance Program – Illinois became the first state in the nation to launch a Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder program for returning Illinois Veterans. The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program offers a 24-hour, toll-free helpline at 1-866-554-IWAP (4927), which is staffed by health professionals to assist Veterans, day or night, with the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and provides Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) screening to all interested Illinois veterans, especially those returning from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The Warrior Assistance Program also makes TBI screenings mandatory for all returning members of the Illinois Army National Guard. More information is available at www.illinoiswarrior.com.
• Veterans Care – Veterans Care provides affordable, comprehensive health care to Illinois Veterans who are uninsured or 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.
• Veterans’ Jobs Tax Credit – Employers can 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.
• 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. The newest version of the Veteran’s Cash lottery ticket is called Coin Craze. 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 will also find out about a new federal program. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has started accepting applications for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The VA will issue Certificates of Eligibility for eligible applicants, and begin making payments August 1, 2009, the first day benefits can be paid under this law. Veterans, service members, reservists, and National Guard members with active duty service since September 11, 2001, may be eligible for this benefit. The Post 9/11 GI Bill not only provides eligible individuals with college tuition assistance, but for many participants it also provides a housing allowance, a stipend for books and supplies, and the option of sharing these benefits with family members. More information is available at www.GIBILL.VA.gov.
For a full list of Veteran Service Offices in Illinois, and other programs for veterans, log on to the IDVA website at http://veterans.illinois.gov.