Veterans Benefits Information

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Veterans Benefits Information

Statement From Governor Pat Quinn on Senate Passage Of Hiring Veterans Tax Credit

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SPRINGFIELD – March 28, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today released a statement regarding the Illinois Senate passing Senate Bill 3281, which would raise Illinois’ Hiring Veterans Tax Credit to $5,000, up from $1,200.

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VA construction projects under review

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Appearing before a March 27 hearing of the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs (HCVA), a panelist from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said that "veterans are not affected" by ongoing delays at several of VA’s major construction projects. The panelist was Glenn Haggestrom, executive director for VA’s Office of Acquisitions, Logistics and Construction. But his words of reassurance had little effect on a bipartisan series of questions from committee members that highlighted their concern over how those delays, some lasting several years, may have affected VA facilities and their quality of health care.

Between 2003 and 2005, Congress allocated major construction funding for new VA medical centers in four locations: Las Vegas, Denver, Orlando and New Orleans. HCVA’s hearing focused on problems at these sites in project management, construction delays, increased costs that dramatically affect veterans in each region and the overall VA construction budget.

"As the VA health care system has grown, it appears that we have come to a point in the department’s major construction and lease program where the administrative structure in VA is an obstacle that is not effectively supporting the mission," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the committee. "As a result, our veterans are the ones who are left without services, and our taxpayers are the ones left holding the check."

Delays in constructing these facilities have caused VA medical center directors to not only use fee-based care to meet the needs of veterans, but also force veterans in these regions to travel hundreds of miles to other VA facilities.

The four new medical centers, with costs exceeding $3 billion, are estimated to be between four months (Las Vegas) and two years (Orlando) behind schedule. The Las Vegas VA facility is scheduled to open in 2012, despite several delays and extensions to that project. Of the $442 million allocated in recent funding to 55 major medical lease sites, only five are open, 38 are behind schedule and 14 are delayed three or more years. Delays and changes at Orlando have doubled the original cost estimates for that single project.

While the hearing highlighted significant delays at the Orlando facility, it was representative of similar situations at the other sites. VA officials admitted ultimate responsibility for construction problems at these facilities, they also shared that blame with architects, engineers and even construction companies.

VA testimony identified lessons learned and actions taken towards addressing construction problems. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki designated the Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction as the single point of project accountability within the department. On-site management was also identified as a problem, and VA has begun hiring more than 30 additional engineers to oversee major construction projects. Finally, VA also points to the Strategic Capital Improvement Process (SCIP) as a solution that will benefit the overall prioritization of the major, minor and non-recurring maintenance projects.

The American Legion remains concerned with the overall management of VA’s major construction accounts. While SCIP has identified $53 billion to $65 billion in major and minor construction costs, both accounts were underfunded by more than $4 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 and again in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal. Without adequate funding, the SCIP process will not single-handedly meet the needs of our veterans.

Although not addressed in the hearing, overall funding for activating these new VA facilities must be considered.

"The American Legion remains convinced that funding for activation of projects, whether community clinics or VA medical centers, must be included in the overall project funding," said Tim Tetz, the Legion’s legislative director. "It should not be left for future consideration in other accounts. Not only will this allow for a true understanding of the costs of these facilities, but will also eliminate delays in opening due to funding shortages, or prioritization of allocation."

 


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Governor Quinn Applauds Hiring Our Heroes Career Expo - Illinois Partners with U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Put More Veterans to Work

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CHICAGO – March 28, 2012. Governor Quinn today attended a Hiring Our Heroes job fair and praised the event as a key tool to help Veterans return to work and showcase tax incentives available to businesses who choose to hire our returning heroes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Department of Employment Security were the principal sponsors of the second annual Chicago event.

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Veterans sought for customs, border patrol

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Job-seeking military veterans are invited to continue protecting and serving our nation by joining forces with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS is actively recruiting and accepting applications for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBPO) from now until April 30. Duty locations range throughout the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, though most of the available positions are in the Southwest.

Primary responsibilities for a CBPO include preventing terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States; keeping illegal immigrants from crossing U.S. borders; and screening incoming or returning travelers and their personal items for health hazards and harmful or illegal substances.

Not long after she took office, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano made a pledge to The American Legion that her agency, of which customs and border protection is a part of, would make a concerted effort to recruit veterans. At the time, Napolitano — an American Legion Auxiliary Girls State alum — noted that employment as a customs and border patrol officer would be highly suitable for many veterans, especially those with military law enforcement experience.

Apply for a CBPO job online here and learn more about the position’s job duties, as well as qualifications and requirements for employment.

 

 

 


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Legion opposes projected TRICARE hikes

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The American Legion has expressed strong opposition to proposed hikes in premiums being paid by enrollees in the military’s health insurance program — TRICARE. The recently released Fiscal Year 2013 federal budget plan calls for dramatically increased TRICARE enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays.

"We realize that fiscal realities dictate certain financial concessions may have to be made by our citizens," said American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong. "But to burden America’s military families further is, in our opinion, unconscionable."

Under the proposed FY 2013 budget, the TRICARE Prime annual enrollment fee would rise from $520 to $2,048 by 2017, an increase of 400 percent in five years. Similarly, TRICARE mail-order pharmacy program co-pays for brand name medications would skyrocket from $9 to $34 over the same five years, yet another increase of nearly 400 percent.

"This generation of American servicemembers, however, is but the latest to endure the unique hardships of wartime service," Wong said. "All generations of veterans have earned these benefits. These brave men and women have earned health and retirement benefits in ways that are largely unknown and difficult to comprehend by civilians who have not shared their sacrifices. Those who point to the disparity in cost between civilian and military health insurance and hint at unfairness simply do not appreciate the huge premiums already paid by our servicemembers and their families as physical and mental health, and even lives, have been given up by them for the good of the rest of us."

Wong concluded by saying that "true fairness" to military families and their civilian counterparts can only be attained by a "decisive and pointed rejection of these unjust proposals by all members of Congress."


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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.