State of Illinois
2017 and 2018


Introduced , by Rep. Stephanie A. Kifowit


20 ILCS 2805/2h new

    Amends the Department of Veterans Affairs Act. Contains provisions concerning the establishment of various programs and services for the benefit of veterans including a proactive outreach program for veterans that served in high casualty units, in units that experienced high conflict areas, and in units where at least one service member committed suicide following his or her service; a public awareness campaign concerning the trauma and internal injuries suffered by veterans; specified training concerning mental health services for employees of veterans service organizations, Veterans Assistance Commissions, and veterans' service associations; educational success programs for veterans experiencing specified difficulties in higher education; a family preparation course for the families of returning veterans; a licensing program for therapy dogs for veterans; a transition program for returning veterans that reside in the State; a system that allows veterans to file a specified federal form immediately upon discharge; creation of an employer training program; and a standard statewide peer-to-peer training program to familiarize veterans with the veterans' services available at the local, State, and federal levels. Requires the Department of Veterans' Affairs to adopt any rules necessary to implement these provisions.

LRB100 08180 MJP 18276 b






HB2647LRB100 08180 MJP 18276 b

1    AN ACT concerning State government.
2    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
3represented in the General Assembly:
4    Section 5. The Department of Veterans Affairs Act is
5amended by adding Section 2h as follows:
6    (20 ILCS 2805/2h new)
7    Sec. 2h. Task Force on Veterans' Suicide recommendations.
8The provisions of this Section are based on the recommendations
9in the final report of the Task Force on Veterans' Suicide,
10published on December 30, 2016. The Department shall adopt any
11rules necessary to implement this Section.
12        (1) The Department shall reach out to the United States
13    Department of Defense in order to identify veterans
14    returning from service in heavy casualty units, units that
15    experienced high conflict areas, or units where at least
16    one service member committed suicide following his or her
17    service. The Department shall establish a proactive
18    outreach program for veterans that served in high casualty
19    units, in units that experienced high conflict areas, and
20    in units where at least one service member committed
21    suicide following his or her service.
22        (2) The Department or the Department in collaboration
23    with not-for-profit organizations shall engage in a public



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1    awareness campaign concerning the trauma and internal
2    injuries suffered by veterans in order to promote
3    understanding and acceptance from the general public. The
4    public awareness campaign shall work to dispel the myths
5    associated with grieving, suicide, and mental health
6    healing. The Department shall evaluate existing programs,
7    including, but not limited to, the Suicide Prevention
8    Alliance under the Suicide Prevention, Education, and
9    Treatment Act, and coordinate messaging using messaging
10    guidelines that existing programs have found to be
11    successful.
12        (3) The Department shall provide training to frontline
13    employees at veterans service organizations established
14    under this Act on mental health services to identify
15    veterans who might be at risk of suicidal thoughts. This
16    training may include, but not be limited to, mental health
17    first aid training and amplified suicide advanced training
18    programs. The Department shall provide assistance to
19    Veterans Assistance Commissions established under Section
20    9 of the Military Veterans Assistance Act and veterans'
21    service associations, including, but not limited to, the
22    American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and AMVETS, in
23    providing the training under this paragraph to the
24    employees of the Veterans Assistance Commissions and
25    veterans' service associations.
26        The Department shall find combat veterans to serve as



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1    veteran service officers at veterans service organizations
2    established under this Act for the purpose of having
3    veteran services officers who are able to properly relate
4    to fellow combat veterans.
5        (4) The Department shall collaborate with institutions
6    of higher education to address environmental factors that
7    could negatively impact a veteran's ability to learn in a
8    traditional classroom setting. Such factors include, but
9    are not limited to, expanding veterans' access to online
10    learning; desk placement away from windows, crowded
11    hallways, or orientation; grouping veterans together in a
12    class; and veterans' only instructional periods. The
13    Department, in coordination with institutions of higher
14    education, shall provide proactive outreach as part of an
15    educational success program for veterans experiencing
16    difficulties in higher education due to undiagnosed mental
17    health issues that prevent them from succeeding.
18        (5) The Department shall provide a family preparation
19    course concerning the emotional cycle of deployment that is
20    designed to help a family unit adjust to changes in
21    discharged and returning veterans and inform the family
22    members of where to go to seek assistance. This course
23    shall be made available to the family of a veteran prior to
24    the discharge and homecoming of the veteran.
25        (6) The Department shall develop a licensing program
26    for therapy dogs, with a possible extension to other



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1    therapy animals, for veterans. The Department shall
2    develop standards for the training and identification of
3    therapy dogs for veterans. The designation of therapy dog
4    under this paragraph shall not qualify the dog to be a
5    service animal as provided under any other Act in this
6    State.
7        (7) The Department shall reach out to the United States
8    Department of Defense to obtain information on returning
9    veterans and develop a transition program for returning
10    veterans that reside in the State. The program developed
11    under this paragraph shall include a veteran-to-veteran
12    connection program and information on local organizations
13    that provide resources or services for veterans that a
14    veteran can access.
15        (8) The Department shall reach out to the United States
16    Department of Defense in order to develop a system that
17    allows veterans to file a federal DD Form 214 immediately
18    upon discharge.
19        (9) The Department shall collaborate with chambers of
20    commerce in the State to create an employer training
21    program that focuses on the needs of employees that are
22    veterans. The Department shall develop a program that
23    identifies companies that are trained on the circumstances
24    that are unique to veterans seeking employment and that
25    support employees that are veterans.
26        (10) The Department, in collaboration with veterans'



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1    organizations in the State, shall establish a standard
2    statewide peer-to-peer training program to familiarize
3    veterans with the veterans' services available at the
4    local, State, and federal levels.