HB2647 EngrossedLRB100 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 1, 2016. The Department shall adopt any
11rules necessary to implement this Section. The Department shall
12seek available federal funding, grants, or private funding to
13help fund the requirements of this Section; or the Department
14shall collaborate with other departments, existing veterans'
15organizations, nonprofit organizations, or private
16organizations to implement the requirements of this Section.
17        (1) The Department shall reach out to the United States
18    Department of Defense in order to identify veterans
19    returning from service in heavy casualty units, units that
20    experienced high conflict areas, or units where at least
21    one service member committed suicide following his or her
22    service. The Department shall establish a proactive
23    outreach program for veterans that served in high casualty



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1    units, in units that experienced high conflict areas, and
2    in units where at least one service member committed
3    suicide following his or her service.
4        (2) The Department or the Department in collaboration
5    with not-for-profit organizations shall engage in a public
6    awareness campaign concerning the trauma and internal
7    injuries suffered by veterans in order to promote
8    understanding and acceptance from the general public. The
9    public awareness campaign shall work to dispel the myths
10    associated with grieving, suicide, and mental health
11    healing. The Department shall evaluate existing programs,
12    including, but not limited to, the Suicide Prevention
13    Alliance under the Suicide Prevention, Education, and
14    Treatment Act, and coordinate messaging using messaging
15    guidelines that existing programs have found to be
16    successful.
17        (3) The Department shall provide training to frontline
18    employees at veterans service organizations established
19    under this Act on mental health services to identify
20    veterans who might be at risk of suicidal thoughts. This
21    training may include, but not be limited to, mental health
22    first aid training and amplified suicide advanced training
23    programs. The Department shall provide assistance to
24    Veterans Assistance Commissions established under Section
25    9 of the Military Veterans Assistance Act and veterans'
26    service associations, including, but not limited to, the



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



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



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1    veterans. The Department shall develop a program that
2    identifies companies that are trained on the circumstances
3    that are unique to veterans seeking employment and that
4    support employees that are veterans.
5        (10) The Department, in collaboration with veterans'
6    organizations in the State, shall establish a standard
7    statewide peer-to-peer training program to familiarize
8    veterans with the veterans' services available at the
9    local, State, and federal levels.