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AN ACT concerning State government.
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
represented in the General Assembly:
The Department of Veterans Affairs Act is
amended by adding Section 2h as follows:
(20 ILCS 2805/2h new)
Task Force on Veterans' Suicide recommendations.
The provisions of this Section are based on the recommendations
in the final report of the Task Force on Veterans' Suicide,
published on December 1, 2016. The Department shall adopt any
rules necessary to implement this Section. The Department shall
seek available federal funding, grants, or private funding to
help fund the requirements of this Section; or the Department
shall collaborate with other departments, existing veterans'
organizations, nonprofit organizations, or private
organizations to implement the requirements of this Section.
(1) The Department shall reach out to the United States
Department of Defense in order to identify veterans
returning from service in heavy casualty units, units that
experienced high conflict areas, or units where at least
one service member committed suicide following his or her
service. The Department shall establish a proactive
outreach program for veterans that served in high casualty
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units, in units that experienced high conflict areas, and
in units where at least one service member committed
suicide following his or her service.
(2) The Department or the Department in collaboration
with not-for-profit organizations shall engage in a public
awareness campaign concerning the trauma and internal
injuries suffered by veterans in order to promote
understanding and acceptance from the general public. The
public awareness campaign shall work to dispel the myths
associated with grieving, suicide, and mental health
healing. The Department shall evaluate existing programs,
including, but not limited to, the Suicide Prevention
Alliance under the Suicide Prevention, Education, and
Treatment Act, and coordinate messaging using messaging
guidelines that existing programs have found to be
(3) The Department shall provide training to frontline
employees at veterans service organizations established
under this Act on mental health services to identify
veterans who might be at risk of suicidal thoughts. This
training may include, but not be limited to, mental health
first aid training and amplified suicide advanced training
programs. The Department shall provide assistance to
Veterans Assistance Commissions established under Section
9 of the Military Veterans Assistance Act and veterans'
service associations, including, but not limited to, the
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American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and AMVETS, in
providing the training under this paragraph to the
employees of the Veterans Assistance Commissions and
veterans' service associations.
The Department shall hire combat veterans to serve as
veteran service officers at veterans service organizations
established under this Act for the purpose of having
veteran services officers who are able to properly relate
to fellow combat veterans.
(4) The Department shall collaborate with institutions
of higher education to address environmental factors that
could negatively impact a veteran's ability to learn in a
traditional classroom setting. Such factors include, but
are not limited to, expanding veterans' access to online
learning; desk placement away from windows, crowded
hallways, or orientation; grouping veterans together in a
class; and veterans' only instructional periods. The
Department, in coordination with institutions of higher
education, shall provide proactive outreach as part of an
educational success program for veterans experiencing
difficulties in higher education due to undiagnosed mental
health issues that prevent them from succeeding.
(5) The Department shall provide a family preparation
course concerning the emotional cycle of deployment that is
designed to help a family unit adjust to changes in
discharged and returning veterans and inform the family
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members of where to go to seek assistance. This course
shall be made available to the family of a veteran prior to
the discharge and homecoming of the veteran.
(6) The Department shall develop a licensing program
for therapy dogs, with a possible extension to other
therapy animals, for veterans. The Department shall
develop standards for the training and identification of
therapy dogs for veterans. The designation of therapy dog
under this paragraph shall not qualify the dog to be a
service animal as provided under any other Act in this
(7) The Department shall reach out to the United States
Department of Defense to obtain information on returning
veterans and develop a transition program for returning
veterans that reside in the State. The program developed
under this paragraph shall include a veteran-to-veteran
connection program and information on local organizations
that provide resources or services for veterans that a
veteran can access.
(8) The Department shall reach out to the United States
Department of Defense in order to develop a system that
allows veterans to file a federal DD Form 214 immediately
(9) The Department shall collaborate with chambers of
commerce in the State to create an employer training
program that focuses on the needs of employees that are
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veterans. The Department shall develop a program that
identifies companies that are trained on the circumstances
that are unique to veterans seeking employment and that
support employees that are veterans.
(10) The Department, in collaboration with veterans'
organizations in the State, shall establish a standard
statewide peer-to-peer training program to familiarize
veterans with the veterans' services available at the
local, State, and federal levels.