Bill Text: IL HB2647 | 2017-2018 | 100th General Assembly | Engrossed


Bill Title: 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.

Spectrum: Strong Partisan Bill (Democrat 59-6)

Status: (Engrossed) 2017-04-25 - Assigned to Veterans Affairs [HB2647 Detail]

Download: Illinois-2017-HB2647-Engrossed.html



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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.
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