Veteran Resource Spotlight: Chicago
While the list of benefits and services available to America’s veterans is quite long, trying to locate and sort through the resources can be daunting. In fact, many U.S. veterans may not even be aware of the long list of benefits their military service has earned them, such as the Aid and Attendance benefit which helps veterans and their spouses pay for the costs of care. In an effort to help veterans more effectively access these benefits, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of local veteran resources for several U.S. major cities.
Illinois is home to more than 721,000 veterans, with Vietnam War veterans representing the largest percentage of the group. While studies in recent years have suggested the Chicago was struggling in its support of military veterans, a wide range of helpful services are today available to local veterans who know where and how to access them.
A good starting point is the Chicago VA Regional Office, located at 2122 West Taylor St., easily accessible through the Chicago Transit Authority public transportation system via the Blue Line or city bus. The office administers a variety of services and benefits including Compensation and Pension, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment. VA representatives are available to help answer questions about eligibility and enrollment, and can walk you through the sometimes-confusing array of benefits that you’ve earned through your service. Special services you could receive include housing grants, fiduciary/guardianship services, and outreach services for the homeless and elderly, minority Veterans, and women Veterans.
Next door to the regional VA office at 820 South Damen Ave. is the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center (JBVAMC), offering veterans a variety of care services including geriatric and home-based care, women’s health programs, hospice care, and services that support family caregivers of veterans. The facility also offers mental health services including psychiatry, substance-abuse programs, and treatment for dementia, confused thinking, and memory issues. The center routinely hosts special events such as job fairs to help connect veterans with potential employers.
One of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s main areas of focus since taking office in 2011 has been putting an end to Chicago’s citywide homelessness. In 2014, he shifted the focus specifically to the problem of homelessness for veterans, launching Chicago’s Ending Veterans Homelessness Initiative (EVHI). The goal of the initiative is to reach “functional zero” goal, a point where there is a greater number of housing options available compared to the number of veterans entering homelessness each day.
Subsequently, the city has partnered with more than 35 public and private organizations to work towards this goal and says it has exceeded its progress goals based on the federally mandated counts used at the time of EVHI’s launch. The initiative also works with landlords willing to support the program and make special agreements with veterans. Veterans experiencing homelessness are encouraged to go to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center for assistance with shelter and other basic needs.
Chicago veterans can also leverage a 100% volunteer organization in the Chicago Veterans group, a group of “passionate and determined, creative, problem-solving military veterans” working to make an impact in Chicago. The group focuses on community service, employment services and career summit, and networking between veterans through its monthly Liberty Call events. Its website also serves as a major hub of information on benefits, employment opportunities, and local resources for veterans
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs offer numerous programs and events aimed at assisting local veterans, and states that it is committed to ensuring that Illinois’ military heroes and families “receive the benefits they rightfully deserve when they return home.” In addition to the federal benefits, Illinois has a number of additional veteran benefits including compensation, education, burial, employment, real estate, and permits. The department also hosts an annual day of service for the community to give back to local veteran families, and also runs a Illinois Lottery Veterans Cash program that gives 100 percent of the net proceeds to groups supporting Illinois veterans. Additional programs include training for entrepreneurial veterans and residential homes for aging veterans.
The state’s Illinois Warrior Assistance Program is a confidential program for returning Illinois veterans and their families to help deal with the emotional challenges of transitioning back to their daily lives. Veterans can call 1-866-554-4927 at any time day or night for a referral and authorization for covered services. The program helps veterans understand benefits and the resources available to them, and also provides certain additional benefits like legal and financial consultations for free or reduced rates.
Written by Megan Hammons