Veteran Benefits in Illinois
For the more than 706,000 veterans living in the state of Illinois, their honorable service has earned them a long list of state and national benefits that can help make life more affordable, healthy, and enjoyable. Knowing all the benefits to which you are entitled, however, and how to access them, can be a bit daunting. Thankfully the state has many resources in place to assist Illinois veterans and their dependents.
If you are just beginning to learn about your benefits, have questions, or need help filing or following up on a claim, a great place to start is your local Veteran Service Officer (VSO), fellow veterans who are trained and accredited by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide free assistance to veterans and their dependents and survivors. They are experts on state and national veteran benefits, and can provide resources on compensation and pension, health care, education and training, employment, burial and survivor benefits, housing, permits, transportation, military records, and more. The Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs (IDVA) operates 49 full-time and 35 part-time offices in 80 of the state’s 102 counties; these offices are staffed by more than 60 individual VSOs. To find the nearest VSO, you can use the IDVA’s online VSO locator or call (800) 437-9824 if calling from within Illinois; (217) 782-6641 if calling from out of state; or TDD (217) 524-4645. If you are calling from within the Chicago area, you can call (312) 814-2460. If you are a woman veteran who prefers to speak with one of the 27 female VSOs, you can check the special online map of female VSO officers.
The IDVA also operates a special “Stand Up and Be Counted” program that promises faster access to state VSOs, improved communication on state veteran affairs, and better insight for state officials into the Illinois veteran population. Veterans can use a simple online form to register for the program, and instantly be connected to the state’s complete network of veteran advocacy providers. Once you have registered, you will be contacted by a VSO within 24 hours.
Accessing quality health care is always a top concern for veterans and their families, and the VA maintains numerous locations to help veterans find care for a wide range of medical and counseling needs. The state is home to five large VA medical centers in Chicago, North Chicago, Danville, Hines, and Marion. These facilities offer primary and secondary care, surgical capabilities, rehabilitation, pharmaceutical services, and community and family outreach and counseling programs. Additionally, veterans can access care at 20 outpatient clinics or 12 community-based outpatient clinics that work closely with the larger medical centers when referrals are needed. By using the VA online patient information home tab on the website for each medical center’s website, veterans can check eligibility, schedule or change appointments, and learn more about insurance and care costs.
Illinois veterans looking to enjoy the state’s numerous natural recreation and outdoor attractions may be eligible for discounted fees and licenses. For example, certain disabled veterans and former prisoners of war who are Illinois residents and may be exempt from some or all admission and camping fees in sites maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Additionally, fishing and hunting licenses are not required for disabled veterans who are receiving 10% or greater service-connected compensation, or total disability pension benefits. You can get more information on the documentation needed and how to access these discounts at your local VSO. Finally, honorably discharged veterans of all ages and their families can receive free admittance to the State Fair with proper identification on Veterans' Day at the fair. Admission to the fair is also free to people 60 and older on Senior Day. For dates, you can check the Illinois State Fair Homepage.
For senior veterans or those needing daily assistance or ongoing care, the state of Illinois facilitates four veterans’ homes in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno, and Quincy. These locations vary in size and offer 24-hour skilled nursing care; the Anna and Qunicy locations also offer independent living beds. Each home is surveyed, inspected, and certified annually by its VA medical center of jurisdiction in areas of resident rights, quality of care, and safety, and additional inspections take place regularly by national, state, and local veteran organizations to ensure that veterans’ quality of life standards remain high. Residents pay a monthly maintenance fee based on his or her income (not assets) although no qualified veteran will be turned away because of ability to continue payments. You can check eligibility requirements and get other basic information on the IDVA’s veteran homes homepage.
A veteran’s honorable service to his or her country earns full honors at the time of death at no cost to his or her family, including burial, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Some veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. Illinois is home to several veteran cemeteries that offer not only a final resting place for veterans but a location for all to reflect and pay final respects. The state is home to six national cemeteries – in Alton, Danville, Elwood, Mound City, Quincy, Rock Island, and Springfield – as well as three confederate soldier cemeteries and a state veterans cemetery in Quincy.
Illinois Veterans Benefit for Assisted Living
The Aid and Attendance pension benefit is available to Illinois senior veterans and their spouses to help pay for senior care like assisted living, home care, or nursing home care. Here is more information on how the Aid and Attendance benefit helps Illinois veterans.