ROCKFORD, Ill. – Veterans will have better access to health services, treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and job training under legislation backed by state Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, intended to help returning service members transition into civilian life and prevent veteran suicide.
“Citizens who make the sacrifice by serving in our Armed Forces deserve proper care and treatment when they return home,” Wallace said. “We have a responsibility to the men and women who ensure our safety on a daily basis to have job training, healthcare and other services available for them when they leave the military.”
According to a recent study by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in this country. Wallace is working to address this crisis by sponsoring a package of reforms streamlining access to existing services for veterans and providing new accommodations for returning service members as they seek civilian jobs and educational opportunities, all in an effort to reduce the number of veteran suicides. The reforms are recommendations of the Illinois Task Force on Veterans’ Suicide.
Wallace is sponsoring House Bill 2647, which would require the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs (IDVA) to create several programs to better serve veterans with PTSD and other service-related mental illnesses. Wallace’s bill directs IDVA to work with the federal Department of Defense to proactively identify Illinois veterans whose service exposed them situations found to increase the likelihood of suicidal tendencies. Veterans returning from heavy-casualty or high-conflict areas, or who served alongside another veteran who committed suicide will be proactively offered additional assistance. The IDVA would also create a public awareness campaign to promote a better understanding of suicide and mental health.
Wallace’s legislation would work to improve the mental health training provided to veterans’ assistance commissions and other veterans’ groups. Licensed therapy dogs would also be used in greater numbers to provide comfort to veterans suffering from PTSD and the families of returning veterans would have access to better information on what they can do to assist their loved one in their transition to civilian life.
The bill would also cut red tape and expedite filing of discharge paperwork, so veterans can begin receiving mental health treatment, job training and other services sooner. The state would work with the Department of Defense in creating a system where this important information is immediately filed when a service member is discharged from the Armed Forces. The IDVA would also partner with local chambers of commerce to create employer training programs for returning veterans and highlight “veteran friendly” employers.
“We can never fully thank our veterans for their service, but we can ensure they are properly served when they return home,” Wallace said. “There is a mental health crisis with our veterans, and it’s time we begin to better address it.”
For more information, please contact Wallace’s constituent service office at 815-987-7433 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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