SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois veterans will now have improved access to critical mental health services and greater access to job placement, training and other services thanks to a new law sponsored by state Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr., D-Elwood.
“The brave men and women who serve our country deserve to be treated with dignity and respect after they return home,” Walsh said. “Veteran suicide is an issue we cannot ignore and this new law will help us provide better care to our veterans and make our state a model for other states to follow in caring for their own veterans.”
Walsh’s House Bill 2647 is designed to help provide critical services to veterans. According to a recent study by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States. Walsh’s legislation requires the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs (IDVA) to create several programs to better serve veterans with mental trauma, depression and other service-related mental illnesses. His bill directs IDVA to work with the federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs to proactively identify Illinois veterans whose service exposed them to situations found to increase the likelihood of suicidal tendencies.
Walsh’s measure works to improve the mental health training provided to Veterans’ Assistance Commissions and other veterans’ groups. The IDVA would also partner with existing veterans’ associations and military organizations to provide families of returning service members with a family preparation course concerning deployment, discharge and return of veterans.
Another key part of Walsh’s new law is to encourage collaboration between the IDVA and various existing veteran service organizations, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, in addition to working with existing non-profit groups to help achieve the goals of this legislation. In addition, the bill streamlines the process by which returning veterans can begin to access job placement, training and other services from the federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
“This veteran support package is designed to not only prevent veteran suicide, but improve the lives of those who have sacrificed so much in the defense of our nation,” Walsh said. “This package includes job training, providing assistance to veteran families, and helping veterans connect with one another to help foster a stronger sense of community.”