Military & Veterans News
First Lady Present As Governor Quinn Signs Historic Bill at Illinois National Guard Armory PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by National Guard PAO Illinois   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 14:57

Military Family Licensing Act Provides Expedited Professional Licenses to Illinois Servicemembers and Their Spouses

CHICAGO (06/27/2012)(readMedia)-- In grand fashion, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois National Guard hosted First Lady Michelle Obama at an historic bill-signing at the Calumet armory in Chicago on June 26. The governor – flanked by the first lady, Acting Adjutant General of Illinois Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti, bill sponsors Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton, state Rep. Bob Pritchard, and state Sen. Martin Sandoval – signed into law the "Military Family Licensing Act".

The bill – officially named Senate Bill 275 – provides for temporary expedited professional and educational licenses for active duty members of the military and their spouses after the families relocate to Illinois for military service. More than 300 Servicemembers and their families crowded into the armory in the South Loop to witness the historic event. Illinois will become the 23rd state to adopt pro-military spouse license portability legislation when the law takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.

"Our military families make great sacrifices every day, and they shouldn't have to put their career on hold while their loved ones are serving their country overseas," Gov. Quinn said. "This new law will strengthen Illinois and allow these dedicated professionals to waste no time in finding work and making a difference as they settle into their new home."

As part of her Joining Forces initiative to honor, recognize and support military families, the first lady has advocated for the 100,000 military spouses who serve in professions that require state licenses or certification. For many, this means having to bear high financial burdens to transfer their credentials from state to state as they serve.

"Because of Governor Quinn's efforts, more military spouses will be able to advance in their careers. More businesses, hospitals and schools will get the talented, experienced workers they rely on. And more families will have the income they need and the financial security they deserve," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Above all, military families will know that America has their back. We are working hard every day to serve them as well as they have served this country."

In February, the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden asked the country's governors to improve job portability for military spouses in their states by relieving some of the financial burdens they face. At the time the first lady and Dr. Biden addressed the governors, only 11 states had such legislation. With the addition of the law in Illinois, that number has grown to 23, and an additional seven states have similar pending legislation.

"This is a monumental day for Servicemembers and their spouses here in Illinois," said Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti of Springfield, the Acting Adjutant General of Illinois. "The legislation signed today will no doubt ease the burden associated with professional license transfer and further strengthen communities around the state. Illinois has once again set the standard for excellence in caring for its heroes."

The state agencies that issue occupational licenses, including the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and the State Board of Education, will be able to grant temporary licenses to military members and spouses who hold credentials in other states in more than 50 professions, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, plumbers, paramedics, social workers, dieticians, and therapists.

"This new law is powerful for the more than 16,000 military families who call Illinois home," said Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren. "Military spouses make tremendous sacrifices to follow their loved ones from duty station to duty station – and temporary, expedited licensure is an important way our state can support them through those sacrifices."

In addition to temporary six-month licenses, the act allows the IDFPR to consider all relevant experience and training that a Servicemember has gained through military service towards meeting certain permanent state licensing requirements.

Illinois Army National Guard member Staff Sgt. Jamie Witt of Urbana, added to the sentiment felt by the bill's many supporters at the bill-signing. "As a civilian nurse, I can attest to the difficulties one may encounter when acquiring the proper state licensure for his or her profession. I am honored to be here today to witness the signing of this legislation," said Witt. "Our Servicemembers and their families now have one less obstacle to overcome during their transition to Illinois. This further illustrates that Illinois truly values its Servicemembers and their families - I am honored and proud to call Illinois home," said Witt.

 
Governor Quinn Signs Illinois Military Family Licensing Act with First Lady Michelle Obama PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 14:18

Law to Support Military Families Looking for Jobs;

Illinois 23rd State to Grant Expedited Professional Licenses to Servicemembers and their Spouses

CHICAGO – June 26, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn was joined today by First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama as he signed the Illinois Military Family Licensing Act to support military families as they seek employment. The new law will help servicemembers and their spouses obtain the professional licenses they need to continue working after the family relocates to Illinois for military service. Today’s action is the latest Governor Quinn has taken in his long history of supporting military members and their families in Illinois.

“Our military families make great sacrifices every day, and they shouldn’t have to put their career on hold while their loved ones are serving their country overseas,” Governor Quinn said. “This new law will strengthen Illinois and allow these dedicated professionals to waste no time in finding work and making a difference as they settle into their new home.”

Illinois will become the 23rd state to adopt pro-military spouse license portability legislation. As part of her Joining Forces initiative to honor, recognize and support military families, First Lady Michelle Obama has advocated for the 100,000 military spouses who serve in professions that require state licenses or certification, and have to bear high financial burdens to transfer their credentials from state to state as they serve this country. In February, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden asked Governor Quinn and the rest of the country’s governors and spouses to improve job portability for military spouses in their states. At the time the First Lady and Dr. Biden addressed the Governors, only 11 states had legislation. That number has since grown to 23-including Illinois- and an additional 7 states have pending legislation.

“Because of Governor Quinn’s efforts, more military spouses will be able to advance in their careers. More businesses, hospitals and schools will get the talented, experienced workers they rely on.  And more families will have the income they need and the financial security they deserve.  And above all, military families will know that America has their back, we are working hard every day to serve them as well as they have served this country,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley), provides for temporary expedited professional and educational licenses for active duty members of the military and their spouses. State agencies that issue occupational licenses, including the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and the State Board of Education, will be able to grant temporary licenses to military members and spouses who hold credentials in other states in more than 50 professions, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, plumbers, paramedics, social workers, dieticians and therapists.

“When the White House told me about this issue, I immediately vowed to work with their staff to pass this important measure,” Sen. Cullerton said. “This new law will ease the burden placed on military families who want to serve their country even more through noble professions in the fields of education, child care services and public health.”

“SB275 will reduce the time needed for service members and their spouses to obtain a professional license so they can continue to work and supplement the family income, while still assuring the skills of the licensee and public safety,” Rep. Pritchard said. “I look forward to continuing to address key quality of life issues for our servicemembers and their families in Illinois.”

In addition to temporary, 6-month licenses, the Act allows IDFPR to consider all relevant experience and training a servicemember has gained through military service towards meeting certain permanent state licensing requirements. These provisions will help military members and their spouses more easily navigate the patchwork of non-uniform regulations across all 50 states. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Illinois is the home to three major military bases – Naval Station Great Lakes, the Navy’s single-site “bootcamp” for training new recruits; Scott Air Force Base, the headquarters for the U.S. Transportation Command, and Rock Island Arsenal, a major weapons manufacturing facility in the U.S.

“This new law is powerful for the more than 16,000 military families who call Illinois home,” IDVA Director Erica Borggren said. “Military spouses make tremendous sacrifices to follow their loved ones from duty station to duty station – and temporary, expedited licensure is an important way our State can support them through those sacrifices.”

“This is a win-win for Illinois. Military families benefit from increased portability of their professional credentials, and Illinois consumers benefit from increased access to qualified professionals,” said DFPR Secretary Brent Adams.

Governor Quinn has long made commitment to veterans, servicemembers and their families one of his top priorities throughout his career in public service. He has led programs including the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program and the Veterans Cash lottery ticket, which has awarded more than $10 million to non-profit organizations across the state that provide health care and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, housing assistance, disability benefits and other services to Illinois Veterans.

As Lieutenant Governor, Governor Quinn championed the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund Act, which established a fund to provide grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve components who were called to active duty as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. These grants help service members and their families with the costs of food, housing, utilities, medical services and other expenses they struggle to afford because a wage-earner has temporarily left civilian employment to be placed on active military duty.

In 2011, Governor Quinn launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to promote homeownership for Illinois Veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members. The financing package is available statewide, and provides a forgivable grant up to $10,000 toward the purchase of a new home, as well as an additional mortgage tax credit up to $20,000 over the life of the loan. Welcome Home Heroes will make homeownership even more affordable for thousands of military families and create more than 400 jobs throughout Illinois.

For more information about programs for our Veterans, visit Veterans.Illinois.Gov or call the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs at 217-782-6641 or 312-814-2460.

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More Troops Deploying to Afghanistan PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Move America Forward   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 12:40
Troopathon 2012 is almost here! We now have only 17 days left! We have a long way to go if we're going to send the largest-yet shipment of care packages to our troops! Join the cast of celebrities, musicians, journalists, and others who are coming together to support our troops and Troopathon 2012! Send care packages to our troops today!


MORE TROOPS DEPLOYING TO AFGHANISTAN
THEY NEED OUR HELP!

Across several states this weekend, friends and family bade farewell to fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives deploying to Afghanistan to fight and protect our country from ruthless terrorists.

Over 800 Troops from the Alabama National Guard.

About 150 Troops from the Utah National Guard.

300 Troops deploying out of Ft. Benning, Georgia.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team is training for deployment.

Over 3,000 Troops from Ft. Riley, KS now set to deploy.

2,950 Troops from the 101st Airborne are set to deploy out of Kentucky.


Army Col. Michael Getchell, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, discusses the concerns of Afghan provincial leader role players during an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., June 11, 2012. The brigade is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in the fall.




Troopathon is a month-long effort that culminates on July 12th, but we are taking donations for Troopathon RIGHT NOW!

Troopathon brings together conservative celebrities from all walks of life to concentrate on supporting our troops for one day, where we really try to hit it out of the park for our military servicemen and women.

Mark your calendars now, and be ready July 12th for an event that will amaze and energize you to support our troops more than ever! 

 
Braley Introduces Bill Making More Blinded Veterans Eligible for VA Adaptive Housing Grants PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 12:02

Adaptive housing grant program makes it easier for disabled vets to live in their homes

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today announced the introduction of legislation he’s authored to help more blinded veterans qualify for a Veterans Administration grant program designed to help injured and disabled veterans live in their homes.  VA adaptive housing grants provide one-time funding for permanently disabled veterans to remodel their homes and make them more disability-accessible.

Currently, to qualify for VA adaptive housing grants, a blinded veteran must have visual acuity of 5/200 or worse (meaning that individual must be five feet away from an object to see it with the same acuity that an individual with normal vision can see at 200 feet).  Someone with 5/200 vision generally has an inability to distinguish whether they’re in a lit environment or an unlit environment.

Many veterans who have suffered the effects of impaired vision as a result of military service do not meet this very high standard, but still face a significant disability that affects their quality of life.

Furthermore, at 20/200, federal law has a less restrictive standard for blindness than the Veterans Administration.  In fact, the American Medical Association first adopted this standard for blindness in 1934, and the Social Security Administration adopted it in 1968.  And other programs in the Veterans Administration use the 20/200 standard already.

HR 5999, the Housing for Blinded Veterans Act, that Braley introduced will apply the American Medical Association and federal government’s 20/200 standard for blindness to the VA’s adaptive housing program.  This will expand eligibility for the program to more blind veterans and create a more uniform standard for blindness across federal agencies.

“This is the definition of a common sense change,” Braley said.  “It’s silly for the federal government to use one standard for blindness and the Veterans Administration to use another, tougher standard… and just for one program, too.  Applying the commonly recognized standard for blindness to the VA adaptive housing grant program  means more disabled veterans will qualify for help.  Plus, it just makes sense.”

 

Braley has been a staunch advocate for expanding veterans’ eligibility for and improving the VA’s adaptive housing grant program, which provides grants to permanently disabled veterans to make their homes more disability accessible.  Last year, Braley introduced the Andrew Connolly Veterans Housing Act, a bill that renews the adaptive housing grant program.  The bill was passed by the US House last spring and is still being considered by the Senate.

Full bill text of the Housing for Blinded Veterans Act can be downloaded at the following link: http://go.usa.gov/vGw

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Operation Gratitude Sends 800,000th Care Package PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Operation Gratitude   
Monday, 25 June 2012 09:47
Van Nuys, CA -- The crowd was electric and in a celebratory mood on June 16 when more than 500 volunteers descended on the California National Guard Armory in Van Nuys to assemble the 800,000th Operation Gratitude Care Package. 

The Milestone package, which will be delivered to a service member currently deployed in harm's way, includes the keys to a custom built "American Chopper" donated by Torque Sports and Performance, Inc. and the SJO Foundation for Hope. 

"Our troops face separation from home and loved ones while they are deployed so Torque Sports and Performance wanted to do something special to let all our Military know we appreciate their sacrifice," said Scott James, President and CEO of Torque Sports and Performance. "We contacted our friends at Orange Country Choppers, a brand that is synonymous with American ingenuity and quality, and they agreed to build a custom chopper for us to give away for a special occasion."

The perfect special occasion turned out to be the shipment of Operation Gratitude's 800,000th care package. James and business partner Scott Templeton were present at the armory to make the announcement about the gift Chopper, which will be revealed and presented to the package recipient at the Armory in December of this year.

Reflecting on the magnitude of the occasion, Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek, explained that the 800,000th care package symbolizes:
  • 6.4 Million pounds of donated product
  • $8 Million in shipping costs
  • 40 Million items
  • $80 Million worth of product shipped since the organization started in 2003.
Yet the real significance of all those numbers, Blashek said, is that they represent the enormous generosity of the American people, individually and through businesses.

"The reason we celebrate this package is first to recognize the more than two million  brave warriors who have deployed over the last 10 years," she said.  In addition, we acknowledge "the hundreds of incredibly generous Corporate Sponsors who ensure we can fill the packages and the thousands and thousands of supporters who donate funds, letters, scarves, Beanie Babies and all the other items that go into our packages."

Finally, Blashek noted that the tally also highlights the extraordinary dedication  of more than 14,000 local volunteers who have given tens of thousands of hours of their time to collect, receive, log in, sort, inspect, organize, prepare and assemble the donated product into these "Thank You" care packages. 

"No other organization in history has sent this many packages personally addressed to individual service members," she exclaimed.

According to James and Templeton, the Chopper, which will be built this summer, will have a Rolling Thunder frame, an S&S 100ci polished EPA engine, a custom Torque paint job and a primary cover with five authentic U.S. Military coins (representing the 5 Military branches) embedded on it. "The designs on the rear fender will pay tribute to the wonderful volunteers of Operation Gratitude and to the U.S. troops of the past, present and future," James said.

To commemorate the surprise Milestone day, each volunteer received a special "March to a Million" dogtag that reads: "I am a part of Operation Gratitude History." The limited-edition dog-tags will be available to all donors of at least $15 (the cost to assemble and ship one care package) from July 1 through October 31, 2012 and then again during special designated months in 2013.

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About Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in harm's way, to their children left behind, to Military families and Veterans in financial distress due to unemployment, to Emergency First Responders and to Wounded Warriors recuperating in transition units. The organization's mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member's face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people. Each package contains donated product valued at ~$125 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. For safety and security, assembling of packages occurs at the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, California. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 800,000 packages to American Military members and their children.

 
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