Illinois General Assembly - Full Text of HB0035
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Full Text of HB0035  102nd General Assembly




State of Illinois
2021 and 2022


Introduced 1/14/2021, by Rep. Joyce Mason


New Act

    Creates the Veterans Bill of Rights Act. Requires the Department of Veterans' Affairs to make specified efforts to: (1) increase loans to small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans or service-disabled veterans; (2) increase veterans' access to health care coverage and services; (3) take specified steps toward preventing veteran suicide; and (4) develop and implement a strategy to end veteran homelessness within 3 years. Directs the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to review all State licenses for which military service members may have relevant training or experience, produce a report recommending steps that can be taken to increase recognition of military training and experience toward licensing, and take those steps within one year of issuing the report. Contains provisions regarding veterans at public institutions of higher education receiving college credit, registering for courses, and being called to active duty. Requires the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to annually review apprentice, training, and other vocational programs focused on providing job training and placement to returning military service members and veterans. Contains other provisions.

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1    AN ACT concerning veterans.
2    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
3represented in the General Assembly:
4    Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the
5Veterans Bill of Rights Act.
6    Section 5. Definitions. In this Act:
7    "Department" means the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
8    "EMS personnel" has the same meaning provided in Section
93.5 of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act.
10    "Public institution of higher education" has the same
11meaning provided in Section 10 of the Illinois Prepaid Tuition
13    Section 10. Loans to veteran business concerns; monthly
15    (a) The Department may target any loans granted by the
16Department toward small business concerns owned and controlled
17by veterans or service-disabled veterans, with a goal of 7% of
18annual loaned funds reaching such businesses.
19    (b) The Department shall produce monthly electronic
20reports of workforce need projections by industry, job type,
21geography, and credentials needed. The report shall include a
22comparison of workforce needs to existing and projected



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1workforce and credential availability in Illinois, a list of
2top in-demand industries, job types, and credentials by
3geographic area, and a mapping of which in-demand job titles
4and credentials would leverage skills, experience, and
5credentials possessed by veterans. The Department shall
6forward the report monthly to appropriate military
7out-placement offices, education centers, nonprofit programs,
8and any State agencies working to connect veterans with jobs.
9    Section 15. Recognition of military training and
11    (a) The Department shall take all necessary steps to
12annually increase the number of veterans taking advantage of
13the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Military
14Skills Test Waiver Program. These steps shall include, but are
15not limited to, ensuring information on the Program is
16accessible on the Department's website, coordinating with
17military placement and training programs, including, but not
18limited to, the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program,
19and disseminating information on the Program to veterans with
20relevant experience who are newly located or locating in
22    (b) The Department of Public Health shall immediately
23review all licensing practices and take all necessary and
24appropriate steps to increase recognition of military training
25and experience toward licensing of EMS personnel. Within one



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1year after the effective date of this Act, the Department of
2Public Health shall report to the General Assembly any
3additional steps that may require legislation and request that
4the General Assembly pass that legislation.
5    (c) The Department of Financial and Professional
6Regulation shall review all State licenses for which military
7service members may have relevant training or experience and,
8within one year after the effective date of this Act, produce a
9report recommending steps that can be taken to increase
10recognition of military training and experience toward
11licensing. As soon as practicable, but by no later than one
12year after issuance of the report, the Department of Financial
13and Professional Regulation shall then take any steps
14identified in the report that can be taken without further
15legislation and shall report to the General Assembly annually
16to request it enact any necessary legislation.
17    Section 20. College credit; course registration; students
18called to active duty.
19    (a) A veteran who enrolls as a student in good standing at
20a public institution of higher education shall upon
21application be granted academic credits without limitation
22toward his or her degree for completion of courses that were
23part of the veteran's military training or service if the
24completed courses meet the standards of the American Council
25on Education, or its equivalent, for the awarding of academic



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1credits. No fee, tuition, or other charge shall be assessed
2against a veteran who qualifies for academic credit under this
4    (b) A public institution of higher education that offers
5an early course registration period for any segment of the
6student population shall have a process in place to offer
7early course registration to students who are veterans or
8National Guard members. A veteran with no previous college
9experience shall be permitted to file applications up to the
10end of registration and begin classes pending completion of
11his or her application and provision of supporting documents.
12    (c) A student who is called to active duty in the armed
13forces of the United States after having attended a public
14institution of higher education regularly for 13 weeks or
15more, or having completed 85% of the term's work through
16acceleration, shall be given full credit for each course in
17which he or she has a grade of C or better. A student called to
18active duty who does not meet attendance requirements
19sufficient to earn a grade shall be entitled to a 100% refund
20of tuition and fees. Upon a veteran's return from active duty,
21he or she may register after normal registration periods end
22without late fees or other penalties.
23    (d) A public institution of higher education shall adopt
24any and all procedures that are necessary to fully implement
25this Section.



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1    Section 25. Training programs. The Department of Commerce
2and Economic Opportunity shall annually review apprentice,
3training, and other vocational programs focused on providing
4job training and placement to returning military service
5members and veterans. The annual review shall evaluate the
6costs and results and recommend programs for expansion using
7State funding, including, but not limited to, an estimate of
8future returns to the State of improved outcomes from the
9expansion of programs. The Department of Commerce and Economic
10Opportunity shall provide an annual report to the General
11Assembly and Governor on January 1 of each year for 5 years
12after the effective date of this Act, to be used by the General
13Assembly to inform annual budget decisions.
14    Section 30. Access to health care.
15    (a) The Department shall develop and operate veteran
16health navigator services to increase access to health care
17coverage and services. The Department shall identify, train,
18and deploy veteran health navigators who have direct knowledge
19of the veteran communities they serve. Leveraging existing
20resources and structures where veterans and their families are
21likely to be found, the veteran health navigators shall:
22        (1) help identify all federal and other health
23    benefits, coverage, and services available to veterans and
24    their families; and
25        (2) coordinate with relevant departments, health care



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1    providers, and health insurance programs to help veterans
2    and their beneficiaries apply for coverage under such
3    programs, including helping veterans overcome barriers
4    within the health care system to ensure enrollment in
5    health plans and effective delivery and coordination of
6    health services.
7    (b) Using the veteran health services and navigators
8described in subsection (a) as a source of information about
9the unique needs, coverage, and treatment gaps faced by
10veterans and their families, the Department shall examine all
11existing programs designed to increase access to affordable,
12quality health care and evaluate whether the needs of veterans
13and their families are met by those programs or whether
14further coordination with the veteran health navigators or
15other steps would better meet the needs of veterans and their
16families. The Department shall then produce a report of its
17findings, recommendations, and any additional legislative or
18budget action it recommends, deliver that report to the
19General Assembly and the Governor, and release it to the news
21    (c) The Department shall prepare a report showing the
22impacts that Medicaid expansion has had to date for the
23community of veterans and their families in Illinois,
24including any recommendations for better including or serving
25veterans and their families in that expansion. The Department
26shall deliver that report to the General Assembly and the



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1Governor and release it to the news media.
2    Section 35. Suicide prevention.
3    (a) The Department shall ensure that access to mental
4health coverage, services, and treatment is included as a full
5focus stream of the veteran health navigator services
6described in subsection (a) of Section 30, and that veteran
7health navigators help identify all federal and other mental
8health benefits, coverage, and services available to veterans
9and their families, including, but not limited to, those
10relating to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and
11suicide prevention.
12    (b) In coordination with local, State, and federal
13governmental agencies, and in consultation with nonprofits,
14the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, localities,
15municipalities that have effective prevention and treatment
16systems for mental health, and service providers such as
17Veterans Affairs medical centers, the Department shall develop
18and implement a strategy to reduce barriers to access to
19mental health services and treatment for veterans and their
20families. The Department shall develop the strategy using
21methods including, but not limited to, the following:
22        (1) Identifying structural and logistical barriers to
23    accessing treatment, including, but not limited to,
24    perceived stigma, long travel distances to receive care,
25    and any other barriers. The Department shall create an



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1    annual report on the barriers, which shall be delivered to
2    the General Assembly and the Governor and made available
3    on the Department's website.
4        (2) Resolving all barriers identified in paragraph (1)
5    that can be resolved without legislative or budgetary
6    action, including, but not limited to, the following:
7            (A) increased coordination between State agencies,
8        nonprofit providers, and the federal government;
9            (B) application for and use of private and federal
10        grants; and
11            (C) any other actions.
12        (3) Reporting annually to the General Assembly and the
13    Governor and making available on the Department's website
14    any additional legislative or budgetary steps that would
15    resolve the barriers identified in paragraph (1) that have
16    not been resolved by the steps taken in paragraph (2).
17    (c) In coordination with local, State, and federal
18governmental agencies, and in consultation with nonprofits,
19the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, localities, cities
20that have effective prevention and treatment systems for
21mental health, and service providers such as Veterans Affairs
22medical centers, the Department shall enhance and strengthen
23suicide prevention programs in keeping with proven best
24practices and research, using methods including, but not
25limited to, the following:
26        (1) Identifying and applying for federal and private



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1    grants focused on veteran suicide prevention.
2        (2) Coordinating local, State, federal, and nonprofit
3    programs that include community-based approaches for
4    at-risk veterans and veterans at large.
5        (3) Providing technical assistance to communities to
6    develop strategic plans to reduce veteran suicide,
7    including, but not limited to, coordination and
8    participation by local leaders, faith communities,
9    schools, workplaces, and other stakeholders.
10        (4) Evaluating community strategic plans within
11    Illinois and disseminating methods and best practices to
12    optimize the impact of efforts by all partners and
13    stakeholders.
14    (d) The Department shall create a centralized provider
15database, identifying, by region, mental health providers with
16the expertise and ability to assist veterans and their
17families. The database shall highlight providers with training
18or experience in the prevention and treatment of veteran
20    (e) Using existing resources, and incorporating best
21practices and research from the U.S. Department of Veterans
22Affairs and State and nonprofit service providers in Illinois,
23the Department shall develop a continuing education course for
24mental health providers in Illinois to obtain expertise in
25veteran suicide assessment, prevention, treatment, and risk
26management and shall make the program available for free to



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1providers in regions of the State lacking sufficiently trained
2providers, as determined by the database created under
3subsection (d).
4    (f) Using existing or appropriated resources, the
5Department shall identify evidence-based best practices to
6increase awareness of any veteran suicide prevention hotline
7and other crisis resources in Illinois or nationally with
8proven effectiveness in reducing veteran suicide.
9    Section 40. Strategy for ending veteran homelessness.
10    (a) In coordination with local, State, and federal
11governmental agencies and nonprofits, and in consultation with
12states and municipalities that have achieved an end to veteran
13homelessness, the Department shall develop and implement a
14strategy to end veteran homelessness within 3 years. The
15strategy shall include, but is not limited to, the following:
16        (1) Coordinated community outreach and a common
17    assessment tool.
18        (2) A community-wide, comprehensive list of veterans
19    by name who are experiencing homelessness, prioritized
20    based on vulnerability.
21        (3) Data-sharing among all relevant providers, State
22    agencies, and Veterans Affairs medical centers.
23        (4) Increased coordination and streamlined processes
24    for appropriate housing placements.
25        (5) Connecting veterans experiencing homelessness to



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1    health, mental health, employment, and training resources
2    through the services described in this Act.
3        (6) A commitment to housing first principles, as
4    propounded by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
5        (7) Identification of and application for funding, as
6    needed, from private and foundation sources and other
7    partners.
8    (b) In this Section, "end veteran homelessness" means an
9outcome meeting the criteria identified and most recently
10released by the United States Interagency Council on