Eye On Illinois: State set to study veterans services – if money is … – Shaw Local

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“Subject to sufficient appropriations.”

That’s a phrase too often overlooked in context of state government operations, and it comes up quite prominently in today’s quick hit on laws taking effect Jan. 1.

The focus is House Bill 2991, an amendment to the Department of Veterans Affairs Act. State Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Chicago, introduced the bill in February 2021. The House passed it 82-20 in March 2022, the Senate voted 54-0 later that month and the governor signed it May 13.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

Under the new law, the department will hire a market research firm to study field services for veterans in Illinois. The focus will “include the availability of veterans assistance commissions, veterans service organizations and department staff to assist veterans as well as the availability of nontraditional methods to deliver services through technology-based approaches.”

The study can include census figures along with surveys and public meetings to gather input from veterans, family members and other stakeholders and is intended to yield a report to the General Assembly and governor outlining recommendations for future service delivery. In other words: How do we better serve the veteran population and what will that cost?

Lawmakers have established a track record that commissioning a study or creating a task force is no guarantee of action, whether the subject be legislative ethics, qualified immunity or countless other topics. This legislation takes the uncertainty a step further by creating only the framework for such a study and tasking the incoming General Assembly with paying the bill.

The provisions HB 2991 puts in place on Jan. 1 will be repealed Dec. 31. If lawmakers do make sufficient appropriations, that starts the 18-month deadline for the report. Otherwise, making the study reality probably requires another round of legislation.

More than once this column has touched on the ways the state has failed its veteran population, either at large or through facility-specific outbreaks, as in Quincy and La Salle. Taking one step toward a professional study on solutions seems the literal least lawmakers could do, so this is definitely a topic worth following as the budget begins to take shape next spring.

Although hiring a third party here is an example of spending money to learn how to spend more money, caring properly for veterans is both politically popular and morally correct. Hopefully 2023 will bring information about how people can participate in this important process.

ON THIS DAY: Some 105 years ago, Eugene Peter Jeljenic was born in Christopher, almost a month after 17 people died in a coal mine explosion in the Franklin County town roughly 20 miles northeast of Carbondale. Jeljenic is better known as Gene Rayburn, the actor and longtime “Match Game” host who died in 1999.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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December 22, 2022 at 11:23AM

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