Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Newsletter           June 2013
National PTSD Awareness Month

Key Agreement Between IDVA and VA Regional Office

A significant agreement between the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs (IDVA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs Regional Office Chicago (VARO-Chicago) was signed on Thursday, May 30, 2013. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines six major areas of cooperation, to include information sharing and access which will streamline and improve the claims process for Illinois veterans. 


Erica Borggren, Director, IDVA and Duane Honeycutt, Director, VARO-Chicago signed the MOU at the VARO-Chicago offices with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in attendance.


"This is a great step forward for our veterans and family members who are seeking benefits," said Erica Borggren, Director, IDVA. "The MOU is a major step in formalizing and growing the great collaboration between our agencies.  We welcome and appreciate Director Honeycutt's leadership and vision in making this a reality."


The six main areas of increased cooperation in the MOU: 

  • Maximize use of the VA's Fully Developed Claims process, which should result in veterans receiving claims decisions more quickly.
  • Use of VA's Stakeholder Enterprise Portal, allowing IDVA better access to assist veterans; coordinate services and programs with VARO-Chicago.
  • Provide feedback on Veteran Service Officers and programs performance in order to sustain or improve delivery of veteran benefits.
  • Improve information technology connectivity between IDVA and VARO-Chicago.
  • Improve advocacy and data sharing about veteran employment, homelessness, access to health care and mental health services, education programs, and women veteran issues.
  • Pursue locations outside the Chicago metro area for Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) hearing, to reduce veteran travel to Chicago for BVA actions and hearings. 


This MOU formalizes agreements and will help expedite claims from Illinois Veterans.  Over 34,000 veterans' claims were submitted in the current fiscal year to VARO-Chicago by IDVA.  We hope to help more veterans receive their hard-earned benefits in the future.  


GPQ Homes For Heroes
Gov. Quinn Pledges $5 Million 
to Help Veterans Afford Homes
Over the 2013 Memorial Day weekend, Governor Pat Quinn announced the investment of an additional $5 million in state capital funds to increase affordable home ownership opportunities under the  Welcome Home Heroes program. The initiative is part of his commitment to help Illinois' military families transition to civilian life, and to strengthen and stabilize communities by making home ownership more affordable.
The program features a 30-year fixed-rate loan (currently 4.25 percent), $10,000 forgivable grant toward the purchase of a new home, as well as a mortgage tax credit worth up to $20,000 over the life of the loan. As the state housing finance agency, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) administers the program through its approved lenders. A list of lenders is available at www.ihda.orgFor more information about other programs available to help Illinois veterans and service members, visit


CyberVet :
An IDVA Success Story... 
                         In Progress
Every day across the state, IDVA Veteran Service Officers work with veterans to prepare and submit VA benefit claims.  Until this spring, this involved a long and laborious process, because the software our VSOs used was not meeting the need. It was slow, balky and had programming bugs. 

Enter Chris Pence, one of the great folks in the IDVA IT department. Working with VSOs and others, she developed, tested and deployed a complex yet easy-to-use software program named CyberVet, which was fielded earlier this year.  CyberVet digitizes the claims application process and helps VSOs organize, file and track veterans' claims and correspondence within IDVA.  The program will also eventually lead to direct connectivity with the new VA electronic claims processing system.   


Congrats to Chris for her hard work and diligence on the CyberVet project.  With this important new tool, our VSO's are better assisting Illinois Veterans, as well as helping the VA develop a national, fully electronic claims system.  

Veteran of the Month - June 2013
         Petty Officer 1st Class Lisabeth Risley, US Navy (ret.)  


Petty Officer 1st Class Lisabeth Risley, a third-generation veteran, has been selected as the Illinois Veteran of the Month for June 2013.  She will be honored at a ceremony at the Lake County Veterans' Assistance Commission, 20 S. Martin Luther King Avenue, Waukegan, IL on Monday, June 17, 2013 at 2 p.m.


Ms. Risley enlisted in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman in 1980 and her initial service included an assignment to the Naval Hospital, Guam.  Leaving active duty in 1984, she returned to northeastern Illinois joined the Navy Reserves until being recalled to active duty in support of Desert Shield/Storm.  She left active duty shortly thereafter with a 100% disability rating and a commitment to help her fellow vets.   She supported the Lake County Veterans Commission representing the Fleet Reserve Association, answering calls and veteran queries and helping with VA benefit topics.  She served as the Chaplain of her American Legion Post, as a Legion Rider with her husband Steve in support of welcome home events and honors at veteran's funerals. She also assisted the in awarding grants to indigent veterans with children, and over $12,000 in assistance to Lake County veterans from the American Legion.  As a female veteran, Risley has been a strong advocate as the female representative to two committees at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center near Great Lakes, providing key feedback and perspectives on service, access and policies.

About Veteran of the Month

The Illinois Veteran of the Month Award is presented to veterans who continue to serve their communities after leaving the military and make a real difference in the lives of others. To nominate a veteran for consideration, please visit
Your IDVA Calendar  



June 14       Flag Day / Army Birthday  


June 14      "Soldier for Life" - Army Birthday   Union League Club Chicago IL


June 14       DAV State Convention - Springfield, Illinois


June 14       VFW State Convention  - Springfield, Illinois   


                   Lake County VAC, 20 S. Martin Luther King Avenue, Waukegan  IL  2 p.m.


June 27       Hiring our Heroes Hiring Fair - Colinsville IL


July  4         Independence Day - State Offices & VSO Offices closed.  

                                                    Please call (800) 437-9824 for assistance.      


July 12        American Legion State Convention - Springfield, Illinois 


Aug 11        Veterans' Day at the Illinois State Fair - Springfield, Illinois


June is National PTSD Awareness Month 



Why take time to learn about PTSD? Because taking the step to help someone you care about -- whether your friend, your spouse, or even yourself  -- starts with knowing the basics. No matter how much you already know about PTSD, there is always more to learn. 


Step forward. Make a Difference.


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