Illinois Dept. of Veterans' Affairs Newsletter                      May 2014

From the Director  


The last week has seen major developments in veteran support, both at the national and the state levels. 


At the national level, you've likely heard the news that Secretary Erick Shinseki stepped down on Friday, May 30 as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs.  As the VA moves forward under new leadership in addressing the unacceptable situation in its healthcare system, the men and women of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs - many of whom are veterans themselves - remain committed to helping our state's nearly 800,000 veterans and their families.   We look forward to working with Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson and others to help the VA restore the trust and confidence with our veterans.


At the state level, you may have heard that the General Assembly closed out its legislative session last week, passing on the last day a Fiscal Year 2015 budget. While the budget bills passed last week don't fully fund the Governor's FY15 budget request for IDVA, we are actively working through how to manage this budget - even as we fully expect the General Assembly's reconvening later in the fiscal year to identify a better revenue solution. We have no current plans to close facilities or conduct layoffs.  Veterans are of the highest priority to Governor Quinn, and he has directed us to manage this budget to protect critical veteran services as we await further action by the General Assembly later in the year.


In the meantime, all of us at IDVA continue to press forward in ensuring the veterans we serve continue to receive the support and assistance they need.  We are here, on duty, and focused on serving those who have served.  


Please visit our website or follow us on facebook and / or twitter to keep up-to-date on news and information about what's happening in the veteran community of Illinois.  To connect directly with one of our Veteran Service Officers and learn more about the resources available to you, simply Stand Up And Be Counted or call 800-437-9824.  We look forward to hearing from and serving you!




Erica Borggren

Director, IDVA

Gov. Quinn and Dir. Borggren 

Honor Fallen And Salute Veterans 

Over Memorial Day Weekend


Governor Quinn and Director Borggren traveled the State for a series of events over the Memorial Day weekend, honoring our Illinois fallen, as well saluting and supporting our veterans, military personnel and their families.   


On Saturday, Governor Quinn unveiled the "Portrait of a Soldier" memorial exhibit at the O'Hare Oasis and announced the summer exhibit schedule at the Tollway Oases in northern Illinois.  


The exhibit features a series of hand-drawn portraits of nearly all of the men and women who have died while serving our country since Sept. 11, 2001.


As part of his agenda to support our veterans in honor of Memorial Day, Governor Quinn visited cities across Illinois to discuss his Welcome Home Heroes program. As part of this program, veterans and their families can take advantage of the $10,000 in cash down-payment assistance that is available. Visiting Rockford, Chicago, Rock Island and Decatur, the Governor and Director Borggren met with and engaged veterans and their families, encouraging them to take advantage of this unique and impactful program.  For more information on this home loan program, visit  


On Memorial Day itself, after marching in the annual Park Ridge Memorial Day Parade, the Governor brought Challenger - a 26-year-old Bald Eagle - to U.S. Cellular Field to soar over the stadium during the singing of the National Anthem.  

Illinois Veteran Grant and the 

Illinois National Guard Grant Program 


Recent media reports have caused some confusion regarding the continuing availability of veteran education benefits through the Illinois Veterans' Grant (IVG) and the Illinois National Guard Grant (ING) program at Illinois community colleges.  Those reports have centered on the fact that the General Assembly has not funded IVG and ING in recent years.  We at IDVA have heard from many veterans who are worried about losing their IVG benefit.


Veterans should rest assured, though, that IVG and ING are mandated entitlement programs and will continue to be awarded to eligible service members and veterans.  Indeed, Illinois' public universities and community colleges have continued to waive tuition for IVG and ING-eligible veterans over the last several years, even absent IVG and ING funding.


To clarify the situation and provide you with some helpful information that you can use to assist veterans and their families, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has created several new FAQs - available here - that will be helpful in talking with veterans and service providers to correct any misperceptions. 


Please feel free to share this information with partner organizations that work with student veterans, and with anyone else for whom the information would be useful. If there are any questions related to the availability of this important benefit, please contact ISAC at:



Students and Parents:        800.899.4722

Schools and Counselors:    866.247.2172

IJF logo

Illinois Joining Forces: 

"No Wrong Door" for Veterans 


Illinois Joining Forces continues to build momentum and is now helping a growing number of service members and veterans across the state through the IJF website.  In fact, the IJF site now sees more than 550 visitors per week and fields multiple referrals for veteran support each day.  


IJF is reaching out to other organizations - non-profits, service agencies and local, municipal and county agencies that are not veteran organizations but happen to serve veterans, and their families - with information on how they can learn about military culture and help their veteran clients find the veteran-specific resources they need via the IJF network and website.  If you know of an organization that would benefit from this outreach, please let us know at    


For more information about Illinois Joining Forces or become an IJF member organization, please visit the IJF website.

Veteran of the Month - May 2014

Chindavanh Keomuongchanh


The Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs (IDVA) recognized Chindavanh Keomuongchanh as the Illinois Veteran of the Month at a ceremony at the Elgin Veterans Memorial Park, on Wednesday, May 28by Erica Borggren, Director, IDVA.  She presented him the award on behalf of Governor Pat Quinn, which includes a framed proclamation as well as a State Flag. 

Photo courtesy Dr. Theresa Mah

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Keomuongchanh and his family fled Laos and arrived in Illinois, where he completed high school.  Enlisting in the U.S. Navy, he completed a 30-year career, including 8 major deployments, culminating with his retirement as a Petty Officer 1st Class in logistics.  After leaving the Navy, he continued to serve through a wide variety of roles, organizational memberships, and community activities, including by spearheading an extensive advocacy effort to gain recognition for the Laotian veterans who fought alongside U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War.

His efforts helped inspire state and local lawmakers to proclaim July 19 as Lao American Veterans Day in Illinois.  He has also been very active in Elgin and in the Laotian-American community, including serving on the Board of Directors as a Civic Engagement Program Director for the Lao American Organization of Elgin and helping launch a number of community health projects to increase awareness and promote prevention strategies for cancer, hepatitis, and other ailments. 


Veteran of the Month - June 2014

Herschel Luckinbill


The IDVA will recognize Herschel Luckinbill as the Illinois Veteran of the Month for June 2014 on Monday, June 23, at 2 p.m., at the Fox Valley Community Center, 101 West Illinois Ave, Aurora, IL 60506. For more information, please contact  Victor Enriquez at or 312.814.7204. 


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 the IDVA website and learn more!

Your IDVA Calendar  


May 31      Illinois General Assembly Adjourned

June 3       "Roll Call" Networking Event  -  Downer's Grove, IL


June 5       Hiring Our Heroes Hiring Fair - Peoria, IL


June 6       70th D-Day Remembrance Ceremony - Noon, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield


June 7        70th D-Day Remembrance Ceremony - 1st Infantry Museum - Wheaton, IL


June 13     US Army Birthday Celebration Event - Daley Plaza, Chicago, IL


June 14     Flag Day and Army Birthday 


June 23     June Veteran of the Month Ceremony - Aurora, IL


July 4         Independence DayState Offices Closed 


July 11       Hiring Our Heroes Hiring Fair - Springfield, IL 


 Events Subject to Change

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