Deletes everything after the enacting clause. Creates the Veterans' Home Nurses' Loan Repayment Act. Requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to establish a program to award grants of up to $5,000 per year to nurses who commit to working in veterans' homes in Illinois. Sets forth requirements for the program. Amends the Department of Veterans Affairs Act to establish a post-traumatic stress disorder outpatient counseling program and sets forth requirements for the program. Requires the Department to create a list of honorably discharged veterans who are interested in working on a volunteer basis on projects that restore Illinois' natural habitat. Amends the Property Tax Code. Creates a homestead exemption for disabled veterans. Sets forth the amount of the exemption based on the percentage of service-connected disability of the veteran. Provides that the exemption carries over to the benefit of the veteran's surviving spouse. Contains other provisions. Effective immediately.
Senate Floor Amendment No. 2 In the Veterans' Home Nurses' Loan Repayment Act, requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to require (instead of encourage) grant recipients to use the grant to repay educational loans. Makes a technical correction in an introductory clause.
Provides that a grant under the Veterans' Home Nurses' Loan Repayment Act may not exceed $5,000 per recipient per year (instead of $5,000 per year), and makes other changes concerning grants under the Act. Provides that for each year during which an individual receives a grant under the Act, he or she must fulfill a separate 12-month period as a nurse in a State veterans' home (instead of providing that a grant recipient must fulfill such a separate 12-month period for each grant that he or she is awarded). Deletes all provisions amending the Property Tax Code.
House Floor Amendment No. 2 Provides that contracts entered into by the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs in connection with the post-traumatic stress disorder outpatient counseling program must be with individuals and entities pre-approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and must be for the provision of services pre-approved by that Department.
According to the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, the agency anticipates a total direct care headcount for FY 08 of 244 employees. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission does not have information regarding the amount of unpaid educational loans owned by these employees. At maximum, if each of these employees were eligible for the maximum annual grant under the program (i.e., $5,000 per employee), then fully funding the program would cost $1.22 million in FY 08. Several factors suggest that full funding of the program will cost significantly less than the $1.22 million maximum. For instance, the bill does not include language requiring that each eligible applicant receive a full award. Furthermore, not every employee will necessarily have outstanding educational loan debt of $5,000 or more. (For example, licensed practical nurses who attended two-year programs may have significantly less than $5,000 in student loan debt).
Fiscal Note, House Committee Amendment No. 1 (Dept. of Veterans Affairs)
The Department of Veterans' Affairs has included in the FY08 budget request 244 Registered Nurse and Licensed Practical Nurse positions for operation of the Veterans' Homes. At a maximum is all 244 budgeted direct care staff were eligible for the $5,000 grant, $1,200,000 would be necessary to fund the Nurse Loan Repayment Program for FY08. Key budget initiatives of the agency include increased headcount and funding to sustain a census of 95 percent of bed capacity at each veterans' home by the end of fiscal year 2009 as well as to staff and fund the 80-bed expansion at the Illinois Veterans' Home in LaSalle. The agency struggles to compete with private industry employers who offer sign-on bonuses for nurses. The nationwide nursing shortage also presents a challenge to the agency to fill direct care positions to provide the mandated minimum hours of care for the residents of our veterans' homes. In order to provide long-term care for our deserving veterans, the agency must recruit and retain direct care staff.