Illinois General Assembly - Full Text of HB4903
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Full Text of HB4903  101st General Assembly




State of Illinois
2019 and 2020


Introduced 2/18/2020, 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 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
7members may have relevant training or experience and, within
8one year after the effective date of this Act, produce a report
9recommending steps that can be taken to increase recognition of
10military training and experience toward licensing. As soon as
11practicable, but by no later than one year after issuance of
12the report, the Department of Financial and Professional
13Regulation shall then take any steps identified in the report
14that can be taken without further legislation and shall report
15to the General Assembly annually to request it enact any
16necessary 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 application
21be granted academic credits without limitation toward his or
22her degree for completion of courses that were part of the
23veteran's military training or service if the completed courses
24meet the standards of the American Council on Education, or its
25equivalent, for the awarding of academic credits. No fee,



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



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



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1    and their beneficiaries apply for coverage under such
2    programs, including helping veterans overcome barriers
3    within the health care system to ensure enrollment in
4    health plans and effective delivery and coordination of
5    health services.
6    (b) Using the veteran health services and navigators
7described in subsection (a) as a source of information about
8the unique needs, coverage, and treatment gaps faced by
9veterans and their families, the Department shall examine all
10existing programs designed to increase access to affordable,
11quality health care and evaluate whether the needs of veterans
12and their families are met by those programs or whether further
13coordination with the veteran health navigators or other steps
14would better meet the needs of veterans and their families. The
15Department shall then produce a report of its findings,
16recommendations, and any additional legislative or budget
17action it recommends, deliver that report to the General
18Assembly and the Governor, and release it to the news media.
19    (c) The Department shall prepare a report showing the
20impacts that Medicaid expansion has had to date for the
21community of veterans and their families in Illinois, including
22any recommendations for better including or serving veterans
23and their families in that expansion. The Department shall
24deliver that report to the General Assembly and the Governor
25and release it to the news media.



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



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



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1    programs that include community-based approaches for
2    at-risk veterans and veterans at large.
3        (3) Providing technical assistance to communities to
4    develop strategic plans to reduce veteran suicide,
5    including, but not limited to, coordination and
6    participation by local leaders, faith communities,
7    schools, workplaces, and other stakeholders.
8        (4) Evaluating community strategic plans within
9    Illinois and disseminating methods and best practices to
10    optimize the impact of efforts by all partners and
11    stakeholders.
12    (d) The Department shall create a centralized provider
13database, identifying, by region, mental health providers with
14the expertise and ability to assist veterans and their
15families. The database shall highlight providers with training
16or experience in the prevention and treatment of veteran
18    (e) Using existing resources, and incorporating best
19practices and research from the U.S. Department of Veterans
20Affairs and State and nonprofit service providers in Illinois,
21the Department shall develop a continuing education course for
22mental health providers in Illinois to obtain expertise in
23veteran suicide assessment, prevention, treatment, and risk
24management and shall make the program available for free to
25providers in regions of the State lacking sufficiently trained
26providers, as determined by the database created under



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



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