SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today introduced his fiscal year 2005 budget proposal that will help the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs better achieve its’ mission to assist veterans, their dependents and their survivors. The Department of Veterans Affairs is aggressively pursuing new ways to streamline administration and improve accessibility to services to meet the Governor’s initiative to reform state government.
The introduced budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs is $80.5 million, up from $79 million in FY 2004. The increase reflects sufficient funding and 69 new staff positions to assume operations at the Anna Veterans Home after more than a decade of privatization.
“The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs FY05 introduced budget will allow us to fulfill our mission of providing the highest quality of care and service to the veterans of the state,” said Director Roy L. Dolgos. “We remain firm in our commitment to our veterans for these are the men and women who honorably served and continue to serve this country during times of war and other crises.”
The goal of Illinois’ veterans homes is to rehabilitate each resident to the maximum attainable level of independence by utilizing all necessary governmental and community services and therapies and to provide a comfortable, safe and sanitary living environment conducive to personal happiness. The department strives to make psychosocial and cultural activities available to foster dignity and self-respect, with each of these goals carried out at all four of its homes. The Anna Veterans Home joins the three other state-operated veterans homes around Illinois, including those homes in Quincy, Manteno and LaSalle. Providing nursing and domiciliary care to eligible veterans with a combined total of more than 1,200 beds the department also strives to provide certain types of specialized care, with the Manteno Veterans Home housing a 38-bed Alzheimer treatment unit. The Department re-opened this renovated unit after it had been closed for two years. The Department of Veterans Affairs will research in 2005 the establishment of a fifth veteran’s home, located in the City of Chicago. Research shows almost 600,000 of the state’s 900,000 veterans live in and around Chicago.
To lower the cost of prescription drugs for more than one-thousand residents of the state’s existing veterans homes, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing to enter into a contract with its’ federal counterpart. The agreement with the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs will open the door for savings by allowing the state to purchase prescription drugs for residents of Illinois veterans homes at federally discounted prices.
The Department of Veterans Affairs also streamlined operations while maintaining the quality ofits care and services. By consolidating Medicare billing from all four veterans’ homes, the department increased accountability and gained the ability to maximize reimbursement. The renewed accreditation of field service officers will allow the department to increase efficiency with its’ clients by managing claims from beginning to end, while continuing to improve accessibility to services through consolidating and relocating field service offices and requiring field officers to travel to veterans needing care instead of requiring veterans to travel to them. Past need for third party involvement in filing and adjudicating claims has also been removed through the department’s accreditation with the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
“These reforms will provide Illinois veterans better access to services,” said Director Dolgos. “Our accredited and mobile field officers will deliver vital information related to compensation, education, pensions, insurance and counseling directly into veterans’ communities.”
The Department’s FY 2005 budget also includes funding for several grant programs such as the POW/MIA scholarship, educational grants for qualified dependents of veterans who died or became totally disabled during certain conflicts, reimbursement for government markers and bonus payments to those involved in certain conflicts.