- Published: Tuesday, March 07, 2017 02:09 PM
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has started tackling obstacles found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.
Cullerton advanced Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.
“We need to get to the cause of veteran suicide,” Cullerton said. “The only way to tackle the problem is to have a complete picture. This is a simple way to collect statistics and honor Illinois’ veterans.”
The idea was suggested by DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgenson, who indicated that veteran suicide was under reported since Illinois death certificates do not include information on the history of U.S. military service.
“These are our nation’s heroes. They took care of us, now it is our time to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”
Cullerton also advanced Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans.
Under current law, the DVA isn’t required to provide information or resources on how a veteran might obtain a service animal.
“The DVA should be a one-stop shop for our veterans,” Cullerton said. “There is a stigma within the veterans’ community on receiving traditional treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We haven’t been able to explore the effects of using service dogs as alternative treatments since there is a lack of awareness in the veterans’ community.”
Cullerton hopes this small step will help make service dogs readily available to veterans to cope with PTSD. There is a high demand from returning veterans for service dogs as alternative treatment. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.
“Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could one of the keys to ending the veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.
Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs with bipartisan support.