Tom Cullerton passes measures to help combat veterans' suicide epidemic
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has advanced plans to tackle issues found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.
Cullerton passed 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 root of veteran suicide epidemic," Cullerton said. "We can only tackle this problem after we have a complete picture of cause of this problem. 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.
"Our veterans are our community's heroes. Illinois' military members and veterans put their life on the line every day, now is the time for us to take care of them," Cullerton said. "Every life we save is priceless."
Cullerton also passed 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 using 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. Among who have used or are aware of service dogs there is a high demand. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.
"Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could be the key to ending the veteran suicide epidemic," Cullerton said.
Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now move to the House for consideration.