Illinois Veterans’ Benefits

The federal government has many different programs set up to provide veterans with financial assistance. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) handles disability compensation for service members who sustain or develop service-connected conditions. 

In an effort to supplement these benefits, state governments also often offer a variety of programs to help veterans recover and reintegrate into society. Illinois helps residents with housing, employment, recreation, education, and other financial difficulties they may face upon returning to their home state. 

Illinois Veteran Financial Benefits

Illinois Military Tax Exemptions

All military pay in a service member’s federal adjusted gross income can be subtracted from their Illinois gross income. This includes pay for military duty (including basic training), pay for duty as a cadet in ROTC or the academy, and pay for duty in the National Guard (of any state) or Reserves. However, Illinois does not allow service members to subtract military income that was not included in their adjusted gross income or pay received from the Voluntary Separation Incentive.

Additionally, Illinois does not tax military retirement pay or government disability plans. These benefits, often received as a pension, annuity, or similar allowance, shouldn’t be included in taxable income. Non-taxable benefits for 2021 are outlined in IRS Publication 525.

Illinois Veteran Housing Benefits

Illinois Veteran Homes

There are five veteran homes in Illinois located in Chicago, LaSalle, Manteno, Anna, and Quincy. Each of the properties offers different services and the cost of living in a veteran home will depend on an individual’s income. They all offer care to aging veterans and their spouses (or surviving spouses). 

Preference for the houses is given to wartime veterans, but peacetime veterans are not refused if they meet the other criteria. Here are some of the eligibility rules for Illinois veteran homes:

  • The veteran was honorably discharged
  • The veteran cannot earn a living due to age, injury, disease, etc. 
  • The veteran was a resident of Illinois before joining the military or before applying to the veteran home for at least one year

In addition to meeting the above eligibility requirements, the veteran should also meet at least one of these additional requirements:

  • At least one day of service during a VA-confirmed “war period”
  • Retirement due to injury or disability
  • Served in a hostile environment and received a medal
  • The veteran was released after a hardship or due to a reduction in force before they completed service
  • Served in the military for at least 24 consecutive months and joined after September 7, 1980
  • The veteran is in the Reserves or the National Guard and served to the end of term in active duty
  • The veteran is a Guard or in the Reserves, completes 20 years of duty, and meets other retirement benefit qualifications

Illinois Veteran Housing Tax Exemptions

Illinois has a variety of housing tax exemptions for veterans, including the Specially Adapted Housing exemption, the Returning Homestead exemption, and the Disabled Standard Homestead exemption

The Specially Adapted Housing exemption is available for homes that were purchased or modified to accommodate a veteran’s disability. Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled, their spouse, or surviving spouse can get up to a $100,000 reduction on the value of their home for taxing purposes. County mobile home taxes also don’t need to be paid on mobile homes purchased under this exemption.

The Returning Veterans’ Homestead Exemption grants a one-time $5,000 reduction to veterans who return from active duty during an armed conflict. If their application is accepted, the assessed value of their house will be decreased, lowering the taxes they have to pay.

The Illinois Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption makes a reduction to the assessed value of homes owned by service-disabled veterans. The reduction corresponds with the veteran’s disability rating percentage as follows:

  • $2,500 for a disability rating between 50-74%
  • $5,000 for a disability rating 75% or above

Surviving spouses of veterans who received the exemption before their death also qualify for the Standard Homestead Exemption. They also may qualify to be exempt from all property taxes on the primary residence if the service member is killed in the line of duty.

Illinois Education Benefits for Veterans

Illinois National Guard Grant Program

Members of the Illinois National Guard may be eligible to have their undergraduate or graduate tuition and fees paid by the Illinois National Guard Grant (ING). ING benefits can only be used at a participating two to four-year public college. The potential benefits will depend on the years a veteran served.

For less than ten years of service in the Illinois National Guard, this grant can be used for up to four years of full-time classes. If you serve for ten years or more, you can use the grant for an equivalent of six years of full-time classes. 

Service members must meet the following criteria to be eligible for ING:

  • Currently serving in the Illinois National Guard
  • Completed one full year of service in the Illinois National Guard
  • Enrolled at a participating public college
  • Maintain academic progress defined by chosen institution
  • Not be in default on a student loan or owe a grant refund

Illinois National Guard members who served for at least five years and had their education interrupted for six months or more due to federal active duty service can apply even if they are not currently serving. 

For full-year consideration, you must complete the Online ING Application by October 1; for Spring and Summer terms by March 1; and for just Summer term by June 15.

Illinois Scholarship for MIA/POW Dependents

Illinois offers a scholarship at participating universities and colleges for dependents of veterans who have been declared as missing in action (MIA) or a prisoner of war (POW); died during active duty; are 100% disabled from their service-connected conditions; or died after service as a result of their service-connected injury/illness.

The Illinois MIA/POW Scholarship grants full tuition and also covers the following expenses:

  • Activity fees
  • Application fees
  • Board of Governors test fees
  • CLEP test fees
  • Graduation fees
  • Instructional fees
  • Placement and proficiency test fees
  • Term fees

This scholarship lasts for 12 years from the date of enrollment and allows a maximum of 120 points. The point system is assigned based on credits taken:

  • 1 credit – 1 point
  • 2 credits – 2 points
  • 3 credits – 3 points
  • 4 credits – 4 points
  • 5 credits – 5 points
  • 6-8 credits – 6 points
  • 9-11 credits – 9 points
  • 12 or more credits – 12 points

Students must maintain academic progress and standings to continue to be eligible for the scholarship. 

Educational Opportunity Grant for Children of Veterans

Each year Illinois offers a $250 educational grant to children of veterans who served in the military during a time of armed conflict and meet one of the following requirements:

  • The veteran is 100% totally and permanently disabled
  • The veteran is 100% disabled for at least two years
  • The veteran died on active duty or as a result of a service-connected illness or injury

The grant can be used at an Illinois elementary, middle, high, or vocational school. The recipient of the grant must be between 10 and 18 years of age. 

Illinois Veterans’ Grant

Illinois offers veteran residents an Illinois Veterans’ Grant (IVG) for fees and tuition at state-approved colleges or universities. The veteran will qualify as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • They were honorably discharged
  • They have been on active duty for at least one year
  • They return to Illinois within six months after military discharge
  • They lived in Illinois for at least six months before joining the service

Illinois Veteran Employment Benefits

Veteran Entrepreneurship Program

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services teamed up to give training and outreach to entrepreneurs by linking them with government agencies, trade associations, educational institutions, and business experts. The Illinois Veteran Entrepreneurship Program helps veterans and veteran-owned businesses throughout the state. 

Veterans, military families, and other service members can receive help in all the following areas:

  • Marketing
  • Branding
  • Business plan development
  • Contracting
  • Procurement
  • Certification enterprise application help
  • Growth plan development
  • Capital access and investments

This program can help veterans or families of veterans get their businesses off the ground. 

Illinois Education Waiver for Public Service

The state of Illinois will actually waive some of veteran’s educational requirements necessary to become conservation officers, municipal police, state police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or other public servants.

Educational requirements for joining the Illinois State Police are only waived for veterans who were honorably discharged with some form of campaign medal from service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

If a veteran wants to be a firefighter or municipal police officer in Illinois, there are varying levels of waivers. A veteran can have the equivalent of an associate’s degree waived if they did one of the following:

  • Served honorably for at least 24 months of active duty
  • Served at least 180 days in combat

A veteran can have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree waived if they did one of the following:

  • Served honorably for at least 36 months of active duty
  • Served at least 180 days in combat

To be waived for the requirements of an Illinois emergency medical technician (EMT), honorably discharged service members must have military emergency medical training that is up to code with the license standards.

Illinois Recreation Benefits for Veterans

Illinois Hunting and Fishing License Exemptions

Veterans who can prove to the Illinois Veterans’ Affairs Office that they have a 10% or greater VA disability rating are not required to have fishing or hunting licenses. They are also exempt from needing a habitat stamp. They will, however, need to request a veteran’s disability card to gain access to these exemptions. 

Camping and Park Fees

Illinois waives camping, fishing, and hunting fees for service members based on the amount of time they spent mobilized or abroad. For as long as they were one of these two things, they will be able to freely camp at Illinois State Parks (not including utilities or cabin fees). 

To receive these benefits, eligible service members must apply within two years of returning from abroad or being released from mobilization. They will get one year of free camping for each year of service and one year of free camping for each portion of a year served. 

Federal Benefits for Disabled Veterans

For more information on available state benefits, reach out to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs location nearest to you. If you are interested in applying for VA benefits to get monetary compensation for your service-connected injury or illness, it may be time to hire legal counsel. VA uses very dense language and there are many small regulations that can prevent you from getting paid in a timely manner. 

Contact Tuley Law Office for Federal VA Help in Illinois

The experienced veterans disability lawyers at Tuley Law Office are prepared to help you get the compensation you deserve for your service-connected conditions. Although we are not involved with any state programs, we specialize in making claims to VA. We can help you get the information you need to build a strong case and work with you through the full process if necessary.

If you are looking to explore federal options for your injury, fill out our online contact form to get started working toward your VA disability benefits.