Fox Valley lawmakers meet with veterans in Montgomery
By Judy Pochel For Sun-Times Media December 20, 2013 9:40AM
Stephanie A. Kifowit
Updated: December 20, 2013 4:19PM
Veterans in the Fox Valley region turned out in force Thursday night to ask questions of their lawmakers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Montgomery.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) as well as state Reps. Stephanie Kifowit (R-Oswego), Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) and Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville) joined Veterans Administration officials to answer questions about laws and programs affecting veterans’ benefits.
“We are hear to listen to you,” said Foster as he addressed the veterans.
He said his family has a long tradition of serving dating back to the Civil War.
“I understand the sacrifice of veterans and how that affects the country. We need to ensure and protect our veterans when they are abroad. We can’t forget them when they get home,” he said.
Hatcher said she supports legislation that works to ensure benefits for veterans. Kifowit and Chapa LaVia echoed those remarks, and said programs are in place to help veterans but they understand the paperwork and time constraints have made getting assistance a sometimes difficult proposition.
Duane Honeycutt, director of the VA Chicago office, said the time to process claims is going down, but said appealing any decisions still take a great deal of patience.
“Illinois has the seventh highest number of veterans in the country,” he told the crowd.
Veterans Administration officials said several new programs are up and running to help those who need assistance.
A suicide hotline runs 24 hours and local programs are expanding throughout the state to help those in need. Cardiology services are being expanded at the Hines VA Hospital and in cases where the need is urgent, the VA is reaching out to send people to local physicians, the officials said.
Foster utilized the forum to make his feelings public regarding the recent federal budget bill.
“A deal was struck. Normally these things are discussed in public. Congress hasn’t been functioning for many years,” he said.
Foster said Congress is “now forced to vote on emergency bills. I voted for it because I believe it is critical to avoid a shutdown.”
John Davin, state senior vice commander for the VFW, told members not to hesitate to tell lawmakers how they feel.
“It doesn’t have to be a veteran, anyone who is eligible to vote,” he said. “If a congressman doesn’t know how we feel, we have to talk about it. Tell your neighbors, word of mouth gets out and we ask you to go back and do that.”