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Press Release: Topinka Announces Illinois Veterans' Plan

Location: Springfield, IL

Topinka Announces Illinois Veterans' Plan
August 13, 2006

* Proposes "VETS WORK" - A Veterans' Workforce Development Initiative
* Establishment of State Veterans' Ombudsman
* Oversight to ensure fair hiring process

SPRINGFIELD, ILL - Judy Baar Topinka, the Illinois Republican Nominee for Governor, today announced a plan for the State of Illinois to renew its commitment to Illinois veterans and their families and re-establish trust with veterans pursuing state employment.

"The men and women who have fought for and defended our country deserve a solid commitment from the State of Illinois," said Topinka. "Illinois veterans are more than entitled to this state's respect and best efforts. Our veterans need state government to do a better job of helping them find work in the private sector - and they need a state civil service hiring process that is honest and above board - not fixed against them."

A recent Chicago Sun-Times report ranked Illinois last in the nation in finding work for veterans upon their return from service. To get the state moving in the right direction, Topinka proposed the creation of an Illinois Veterans' Workforce Development Initiative. This initiative, known as VETS WORK, aims to assist veterans and their spouses find meaningful employment.

"Returning to the workforce can be difficult for veterans and their spouses," Topinka said. "This ‘VETS WORK' initiative will provide the necessary tools to ensure veterans and their families are receiving the assistance they need to find quality work."

In light of recent allegations of hiring fraud within the Blagojevich Administration and the revelation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of evidence and allegations of "endemic hiring fraud" within the Blagojevich Administration, Topinka is calling for more oversight in the hiring process to ensure the State of Illinois follows the Veterans' Preference Hiring law.

Topinka proposed the creation of a Veterans' Preference Certification which would require employing agencies to certify they have met all the requirements of the veterans' preference law. Topinka also calls for the creation of a Veterans' Hiring Compliance Panel, based in the Lt. Governor's Office. In a Judy Baar Topinka - Joe Birkett Administration, the council would consist of the Lt. Governor, the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, and an independent individual who is either a veteran or an activist in veteran's affairs. This panel would scrutinize records related to employment practices in state agencies.

Other highlights of Topinka's Veteran's Plan include:

* Establishing a State Veterans' Ombudsman
The Ombudsman, a position that would be filled by an Illinois veteran and report directly to the Governor, would assist Illinois veterans cut through red tape and bureaucracy. The Ombudsman would assist ailing veterans who cannot get into state veterans' homes and aid veterans' families who don't know where to turn for services or help.

* Fully fund and staff all of the state's veterans' homes
The lack of funding and staff at Illinois' four veterans' homes has caused numerous problems throughout the state. Earlier this year an estimated 230 beds were unused in veterans' homes throughout the state. At the same time, the number of veterans waiting to get into the veterans' homes exceeded 800.

* As Governor she will end raids on special funds designated solely for veterans' services
Rod Blagojevich raided nearly $2.6 million from special funds set aside for veterans.

* Fully funding the State's Veterans' Scholarship Program at Illinois universities and colleges

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