Veterans’ hiring preference to be expanded under Hammond legislation

For decades, Illinois and the nation have worked to support those who served in our nation’s armed forces. From pensions for wounded Civil War veterans to the G.I. Bill of Rights which traces its roots to an Illinois American Legion Hall, the state and the nation have tried to find concrete ways to, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “…care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

As part of this effort, Illinois enacted the Veterans Preference Act, a state law designed to put in place a hiring preference for veterans applying for state jobs. However, the law contained a loophole which left some veterans out in the cold.
Several months ago, a constituent contacted Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) after her husband appeared to slip through the cracks of the existing law.

“She and her husband’s family had moved here from Missouri,” Hammond told the Galesburg radio station WGIL. “He served in the Missouri National Guard, but was not eligible for veterans preference in the state of Illinois. So it was much needed.”

What Hammond’s constituent had discovered was that the part of the Veterans Preference Act which established eligibility for veterans of the National Guard only applied to those who had served in the Illinois National Guard, not Illinois residents who might have served in the Guard of other states. In a time when Americans move across state lines more frequently than ever before, the law needed to be updated.

Hammond’s answer was House Bill 4288, legislation which would correct the existing law by making all Illinois residents who are National Guard veterans eligible for the hiring preference, regardless of which state they may have served. Hammond noted that all guard members, regardless of their state, had the same training, endured the same experiences and could have been called into the service of the entire nation at any time.

“We owe a great debt to these veterans,” Hammond said. “When they serve in our military, they serve us all, regardless of state lines. If they are an honorably discharged veteran, they should receive hiring preference regardless of the state in which they enlisted or served.”

Hammond’s bill passed the House 105-0 in April. In the Senate, it was sponsored by Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), and it once again passed unanimously, 54-0. Governor Bruce Rauner signed the legislation into law on August 13, and it will be among the bills taking effect on January 1.

To be eligible for the hiring preference, a veteran must meet any one of the following conditions: served at least six months, served for duration of hostilities regardless of the length of engagement, served in the theater of operations but was discharged on the basis of a hardship, or was released from active duty because of a service-connected disability and was honorably discharged. A person who served in the Illinois National Guard will still have priority over someone who served in the Guard of another state.

Information and tips for veterans from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs on the state employment process can be found here.