A Guide to the Best Illinois Veteran Benefits in 2021
A wide range of Illinois veteran benefits (including disabled veteran benefits) are available to augment the federal benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These additional benefits and exemptions support veterans and their families in their return to civilian life.
Nearly 728,000 veterans live in Illinois (about 8% of the population). The Prairie State is proud to honor the sacrifice of those who served.
- A Guide to the Best Illinois Veteran Benefits in 2021
- What are the best Illinois veteran benefits?
- Illinois Veteran Benefits for Property Tax Exemptions
- Returning Veterans Homestead Exemption
- Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption
- Illinois Disabled Veteran Benefits: Specially Adapted Housing Tax Exemption
- Illinois Disabled Veteran Benefits: Mobile Home Tax Exemption
- Illinois Veteran Benefits for Income Taxes
- Illinois Veteran Benefits: Reduced State Income Tax on Military Income
- Illinois Veteran Benefits: Spouse Residency Relief
- Illinois Veteran Benefits for Mortgage Assistance
- Bonus Payments Increase Illinois Veteran Benefits
- Education-Related Illinois Veteran Benefits
- Illinois VA Benefits Provide Educational Opportunities for Children
- MIA/POW Scholarship
- Illinois Veteran Benefits for Tuition
- Illinois Veteran Benefits Give Academic Credit for Military Training
- Coordinators at Public Universities and Colleges Advise on Illinois Veteran Benefits
- Children of Illinois Veterans Scholarship
- Illinois VA Benefits for Work-Study
- Illinois Veteran Benefits: Bright Start Fallen Heroes Scholarship
- Illinois Veteran Benefits For Employment
- Illinois Veteran Benefits: Specialized Driver License/ID and 40 Distinctive License Plates
- Illinois Veteran Benefits For Outdoors Recreation
- Illinois Veteran Benefits at 50 VA Medical Centers and Clinics
- Illinois Veterans Homes and Illinois Veteran Benefits
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Illinois Veteran Benefits
- Do Illinois veteran benefits include property tax exemptions?
- Do Illinois VA benefits extend to educational assistance for children of Illinois disabled veterans?
- Do Illinois veterans receive preferential treatment in hiring practices and employment?
- Are there special license plates available to Illinois veterans and their families?
- Are there Illinois disabled veteran benefits for hunting, fishing, and state parks?
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What are the best Illinois veteran benefits?
Illinois veteran benefits include property tax exemptions, bonuses for wartime service, employment programs, recognition of military experience for professional licensing, special driver’s licenses and vehicle plates, reduced fees for hunting, fishing, and camping, and more.
A veteran or service member’s military branch, career status, disability status, and residence status can affect benefit eligibility.
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs administers many of the veteran programs and benefits in Illinois. This is a great place to learn about state and federal benefits or get help with claims and applications.
Read on for the ultimate guide to Illinois veteran benefits in 2021!
Illinois Veteran Benefits for Property Tax Exemptions
Illinois veteran benefits include property tax exemptions. The state offers several tax advantages for Illinois veterans and their families.
Returning Veterans Homestead Exemption
One of the top Illinois veteran benefits for housing is the Returning Veterans Homestead Exemption, which provides a one-time $5,000 reduction to a home’s equalized assessed value (EAV). Veterans who return from active duty in an armed conflict can apply by contacting a local county assessor’s office.
Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption
The Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption reduces the EAV (equalized assessed value—the taxable value of your property, minus exemptions) of a home owned by an Illinois veteran with a service-connected disability.
A $2,500 homestead exemption is available to Illinois veterans with a 30% or 40% VA disability rating.
A $5,000 homestead exemption is available to Illinois veterans with a 50% or 60% VA disability rating.
Illinois veterans with a VA disability rating of 70% or higher are completely exempt from property taxes on their primary residence.
These benefits are also available to the unremarried surviving spouse of an Illinois disabled veteran (provided the veteran received the exemption before his or her death).
Additionally, the unremarried surviving spouse of a service member killed in the line of duty is exempt from paying property taxes on the primary residence. Once approved, qualifying veterans (and surviving spouses) must file an annual application by their county’s deadlines to continue to receive these benefits. Applicants should contact the local county assessor’s office.
Illinois Disabled Veteran Benefits: Specially Adapted Housing Tax Exemption
This exemption is allowed on a property’s assessed value where federal funds have been used to purchase or construct specially adapted housing. It’s valid for as long as the veteran, spouse, or unremarried surviving spouse resides there. Federal and state financial assistance applies to acquiring or remodeling housing with special fixtures (or movable facilities) made necessary by the veteran’s permanent and total VA disability. Contact your local Illinois Veteran Service Officer about these Illinois VA benefits.
Illinois Disabled Veteran Benefits: Mobile Home Tax Exemption
An Illinois disabled veteran doesn’t pay taxes on a mobile home. This exemption applies to the tax levied by each county to the owner of a mobile home.
The home must be owned and occupied by an Illinois disabled veteran (or unremarried surviving spouse). The VA must have awarded qualifying Illinois disabled veterans the Specially Adapted Housing Grant for the primary residence before purchasing the mobile home.
The disabled veteran, spouse, or unremarried surviving spouse must reside in Illinois on January 1 of the tax year the exemption is being claimed. Contact your local county tax assessor’s office or Veteran Service Officer for further information on these Illinois VA benefits.
Illinois Veteran Benefits for Income Taxes
Illinois income tax benefits are available to those who served.
Illinois does not tax government disability plans. Military disability retirement pay (received as a pension, annuity, or similar allowance for personal injury or sickness resulting from active service) may not need to be included in taxable income.
Illinois Veteran Benefits: Reduced State Income Tax on Military Income
Illinois veterans may subtract some of their military pay from their adjusted gross income (AGI), including:
- Pay for duty in the U.S. Armed Forces (including basic training)
- Pay for duty as a cadet at a service academy or in ROTC
- Pay for duty serving in the National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve forces (including a National Guard unit of another state)
Pay that may not be subtracted includes:
- Military income (such as combat pay) that was excluded from the AGI on Form IL-1040, Line 1
- Pay received under the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI)
- Pay received from the military as a civilian
- Payments made under the Ready Reserve Mobilization Income Insurance program, or
- Pay for duty as an officer in the Public Health Service
Illinois Veteran Benefits: Spouse Residency Relief
The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act may exempt a spouse from Illinois tax withholding. The nonresident military spouse must provide his or her employer with a completed Form IL-W-5-NR, Employees Statement of Nonresidence in Illinois.
Illinois Veteran Benefits for Mortgage Assistance
Illinois assists veterans seeking mortgage assistance, with has resources available to help those experiencing difficulty with mortgage payments. Download the list of official resources here: Veteran mortgage assistance resources.pdf.
Bonus Payments Increase Illinois Veteran Benefits
Illinois VA benefits provide bonuses to Illinois veterans who served in times of war.
Mail applications to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, P.O. Box 19432, 833 S. Spring St, Springfield, Illinois. 62794-9432. Individuals on active duty may apply for the Persian Gulf or Global War on Terrorism bonus prior to discharge by including the Armed Forces Certificate.
World War II Bonus
A bonus of $10 per month for domestic service and $15 per month for foreign service is paid to a veteran who:
- was an Illinois resident when entering service
- served at least 60 days on active duty between September 16, 1940, and September 3, 1945, and
- received an honorable discharge.
Survivors are entitled to a $1,000 bonus if the veteran’s death was service-connected.
Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Global War on Terrorism (Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom) Bonus
A $100 bonus is payable for service during one of the following periods:
- Korea: June 27, 1950-July 27, 1953
- Vietnam: Jan. 1, 1961-March 28, 1973
- Vietnam Frequent Wind: April 29-30, 1975
- Persian Gulf: Aug. 2, 1990-Nov. 30, 1995
- Global War on Terrorism (OEF/OIF): on or after Sept. 11, 2001
The claimant must also have received one of the following medals:
- Korean Service Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Era or Southwest Asia Service Medal
- Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal or the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
The claimant must have lived in Illinois for 12 months immediately before entering service and received an honorable discharge. Individuals on active duty who served in the Persian Gulf may apply prior to discharge by including the Armed Forces Certificate.
Download a copy of the bonus application, print it, fill it out, and mail it in.
Those on active duty with the Armed Forces of the United States (or who were employed by the United States Government on or after January 1, 1961) who lived in Illinois 12 months prior to entry, and who were held prisoner by hostile forces in Southeast Asia, are entitled to $50 for each month imprisoned.
Education-Related Illinois Veteran Benefits
Are there Illinois veteran benefits for education? Yes! The state offers programs for Illinois veterans (and their families) who seek tuition and education support.
Illinois VA Benefits Provide Educational Opportunities for Children
Illinois VA benefits provide financial aid annually to the children (age 10-18) of an Illinois veteran who died (or was totally disabled) in service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War (beginning Feb. 1, 1955), the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom. This applies until the children are no longer eligible for induction under the Universal Military Training and Service Act.
Illinois veteran benefits include an education scholarship for the dependents of veterans who:
- went missing in action
- are a prisoner of war
- died while on active duty
- are rated 100% disabled due to service-connected injury (or died from such disabilities)
An applicant must be the spouse, widow, natural child, stepchild or adopted child of the veteran to qualify. The veteran must have lived in Illinois when entering active service (or within six months after entering active service) or lived in Illinois for at least 15 consecutive years after leaving active duty (as of the date of application).
The application process for the MIA/POW Scholarship is online at https://studentportal.isac.org/student.
Illinois Veteran Benefits for Tuition
The Illinois Veterans Grant Program (IVG) pays tuition (and mandatory fees) at Illinois state-supported colleges, universities, and community colleges.
Additional information and applications are available from the VSO Offices of the Illinois VA, college financial aid offices, or the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), 1755 Lake Cook Road, Deerfield, Ill., 60015. Call (847) 948-8550, (800) 899-ISAC, or visit www.isac.org.
Illinois Veteran Benefits Give Academic Credit for Military Training
As a result of the “Making Military Training Count” initiative, Illinois veterans and service members may earn credits toward degree requirements merely by documenting their completed military training.
To see how military courses, exams, and learning experiences count at specific schools, visit the Illinois Transfer Portal. See options for taking classes at another school to transfer back to your current school by using the “Find a Replacement Course” feature.
Many Illinois colleges have developed transfer credit for military learning experience (including City Colleges of Chicago, College of DuPage, College of Lake County, DePaul University, Kaskaskia College, and Southwestern Illinois College).
Coordinators at Public Universities and Colleges Advise on Illinois Veteran Benefits
Veteran coordinators help you fully utilize Illinois veteran benefits for yourself and your family. Contact them to learn about eligibility for education, benefit application processes, academic counseling, financial aid counseling, and student support services.
Children of Illinois Veterans Scholarship
Each year, every Illinois county is entitled to one honorary scholarship at the University of Illinois for children of:
- Illinois veterans of WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War
- Illinois service members who served after August 1, 1990 (and until the service members are no longer eligible for the Southwest Asia Service Medal)
Preference is given to the children of deceased and disabled veterans.
Recipients are entitled to instruction in all school departments for at least four years with no tuition charge. Get details from the University of Illinois’ Financial Aid Office.
Illinois VA Benefits for Work-Study
The federal VA work-study program provides part-time employment to students receiving VA education benefits who attend school three-quarters of the time or more. Work-study students are paid either the state or federal minimum wage (whichever is greater). Work-study opportunities are available at offices throughout the state. Other opportunities may exist at the school’s veterans office, VA medical facilities, the VA regional office, and approved veterans service organizations.
For more information on approved programs, call 312-814-2460 or 217-782-7839.
For information on VA work-study locations available at IDVA, call 312-814-5538.
Illinois Veteran Benefits: Bright Start Fallen Heroes Scholarship
The Bright Start Fallen Heroes Program offers children who have lost a parent in the line of duty the opportunity to receive a $1,000 Bright Start College Savings Scholarship.
Children of any member of the U.S. Armed Forces killed in the line of duty (as well as children of Illinois law enforcement officers, paramedics, and firefighters) may apply. This includes stepchildren and adopted children. The applicant must be under the age of 30.
Applicants need not be enrolled in an undergraduate program, and awards may be deferred for future use. Required documentation includes:
- The birth certificate or adoption certificate of the dependent child.
- Proof of Illinois residency.
- A copy of the DOD document DD1300.
A complete list of other required documentation is on the application form.
Office of the Illinois State Treasurer
Fallen Heroes Scholarship
100 W. Randolph St., Suite 15-600
Chicago, Illinois, 60601
Illinois Veteran Benefits For Employment
Several Illinois veteran benefits support veterans and their families seeking employment, advancing their careers, or pursuing business opportunities.
Illinois Troops to Teachers Program
Troops to Teachers helps eligible military personnel transition to new careers as public-school teachers. Regardless of where a military career takes a participant while in the program, offices nationwide provide counseling and assistance with certification requirements, routes to state certification, and employment leads.
All former and retired members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard are eligible.
Note, 10/01/2020: Due to budget constraints, Troops to Teachers Program registrations are not being accepted at this time. However, interested service members and veterans should complete the Troops to Teachers Program Interest Form to provide contact information to be notified directly when program funding becomes available again.
Illinois Veteran Benefits for State Employment: Education Waivers
Of the multiple Illinois veteran benefits for employment, several waive education requirements for experience and skills acquired during military service. Illinois state organizations offering such waivers include:
- Illinois State Police
- Illinois Conservation Police (of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources)
- Municipal police and firefighters
- Emergency Medical Technicians
- Commercial driver’s license (military skills test waiver)
- Police Academy Intern Program at Southwestern Illinois College
Illinois Veteran Entrepreneurship Program
The Illinois VA and Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) collaborate to provide training and outreach to aspiring, emerging, and established entrepreneurs. They connect veteran entrepreneurs to government agencies, educational institutions, trade associations, and business-sector experts, and educate them on Illinois VA benefits available to veteran-owned businesses.
The IDVA provides access to resources, capital, and technical assistance. IDVA and its partners host training, seminars, and informational sessions statewide to share with Illinois veterans, military families, and returning service members. For more information, contact your local VSO.
Illinois Department of Employment Security, Veteran Employment Services
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) strives to find gainful employment that enhance veteran benefits. Employment specialists at nearly 40 offices throughout Illinois are available to help veterans:
- Set up a free account and learn how to use the system
- Search for jobs online at IllinoisJobLink.com
- Subscribe to events (including job fairs and workshops)
Visit a local IDES office for more information about employment services and opportunities tailored specifically for veterans. Be sure to bring along your DD214.
Contact your local Employment Security office for more information.
Illinois Veteran Benefits for State Employment Hiring Preference
An Illinois veteran is given priority in hiring for state employment. The applicant is entitled to points added to a passing grade (and receives absolute appointment preference within a given grade). Illinois National Guard or Reserves who are nonactivated (and with less than four years of service) only receive points added to a passing grade.
A certified copy of DD214/DD215 is required as proof of service.
For further information on Illinois veterans preference and available work opportunities, see:
- Illinois State Employment Tip Sheet for Veterans provides critical information about application essentials, employment counseling, CMS testing, and Illinois veteran preference guidelines.
Illinois Veteran Benefits: Specialized Driver License/ID and 40 Distinctive License Plates
The Illinois Office of the Secretary of State offers specially designated driver’s licenses, ID cards, and distinctive vehicle license plates. These Illinois veteran benefits extend to the veteran’s family members.
Illinois Veteran Driver’s License
Illinois veteran benefits bestow the privilege of updating to a special “veteran” designation on driver’s licenses and state ID cards.
This designation helps secure full Illinois veteran benefits and services by providing ready proof of veteran status.
Illinois Military and Veteran License Plates
The Prairie State honors veterans with 40 different custom license plates recognizing their service.
You can see more about the numerous license plate styles, as well as eligibility and required documentation. Click on the plates shown on the page for a full description.
Illinois Veteran Benefits: Skills Waiver for Commercial Driver’s License
Veterans who have been honorably discharged (in the past 12 months) can waive some or all of the testing for an Illinois Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) based on their extensive training and experience.
This program is only available for an initial CDL. There are two options: Even Exchange and skills test waiver:
- “Even Exchange” requires certain Military Occupational Skills/ratings along with the proper military commercial driving training and experience. After an acceptable Even Exchange application is received and verified, CDL knowledge and skills testing is waived. This could include certain endorsement tests (applicable to the applicant’s experience).
- The skills test waiver is available to veterans who have the proper military commercial driving training and experience but lack certain Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)/ratings for the Even Exchange option. Once a skills waiver application is received and verified, the skill test is waived. This does not include the CDL knowledge testing requirement and does not apply to any endorsements requiring skills testing.
For either waiver, applicants and their commanding officers must provide a completed and acceptable application. The commanding officer emails the application with required documentation to the CDL Division at [email protected]
Once approved, the applicant presents the approval notice from the CDL Division (and all other required documentation) at a CDL facility, pays the appropriate CDL fee, and must satisfy all CDL and other licensing requirements.
For further information, contact the CDL Division at 217-524-5971.
Illinois Veteran Benefits For Outdoors Recreation
Enjoying the natural beauty and wildlife of the Prairie State is less expensive thanks to Illinois veteran benefits granted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Veterans benefit from reduced license costs and recreational fees.
Illinois Disabled Veteran Benefits for Hunting and Fishing Licenses
Fishing and hunting licenses are not required for an Illinois disabled veteran with a VA disability rating of 10% or greater (or total disability pension benefits). Contact your local VSO to apply.
Illinois Disabled Veteran Benefits for Free Admission and Camping at State Parks
Illinois disabled veterans are exempt from admission and camping fees at any park run by the Illinois DNR. The same goes for former prisoners of war. Contact your local Veteran Service Officer to apply.
Illinois Veteran Benefits for Hunting, Fishing, and Sportsmen’s Combination Licenses at Reduced Fees
An Illinois veteran receives a 50% discount on fishing, sportsmen’s combination, and hunting licenses after returning from service abroad or from mobilization by the President.
Illinois Veteran Benefits at the State Fair
On Veterans Day at the Illinois State Fair, honorably discharged veterans (and their families) need only present veteran identification for free admission. (Admission is also free for persons 60 and older on Senior Day at the fair.) For dates, visit the Illinois State Fair website.
Illinois Veteran Benefits at 50 VA Medical Centers and Clinics
Illinois veteran benefits are widely available at 50 facilities statewide that provide health care to Illinois veterans.
Illinois Veterans Homes and Illinois Veteran Benefits
Illinois veteran benefits give preference to wartime veterans (although peacetime veterans, spouses, surviving spouses, and Gold Star parents are also eligible). The IDVA provides long-term skilled care and a welcoming environment for aging veterans at four different facilities in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno, and Quincy. Volunteers from veteran service organizations and the local community provide additional supporting services and activities.
Each facility is unique: The Illinois VA’s website describes the services available at each, as well as eligibility requirements, cost of care, admission priorities, and activities.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Illinois Veteran Benefits
Do Illinois veteran benefits include property tax exemptions?
Yes! There are several other tax advantages for Illinois veterans. One of the top Illinois veteran benefits for housing is the Returning Veterans Homestead Exemption, which provides a one-time $5,000 reduction to a home’s equalized assessed value (EAV). The Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption is among many Illinois disabled veteran benefits, giving a $2,500 exemption for veterans with a service-connected disability of at least 30% but less than 50%, and $5,000 at 50% disability but less than 70%. Illinois disabled veterans with a disability of 70% or more pay no property taxes at all on their primary residence. There are also exemptions for specially adapted housing and mobile homes.
Do Illinois VA benefits extend to educational assistance for children of Illinois disabled veterans?
Yes! Illinois VA benefits provide financial aid annually to the children (age 10-18) of an Illinois veteran who died (or became totally disabled) in service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War (beginning Feb. 1, 1955), the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom (until such individuals are no longer eligible for induction under the Universal Military Training and Service Act).
There are also a number of educational scholarships included in Illinois veteran benefits, such as the MIA/POW Scholarship, the Bright Start Fallen Heroes Program, and the Children of Illinois Veterans Scholarship.
Do Illinois veterans receive preferential treatment in hiring practices and employment?
Yes! Illinois offers state employment hiring preference to eligible Illinois veterans, Illinois disabled veterans, spouses, and surviving spouses.
Are there special license plates available to Illinois veterans and their families?
Yes! Illinois offers 40 special vehicle license plates to honor the service and sacrifice of service members, veterans, retirees, and eligible family members. You can see them here.
Are there Illinois disabled veteran benefits for hunting, fishing, and state parks?
Yes, and they’re generous: Fishing and hunting licenses are not required for an Illinois veteran receiving 10% or greater service-connected compensation or total disability pension benefits.
For answers to more questions, visit the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
MAKE SURE YOU GET ALL THE BENEFITS YOU DESERVE
Regardless of what state you live in, it’s important that you pursue the monthly compensation payments due to you for disabilities connected to your military service.
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About VA Claims Insider
VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Independent Medical Opinions & Nexus Statements (Medical Nexus Letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.