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Local lawmaker on a mission to help support veterans’ needs

Every veteran knows the best way to support one’s return to civilian life is through a collaboration of community resources. So when the Tinley Park Chamber of Commerce Veterans Action Committee drew in dozens of veterans and community leaders to its Tuesday, July 18 meeting, they knew there was only one catch.

“Everybody wants to help a veteran,” State Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) said. “Nobody knows where to go.”

Hastings served in the military for 10 years, with five years in United State Military Academy, also known as West Point, and five years in the army. During the Iraq War, Hastings was a captain and an aid-de-camp to the commanding general of the 1st infantry division.

And today, he currently acts as vice chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in Illinois.

The newly formed Veterans Action Committee from the Tinley Park Chamber of Commerce—which intends to bring together community resources to aid veterans—invited Hastings, also a Tinley Park native, to serve as its keynote speaker to partake in the roundtable series.

During his address, Hastings said the biggest challenge of supporting veterans is getting to know every one of the organizations and the services they offer.

He also highlighted a number of developments in veterans’ affairs as far as legislation in Springfield.

Hastings helped sponsor a property tax law that gives a reduction in property taxes to disabled veterans. For every homeowner who is a disabled veteran or a spouse of a disabled veteran, the estimated assessed value of one’s property can be reduced based on the percentile in which one is classified as disabled. With that, a veteran who is 30 to 49 percent disabled saves about $200 on their property tax bill.

If a veteran is 50 to 69 percent disabled, an estimated $500 reduction is applied. At the 70 to 100 percentile, a disabled veteran is considered tax-exempt, or relieved from paying property taxes.

“I can tell you we have probably one of the highest concentrations of disabled veterans in the State of Illinois right here in our area,” Hastings said. “If you’re an attorney who does veterans appeals and all these, this matters. It matters a lot because not paying $7,000 a year is pretty heavy on some people that are actually physically disabled and some of them mentally disabled, as well.”

Another measure Hastings supported is a law that legalizes medical marijuana for those afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder.

As for veterans interested in exploring one’s post-secondary options, state law has been codified to count one’s military experience toward college credit.

Other developments out of Springfield included the passing of a state budget, which helped to ensure that veterans’ homes remain in operation and funded.

The next Veterans Action Committee Roundtable is set for 7 p.m. Monday, August 21, at Tinley Park Village Hall’s Kallsen Center.