Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cathy Ward’s View on Boone County Veterans

  • My View: Boone County veterans face land mines on home front

  • By Cathy Ward

    Rockford Register Star

    By Cathy Ward

    Posted May. 28, 2016 at 5:40 PM
    Updated May 28, 2016 at 5:40 PM

  • Cathy WardCathy Ward
  • By Cathy Ward

    Posted May. 28, 2016 at 5:40 PM


  • Boone County’s 3,900 veterans, who lived through life-and-death challenges, never expected to come back home to fight for basic assistance, but that’s what happened.
    And today, they are still on the battle front.
    For decades, while veterans with special medical or financial needs throughout the state, including Winnebago County, received money from county coffers for basic housing, utilities and medical assistance, it never happened here.
    In Boone County, veterans’ volunteer groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion held bake sales, raffles, rummage sales and dipped into their own pockets to help their veterans in need.
    Finally Commander Greg Kelm, who found these groups pressed to their limits, approached the Boone County Board for the same help other county boards gave their veterans, as state law required.
    Kelm, a Vietnam veteran and native of Boone County, remembers well the response from some Boone County Board leaders. He was told, “Get in line.”
    Kelm was not pleased. He and other Boone veterans organized and placed a referendum on the ballot. He and supporters were thrilled when the referendum passed in 2013 assuring them of yearly revenues.
    Kelm next went to county leaders and asked for office space, office equipment and money for utilities. He was told by some county leaders there was absolutely no office space nor equipment available in any county building.
    But, Kelm was told, the county would give the veterans a loan for these needs until the referendum money came in. Then, said some county leaders, the veterans would be required to repay the county with the referendum proceeds.
    Kelm took that opinion to his veterans and they decided to come to the County Board meeting in full dress uniform and dispute the decision. Not surprising, county leaders, faced down by the veterans at that meeting, reconsidered. They said the “loan” would be forgiven.
    But Kelm and veteran leaders knew another battle needed to be fought. They knew, after hours of studying state law, that the law specifically said the county was responsible for all rent and office expenses, but some county leaders still said no. They said the money should come from the referendum. (The Boone County Veteran’s Administration office is currently on the second floor of the PNC Bank in downtown Belvidere.)
    Kelm and veteran leaders decided they were tired of groveling and took their battle to the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. A couple weeks ago, Madigan sent her opinion, supporting the veterans. These expenses total about $1,500 a month. County Board members received a memo two weeks ago from Chairman Bob Walberg that the county would be paying these expenses.
    But now the battle is with the Boone County Health Department. A couple months ago, Kelm attended the Health Board meeting and learned the VFW, a not-for-profit organization, overpaid the Health Department for years of food permit fees by about $2,500.
  • - So earlier this month, Kelm came back to the Health Board and asked for the $2,500 over payment. Instead the Health Board offered just $400.
    To no one’s surprise, Kelm’s board said no. So back in the trenches, Kelm and the VFW will fight on. They are in the process of hiring an attorney, hopefully a veteran, to help them win this battle in court. Now they will ask for the full $2,500 plus all related court costs.
    Kelm is again confident the veteran’s will win this skirmish, too, but said, "It's just sad for our veterans who fought for our country that we keep finding land mines here at home, just one after another. All we asked for is to follow state law with a little fairness and common sense."
    Cathy Ward is a member of the Boone County Board.

Above is from:


To view the informal opinion of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the advice of Boone County’s States Attorney and Mr. Walberg’s letter go to:$file/VAC%20Expenses%20Paid%20by%20the%20County_201605181440.pdf

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