Illinois State Veterans Benefits

Illinois provides its veterans with valuable educational benefits and helpful employment support and bonuses.

The State of Illinois offers many benefits to resident veterans in addition to the disability and health care benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Educational Benefits for Veterans

Some programs funded by the State of Illinois provide tuition assistance to veterans, while others provide assistance to veterans' children.

Illinois Veterans' Grant

Veterans are eligible to receive tuition and coverage of some fees at any Illinois state-supported, college, community college, or university. Eligibility requires:

  • an honorable discharge
  • residence in Illinois at time of entry into service or within six months of entry
  • at least one entire year of active duty, or duty in a foreign country during hostile activities for any length of time, and
  • residence in Illinois within six months of discharge from service.

Applications for the Illinois Veterans' Grant are available at college financial aid offices, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs VSO Offices, or through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). You can phone ISAC at 847-948-8550 or 800-899-ISAC or visit it on the web at

Bright Start Fallen Heroes Scholarship

Children of all service members who died while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom can have $2,500 deposited in a Bright Start Account for their college education. A surviving family member must request the scholarship.

The funds will be invested on behalf of the child and at the time the child attends college, the Illinois Treasurer's office will make payments directly to the educational institution. It can be applied to tuition fees and/or room and board. It can be used up until the child reaches the age of 30. Receipt of other educational benefits for surviving children will not disqualify a person from this program. Children must be U.S. citizens.

To request the scholarship, complete and submit the application, which is called the Bright Start Fallen Hero Scholarship Agreement. You can submit it online or print it and send it to:

Treasurer of the State of Illinois
400 W. Monroe Suite 401
Springfield, IL 62704
Bright Start can be reached at 877-432-7444

Scholarship for Children of Disabled, Deceased, MIA, or POW Vets

Illinois provides an educational scholarship to dependents of veterans who are Missing In Action, Prisoners of War, died during active service, are 100% disabled as a result of service-connected disabilities or deemed unemployable, or died as from service-connected disabilities. The scholarship provides free tuition and covers certain fees as well for those under 26.

The veteran must have been an Illinois resident at the time of entering service or within six months of entering service, or must have became in Illinois resident within six months of leaving service, if they were previously an Illinois resident for at least 30 years.

To apply, complete the MIA/POW Scholarship form and submit it to:

Department of Veterans' Affairs
P.O. Box 19432
833 S. Spring
Springfield, IL 62794-9432

Pre-College Financial Assistance for Children

Illinois also provides financial aid for children between 10 and 18 years old to attend an elementary school, high school, or vocational training school. Children are eligible if the veteran died or became 100% disabled as a result of service in:

  • Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Korean and Vietnam wars (starting February 1, 1955), or
  • World War I or II.

The financial aid is provided on an annual basis. Complete the Educational Opportunities for Children application form and send it to:

Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs
P.O. Box 19432
833 S. Spring Street
Springfield, IL 62794-9432
ATTN: State Education Program

Employment Benefits for Illinois Vets

Illinois veterans receive preference for state employment. Veterans with passing grades on employment exams are given preference points and must be considered for open positions before non-veterans in the same grade category.

Veterans are also eligible to have the education requirements for joining the Illinois State Police waived if they have been honorably discharge and received a campaign medal in Afghanistan or Iraq. For more information, contact the Illinois State Police. Educational requirements can likewise be waived for the Illinois Conservation Police for certain honorably discharged veterans and active members of the Illinois National Guard or Reserve. For more information, contact IDNR Office of Law Employment.

Within one year of discharge, honorably discharged veterans with military EMT training and experience are eligible to sit for an EMT exam and get licensed. For more information, contact the Illinois Department of Public Health.

For more information on employment helps for vets in Illinois, see the State Employment Tip Sheet for Veterans.

Bonuses for Illinois Veterans

Veterans who were discharged under honorable conditions after serving during a period of war are eligible for small bonuses.

Bonus for Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Conflict Vets

Veterans who served during one of the below periods of war can be eligible for a $100 bonus:

  • in the Persian Gulf between August 2, 1990 and November 30, 1995
  • in Vietnam between January 1, 1961 and March 28, 1973 or during Operation Frequent Wind on April 29 and 30, 1975, or
  • in Korea between June 27, 1950 and July 27, 1953.

To receive the bonus, a veteran must have received an honorable discharge and been a resident of Illinois for at least a year prior to entry into service.

Global War on Terrorism Bonus

Veterans who served on or after September 11, 2001 are eligible for a $100 bonus. Eligibility requires:

  • residency in Illinois for at least a year prior to entry into service
  • the veteran must have had foreign service or sea service of at least 30 days in a row, or a total of 60 days (not consecutive), and
  • receipt of one of the following medals:

    • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
    • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
    • Iraq Campaign Medal, or
    • Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

Prisoner of War (POW) Compensation

Individuals who served in the Armed Forces or worked for the U.S. Government on or after January 1, 1961 and were held as POWs by enemy forces in Southwest Asia are eligible for a payment $50 for each month they were held as a POW. They must have been residents of Illinois for at least a year prior to entry into foreign service.

How to Apply for a Bonus

You can find the bonus application online, print and complete it, and mail it to:

Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs
P.O. Box 19432,
833 South Spring Street
Springfield, IL 62794-9432

You can also visit an Illinois Veterans Service Office to pick up an application or ask for assistance with your application.

If you are still on active duty when applying for your bonus, you must almost submit the Armed Forces Certificate.

For more information about bonuses, including survivor eligibility for bonuses, see the Compensation section of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs' website.

More Information

For more information about benefits offered to Illinois veterans, including housing and home ownership programs, small business assistance, and survival and burial benefits, read the Illinois Benefits for Veterans brochure.

To learn about federal benefits for veterans, see Nolo's sections on VA benefits and VA disability benefits.

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