In 2014, the State of Illinois awarded American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 14 $100,000 to help the veteran group expand its medical care and counseling services for local veterans. Four years later, in 2018, then-state Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Marion) brought an oversized prop-check and posed for a photo op with the group. However, in the seven years since the grant was awarded, and the three years since that photo op, the veteran group has not received any funds from the state.
AMVETS Post 14 reached out to CBS 2 Chicago, who first reported last week the discrepancy between the state’s grant and the actual financial support the veteran group has received in the past seven years.
AMVETS Post 14, located in small-town Clinton, Ill. administers to a community of about 100 veterans, who rely on the post for support and advocacy of their needs.
During the 2018 phot op, Rep. Mitchell posed with Vietnam Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient Jessie Owens.
“When Mitchell comes down and gives us that check, we thought it was a done deal and we were ready to start working on it then,” Owens told CBS 2.
Mark Rogers, chaplain for AMVETS Post 14 and another person pictured in the 2018 photo up told CBS 2 that in the three years since that picture was taken there’s been, “No follow-up.” He said, “We keep asking and we get the runaround.”
The $100,000 grant would have specifically helped AMVETS Post 14 expand its post, which currently is only large enough for one veteran service officer to work one-on-one with another veteran and still maintain their privacy.
“If a veteran service officer wanted to work with a veteran one-on-one, basically, they’d have to use the whole building – because there’s no privacy,” said Ed Beck, the commander for AMVETS Post 14.
In the seven years since the grant was awarded in 2014, Illinois has had three different governors, including Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and now Democrat Gov. JB Pritzker.
“We’ve basically almost given up hope,” Rogers said. “We have no faith.”
It is unclear if the funding will ever come through.
A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) told CBS 2, “This grant never received an executed grant agreement, it was only in the planning/application stage and never received a funding source. Therefore, this proposed project was never able to move forward.”
The DCEO spokesperson said grants like the one in this case are funded through the state sale of bonds.
“Not all projects noted in the capital bill necessarily receive funding due to limited funds available via bond sales,” the spokesperson said. “Until there is an executed grant agreement, there is no binding contract or document (and we aren’t able to make any payments).”
Now-former Rep. Mitchell told CBS 2, “I’m sorry that it’s come to this. These people are veterans. They deserve the money. I’m going to give Governor Pritzker the benefit of the doubt that working with my successor, they can get this done. I would never do a photo op without the appropriation.”
CBS 2 reported Mitchell thought the funding had actually gone through when he presented the oversized novelty check for the 2018 photo.
Beck said the failure to actually deliver the grant to AMVETS Post 14 has turned into a bipartisan issue. “We weren’t able to get the check when we had a Republican governor, and we’re still not able to get a check with a Democratic governor.”
The representative for the area, Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur), who is a veteran himself, told CBS 2 he is working to make sure the funding goes through but blames Democrats for the failure.
The current Pritzker administration told CBS 2 the grant predates the administration and, “Questions about the release of funds should be directed to the former lawmaker who did not do their due diligence to ensure this funding made its way to those he promised it to before handing out a big check to get headlines.”