Assistant Director Harry F. Sawyer
U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran Harry F. Sawyer, a 33-year state employee, was designated to serve as the Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, replacing departing Acting Director, Rodrigo Garcia.
Sawyer joined the IDVA in 1982 as a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) and has worked for over three decades in helping veterans and surviving family members to obtain benefits earned through military service. Promoted as the North Division Supervisor in 1997 to provide leadership for eight other VSOs, Sawyer later became the IDVA’s Field Services Manager in 2005. As the Field Services Manager he oversees the selection, training, certification, daily operations, and outreach events of the IDVA’s Veteran Service Officers state-wide. In FY 2014, these 71 Field Service VSOs helped Illinois veterans to obtain more than $127.4 million in initial and retroactive claims from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with an operating budget $5.1 million.
As a young man, Sawyer enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Agerholm (DD 826), including a tour of duty off the coast of Vietnam. Completing his enlistment in 1970, he received an honorable discharge and returned to Illinois where he worked as a florist until 1979, when he began assisting his fellow veterans as a service officer with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Sawyer is a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other organizations. Originally from Hillside, he and his wife Diane reside in Lombard, Illinois.
As assistant director, Sawyer will coordinate the state-wide operations of the IDVA, which has the mission to empower veterans and their families to thrive. The IDVA assists them in navigating the system of federal, state, and local resources and benefits; by providing long-term health care for eligible veterans in the four Illinois Veterans’ Homes; and by partnering with other agencies and non-profit organizations to help veterans address education, mental health, housing, employment, and other challenges. The IDVA has 1,332 personnel and an annual budget of $147 million, with the Central Office headquarters located in Springfield and an operational presence in the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago