State Senator Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry), a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, joined Senator Sue Rezin, State Representative David Welter, and several veterans’ groups on Monday at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home to demand deeper hearings into mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis that cost 36 veterans their lives, and caused over 100 other veterans and staff members to become infected with the virus. The lawmakers also renewed their call for passage of legislation that addresses the complete breakdown of mandated COVID-19 protocols at the LaSalle facility.
“One role of government is to take care of those who require assistance or who cannot take care of themselves,” said Sen. Wilcox. “This responsibility is especially important for our aging veterans, who answered a call to serve, and who are now living out their twilight years in one of our state-run Veterans’ Homes.”
Sen. Wilcox continued, “The top-to-bottom incompetence shown in the management of this crisis is an outrage. The Pritzker administration, his appointees, and those managing the day-to-day operations at this facility had a responsibility to protect the veterans who live in the LaSalle facility. Instead, their carelessness resulted in the deadliest outbreak at a state-run facility in Illinois history.”
A veteran who spent 24 years in the U.S. Air Force from 1989-2013, Sen. Wilcox stressed, “I also call on the former director to find the courage and moral fortitude to answer questions in any investigation. As military members, we know the benefit of hotwashes and incident analysis for getting better and helping an organization grow. She knows what she should do. Will she?”
Legislation that addresses the tragedy has been shelved by the majority party. Specific initiatives that have not received hearings include:
- Senate Bill 2251: requires IDPH to engage in an onsite visit within one business day of an infectious outbreak at a veterans’ home (filed Feb. 26, never granted a hearing)
- Senate Bill 1471: requires state-run facilities to conduct outbreak preparedness drills (amended to include this language on April 8, never granted a hearing)
- Senate Bill 1445: requires past employees to cooperate in investigations done by the Inspector General, which is necessary because the Director of the IL Department of Veterans Affairs at the time of the LaSalle COVID-19 outbreak refused to cooperate with the OIG investigation (amended to include this language on May 7, the bill still sits in the Senate Assignments Committee with no hearing scheduled).
“Every veteran living in a state-run veterans’ home is a hero, and every one of them deserves the very best care we can offer. Every one of them deserves to know they are safe and protected, so they can live comfortably and honorably,” said Sen. Wilcox. “Unfortunately, the State of Illinois failed them and failed their families.”
Click here to listen to Sen. Wilcox’s press conference remarks.