LASALLE – Top officials from Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s administration today broke ground on a new 80-bed addition to the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. Gov. Blagojevich directed $13 million to build the 60,000-square-foot unit that will allow the facility to serve dozens more of the state’s disabled veterans.
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Roy L. Dolgos and Capital Development Board Executive Director Jan Grimes, joined State Senator Gary G. Dahl (R-Granville), Representative Frank J. Mautino (D-Spring Valley), LaSalle Mayor Art Washkowiak and former Senator Patrick Welch for today’s groundbreaking ceremony.
“After bravely serving our country and putting their own well-being at great risk, our aging and disabled veterans deserve to live in a safe setting where their particular health needs can be met. With the expansion of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home we will be able to provide better care for more of our disabled veterans, while also creating more jobs and strengthening the economy of the LaSalle area,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Because of the dire need of long-term health care for older veterans living in Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich ordered $13 million in funding to be released for the construction project last September. The 80-bed expansion will allow the Home to admit 40 residents into the Alzheimer’s unit and 40 into the skilled care unit as well as hire 60 to 65 additional employees. It will also include five enclosed courtyard areas to provide safe, secure outdoor recreation space for the residents. The new addition should be complete by the end of 2007.
“I am very pleased that the Governor saw the importance of this addition and provided the funding to build it. This will allow the state to provide 80 more Illinois veterans that fought so bravely for this country with long term health care,” IDVA Director Dolgos said.
“I am proud to join Governor Blagojevich in honoring our veterans with this new facility,” Director Grimes said. “This commitment to the long-term care of our veterans is a fitting tribute to their service as we prepare to observe Memorial Day this weekend.”
The project is being overseen by the Illinois Capital Development Board, which manages all state construction projects.
“I think I speak on behalf of all Illinois veterans and their families when I say ‘thank you’ to the Governor for coming through with the money for this long awaited project,” said Rep. Mautino.
“Disabled veterans require special services and attention. The LaSalle Veterans’ Home expansion will allow for dozens of our veterans to get the special services they require,” added Sen. Dahl.
The LaSalle Veterans Home opened in December 1990. Located in a residential area on the northeast side of LaSalle in LaSalle County, on a campus of slightly more than four acres, the home provides intermediate and skilled nursing services for veterans. Currently, they have a total capacity of 120 beds including 18 special needs beds for veterans suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementias.
Since the beginning of his administration, Governor Blagojevich has implemented several programs designed to help Illinois veterans get the health care, services and benefits they have earned.
Last month, the Governor won legislative approval for his landmark veterans’ health insurance initiative called Veterans Care. Veterans Care will provide thousands of Illinois veterans who earn too much to qualify Veterans Administration Healthcare but who do not have health insurance, access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage. The new program will be operated by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services in collaboration with IDVA. The agencies estimate that approximately 9,000 veterans will qualify for this new program.
To be eligible for Veterans Care a veteran must meet the following criteria:
- Be between the ages of 19 and 64;
- Have been uninsured for the past six months;
- Be ineligible for VHA and other healthcare programs like FamilyCare;
- Have a household income up to 25% of the Federal Poverty Level above the VHA threshold at the beginning of the program, and if funds permit after 6 months of operation up to 50% of the federal poverty level above the VHA threshold;
- Not have been dishonorably discharged from service;
- Be willing to pay a monthly premium of $40, plus co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions.
Additionally, the Governor signed legislation earlier this year to:
· Shield grieving military families from protests during funerals and memorial services of fallen soldiers. The “Let Them Rest in Peace Act” requires protesters to stay at least 200 feet away from family and friends as they mourn soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
· Punish individuals who falsely claim to be decorated war heroes. The new law creates criminal charges and imposes penalties on individuals falsely representing themselves as recipients of various military honors, including the Purple Heart, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.
Last Saturday, IDVA hosted on behalf of Gov. Blagojevich the “Supermarket of Veterans Benefits” where hundreds of Central Illinois veterans were able to get information about their federal benefits and services, as well as connect with educational opportunities and job openings.
Earlier this month, the Governor announced that just three months after going on sale, the state’s first lottery ticket designed to benefit Illinois veterans and their families has generated more than $1 million for veterans. Veterans Cash is the first instant ticket in Illinois Lottery history where a portion of the proceeds will help fund state programs and services for veterans.
Last month, building on efforts to help the state’s veterans get federal benefits and services, the Governor announced that more than 5,500 additional veterans and their families were helped by the state since the hiring and deployment of 25 more Veterans Service Officers across the state at the start of 2006.