Durbin talks area veterans care, health bill

Lasalle News Tribune
March 31, 2010

By Allison Ryan

U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) reaches over a table to shake hands with Vietnam veteran Jack Corrigan Tuesday afternoon at the Veterans Home at La Salle. Durbin was in the area to visit sites in Spring Valley and the Veterans Home where he stopped to talk with residents and employees at the home.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin represented the fulfillment of those promises Tuesday when he toured the home, following an announcement the home would receive $8 million reimbursement for the 80-bed expansion completed in 2008.

Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs director Dan Grant said the funding had been in the state budget for years but, with the state’s ongoing budget problems, the money never made it to the home. Grant said the budget proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn, while it includes drastic cuts in other areas, gives IDVA an additional $5 million from the general revenue fund for the coming fiscal year. Grant said most of that funding would be funneled to the state’s veterans homes.

During his visit, Durbin toured the facility, speaking informally with veterans and staff.

“It’s clear that it’s doing its job with a lot of very caring people,” Durbin said.

Ray Schneider Jr. agreed. His father, Ray Schneider Sr., is a U.S. Army veteran and a resident of the home.

“You can’t beat this place. It’s fantastic how they take care of residents and families,” the younger Schneider said as his father shook Durbin’s hand.
The veterans home has room to serve 200 residents and currently has 150 living there. Grant said most veterans spend two to three months on a waiting list, which is about the length of time staff need to conduct a background check and verify that the veterans home can provide the services each veteran needs.

That’s a marked improvement since 2007, when veterans reported three-year waits. One employee said there are no veterans on the waiting list for the skilled care unit and only 15 on the waiting list for the Alzheimer’s unit.