Durbin Celebrates Dedication of Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center

[NORTH CHICAGO, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) celebrated today the inauguration of the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, the nation’s first fully integrated Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense health care facility. Durbin authored the provision authorizing the merger of the North Chicago VA Medical Center and Naval Station Great Lakes Health Clinic to create the Lovell Federal Health Care Center in 2009 after first introducing legislation in 2008 to merge the facilities. Durbin also authored the federal provision naming the buildingin honor of Captain Lovell, a retired captain in the United States Navy and a former NASA astronaut.


“Quality medical care will now be available under one roof for veterans, servicemembers and their families in and around North Chicago. Joining a VA Medical Center with a Naval Health Clinic was a revolutionary idea ten years ago. Today, that idea becomes a reality in North Chicago and can serve as a model for similar cost-savings and quality care across the nation,” said Durbin.


Senator Durbin has played a major role over the last decade in the development of the new Lovell Federal Health Care Center. After the VA announced plans in 1999 to close the North Chicago VA Medical Center, Durbin brought Illinois House and Senate members together to request an investigation into the possibility of having the Navy and the VA enter into a joint agreement for use of the facility. Senator Durbin later passed language requiring the Navy to expand the use of the hospital and to work with the VA to finalize site selection for the joint ambulatory care center and construction design.


In 2009, President Obama signed the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which included a provision authored by Senator Durbin necessary to complete the merger of the North Chicago Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes. The legislative language gave authority to the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to jointly operate and fund the facility in North Chicago, saving taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise have been needed to rebuild or renovate the Navy’s nearby hospital.


Durbin’s language to officially name the Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago after Captain James A. Lovell was approved by Congress and signed by the President on December 16, 2009.


“This is a great honor for a true American hero,” said Durbin. “The story of Apollo 13 has been told many times, as a testament to human ingenuity in harrowing circumstances. Captain Lovell’s experience reminds us of our excitement in exploring the final frontier of space. With today’s dedication, his name will grace a new effort – perhaps not as glamorous as space travel – but an effort that honors his legacy, providing quality health care for naval recruits, veterans, and military families.”


After being selected by NASA for the manned space program, Captain Lovell accompanied fellow astronaut Frank Borman on the record-breaking fourteen day flight of Gemini 7. He was one of three astronauts chosen to participate in the Apollo 8 mission, which launched on December 21, 1968, and was the first manned flight around the moon. Lovell also served as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, which suffered an explosion en route to the Moon but was brought back safely to Earth by the efforts of the crew and mission control. He is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.