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After LaSalle hearing leaves unanswered questions, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee wants more info from administration

Wednesday, Dec 9, 2020

* Press release…

As COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 32 residents at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, State Senators Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) continue to push for answers about the tragic and ongoing outbreak.

Cullerton and Schimpf, who serve as Chairperson and Minority Spokesperson of the Illinois Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, recently convened a hearing of the committee to learn more about the outbreak. Unfortunately, the hearing left them left with many unanswered questions about the state’s handling of the situation.

Yesterday, December 8th, they made an official request with Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Linda Chapa LaVia for detailed documentation regarding the outbreak and how officials and employees responded.

“Immediate transparency and answers about what’s happening at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home must be provided before more lives are lost,” Cullerton said. “We hope the clear-cut requests for information outlined in the letter will give the public and General Assembly a better understanding of what went wrong and how we can prevent something like this from happening again.”
“We owe it to the veterans and their families to find out how this tragedy was allowed to happen. Unfortunately, the previous hearing left us all with more questions than answers,” said Sen. Schimpf. “We need to find out more about who was making decisions, and at what levels, to determine where the breakdowns occurred that led to this terrible outcome.”

During the recent committee hearing, the senators note that Director Chapa LaVia committed to absolute transparency as it pertains to the outbreak. Cullerton and Schimpf are grateful for that commitment and look forward to the administration’s cooperation in providing the requested information.

* From the letter

• Information pertaining to the responsibilities of overseeing the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA), and the Veterans’ Home at LaSalle. More specifically, who is the deputy governor responsible for being the point person on issues concerning IDPH, IDVA, and the veterans’ homes?

• Any and all communications concerning the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home to and/or from the following: Governor Pritzker, Lt. Governor Stratton, Chief of Staff to the Governor Anne Caprara, Chief of Staff to the Lt. Governor Charles Watkins, Deputy Governor Sol Flores, First Assistant Deputy Governor Lizzy Whitehorn, Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell, First Assistant Deputy Governor Bria Scudder, Director of IDPH Dr. Ezike, Chief of Staff for IDPH Justin Dewitt, Director of IDVA Linda Chapa LaVia, Chief of Staff for IDVA Tony Kolbeck.

• IDPH and Veteran Integrated Services Network (VISN) site reports for all Veterans’ Homes in Illinois for comparison between the dates of April 1, 2020 through November 30, 2020 to ensure the implementation of proper protocol at all of Illinois’ Veteran Homes.

• Any written protocols distributed to employees of LaSalle Veterans’ Home concerning COVID-19 and the dates on which those protocols were acknowledged and implemented by employees:

    o Policies, procedures, guidelines, rules or protocols for COVID-19 that apply to the veterans’ home, including:
    • Date and time of implementation;
    • To whom the policies applied; and
    • The individuals responsible for carrying out and implementing the policies.

• The dates and times employees of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home were trained in proper COVID-19 mitigation protocols.

• Any and all shift change logs of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home concerning COVID-19 positive cases, isolation orders, and employee recommendations for the handling of COVID-positive residents.

• Number of applicants and awards (if any) for Region 2 Pandemic Health Navigator Grants, including the amount remaining of the $8.8 million available for Region 2.

• Any and all documents, written and electronic, mentioning COVID-19 addressed to and/or from the Illinois Veterans’ Home at LaSalle dated from October 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Citizen Kane - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    Another great question is why the Senior Veterans Home Administrator (manages the Administrators of all 4 Veterans Homes) position was allowed to be vacant for over a year now. Literally from Interim Administrator Anthony Vaughn all the way up through Director Chapa LaVia, there is no one that has any nursing home or medical experience. That is not good, especially now.

  2. - Derek Smalls - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    I wonder if a bad email (e.g. John Sullivan) is still a fireable offense?

  3. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 11:42 am:

    The political protection of Chapa LaVia should be upsetting to both the victims at Quincy and LaSalle…

    … Pritzker and Chapa LaVia thought accountability, even at the Director level mattered… just not now?

    It’s getting closer to a political difference when it comes to Chapa LaVia, and Sullivan’s email was “too far”

    It’s very disappointing.

  4. - Responsa - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 11:49 am:

    I don’t know what’s going on, but it appears the hearing was disappointing, not very enlightening, and that some covering up is happening. I hope the inquiry letter from Cullerton and Schimpf bears fruit. They pose some interesting questions that deserve answers.

  5. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 12:25 pm:

    =The political protection of Chapa LaVia should be upsetting to both the victims at Quincy and LaSalle…=

    Agreed. And to what end? She should be gone.

  6. - Frank talks - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 12:42 pm:

    The political hit JB will take, the longer this goes on and they don’t jump on top, is going to be big. JB crushed Bruce with those Quincy ads. If Ken Griffin jumps in and can match dollars be prepared to see a long line of commercials with headlines talking about 29 deceased veterans.

    Hat tip to OW the difference of handling between an old email that Sullivan was a CC on plus had no relevance to his standing position and a Director in the midst of a storm.

  7. - RonJeremysYoungerBrother - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 12:43 pm:

    I find it astonishing that it took over a month to fire the nursing home administrator. Per her LinkedIn account Angela Mehlbrech is the Administrator at Franklin Grove Living and Rehab. She has nothing that references the IDVA at all in that specific account. During her tenure there this nursing home popped up on a list of troubled nursing homes ( See article below). This is a typical ploy in Illinois to give the veterans the people that can’t hack it elsewhere.

  8. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 12:44 pm:

    Firing a director for failing to make sure underlings were accountable to executive directives/orders or even succeeding in carrying out the overall mission of the agency would send a nice signal to other high level political appointees that they are not immune from the chopping block and they need to pay close attention to what happens under their rubber stamp.

    I’m still prone to wait until more information is vetted out, but I just wanted to high light that there are other positive impacts that would come from following OW’s advice on this topic since after today I am leaning more towards his camp.

    I was expecting a “the front fell off” level of candor.

  9. - Ferris Wheeler - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 5:32 pm:

    Sullivan was involved in an alleged backroom scheme to soften discipline against a state employee who purportedly kept quiet about a sexual assault with a guy who was just indicted by the Feds.

    Jeffries was allegedly part of a scheme to withhold life-saving information from families, cover-up misfeasance by IDVA and shift blame for its failures to Tammy Duckworth.

    Those cases seem quite different from the current case. Orders of magnitude different.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 5:37 pm:

    === Those cases seem quite different from the current case. Orders of magnitude different.===

    Tell that to the families of the 30 who lost their lives.

    If there’s going to be political protection for Chapa LaVia, especially after the way Chapa LaVia went after IDVA…

    I’m a bit confused to your explanation of magnitude… when deaths are part of the equation.

  11. - Citizen Kane - Wednesday, Dec 9, 20 @ 6:28 pm:

    ===Those cases seem quite different from the current case. Orders of magnitude different.===

    Yes orders of magnitude worse. Like almost 3 times as worse. 32 > 14

  12. - Anon this time - Thursday, Dec 10, 20 @ 6:35 am:

    Other state agencies were involved and didn’t do their job either.

    Like how many employees filed complaints with Department of Labor only to have them send a letter and do nothing.

    People need to look into everything that failed.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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