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Cullerton continues demands for accountability and transparency for Illinois veterans

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SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is still fighting for answers regarding a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak that killed 13 residents at the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy in the past three years. 

Cullerton called another bipartisan House and Senate Veterans Affairs hearing Wednesday afternoon, but it raised more questions as Rauner agencies had few answers. 

“It seems like the only way to get information from the governor’s administration is to hold a hearing,” Cullerton said. “It sounds awfully bureaucratic but if this is the only way for us to institute meaningful long-term solutions to protect our nation’s heroes, I will hold a hearing every week.”

Last month, Cullerton requested information from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Public Health regarding the veterans home. Appallingly, Gov. Rauner’s legal team stonewalled Cullerton’s requests.

“All I want is some answers and to know that our veterans are receiving the best possible care,” Cullerton said. “Instead of working with me to ensure we have the proper protocols in place, the governor’s office continues to hide behind FOIA laws. Our state agencies and government bodies are supposed to be transparent. What is he trying to hide?”

On top of Rauner’s legal objections, the Illinois Capitol Development Board released a report on the facility late yesterday evening, giving committee members just hours to read and fully comprehend it. Cullerton is still waiting on a copy of the original 2016 report commissioned by the department in response to the 2015 Legionnaires’ disease deaths as well.

“Additional taskforces and more publicity stunts aren’t going to fix this problem,” Cullerton said. “We need transparency and cooperation from Gov. Rauner’s administration.” 

Taking progress in his own hands, Cullerton has already sponsored Senate Bill 2308, which would authorize infrastructure improvements at Illinois’ flagship veterans home. The improvements would include updates to the water systems or new construction to prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria.

State Representative David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills), the chief sponsor of the measure in the House, is ready to move the bill forward as well, but Cullerton is still waiting on finalized figures from the governor’s staff.

“We have bipartisan support to provide the home with whatever they need to keep our veterans safe,” Cullerton said. “Our veterans have waited three years for a solution; the time to act is now. If the governor won’t take charge, I will.”

Cullerton plans on holding additional hearings until there is a long-term solution in place.

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