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OUR VIEW

OUR VIEW: Veteran care should be non-partisan

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LaSalle Veterans Home, file photo

The Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle on Dec. 14, 2020. 

Taking care of our state's veterans shouldn't be a partisan issue. This should be a pretty easy one. If we're gathering ill and aging veterans -- or citizens, for that matter -- in a shared living space, we owe them every effort to ensure the most basics of a safe environment.

Last fall, 36 residents of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home died of COVID-19 in a matter of weeks. After several reports and legislative hearings, Republicans sent a letter to the Illinois Attorney General to investigate if state statute applied to the “negligent and disturbing activities that arose.”

Maybe those Republicans were just making political hay at the expense of those on the other side of the aisle. Illinois state politics is too often a gotcha game. One party scores points at the expense of another, and partisans statewide know precisely when they're winning or losing.

Too often, that's the measuring stick. But winning and losing shouldn't be in the conversation when we ponder medical care.

Particularly at a site like LaSalle, whose problems have been well-documented for six years. An April report detailed mistakes and poor decisions made at the facility. Republicans including Decatur's Dan Caulkins have sent a letter to Attorney General Kwame Raoul, demanding some type of response and action.

“Any private entity that had that kind of situation would have been prosecuted for one death, two deaths, but 36 deaths,” Caulkins said. “How do we prevent this from happening, how do we protect people and what are our options when things go afoul?” Caulkins said. “There’s been a stonewall by Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker and his administration. We felt that the appropriate agency to look into this is the Attorney General.”

He said Republicans need to know if there is a case. But they also need to know if there isn’t a case so they can see if they need to change state law to bring about accountability.

“Governor Pritzker promised to protect our veterans in state-run facilities and failed. If the law as currently constituted is insufficient to protect them, we need to know now so that appropriate statutory adjustments can be prepared in advance of the next legislative session,” the Republicans’ letter said.

Laying blame at Pritzker's feet may be a little heavy-handed, and "stonewall" is a powerful verb. There’s a difference between malfeasance and inadequate performance.

But the Republicans at their core are not wrong. There are many issues at the state level that need to be solved. Veterans in homes should not be shuffled aside as we argue about masks.

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