May 07, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin Discuss COVID-19 Prevention and Vaccination Measures with IDVA


[SPRINGFIELD, IL] U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a combat Veteran and former Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA), and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke with Acting IDVA Director Terry Prince and Acting IDVA Assistant Director Anthony Vaughn about addressing and preventing a fatal COVID-19 outbreaks at the Illinois Veterans Homes (IVH). The call came after a Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report released last week, which documents a number of failures within previous IDVA leadership in addressing and preventing a fatal COVID-19 outbreak at IVH LaSalle. Duckworth and Durbin discussed the importance of increasing vaccinations among veterans and staff, addressing staffing shortages, providing better public health training, and their efforts to secure additional U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assistance for IDVA.

“I appreciated the opportunity today to speak with IDVA Director Terry Prince and discuss the ways we can work together to better support Veterans across Illinois,” said Duckworth. “During our conversation, we discussed IDVA’s plan that will address the failures that led to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at our states’ Veteran homes. Our Veterans have sacrificed so much for the rest of us, putting country over self to serve our nation, and we must do better by them and make sure that what happened at LaSalle never happens again. I look forward to working with Director Prince to make sure we provide all Veterans with the support and resources they deserve when they take off the uniform.”

“Illinois families have entrusted the care of their loved ones—Veterans who have served and scarified for this country with honor—to the State of Illinois.  Whether it’s increasing vaccinations, addressing critical staff shortages, or improving training, I will continue to push the U.S. Department of Veterans to assist IDVA and the Illinois Veterans Homes as we continue to fight COVID-19 and try to bring an end to the pandemic,” said Durbin.

Last week, Duckworth and Durbin wrote a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough asking the VA to ensure that IDVA has the appropriate protocols in place, as well as training and support it needs in order to continue to protect Illinois Veterans from COVID-19 or any future infectious disease outbreaks. IDVA has received $5.5 million in CARES Act funding to support COVID-related improvements across the IVHs.

The OIG report revealed a lack of preparation, poor communication and training, and a lapse in infectious-disease protocols at the LaSalle State Veterans’ Home. The COVID-19 outbreak at LaSalle claimed 36 Veterans’ lives and resulted in 109 other Veterans and 116 staff members testing positive for the virus.