An area Congressman took in a round table of ideas about how to help Illinois Veterans in Beardstown on Saturday. 18th District Congressman Darin LaHood chaired his ninth veterans advisory committee meeting in the district at Beardstown’s VFW Post 1239. A little over three dozen area veterans, lawmakers, and veteran service providers met for over 3 hours discussing the many challenges that Illinois’ veterans face. LaHood says the 18th District is home to the second largest veteran population in the state. Veterans from Danville, Peoria, Macomb, Springfield, and Bloomington were in attendance.
For the first time, Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs Acting Director attended. The newly named acting director Linda Chapa LaVia was in attendance as well as Veteran Affairs Illiana Health Care System Director Shawn Bransky. LaVia told the audience about the opening of the new Community Based Outpatient Clinic opening in Bloomington later this year as well as the new Chicago Veterans Home that will be opening next year. LaVia also gave an update on the $230 million dollar renovation happening at the Quincy Veteran’s home. Bransky praised the new MISSION legislation from Congress in helping streamline veteran healthcare benefits.
Overall, LaHood said the afternoon was highly beneficial to receive ideas from the veterans in his district who live the struggles and triumphs of each day being a veteran of the military. “My veterans advisory committee has really helped me to be a strong advocate to do all we can at the federal level. We heard a lot of really good ideas today on what we can do to improve issues related to PTSD and more funding for that. Secondly, healthcare is a big part of that. The new MISSION Act that we passed – how do we make sure that we streamline the process, make it more efficient, effective, and accountable so that veterans can get that treatment – heard a lot about that today. Then, thirdly, making sure that veterans have the information they need. Maybe it’s a new service dog, maybe it’s an educational opportunity, maybe it’s a fundraiser, maybe it’s an honor flight. Today, again, we had people around the table here that talked about those opportunities.”
Beardstown Mayor Leslie Harris says that she’s encouraging things at the local level to move forward to provide housing for veterans in need. “Something I’d like to see the Beardstown City Council look into is the tiny homes. However, we have ordinances in place that only allow certain footage length so, we have to go through our planning commission for them to try and change our ordinance to allow that. The city has been in the process of tearing down dilapidated homes and those lots are there. Maybe this is something the council would like to see being able to build a home for veterans, but we have to be in compliance with the ordinance so we have to go through that process before we can commit to doing something.”
Harris says that many organizations in the local area contribute to veteran affairs. She noted West Central Mass Transit’s help with transportation of veterans to and from appointments and the work that they do to help. Harris says the local VFW Post 1239 is an asset to the community. She’s glad to be a part of it herself, she said, as part of the women’s auxillary.
LaHood says his next mission in Congress for the military is getting a new flying mission for the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield for the Air National Guard. He feels its under utilized and the division is ready to be put to its full potential. LaHood will be meeting with the newly appointed Air National Guard Adjutant General Richard Neely at the base in Springfield today.