Rep. Swanson Introduces Bill to Ensure Qualified Leadership at Department of Veterans Affairs

Photo Credit: ABC7 Chicago

As former Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) Director Linda Chapa LaVia makes headlines in a fresh scandal, State Representative Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) is filing legislation to ensure that qualifications – rather than a rigged political appointment process – are considered when selecting a director to head the state’s veterans agency.

“Caring for our veterans shouldn’t be a political job, but unfortunately, when unqualified political appointees are put in charge, the quality of care suffers,” said Swanson, who, in addition to serving the 74th District in the Illinois House of Representatives, is also a retired Lieutenant Colonel with the Illinois Army National Guard.

Swanson’s legislation, HB 5715, would require that the Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs be a veteran who was honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces who has experience in either a medical profession, in healthcare, or assisted living facility management.

Swanson’s legislation comes after a deadly outbreak of COVID-19 led to the deaths of 36 veterans at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. Ultimately, a report from the Illinois Department of Human Services Inspector General found that those deaths could have been prevented. According to the report, the lack of a COVID plan and failures in leadership contributed to the deadly outbreak. It also noted that the failures started at the very top of the agency with then-Director Linda Chapa LaVia, who abdicated much of her responsibility, leaving direction and critical decision-making powers to a non-medical chief of staff.

“We owe the men and women who have served our nation in the United States Armed Forces a great debt of gratitude. Ensuring that they are properly cared for in their final years is the least we can do to show our appreciation,” said Swanson, “This legislation ensures that not only does a director have to have been an honorably discharged member of the military – they also have to be qualified to ensure our veterans receive appropriate healthcare.”