GENEVA – U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, told veterans Monday that improvements are being made to ensure they get the help they need.
“But we need to do better,” Hultgren told them. “We need to spend more time to listen.”
Hultgren hosted a forum Monday at the Kane County Government Center about ongoing reform efforts within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Barack Obama signed a bill last year to overhaul the Veterans Affairs Department after there were revelations veterans were put on wait lists for services, and some died without seeing a doctor.
Suzanne Nunziata, of the Chicago Regional Benefit Office, said her office has worked hard to reduce the number of disability claims pending in the office. As of May 6, 6,092 disability claims were pending, down from 21,925 disability claims in March 2012, Nunziata said.
But Harry Sawyer, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, acknowledged more work needs to be done, including in caring for veterans who have mental health problems or those experiencing homelessness. One veteran attending the forum voiced concerns about funding being cut for mental health services and developmental disability services.
Dr. Nils Anderson, acting chief medical executive of the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, spoke about the services offered at the facility, and said the center recently opened an outpatient clinic in McHenry.
“We are readying warriors and caring for heroes,” Anderson said.
Hultgren said caring for veterans is a top priority.
“There’s nothing more important we can do than help our veterans,” he said.