Anna veterans home hosts public forum Maintenance fee for residents addressed

Union County on Sunday hosted the first in a series of public forums which are being held throughout the state as the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, IDVA, considers an increase in what are called maintenance fees at four veterans' homes operated by the agency.

The first public forum took place Sunday afternoon at the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna.

The forum was attended by an estimated 60 to 70 people and lasted about two hours.

A number of those who attended the forum voiced concerns about the potential impact an increase would have on veterans who live at the Anna home and their families.

While concerns were voiced, a number of those who spoke at the forum spoke of the high quality of care provided to veterans at the home and praised the work done by staff members at the facility.

IDVA has cited increased costs of operation as it considers what would be an increase in maintenance fees which have remained unchanged since 1979.

The State of Illinois operates veterans' homes in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno and Quincy. Public forums are planned this week at each of the homes.

Forty-eight residents live at the veterans home in Anna, which has a staff of 64 employees. The Illinois Veterans Home in Anna is operating on a $5.6 million budget.

IDVA director Erica J. Borggren explained prior to Sunday's forum that maintenance fees are the monthly fee each resident pays to live in an Illinois Veterans' Home.

Borggren attended Sunday's forum in Anna, as did  IDVA legislative liaison Tony Kolbeck.

In her opening comments, Borggren spoke of an "unshakeable commitment" to the veterans home and shared that IDVA wants to continue to provide quality care to the men and women who live at the facility.

By statute and administrative rule, maintenance fees are based on the cost of care and on residents' income.

Maintenance fees at Illinois Veterans' Homes have been capped by IDVA at $929 since 1979.

The average cost of care per resident in one of the homes is $7,424.03 per month and continues to rise each year. (The cost at Anna is $8,401 per patient, IDVA officials said Sunday.)

Borggren said that the purpose of the forums was to seek input about the possible increase in the maintenance fee from residents, family members and the community.

She said the department would be seeking input regarding the possibility of a rate increase, the appropriate amount of such an increase, a mechanism for that increase and how maintenance fees might keep better pace with costs in the future.

The forums are being hosted by the Illinois Veterans Advisory Council, IVAC.

IVAC is an advisory body comprised of representatives from veterans' organizations throughout the state.

Council member Myron Kirby of Farmer City attended Sunday's forum in Anna. He served as moderator for the event.

"We here in Illinois have a great system in our veterans homes," Kirby said.

He noted the purpose of Sunday's forum was "to make sure we are still here and can serve our veterans. We're here to listen and get information."

A wide range of issues were raised by those in the audience at the forum. Some of those included:

•If the maintenance fee does increase, could the change be made gradually?

•Could current residents continue to pay the maintenance fee which they now pay? And, could an increase be passed on to future residents?

•Wanting to know why the maintenance fee had not been raised since 1979.

•The cost of care at the state-operated veterans home in comparison to private nursing facilities.

•Could staffing be cut at Anna if revenue is not increased?

After having solicited input and insight from residents and advocates at each home during the open forums, IVAC members will discuss the topic and prepare a recommendation for Gov. Pat Quinn and IDVA at the council's regularly scheduled quarterly meeting on Dec. 13.

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