Veterans ask state to ‘get it right’ on Soldiers’ Home reforms

Veterans ask state to 'get it right' on Soldiers? Home reforms

BOSTON — Eileen Driscoll would rather have been elsewhere, but after losing her father, a veteran who was living at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the COVID-19 outbreak, she was compelled to show up on Beacon Hill to send a message.

“My message for the lawmakers is, get on the stick for these veterans they deserve more,” said Driscoll.

Driscoll was part of a coalition of VFW members pushing for renovations at the Soldiers’ Home that they say have been overdue since 2012 when funding was approved by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

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The amount approved was $116,000,000 and the state share would have been $40 million, according to Bill LeBeau, Department Adjutant of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

In addition to fighting for overhauling the building, veterans say they want the structure of oversight revamped.

Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration filed legislation that came after the results of an independent investigation revealed mismanagement that ultimately led to the deaths of 76 residents at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

A hearing was held by the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs where Baker’s bill was debated there was testimony from lawmakers, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, and veterans.

“Quite honestly given the track record of the Baker-Polito Administration in overseeing the Soldiers’ Home and the resulting tragedy that has occurred, I ask how this body can even think of considering this administration’s proposals before the ink is even dry on your very own special committee inquiry and that of the other investigations that are being conducted by the US Attorney and the State Attorney General,” said John Paradis of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition.

In the past, Baker said his administration took responsibility for what happened at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

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