SPRINGFIELD (AP) – The director of Illinois’ Veteran Affairs Department is leaving the post, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday.
Pritzker said the departure of Linda Chapa LaVia was a “mutual decision” that comes in the wake of deadly outbreaks of COVID-19 at state veterans’ homes, including the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, where 39 residents died of the coronavirus.
“What we want to do is restore confidence that people have in our Veterans Affairs Department and we want to do our best to take care of our veterans,” Pritzker said during a news conference in Springfield.
Pritzker’s office and the Department of Veterans Affairs are attempting to determine what caused the outbreak at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home in LaSalle, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Chicago. The outbreak was identified in late October when a staff member and a resident tested positive for the virus. An outbreak at the Quincy home has killed at least 17 veterans and, at the Manteno home, at least 19 veterans have died from the virus.
A former Democratic state representative from Aurora, Chapa LaVia was appointed by Pritzker in 2019. The governor said he will name a permanent replacement for Chapa LaVia after a nationwide search. Until then, Major General Peter Nezamis of the Illinois National Guard will serve as interim director.