Lawmaker files bill to bring veteran's home back to Little Rock
LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Some Arkansas lawmakers are taking the first step in bringing a Veteran's Home back to Little Rock.
The former Little Rock facility on Charles Bussey Avenue was shut down after the state identified approximately $10 million in needed repairs. It is currently being evaluated for a possible sale in the future.
As the 89th General Assembly begins to meet this week, one lawmaker says it's time to rebuild.
"I'm a veteran myself of the Iraqi War," said Representative John Edwards (D-Little Rock). "I want our veterans to know they have not been forgotten."
Edwards' House Bill 1013 is an appropriation bill, and the first step toward opening an estimated 21 million dollar new facility. He is working alongside Jane English (R-District 34), who is putting together a task force responsible for evaluating the process of building a second veteran's home.
For Army veteran John Kendall, it's been tough to stomach life outside the former Little Rock Veteran's Home.
"My depression has grown greatly since then," he said.
He's responsible for all of the 32 pills he takes daily inside his North Little Rock duplex.
However, the hardest pill to swallow was after the old veteran's home shut down despite his protests.
"I haven't done it for me," he said, fighting back tears. "I done it because I love them guys, and I don't want to see any more of them die."
He says there are still about 70 displaced veterans longing for another veteran's home in the state.
Currently, Arkansas is the only state in the south with only one veteran's home. It is located in Fayetteville.
Mismanagement plagued the Little Rock Veteran's Home when administrator Janet Levine was fired for illegally collecting $600,000 from veterans in April 2012.
"If there's a lesson to be learned after what happened at the Little Rock facility, we cannot rest, we constantly must be vigilant."
Displaced veterans like Kendall say they'll be vigilant in lobbying for honest leadership in order to prevent future "wrongdoing and mismanagement."
A new 150-bed veteran's home would still be up to seven years away in a best case scenario, according to Edwards.
For Kendall, it can't come soon enough.
"We served our country when our country needed us, now we need our country."
The bill is expected to come before House Committee On Aging, Children And Youth, Legislative & Military Affairs next week before it's presented in the House of Representatives.
COMPLETE COVERAGEArkansas House approves veterans home bill (Feb. 22)Ark. legislature approves veterans home task force (Feb. 1)Ark. House panel authorizes new veterans home (Jan. 23)Lawmaker files bill to bring veteran's home back to Little Rock (Jan. 17)Ark. panel approves task force on veterans' home (Jan. 17)