Empower Wisconsin | May 17, 2022
MADISON — Wisconsin lawmakers want to know what Gov. Tony Evers plans to do to make sure veterans are taken care of now that he’s ended the Wisconsin National Guard’s mission at the Veterans Home at Union Grove.
In a second letter in the last week to the governor, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) ask: “What is your plan to address the staffing crisis at the Veterans Home at Union Grove?“
As the lawmakers note, Evers could have allowed the Guard members to remain at Union Grove for another six weeks, according to federal rules.
Staffing problems have persisted throughout the pandemic. The Republican Legislature approved the governor’s budget requests related to staffing Wisconsin’s Veterans Homes, including at Union Grove. The Legislature also broadened Evers’ authority to spend an additional $10 million for emergency operations and staffing at the homes.
“We also passed a bill, which you signed, allowing military-trained medical personnel to more quickly fulfill duties at health facilities like the Veterans Homes,” the letter states.
“We have given you tools to address staffing at Union Grove. You have billions of federal dollars at your sole disposal to help alleviate problems at Union Grove,” Vos and Wanggaard assert. “Yet to date, neither we, nor our veterans at Union Grove, our volunteers at Union Grove, or our hard-working staff at Union Grove have seen a plan to increase staffing. Rather, they have seen you withdraw the WNG lifeline while it was needed and before the withdrawal was required.”
The guard has been assisting state-run facilities since early November. The last 16 members left Union Grove on Sunday.
Evers played politics again. His spokesperson told media that the governor’s hands were tied because of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling two years ago this month that found his unilateral emergency orders were against the law. Evers certainly could work with the Republican-controlled Legislature to promulgate a rule, but he refuses to even talk to Republican leadership.
As the lawmakers note, he could leave the Guard members in place, at the very least, for another 60 days.
The Guard has been able to act under federal activation, but (his spokesperson) said the Biden Administration gave states a 60-day notice on Tuesday that the federal public health emergency under which the Guard is acting could end, Channel 3000 reported last week.
“We ask you again: What is your plan to address the staffing crisis at the Veterans Home at Union Grove?” Vos and Wanggaard wrote.
“We hope you did not abandon our veterans and families at Union Grove without a plan, but time has run out without answers. Our veterans have heard nothing from you. Staff, families, and volunteers at Union Grove have heard nothing from you.”