Rep. Campbell Seeks Input from Veterans and Their Families Before Acting on Baker Holyoke Bill

State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell shares a moment with a veteran during a previous ceremony at the State House. (Courtesy photograph.)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to fast track reforms at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where 100 veterans have died from COVID-19, will have to wait for input from veterans and their families.

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, House chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, said Baker’s proposed legislation arrived only last month.

“While it contains some reasonable recommendations, there is simply not enough time in our formal session to get input from the knowledgeable members of the veteran and clinical community, and family members and staff from the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” she said.

As the Committee opened a required hearing last week, protestors gathered outside the State House. Strong pushback on the governor’s bill was voiced by several veteran organizations, summarized by John Paradis, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, who resigned as deputy superintendent at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in 2015 in protest of the state’s lack of support for the home.

“My bottom line ask for you is to get this right by first actively soliciting public input and secondly, by setting up a series of hearings, meetings and focus groups and to truly listen to those who know the soldiers’ home best,” Paradis said.

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