In His Own Words: The McAuliffe Administration’s Commitment to Virginia’s Veterans

Virginia is home to nearly 800,000 veterans who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to defend the freedoms we enjoy each and every day. I believe we have a duty to them, which is why I have been so proud of the work we have accomplished. Whether it was becoming the first state to functionally end veterans homelessness or helping 11,000 veterans find employment, I want Virginia to always be out in front when it comes to our service members.

Despite our efforts, veteran care has been an area of concern for me since I took office. Virginia has one of the lowest ratios of veterans to available care centers in the country. We don’t have enough long-term care and rehabilitative facilities to serve our aging veterans. That urgency grows every day because we also have the fastest growing veteran population in the nation.

That is why I’m thrilled to announce the building of the first of two new state-of-the-art veterans care centers, the first of which will be in Fauquier County. The 120-bed facility will on 30 acres that were once part of Vint Hill Farms Station, the former Army and National Security Administration base.

This state-of-the-art facility will provide top-notch long-term skilled nursing care, Alzheimers and dementia care, and short-term rehabilitative care to Virginia veterans. We’ve been working hard during this administration to make sure we can take care of the men and women who have earned the right to be our top priority.

Working with Admiral John Harvey, Commissioner John Newby, and a bipartisan group of leaders in the General Assembly, we finally broke the deadlock last year by authorizing the new veterans care center to be built using only state funds. We approved the first installment of state funding last year. The remaining $29.3 million dollars in bonds was in my introduced budget and is authorized by Delegate Kirk Cox’s bill, which I signed yesterday.

When deciding a name for the center, the words “legacy” and “service,” came immediately to mind. It is for that reason the new facility will be named the Puller Veterans Care Center, in honor of Chesty, Lewis, and Toddy, and their legacy of service to the United States and to the Commonwealth.

Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller’s service stretched from just after World War I through World War II and Korea, and he is the most decorated Marine in American history. His son, Lewis B. Puller, Jr., served in Vietnam, where he was seriously wounded by a land mine. He fought to rebuild his life, earning a law degree, and raising a family with his wife, Linda “Toddy” Puller.

Toddy Puller served in the Virginia General Assembly for 25 years, where she was a ceaseless advocate for veterans, especially in the areas of behavioral health care, family support and employment. Senator Puller was the Senate patron of the 2015 legislation that allocated the initial bond funding for the veterans care center projects. The Pullers truly are public servants.

I am committed to providing all of our veterans with world-class care. We are determined to have the Puller Center open and operational in less than four years. This will be the next major milestone in our work to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.