“You can have a nice facility and latest equipment, but at the end of the day, it’s the people who make a facility — that’s why I’m impressed with this organization,” he said.
He cited the commitment and passion that the staff has for the veterans — and that’s the bottom line at the VA.
“I’m very, very veteran-centered. All decisions are made with the veteran in mind,” Rivera said. “I think it’s a privilege to be here providing services to the heroes of our nation.”
Rivera has 20 years of active military service as an Army Medical Service Corps officer in the Army Medical Department, serving from 1987-2007. He served in the Pentagon as a medical technology staff officer in the Office of the Secretary of the Army for Acquisition Logistics and Technology.
He deployed to Panama in 1989 to support operations Nimrod Dancer and Just Cause. After 9/11, he was deployed to Kuwait as a medical operations planner and in 2004, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Rivera noted the Illiana System is ahead of its peers in many ways, particularly in the areas of renovation. Illiana also is a leader in providing Greenhouses — a home-like atmosphere for older veterans — and was the first VA in the country to open one. Danville now has two and has broken ground on two more.
In addition, Illiana expects to break ground this fall for an apartment complex for homeless veterans.
“We have a commitment to end homelessness by 2015,” Rivera said. “We still have veterans outside without a home. We need to continue to bring them into the system. This is their facility — we are here for them.”
One of Rivera’s goals is to make sure that veterans and their families know about the services available. Some veterans aren’t aware of what’s offered, and he wants to reach out to them.