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New Home Planned for Veterans’ Families
It’s like a Ronald McDonald House but for the loved ones of service members.

Last year, nearly 8,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans traveled to the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center on West National Avenue in Milwaukee – men and women from 22 states – just to receive medical treatment. The costs of such trips can grow to become enormous, but the burden could become less onerous, once a 16-suite “Fisher House” is completed on the Zablocki campus in 2015. The project, which broke ground at an event on Tuesday, will be the first of its kind in the state and provide a place where families of patients can stay free of charge.

The announcement comes amid the controversy surrounding VA hospitals in other states. Some 42 (not including the Zablocki Medical Center) are now under investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General for delays and deceptive policies concerning patient wait lists, more evidence of how difficult certain segments of the federal hospital system can be to navigate.

A former Army captain named Dan Buttery, now president of the Fisher House Wisconsin group leading the project, says the facility has been about five years in the making, and it could house up to 128 residents at a time – that’s eight people per suite – and begin operations by the summer of 2015. Buttery retired from the military after sustaining an injury during a 2003 tour in Iraq.

One of Fisher House Wisconsin’s board members, Jennie Frederick, says she’s involved in the effort partly because her husband, a veteran, recently died from cancer, and her father served in World War II. “This is a way to do something to remember him by,” she says.

The national Fisher House organization originally estimated the costs of the Milwaukee project at $6 million and pledged $3 million toward its completion, but Fisher House Wisconsin has already raised more than the other half (about $3.3 million) and could make up the rest. It’s the first Fisher House group in the country to meet its fundraising goal before breaking ground.

“If we can raise the full $6 million,” Frederick says, “we’re paying it forward for the next project.” 

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POSTED 1/12/2015