Members of the Chicago City Council’s Veterans Caucus endorsed J.B. Pritzker Thursday before taking shots at Gov. Bruce Rauner for what they call the “fatal mismanagement” of veterans healthcare.

At a news conference outside of the concrete shell of a new Illinois Veterans’ Home, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said the caucus decided to “take a stance” by endorsing Pritzker because he is in tune with the issues and concerns of veterans.

“This project isn’t done and it’s been going on for years,” Villegas said. “We see what’s going on across the state as it relates to other veterans homes, like in Quincy, and the disregard for veterans.”

After conversations with others on the caucus, Villegas said they unanimously decided to support Pritzker, who, along with his lieutenant governor pick Juliana Stratton, called out Rauner for not doing enough to safeguard veterans from fatal diseases.

Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker won the backing of Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) and other members of the City Council’s veterans caucus on Thursday. They announced their support outside a stalled veteran’s housing project on the Northwest Side of the city. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

“When 13 veterans die, when 60 people get sick from a preventable disease, when our heroes and their families are needlessly suffering, then Rauner isn’t getting it right,” Stratton said. “Instead of taking charge and fixing the problem, Rauner has ducked accountability and let this issue fester.”

Rauner has come under fire for the spread of Legionnaires disease, a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. The outbreak, which began in 2015, has killed 13 veterans at the home and though there have been efforts to curtail the spread of the disease, there was a fourth case reported Tuesday. Rauner’s “fatal mismanagement” of the toxic situation at the home has led to the deaths of veterans, Stratton said.

Rauner lived at the home for a week in January, and at the end of his stay, said he would replace and upgrade “water systems” at the home and would consider a brand-new facility on the same campus.

“I would be delighted, I would be honored, proud — no hesitation whatsoever — to have any member of my family come and live here,” Rauner said then.

Pritzker said he wants an independent investigation of the Quincy home, and for work to be completed on the Northwest Side facility.

“The obligation we have to these heroes and to their families is sacred,” Pritzker said. “To have that obligation so thoroughly neglected is an unconscionable moral failing. … This is what happens when a governor refuses to take charge.”

Construction on a new Illinois Veterans Home in the 4200 block of North Oak Park Avenue in Chicago, has stalled. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times