New VA director appointed

DANVILLE — The Department of Veterans Affairs has appointed a new director to lead the Illiana Health Care System based in Danville.

In the next 45 days, Japhet Rivera will be re-locating from a VA facility in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he serves as deputy director, to Danville, where he will oversee delivery of health care to more than 33,000 veterans and a $200 million budget in the Illiana system, which covers central Illinois and west central Indiana.

Rivera said he is a veterans' advocate.

"[M]y goals and decisions will be veterans centered," he said. "We will continue working to provide timely access to quality health care. We need to also focus on our veterans needing mental health care and those that are homeless. I look forward to getting to the Midwest and working with the staff at VA Illiana Health Care System."

Paul Bockelman, a network director with the VA, said Rivera has strong leadership qualities and experience. He said the facility, employees, volunteers and veterans will be in good hands under his leadership.

In addition to serving in the VA's Carribean Healthcare System, Rivera has served as acting director of the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita, Kan., and as associate director for the Miami VA Health Care System. While serving as acting director at Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center, Rivera improved veteran access and started a middle-management training program focused on mentoring and diversity.

Rivera also served in the United States Army Medical Department from 1987 to 2007.

Rivera will be the second permanent director of the Illiana system since Michael Hamilton retired in December 2011. Hamilton came to Danville in 2008. Emma Metcalf became the Illiana director on March 11, 2012, following Hamilton's retirement. She then accepted the director's position at the Lexington VA Medical Center on Aug. 25 of last year.

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