The $130 million Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center combines the services of the North Chicago Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes.
The project was met with a number of challenges for more than a decade.
"Merge the VA and Navy facilities into one. It was almost as if we were asking for the United States to merge with some foreign country. They never considered anything like this." Sen. Dick Durbin said at the ceremony.
Eleven years ago, a consultant recommended that the VA close its North Chicago facility. That would have forced Lake County veterans to travel to Chicago or Milwaukee for their care.
"I knew with [Jim Lovell's] name on this facility they would never try to close it again," said Rep. Mark Kirk.
"If they name a ship after you, it may last 30 years. This hospital will last a long time," said Lovell, a Lake County resident and the former astronaut portrayed by Tom Hanks in the film "Apollo 13."
Along with the remodeled and expanded medical campus at Green Bay and Buckley roads, the Lovell Center includes an East Campus at nearby Naval Station Great Lakes and three community-based outpatient clinics in Evanston, McHenry and Kenosha, Wis.