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12/7/2016

12/7/2016


SD delegation battles to keep Hot Springs VA open

South Dakota's congressional delegation made efforts Tuesday to maintain veterans' access to health care within the state.

The Hot Springs VA Campus, once known as the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, has been under threat of closure for more than one year, and the state's three members of U.S. Congress asked that staff, community stakeholders and veterans be considered before the campus is shuttered permanently.

In a joint press release issued Tuesday by the offices of U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, the three legislators spoke of their recent meeting with McDonald and his decision to visit the Hot Springs VA Campus when Congress was in session. The three legislators recently decried McDonald's decision to delay his visit, as it prevented them from joining him on the tour.

While the delegation criticized the decision to postpone the tour of the Hot Springs facility until Nov. 30, each expressed appreciation for McDonald taking the time to listen to their concerns.

"While I would have preferred to join Secretary McDonald on his trip to Hot Springs, I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet with him today to hear about his visit and seek assurances that a decision on the future of Hot Springs has not been predetermined," Rounds said.

Rounds has advocated for other changes within the VA this year, having pushed for the passage of the Veterans First Act. The act is meant to boost accountability and care within the VA by ensuring a veteran would not pay more for private care than they are when seen at a VA facility and requiring the Veterans Health Administration to produce an annual report to Congress detailing the cost of the health care services it provides.

And Rounds, who represents a state he's said serves as home to more than 72,000 veterans, hoped quality VA services persist in South Dakota.

"The VA must continue to focus on what is best for South Dakota veterans and the Hot Springs community," Rounds said.

Thune spoke kindly of McDonald's willingness to meet with the state's delegation, but said his recommendation on the Hot Springs VA has not changed.

"I still believe our veterans would be best served if the Hot Springs VA remained open and operational, especially the facility's PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) care, which is credited with saving countless veterans' lives," Thune said. "It's my hope that after today's meeting and Secretary McDonald's visit to South Dakota last week that he'll make the right decisions for our veterans."

Noem also commented on the meeting and the potential closure of the facility which she said sits in the "Veterans Town" of Hot Springs, saying the state's veterans deserve nothing less than VA accountability.

"With so much at stake, it is essential the VA Secretary approach this decision with accurate information, nonbiased perspective and the shared goal of delivering the best quality health care to our nation's veterans," Noem said.


Article Credit: Mitchell Republic Newspaper

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