South Dakota Congressional Delegation Meets With VA Secretary McDonald Following Hot Springs Visit

December 6, 2016

Washington, DC – U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and John Thune (R-S.D.), and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today met with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald following his Nov. 30, 2016, visit to the Hot Springs, South Dakota VA campus. During the meeting, the delegation encouraged Secretary McDonald to carefully consider input he received from veterans, staff and other community stakeholders before making any final decision on the future of the campus. The delegation also reiterated to Secretary McDonald that any reconfiguration of the Black Hills Health Care System should be made within the construct of a national realignment strategy for the Veterans Health Administration, as prescribed by law.

“Making sure veterans in the Hot Springs area have access to quality health care remains my top priority,” said Rounds. “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. The VA must continue to focus on what is best for South Dakota veterans and the Hot Springs community.

“I was encouraged by Secretary McDonald’s willingness to listen to the delegation’s perspective about how we view the future of the Hot Springs VA and by his commitment to continue engaging with the community it serves,” said Thune. “My recommendation to the secretary hasn’t changed. I still believe our veterans would be best served if the Hot Springs VA remained open and operational, especially the facility’s PTSD care, which is credited with saving countless veterans’ lives. 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 decision for our veterans.

“There is something very special about the ‘Veterans Town,’ both for the veterans it serves but also for the community of Hot Springs itself,” said Noem.  “With so much at stake, it is essential the VA Secretary approach this decision with accurate information, an unbiased perspective, and the shared goal of delivering the best quality healthcare to our nation’s veterans.  These are items we’ve insisted upon from the beginning and areas in which we will continue to hold the VA accountable going forward.  Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

Last week, Secretary McDonald toured part of the Hot Springs VA campus and held a town-hall meeting in Hot Springs to hear from veterans, VA staff and local residents. The delegation recently sent a letter expressing their disappointment and concern over Secretary McDonald’s decision to visit Hot Springs while Congress was in session, thus preventing their participation in the visit.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald Holds Town Hall Meeting on Possible VA Hospital Closure

By Herb Ryan
December 1, 2016

Fulfilling a promise to tour the Hot Springs VA Facility, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald toured Battle Mountain Wednesday, November 30, 2016 along with the VA’s Black Hills Health Care System team, along with members of Save the VA committee, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans members. Following the tour McDonald shared lunch with American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.

A town hall meeting at the Mueller Center following the lunch gave veterans and citizens an opportunity to make a final statement before a decision is made on closure on the facility.

In a meeting with the press following the town hall Secretary McDonald said, ” I want to emphasize no decision has been made at this point, it’s my decision to make and I did not come here with a prejudice towards a decision” . On a possible date for a decision on the fate of the Hot Springs VA, McDonald continued, “Most of the data is in, I did get new data today and that will be taken into account. Again there is no specific timeline. My intention is to not shirk my responsibility, but to make a decision once all the data is in and has been reviewed”. When asked again for a possible point in time for a decision, McDonald said, ” I will make a final decision before January 20, 2017″.

 

 

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A citizen comments on the possible closure of the Hot Springs VA at a town hall meeting at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs, SD Wednesday, November 30, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald answers media questions following a town hall meeting concerning the possible closure of the Hot Springs VA at the Mueller Center  Hot Springs, SD Wednesday, November 30, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press