Dec 14 2012

Daily Republic: Noem takes aim at VA for handling of Hot Springs

Secretary Eric Shinseki stonewalling her, congresswoman claims.

One year after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs proposed to shutter its facility in Hot Springs, Congresswoman Kristi Noem is still fighting mad.

South Dakota’s congressional delegation, veterans and the residents of Hot Springs have been shut out of communication by the agency, she said. Thursday during a call with reporters, she aimed her anger at VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“I’m very frustrated with the failings of the VA,” Noem said. “The veterans and residents of Hot Springs were told this would be an open and transparent process. That has simply not happened. My multiple attempts to engage VA Secretary Eric Shinseki have been overlooked.”

Specifically, Noem said she has requested several times to talk directly with Shinseki only to be told by one of his deputies “that would not happen.”

By contrast, Noem said she has easily gotten through to other cabinet secretaries, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“I picked up the phone and within five minutes I was visiting with him about farm policy,” Noem said.

VA officials have yet to respond to requests for meetings from a group of seven members of Congress, Noem said in a press release issued Wednesday.

“They haven’t responded to our requests for meetings and conversations. The VA has grossly mishandled this process,” she said.

Noem said she remains “inspired” by the community of Hot Springs after it worked together on a counterproposal that VA officials promised to consider.

“They all worked together to fight to save the facility. I stand with the veterans and with the residents in Hot Springs. I continue to oppose the VA proposal.”

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