U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) and Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald inviting him to personally visit the VA hospital in Hot Springs, which is a part of the VA Black Hills Health Care System (BHHCS).  The delegation reiterated its opposition to the VA’s planned closing of the VA hospital in Hot Springs that was first proposed in December 2011.

The delegation writes:  “As a part of your travels, we invite you to visit the BHHCS in Hot Springs.  It is important for you to visit and see firsthand the quality care provided and hear from those personally impacted by the VA’s proposal.  For more than 100 years, veterans have been coming to Hot Springs to receive health care, earning the community the title of “The Veteran’s Town.”  A visit to Hot Springs will bring the issues surrounding the proposed restructuring to light in ways that a bureaucratic memo cannot.”

The text of the delegation’s letter is below:

 

July 31, 2014 

The Honorable Robert McDonald
Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC  20420

 

Dear Secretary McDonald:

Congratulations on your recent confirmation to be Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  We were proud to support your nomination and wish you well in this new position.  There are significant challenges facing the VA as you work to improve access to care, appointment wait times, distrust of the system, and low employee morale, among other issues.  We stand ready to assist you as you confront these challenges and carry out the VA’s mission.

An issue of particular importance to us and the South Dakotans we represent is the VA’s proposed restructuring of the VA Black Hills Health Care System (BHHCS).  In December 2011, the VA announced its plan to close the VA hospital in Hot Springs, SD, move the domiciliary from Hot Springs to Rapid City, and expand the Rapid City Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).  A new CBOC would be left in Hot Springs.  From the beginning, we raised concerns with the VA about the impact it would have on access to care for our region’s rural veterans, assumptions made about future partnerships, and the data used to support this proposal.  Unfortunately, despite our objections and those raised by veterans and community members, the VA has continued to pursue this restructuring.  We reiterate today our continued opposition to this ill-advised proposal. 

We appreciate your intent, stated at your confirmation hearing, to travel extensively and meet directly with those involved in the VA system.  As a part of your travels, we invite you to visit the BHHCS in Hot Springs.  It is important for you to visit and see firsthand the quality care provided and hear from those personally impacted by the VA’s proposal.  For more than 100 years, veterans have been coming to Hot Springs to receive health care, earning the community the title of “The Veterans Town.”  A visit to Hot Springs will bring the issues surrounding the proposed restructuring to light in ways that a bureaucratic memo cannot.  We would be honored to have you visit.

We look forward to working with you to continue improving veterans health care in South Dakota and throughout the country. 

Sincerely,

TIM JOHNSON
United States Senator 

JOHN THUNE
United States Senator 

KRISTI NOEM
Member of Congress 

Do you want to sign up for my E-Newsletter?