U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today issued the following statements after meeting with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin, who told the delegation he is still reviewing the decision by the Obama administration to close the Hot Springs facility. Secretary Shulkin noted that clinical operations in Hot Springs will continue for the time being, and the VA is making progress in hiring employees for the new onsite call center. The VA will continue to plan for facility expansions in Rapid City while maintaining the residential rehabilitation treatment program in the Hot Springs domiciliary.

“I appreciate Secretary Shulkin’s willingness to meet with us and keep these lines of communication open,” said Thune. “Although he did not reverse his predecessor’s decision to realign services within the Black Hills, he demonstrated a sincere interest in looking at how to best provide the quality care our selfless veterans have earned through their service and sacrifice. I look forward to working with the secretary to ensure veteran care and safety are prioritized and encourage him to visit the Hot Springs campus before making further decisions.”

“I thank Secretary Shulkin for agreeing to revisit the previous administration’s decision to close the Hot Springs campus and keep the facility open while it conducts a nationwide evaluation of all VA facilities,” said Rounds. “I support Secretary Shulkin’s goal of focusing on quality of care for veterans during this new evaluation. While the Hot Springs campus is no longer an immediate target, it is still in a larger pool of all VA facilities which could be reconfigured. But the decision will now be driven by quality of care, and the Hot Springs campus is one of only 17 VA facilities across the nation to receive a five-star rating for care. I also want to thank the Save the VA organization and the community of Hot Springs for their hard work and support of this facility. I look forward to continuing to work with them, my colleagues and Secretary Shulkin as we continue to seek ways to make sure the care of our veterans always comes first.”

“Veteran needs must drive any decision about Hot Springs,” said Noem.  “From the first town hall I held in Hot Springs days after the VA first announced it would close the hospital, to the U.S. House VA Committee hearing held on site at my request, to the hundreds of one-on-one discussions, veterans have consistently stressed that Hot Springs is the Veterans’ Town and we’d like to keep it that way. I am grateful to Secretary Shulkin for giving us the opportunity to share what makes this facility so indispensable, but I strongly urge him to visit the campus before additional decisions are made.”

Earlier this year, Thune, Rounds, and Noem met with outgoing VA Secretary Robert McDonald who told the delegation the VA would close a large portion of the Hot Springs facility. Secretary McDonald’s decision came after a December 2016 meeting with the delegation during which they encouraged McDonald to thoroughly consider the input he received from veterans, staff, and other community stakeholders. McDonald visited the Hot Springs facility late last year. 

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