Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune announced today that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to open community-based outpatient clinics in Watertown and Wagner. The opening of these clinics will increase access to VA health care for South Dakota veterans.

"On this Memorial Day weekend, it is critical that we remember the sacrifices of our veterans and work to meet their medical needs," said Thune. "These clinics, which are crucial to our rural veterans, will improve access and care for hundreds of South Dakota veterans. I will continue to work to improve the care that our veterans in South Dakota and around this country receive. The men and women who have bravely served our country deserve to be given the best care and treatment available and this will greatly improve access to these services."

The new community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) will become operational in 2007 and 2008.

"I am pleased that these facilities will be operational sometime within the next year and a half," Thune continued. "I have been working with the VA over the past year to find ways to pool resources between the existing Wagner Indian Health Service Unit and the incoming Wagner CBOC. I hope that we will be able to build on this relationship."

The CBOCs will provide comprehensive care, health promotion, maintenance, routine/urgent care procedures and education services. Mental Health Services will be offered on-site or through telemedicine at parent facilities to provide screening and prevention. The CBOCs will also offer diagnostic evaluation for mental illness and substance abuse, psychotherapy, psychosocial counseling, and referral for inpatient or residential care, direct care, or access to consultation for special emphasis or complex problems.

The CBOCs were established to improve access for veterans in rural areas to primary and specialty care. The CBOCs highest priority is to improve access to care for high priority enrolled veterans. Improved quality of care will reduce waiting times for follow-up care, in addition to reducing wait times at VA hospitals.

Thune is the lead Republican sponsor of the Rural Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act of 2007, a bipartisan bill that would improve rural care availability for veterans in rural states such as South Dakota.