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, a nonbiased 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.