U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today condemned an announcement from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that it will move forward with a contractor to conduct the Hot Springs VA’s Environment Impact Statement (EIS) in the wake of national reports of secret VA wait lists and preventable deaths.
“The VA has turned a deaf ear to the concerns of our veterans since it first released its proposal in 2011,” said Thune. “Now amidst national scandals that have reportedly resulted in preventable veteran deaths, the VA has the audacity to press forward with closing the Hot Springs VA. I think American veterans would be better served by the VA focusing on addressing this immediate crisis, which is why I introduced a bill to require the VA’s Inspector General to report on national veteran wait times and prohibit the VA from proceeding with any closures.”
Yesterday, Thune introduced legislation to require the VA Inspector General (IG) to issue a report to Congress on the wait times veterans are experiencing at VA health care facilities nationwide. Thune’s legislation would prohibit the VA from closing any health care facilities or utilizing funds to conduct an EIS concerning closures until the IG’s report is released. If the IG concludes that veteran appointments or treatments were intentionally delayed, the legislation would restrict the VA’s closing of medical facilities or using funds for an EIS until delays are resolved.Thune has been a leader in calling for the administration to return the Hot Springs VA to full operation and to ensure that the EIS does not start with a pre-determined outcome. In January of 2013, Thune, along with the rest of the South Dakota delegation, met with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and representatives from the Save the VA Committee in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of VA facilities in Hot Springs. Thune continues to raise concerns about how the Hot Springs VA closure will impact a number of important factors including: wait times, quality of care, access to specialized health care services, access to rehabilitation programs, travel distances, and access to medical care for tribal veterans.