Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today praised the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Black Hills Health Care System for their decision to open an outreach clinic in Wessington Springs. The VA announced yesterday that Dr. Bernard Linn and his staff will conduct clinics one day a month in the Horizon Health Care, Inc. building.

"This new outreach service in Wessington Springs will allow many veterans in South Dakota to get the care they need closer to their homes. Providing rural veterans greater access to quality health care is a top priority for me," said Thune. "I will continue to fight to improve health care for our veterans who have given all of us so much through their distinguished service and sacrifice."

According to the VA, veterans who currently receive their care at the Pierre Community Based Outpatient Clinic and wish to be seen at the Wessington Springs clinic should contact the Linn Medical Clinic at 605-945-1710 to make arrangements. Veterans who are not currently receiving VA care or are not enrolled with the VA Black Hills Health Care System should contact Patient Services at the Fort Meade VA Medical Center at 800-743-1070, Ext. 9-7104 or 605-720-7104.

Additionally, Senator Thune is the lead Republican sponsor of the Rural Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act of 2007, a bill that builds on last year's Thune-Salazar bill to create the first-ever office of rural health in the VA. The bill would provide:
  • Innovation to Improve Rural Care Availability: Innovative veterans health care projects are frequently centered in large urban areas inaccessible to rural veterans. The Salazar-Thune-Tester proposal would require the VA to explore innovative partnerships at critical access hospitals and community health centers with Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Indian Health Service.

  • Harnessing America's Academic Power to Improve Rural Care: In order to protect the importance of rural veterans' in the VA's priorities, the Salazar-Thune-Tester proposal would establish up to five "Centers of Excellence" at VA medical centers with strong academic connections to research ways to improve care for rural veterans.

  • Ensuring Quality Care is Delivered: Under the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006, the VA was required to assess its fee-basis healthcare program to find ways of improving healthcare access for rural veterans. The Salazar-Thune-Tester proposal would require the VA to transmit the results of this assessment to Congress with the agency's recommendations for how to improve fee-basis healthcare for rural veterans.

  • Better Transportation Options: Veterans in rural communities frequently face long and expensive travel to reach the nearest VA health care clinics. The Salazar-Thune-Tester proposal would create the VetsRide program, which will provide grants of up to $50,000 to veterans' service organizations and State veterans' service officers to assist veterans with travel to VA medical centers. In addition, Senator Salazar's proposal will improve reimbursement rates for veterans for their travel expenses related to VA medical care by increasing it from 11 cents per mile to 48.5 cents per mile - the same rate paid to federal employees.