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 joint statement after U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald announced that the VA would close a large portion of the Hot Springs facility:
“We are deeply concerned by the Obama VA’s decision, which is the direct result of a flawed process and continued data discrepancies,” said Thune, Rounds, and Noem. “The Hot Springs campus, supported by a dedicated medical staff and compassionate community, is critical to the veterans it serves. We are committed, as we have always been, to finding a solution that puts our veterans in the best possible position to receive the high-quality health care and support they deserve. The delegation will continue to work together and with veterans and community stakeholders to determine next steps.”
On November 10, 2016, the VA issued its final environmental impact statement on the Black Hills Health Care system, which was the last formal procedural step prior to VA Secretary McDonald’s decision to shutter the facility.
In a November 23, 2016, letter to Secretary McDonald, Thune, Rounds, and Noem expressed their disappointment after McDonald declined their request to meet in person at the Hot Springs VA to discuss the future of the facility. On December 6, 2016, during a meeting in Washington, D.C., the delegation encouraged McDonald to thoroughly consider the input he received from veterans, staff, and other community stakeholders.
Existing law prohibits the VA from reducing services in South Dakota in fiscal year 2017 unless the VA meets a series of requirements, including a national realignment strategy, which have yet to be initiated.