Delegation Disappointed by Secretary McDonald’s Decision to Decline Hot Springs VA Tour and Meeting

Delegation Disappointed by Secretary McDonald’s
Decision to Decline 
Hot Springs VA Tour and Meeting

WASHINGTON  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.) wrote to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to express their disappointment and concern over McDonald’s decision to decline a December 2, 2016, tour and meeting at the Hot Springs VA. McDonald will instead travel to the facility on November 30, 2016, a day on which the VA knows Congress will be session, thus preventing Thune, Rounds, and Noem from joining him on that day. By declining the December 2 meeting, McDonald is not fulfilling his commitment to tour the facility with the delegation prior to making his decision on whether or not to shutter the Hot Springs VA. 

“Given the magnitude of the changes the VA’s proposed consolidation would have on veteran care, we request that you not hastily issue a final decision in the waning days of President Obama’s administration,” the delegation wrote. “The uncertainty and distrust this process has sown in the veteran community can only be remedied by thoughtful and studied action. Furthermore, we also maintain that any reconfiguration sought by the VA should be made within the construct of a national realignment strategy for the Veterans Health Administration, as prescribed by law.”

On November 10, 2016, the VA issued its final environmental impact statement on the Black Hills Health Care system, the last formal procedural step prior to McDonald having to make a final decision on the facility’s future. 

Full text of the letter is below, and a PDF of the letter that was sent to McDonald can be found here. 

The Honorable Robert McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary McDonald: 

We write to express our extreme disappointment and concern that you are not fulfilling your commitment to join the South Dakota delegation in touring the Hot Springs hospital campus prior to making a final decision regarding the proposed consolidation of the Black Hills Health Care System.

In our discussions with you dating back to before your confirmation as the eighth Secretary of Veterans Affairs, we have made clear our expectation that our veterans be given fair and open consideration in this matter. However, in the nearly five years since the VA first made public its desire to consolidate the Black Hills Health Care System, the process has not been sufficiently transparent or responsive to criticisms from veteran stakeholders. Failure to hold a constructive discussion about the Hot Springs campus with the South Dakota congressional delegation and veteran stakeholders, to include addressing the continued discrepancies in the VA’s analysis, prior to issuing a final decision will all but confirm that a reduction in services at the Hot Springs VA has been a pre-determined outcome throughout this process. We are confident that the long-sought visit to the historic Hot Springs VA campus will be most productive if it includes meaningful engagement with the veteran community and the presence of the South Dakota delegation.  

Given the magnitude of the changes the VA’s proposed consolidation would have on veteran care, we request that you not hastily issue a final decision in the waning days of President Obama’s administration. The uncertainty and distrust this process has sown in the veteran community can only be remedied by thoughtful and studied action. Furthermore, we also maintain that any reconfiguration sought by the VA should be made within the construct of a national realignment strategy for the Veterans Health Administration, as prescribed by law. 

Thank you for your timely consideration of this urgent and important matter.

Sincerely,

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4 Replies to “Delegation Disappointed by Secretary McDonald’s Decision to Decline Hot Springs VA Tour and Meeting”

  1. Anonymous

    Trump is the only one who can stop the reduction of services for our veterans in the Black Hills and western Nebraska.

  2. Anonymous

    Wait, what, our wonderful delegation is bummed that the Secretary will be touring the facility and not showing up for the Dakota 3’s photo op and bash session? How dare he do such a thing? I’m pretty sure he’ll get a better tour and a chance to talk meaningfully to residents without those 3 there, anyway, and besides, he’s got, what, probably 2 months left on the job?

  3. Anonymous

    Just put a bill in for mandatory funding and get it passed.Quit jerking around,You say how great we are while veterans wait , get it passed so all vets are covered.Forget about photo ops and basketball and get this passed.

  4. Renegade

    The VA Black Hills has a “strategic plan” but by no means a “tactical plan”. They really have no plans now except that they want to “reorganize” the Hot Springs VA, but they do not know how they are going to do it or what it will look like. Just ask the “Head Horseman”.