Delegation Urges VA Secretary to Withdraw Plans to Close Hot Springs VA from Obama Admin. Budget Proposal

Delegation Urges VA Secretary to Withdraw Plans to Close
Hot Springs VA from Obama Admin. Budget Proposal

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today urged Department of Veterans Administration (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to withdraw all plans to reconfigure the Black Hills Health Care System (BHHCS) from the Obama Administration’s budget proposal. Last week, the administration’s budget request proposed measures to close Hot Springs VA facilities, despite previous assurances that the VA would not act without finishing a fair and thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The delegation writes: “…the VA’s FY 2016 Congressional Budget Submission targeting the Hot Springs VA Medical Center is a direct reversal of the VA’s repeated assurances that it would not proceed with a predetermined outcome.  The request also serves to deepen the distrust of impacted veterans who well remember the VA’s budget request to vacate the campus without conducting an EIS.  We request that the VA expressly remove all Enhanced Use Lease provisions pertaining to the Hot Springs VA from its FY 2016 budget request and judiciously proceed with the EIS.”

Full text of the letter can be found below:

February 10, 2015

The Honorable Robert McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary McDonald:

We are writing to express our concern regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) budget submission for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

As you know, we continue to have concerns about the impact the VA’s proposal to reconfigure the Black Hills Health Care System (BHHCS).  For over four years, the South Dakota delegation has been closely engaged with the VA and veteran stakeholders on this issue.  Throughout this time, the VA has assured us that any final decision would not be made until it completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in full accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

However, the inclusion of 14 separate line items in the VA’s FY 2016 Congressional Budget Submission targeting the Hot Springs VA Medical Center is a direct reversal of the VA’s repeated assurances that it would not proceed with a predetermined outcome.  The request also serves to deepen the distrust of impacted veterans who well remember the VA’s budget request to vacate the campus without conducting an EIS.  We request that the VA expressly remove all Enhanced Use Lease provisions pertaining to the Hot Springs VA from its FY 2016 budget request and judiciously proceed with the EIS.

Moreover, given the persistent discrepancies with the data used to formulate the VA’s proposed reconfiguration of the BHHCS, as well as current concerns with management decisions, we again request the VA make every effort to return the Hot Springs VA to its former level of operations and staff before conducting a five-year review to gather reliable data.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.  We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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7 Replies to “Delegation Urges VA Secretary to Withdraw Plans to Close Hot Springs VA from Obama Admin. Budget Proposal”

  1. Anonymous

    A brand new VA in Rapid City would be better for VETS!!!! Remember the VA is suppose to serve VETS not jobs in Hot Springs and it’s not suppose to be a tool to get votes by the corrupt SD GOP!!! South Dakota showing again it hates VETS and puts it self serving ways first instead of the VETS!!!

    Reply
    1. enquirer

      “tool to get votes.” how does that work in this instance? advocating something that vets hate should cost them votes.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      No one in Hot Springs has ever opposed replacing/expanding the clinic in Rapid City. The facts of the matter are that nearly all of the veterans Hot Springs serves are from the Southern Hills, reservation, Nebraska and Wyoming. Nearly all Rapid City veterans go to Ft. Meade or to the local hospitals/clinics. It’s simply a non-issue for Rapid City veterans and if you think otherwise you clearly have no idea how VA Black Hills operates. The two existing campuses serve two completely different geographical populations.

      It’s the highly rural veterans that will be completely screwed by this proposal. Plus a National Historic Landmark would be abandoned, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for one of the first national veterans hospitals in the country to sit empty – money that could be spent operating a large-scale VA PTSD research/treatment facility. By the way, the Hot Springs Community and the Save the VA committee have largely stayed away from saying anything about the economic impact of this proposal – which is also a huge impact – because the most important thing is about the veterans. But don’t let facts stop you from ranting about things you haven’t studied at all.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        You are a liar you know how I know that? You are talking!!! A new state of the art VA hospital would reduce the operating costs of separate facilities and would provide better care for all veterans in the region. And a few miles between the two towns doesn’t capture different markets

        Reply
  2. Anonymous

    They are trying to get votes from the residents of Hot Springs by keeping a cash cow (VA) for the city in place at VETS expense of better care for an upgraded up to date facility that is easier for transportation purposes and lodging

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Oh, I bet the VA Secretary will run right out and withdraw those plans because that SD ‘delegation’ is so fierce!

    Reply

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