'Save the VA' committee vows to continue its fight - KOTA Territory News

'Save the VA' committee vows to continue its fight


Back in December The VA proposed closing the Hot Springs clinic to downsize the hospital; a move they say is in the best interest of patient quality and safety.

In response the ‘Save the VA Committee' was quickly formed and began to fight the closure.

After a set back at a September meeting, ‘Save the VA' members lost trust in the process, but they continue to fight.

"We're not going to roll over, we're not going to go away," said Patrick Russell, with ‘Save the VA' Committee.

For Russell, a veteran himself, the fight to save the Hot Springs VA is far from over.

"We all want to do what's best for the veterans," said Russell.

Russell says the meeting in September between Black Hills Health Care officials and the ‘Save the VA Committee broke down when the BHHCS said it was not in a position to negotiate.

"We felt like we were betrayed and what I would term as surface bargaining or bargaining in bad faith. they led us on to think that we were making progress, and they pulled the rug out from under us and said our proposals would not be given due consideration," said Russell.

The proposals the committee believes will not only save tax payers money, but create better care for veterans.

"We believe we have outlined a plan that's not only good for the community for veterans here, but we believe it's a model for veterans and rural communities nationwide," said Rich Gross, with the ‘Save the VA' committee.

In response to the meeting, state leaders from South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Veterans affairs Eric Shinseki, to request a meeting in Hot Springs.

A meeting 'Save the VA' members hope will open the lines of communication they say they were denied.

"We want to start that dialogue and we want it to start with Secretary Shinseki when he's here," said Gross.

"We hope Secretary Shinseki will get here, see what's going on and see the passion that we have and really analyze what we think we have here as a model project, to make it better for veterans in the whole nation," said Don DeVries, Mayor of Hot Springs.

Regardless of if or when that meeting happens, the ‘Save the VA' committee will be ready.

"The ball is in the VA's court. But we're not waiting, we're moving forward, we're going to be getting people organized and the day that Secretary Shinseki shows up he's going to see more than 1,000 people lining up to show their support for our VA," said Russell.

A call to Secretary Shinseki's office on Monday was not returned by news time.

'Save the VA' committee members are not sure when they'll receive a response and a possible meeting date with the secretary.



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