Vets, congressional delegation voices opposition to VA restructuring at town hall

The Early evening news on KOTA Territory TV
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 6:17 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Last month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recommended to modify the Hot Springs and Sturgis health facilities, and place a more centralized hospital in Rapid City. Many veterans living in rural areas, and members of South Dakota’s congressional delegations have voiced their opposition to this move.

The national VA put out a report last month, claiming that the medical centers in Hot Springs and Sturgis aren’t sustainable, and recommended building a new hospital in Rapid City. While the goal is to have health centers in more urban areas, some veterans and public officials have raised concerns that this could lead to more inconveniences for vets living in rural areas.

“What they’re doing is saying ‘we can look at a larger number in an urban area,’ but they’re forgetting that a lot of our older veterans live in rural areas and can’t necessarily get to an urban setting just to get regular care,” says Sen. Mike Rounds.

Rounds says his main objective is to ensure that an Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission doesn’t get appointed, And if it does, to stall their hearings and investigations into the V-A’s restructuring plan.

Senator Rounds, and Congressman Dusty Johnson attended a town meeting of veterans hosted by the Disabled American Veterans organization in Rapid City Friday.

Along with several veterans in attendance, they voiced their disapproval of the recommendations.

Johnson says the previous VA Secretary, Robert Wilkie had promised him there would be no reduction of services in Hot Springs.

Johnson asserts that promise from the federal government was broken.

“If they’re going to want to implement these changes, I think they’re going to get a lot of questions from us about what in the world changed in the two years since Secretary Wilkie looked me in the eye and made me a promise.”

The next step in the process is for President Joe Biden to appoint a nine member AIR Commission that would conduct hearings through 2023.

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