It’s a 290 mile roundtrip from Eagle Butte to the Black Hills VA health care facility in Sturgis.
But it’s a journey some Native American veterans may have to take once health care services supported by the Veterans Administration on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and nearby areas come to an end in October.
C.B. Alexander is associate operations director for the VA Black Hills Health Care System.
“VA Black Hills Health Care System has decided not to exercise any option years and received no bids for a c…for a contract for the clinical op…clinic…sorry…community based outpatient clinic in Northwestern South Dakota,” Alexander explains. “We had put out a solicitation for bids for a new contract. We did not receive any bidders. That solicitation closed on August 25. And so to give out veterans as much notice as possible we announced last week that we would not have a clinic up there.”
Alexander notes that veterans in the affected areas can obtain care locally through the Veterans Choice Program. That program pays for approved health care services to any veteran who needs to travel more than 40 miles to a VA health care facility.
But Cheyenne River Sioux Veterans Services Officer Robert Dunsmore isn’t happy.
“Nobody bid on these contracts,” observed Dunsmore. “So we’re asking questions why they didn’t bid on it. Veterans Choice…that don’t work anyway. You call that 800 number you’ll be on hold for at least a half-hour before you get anybody. And then when you do make an appointment there’s…there’s no close providers.” 19
As a result Dunsmore has sent veterans as far as Omaha and Minneapolis for health care. Nor do Lakota veterans see Indian Health Services as an option since they’ve already received poor service there.
Dunsmore adds there are also issues with veterans being billed for services that should have bene paid through the Veterans Choice Program.
Cheyenne River Sioux tribal leaders are calling for a meeting with the VA Black Hills Health Care System’s director to address their concerns.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
V.A. Black Hills Health Care System