U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the Black Hills is continuing to push for a move to Rapid City from Hot Springs. The agency released an Environmental Impact Statement detailing its plans.
But South Dakota’s congressional delegation, and many Hot Springs area veterans and residents are critical of the move.
The Environmental Impact Statement or EIS says the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Healthcare system hopes to construct a multi-specialty outpatient clinic and 100 bed residential rehabilitation treatment program in Rapid City.
The EIS includes renovating a building on the existing Hot Springs campus to maintain a smaller community based clinic in Hot Springs.
Sandra Horsman is the VA Black Hills Healthcare Systems Director.
Horsman says the VA believes the move of services to Rapid City involves many factors, like filling and keeping staff at the hospital…
“We’ve been able to fill them and we have just an outstanding group of people out there who are very dedicated to veterans," Horsman says. "But we’ve struggled. The number of veterans seeking services, in patient services, has gone down significantly over time. To do the residential rehabilitation program and be successful not only while they’re in the program but as they transition, they need a lot of support of services.”
Horsman says housing and transportation while rehabilitating veterans is a big need.
The EIS is open for review for the next thirty days. Before any decision is made, VA Secretary Robert McDonald will travel to Hot Springs to visit the community.
South Dakota’s congressional delegation is keeping a close eye on the statement. In a coordinated press release, Senator John Thune and Congresswoman Kristi Noem say they’re concerned VA continues to pursue moving its veterans’ health care system, despite vocal opposition.
Senator Mike Rounds says he and South Dakota’s delegation will continue working closely with all stakeholders to make sure the final decision best serves South Dakota veterans.