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Noem slams federal proposal to realign veteran health care in South Dakota

Teresa Forbes
VA Black Hills
Veterans Affairs health-care facilities in Hot Springs.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is rolling out realignment plans.

The plans could reduce or eliminate veteran health-care services in some South Dakota cities, while adding services in others.

Governor Kristi Noem broke the news Friday with the release of an audio recording. The recording is from a conference call conducted by VA officials with employees.

One of the speakers on the call is Robert McDivitt. He’s a VA official overseeing a region including South Dakota.

McDivitt said a team from Guidehouse Consulting is proposing a plan for the Black Hills.

“The Guidehouse team is recommending essentially that we build a new VA in the Rapid City market and add services to that facility," he said.

McDivitt called it a “multi-hundred-million-dollar" concept. Noem said the plan includes replacing the VA hospitals at Hot Springs and Sturgis with clinics.

The Hot Springs and Sturgis facilities are historic campuses and major employers in their communities. Hot Springs and its local Save the VA Committee have fought off previous VA attempts to consolidate services in Rapid City. The VA says consolidating services in Rapid City is more convenient for Black Hills veterans.

Governor Noem says the VA also plans to close a clinic in Wagner and eliminate emergency services at the VA hospital in Sioux Falls.

Noem said in a statement she’s “promising to push back.” She said veterans in areas affected by reduced or eliminated services would have to drive hundreds of miles for health care.

Seth supervises SDPB's beat reporters and newscast team. He works at SDPB's Black Hills Studio in Rapid City.