Noem fighting to keep Hot Springs VA Hospital open

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) told her constituents on Monday that the fight to keep the Hot Springs Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital open is far from over.

The facility is one of several hospitals earmarked for closure since December 2011, as part of a reorganization of the VA.

Approximately 31,000 veterans are served by the hospital, which employs hundreds of residents from the local community. 

“Since the proposal was initially put forward, we’ve been asking for more information on the Native Americans who are served at the hospital, the land valuation in the VA’s cost-benefit analysis and simple estimates for key provisions,” Noem said. “The numbers have never added up nor have they been consistent with community stakeholder data.”

In August, Noem held a Congressional Field Hearing with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House VA Committee to discuss the discrepencies. 

“Despite the data discrepancies, the VA is pushing forward with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), one of the last items needed to finalize (its) proposal,” Noem said. “I helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass a provision earlier this year that would stop the VA from using any FY2015 funds to conduct an EIS on facilities like the Hot Springs hospital, but the provision has not yet been taken up by the Senate.”

Most recently, Noem invited VA Secretary Robert McDonald to see the Hot Springs VA Hospital, an offer she’s made before. But, she’s not ready to give up.

“This fight is far from over,” she said. “Hot Springs has been providing critical care to South Dakota veterans for more than a century and I’m committed to doing all I can to ensure Hot Springs can serve veterans in this way for a century more.”