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December 13, 2011 06:06 PM

Feedback Sought On Hot Springs VA Proposal

Hot Springs, SD


If you spend any time in Hot Springs, it immediately becomes clear why the veterans here are so passionate about their hospital.

"I stayed in this community because of the VA. They got me well. They got me to where I could succeed and be functional in this community and in life," veteran Wade Burns said.

Burns came to the Hot Springs VA to treat a host of injuries, including PTSD. Now he's a local business owner.

"Well, I feel successful for the first time. Honestly, it's because of the VA and the help that they've given me," Burns said.

But the VA claims that the number of vets seeking treatment is dropping and something needs to change.

"Ultimately, you're faced with a reality of a declining enrollment number. You have to consider what the right number of patients you need to have in a facility to provide safe, effective care. And you certainly want it to be the highest quality possible," acting director of the VA Black Hills Health Care System Steve DiStasio said.

The proposal would begin to shift services from the VA in Hot Springs to other health care clinics that may be closer to veterans' homes.

"What would happen if we made it possible for that veteran to get their care in the same community health care facilities that their families receive it?" DiStasio said.

However, some see the idea bringing more drawbacks than benefits.

"I don't understand why they believe that they can outsource all of these services and be more cost effective than the VA system, which is the most cost efficient health care system in our country," veteran Ed Harvey said. 

Regardless of which side of the issue people fall on, they're encouraged to voice their opinions and ideas.

"We want them to reach out to us, to their elected officials and voice their opinions. And I offer that good, bad or otherwise," DiStasio said.

There are town hall meetings scheduled across the Black Hills this week where you can speak out about the cuts.

There is not yet a timeline on when a decision may be made regarding the proposed closure of the Hot Springs VA facility.

For more information, visit the VA's Black Hills Health Care system's website.
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