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VA Closure Talk Energizes Push For Vets Home

December 13, 2011, 5:52 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

VA Closure Talk Energizes Push For Vets Home
BRANDON, SD - The future of the VA Medical Center in Hot Springs is in limbo, after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced intentions to close or relocate services in the Black Hills. That's also the location of the state's only nursing home for veterans and has East River nursing home advocates saying it's time to move forward with plans for a new facility.

Construction work is part of life right now at Bethany Meadows Senior Living Center in Brandon. They're working to add 58 rooms to the current facility. But if leaders here had their way, that wouldn't be the only construction work happening. They'd like to build the only East River nursing home for veterans.

"We believe there is a definite need and for people to travel all the way across the state to Hot Springs and into an older facility shows that there is something that needs to be done," Dennis Sever of Bethany Meadows said.

CEO Dennis Sever says while he's hoping for the best for the Hot Springs facility, the questions arising in the Black Hills underscore the need for a second veterans' home in the state.

"I think the state and federal government need to get along in making sure that we're taking good care of veterans and they're getting the care and services they need and in an area where they can stay close to family too. I think that means a lot," Sever said.

The current construction is scheduled to wrap up in July. In the best case scenario, planners say they could move from that project right into the veterans’ center.

"The idea that we could just continue moving after completion of our current facility, just works into the plan," Sever said.

But before that can happen, state and federal agencies need to hammer out many details, and financing will need to be secured. But supporters say their plan is the perfect blend, and could create a public-private partnership to benefit those who have served the country.

"We also need to update our services for our veterans. They deserve more in new facilities, private rooms.  The amenities that Bethany is putting towards Bethany Meadows out here in Brandon are services that I believe really fall into what those veterans needs are," Sever said.

Brandon is just one proposal for an East River facility. Other communities are expected to send proposals to the state this week.

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