HOT SPRINGS, SD -
The VA has announced a list of proposals that will effectively close the Veterans Administration hospital in Hot Springs.
For many veterans, access to local VA health care was what drew them to the town of Hot Springs.
"That was my major reason for coming to this area, so that I had access to health care," disabled veteran Rhonda Kocuriek said.
"That was a real bonus to moving here, to have quality care close by," disabled veteran Ed Harvey said.
But a list of proposals released Monday afternoon by the Department of Veteran's Affairs would move nearly all of those services to other Black Hills facilities or private providers. And that's not sitting well with area veterans.
"Some of that money that was earmarked for the veterans will go to pay taxes and overhead and other things for the private facility rather than be addressed to veteran care," Harvey said.
And the move will affect more than just the veterans in Hot Springs.
"Pine Ridge, Nebraska, Wyoming, they count on this VA being there for them, for their health needs," veteran's spouse Mary Wilson said.
"By making them drive the extra distance to Rapid City, or up to Ft. Meade, is a real hardship for these people," Harvey said.
It could also have an adverse effect on the local community.
"I'm just afraid that if we lose the VA, this town is going to shrivel up," Kocuriek said.
"Every time you lose some sort of service at the VA, something else closes up. We're the veterans' town. We depend on the VA and the state home to keep our citizens employed and for the revenue," Wilson said.
But ultimately, the biggest concern is how these changes could impact those who sacrificed for their country.
"You can't ignore those people. They've served their country and they deserve our best in caring for them," Harvey said.
The VA is holding a series of town hall meetings across the Black Hills to receive feedback from the public on the proposals. The first is Monday night in Hot Springs at 6 p.m. mountain time at the Mueller Center Theatre.
For more information on the VA's proposal or the time and location of the town hall meetings, visit the Black Hills VA's website
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