The VA on Monday released its recommendations for the future of veteran care in the U-S and they confirm what had been leaked earlier in the month: the agency wants to close the Fort Meade and Hot Springs hospitals and build a new facility in Rapid City.
The 2018 VA Mission Act required the VA to do an assessment of the current and future health care needs of U-S veterans.
The agency will hold listening sessions across the country on the recommendations in the report before submitting them to President Joe Biden no later than the end of next January. He will then have 45 days to accept or reject them.
The VA assessment predicts the number of veterans across South Dakota will decrease over the next decade and because Rapid City is the largest population center in western South Dakota, Fort Meade and Hot Springs are “not sustainable.”
The VA announced plans last year for a new 49,000 square foot clinic in Rapid City and the agency says the goal is still to have it operational and accepting patients by early next year.
The report released Monday also calls for closing the VA clinic in Wagner and transitioning those services to Yankton, Mitchell, or the Indian Health Service clinic.
Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, would get a much smaller VA presence. The recommendation is to essentially close the hospital, moving inpatient and surgical services to partner healthcare providers and making the ER an urgent care facility.
The VA says the Sioux Falls hospital has low inpatient medical and surgical demand that community providers have adequate capacity to absorb.
The VA Sioux Falls Community Living Center would expand, though, adding 30 beds to meet growing veteran demand for those services.
When the recommendation to close Hot Springs and Fort Meade were leaked, South Dakota’s congressional delegation and Gov Kristi Noem all pledged to continue to fight to keep them open.