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Hello folks. Save the VA is reaching out to you about the public comment period for the Draft EIS regarding the VA's proposed reconfiguration of the Black Hills Healthcare System.

The original deadline for public comments was February 5, 2015. On Thursday, January 21 consulting parties and the VA conducted another of their ongoing consulting party meetings.

A lot of organizations are included as consulting parties and have been working hand in hand with Save the VA to keep services for veterans here in Hot Springs. Those organizations are;

South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office
National Parks Service
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Fall River County Commissioner Office
Hot Springs CLG Historic Preservation Commission
City of Hot Springs
Fall River County Historical Society
Save the VA
AFGE Hot Springs Local
South Dakota American Legion
Don Ackerman Veteran Representative

The first agenda item for that meeting was the consulting parties request to extend the public comment period by sixty days. Sandra Horsman, the Director of the Black Hills Healthcare System said the VA has agreed to a thirty day extension until March 6, 2016.

So, to the point of this message. First thank you to everyone that has already submitted your response to the Draft EIS anticipating the February 5th deadline. If you've been anxious about not meeting the deadline with your response, you now have an additional thirty days.

For the past four years we've been trying to convince the VA they've made a bad decision to move the domiciliary to Rapid City and replace the hospital with a Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

Now isn't the time to convince yourself or allow anyone else to convince you your efforts don't matter and the VA has already made up their mind. If this community hadn't come together four years ago and allowed the VA to move forward with their proposal, the domiciliary would already be in Rapid City and veterans would be using an outpatient clinic in Hot Springs. Your actions made sure that didn't happen. The only thing guaranteed is if we do nothing the VA wins and their proposal will become reality.

To submit a comment individuals don't need to have a "veteran" connection. The Draft EIS contains many sections that address the greater population. Listed below are some of those sections that may be more appropriate to your situation. Population Housing Income
3.11 Community Services Hospitals and Clinics Fire/Rescue and Emergency Medical Services Law Enforcement Services Schools Parks and Recreation

When you're out-and-about please ask the people you talk with if they've submitted their comment and if they haven’t, encourage them to respond by the new deadline, March 6, 2016. Mary Goulet and the folks she has been working with have done a great job of scheduling volunteers, times and locations to help you writing your draft if you need assistance. Contact Mary if you need help.

Once again, thank you for all you've done over the past four years to keep the VA Hospital in Hot Springs.


Comment at blackhillseis.com

Download & read it here: http://www.blackhills.va.gov/vablackhillsfuture/


The Draft EIS is out: Now what?

The VA has released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, as part of their compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The weighty 780 page document – which makes no recommendations on the final decision – only discloses all the potential effects of all proposed actions & alternatives currently on the table regarding the Hot Springs VA, ranging from the literal effects on the physical environment, to cumulative impacts on historic and non-historic properties, and more.
In the overall process, the Draft EIS comes after a public scoping period in which the VA’s contractor held a number of public meetings to speak directly with the people affected by this and learn what potential effects others think may be caused by any of the actions or alternatives.

Hundreds turned out to these meetings and provided testimony and several meetings were held with consulting parties, agencies and organizations. From that testimony, the contractor compiled the list of potential effects and then wrote the Draft EIS to address each effect. Now, the public has until January 5, 2016, to comment on the accuracy of the EIS. The tri-state Congressional delegation has requested a 90 day extension but this has not been approved yet. These comments will be responded to directly by the VA in the Final EIS, which will be written after this comment period is up. This means that if there are any complaints or problems with the EIS or the data being used right now, this is the time to speak up and have those complaints addressed.

What can I do?

Comments can be provided by letter, email or online, but there are stipulations: comments must be tied in some way to the purpose and need outlined by the VA.
Save the VA has written a brief guide on how to best structure your comments to meet the criteria.


When your comments are written, they can be submitted the vablackhillsfuture@va.gov, online at www.blackhillseis.com, or by mail to VA Black Hills Health Care System, 113 Comanche Road, Fort Meade, SD, 57741. The Chamber of Commerce & Public Library in Hot Springs are also making computers and help available.



Media Coverage:
Black Hills FOX
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
KCSR - Chadrad
Rapid City Journal
Hot Springs Star
KOTA Territory News 10:00


Author Mary Ellen Goulet's book "Reveille in Hot Springs: The Battle to Save Our VA" is available through Amazon.com or at Black Hills Books & Treasures.

"Reveille in Hot Springs" is a compelling read from cover to cover, culled from a year and a half of taking testimonials from veterans who have been treated at the Hot Springs VA. The original testimonials were sent to Washington, D.C. along with Save the VA's counter-proposal and this book represents only a sampling of the thousands of men & women who served our country. From WWII to OIF/OEF, the voices of the veterans echo one sentiment: Protect our VA.

Kirkus Reviews called "Reveille in Hot Springs" an "infuriating, stinging rebuke to politicians who leave returning soldiers to their own devices" and that "Readers may come away from this collection believing that the government should be cloning it [the Hot Springs VA] in every state."

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 Save the VA is an organization based in Hot Springs, South Dakota, dedicated to protecting the legacy of the 108-year old Battle Mountain Sanitarium National Historic Landmark VA Medical Center & Domiciliary in our community, which has been threatened with closure by VA administrators.

Battle Mountain Sanitarium was the first and only of the original National Soldier's Homes built for the short term healthcare needs of Civil War veterans instead of a retirement home, and is therefore the precursor to the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. The Hot Springs VA has been modified and updated throughout a century to care for America's veterans, becoming renowned for its successful PTSD & Substance abuse treatment facility in a beautiful, calm, and healing rural environment in the Black Hills of South Dakota.


Save The VA's War Chest
Stands At:
$12,755.75 as of 9/30/2015

If you would like to contribute to Save the VA financially, please contact our treasurer Scott Haden at (605) 745-4140.

              Mailing address:

               Save the VA Campaign
               P.O. Box 851
               Hot Springs, SD 57747


Follow Save the VA on Social Media. Facebook, Twitter & YouTube accounts may contain videos and posts with opinions that may not reflect the opinion of Save the VA as a whole and are solely the opinion of the individual speaking.



The Save the VA Executive Committee currently consists of 15 primary members. They are, in alphabetical order: Don Ackerman, Bryan Brewer, Amanda Campbell, Don De Vries, Barb Fetters, Justin Gausman, Rich Gross, Scott Haden, Stu Marty, Karen Meston, Bob Nelson, Ray Palmer, Bruce Rampelberg, and Pat Russell.

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