A task force of the National American Legion will be back in Hot Springs, a scant two years after gathering information for a report in 2012.

Roscoe Butler, the Assistant Director for Health Care, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation with the American Legion will lead a team from the task force ‘A System Worth Saving’ to a meeting at the Hot Springs Battle Mountain Post 71 American Legion on Monday, Feb. 17.

The meeting is set to take place from 7 to 8 p.m., with a focus on gathering information from local veterans on their health care as it relates to the VA Black Hills Health Care System.

The task force is also forwarding a series of questions to the BHHCS regarding its stated proposal to close the Hot Springs VA Medical Center and move the Domiciliary from the Hot Springs campus to Rapid City.

In January of 2012, a System Worth Saving task force was in Hot Springs to interview veterans on health care and to tour the Hot Springs VA facility.

A report that came from that visit recommended not making changes to the existing medical services at the Hot Springs VA unless a new facility was in place to handle the needs of veterans and to keep the Domiciliary in Hot Springs. That report was released in March of that year.

A System Worth Saving visits 12-15 VAs each year, but a return to Hot Springs after only two years leads local spokesmen for the Save the VA Campaign to believe that perhaps the American Legion is delving more deeply into the Hot Springs struggle to retain and rebuild the VA.

“We are very excited that the national American Legion has requested more direct answers on health care from the VA,” said Pat Russell, co-chairman of the Save the VA committee who, with fellow committee member Bob Nelson met recently with the National American Legion in Washington, D.C.

Also in attendance, according to Nelson, was Jennifer Buddenborg, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Last November Buddenborg released a NTHP report on the VA’s lack of following federal guidelines in respect to closing its facilities nationwide.

The Hot Springs VA figured prominently in the report and Buddenborg held a release press conference in Hot Springs at the base of the steps to the VA campus.

“Meeting with the National Legion along with the National Trust allowed us to share our concerns over the loss of services here, coupled with their information on the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) process that the VA is starting,” Russell said.

“I thought it made a good one-two punch.”

Nelson and Russell also noted that after meeting with the American Legion in the morning, the national organization asked that they come back for an additional period of time in the afternoon.

“Evidently something has clicked with them,” Russell said. “They wanted more of the information that Save the VA has compiled.” Russell added that hopefully the VA will be willing to listen to recommendations from the national American Legion.

“They are the largest veterans group in the nation,” Russell pointed out. “If the VA doesn’t listen to them, who will it listen to?”

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