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Save the VA board member Bob Nelson makes a point during a meeting April 29 at the American Legion.

Brett Nachtigall/Hot Springs Star 

HOT SPRINGS – According to some on the Save the VA executive board, the idea that the fight to retain the Hot Springs facility is a lost cause after two years of struggle is absolutely incorrect.

“We hear from some people that we have lost because the VA is proceeding with the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement),” said board member Bob Nelson. “I would say that we have been successful, we have accomplishments, but we have to fight even harder now.”

Nelson and other Save the VA board members were at an EIS idea meeting last Tuesday at the American Legion in Hot Springs.

Nelson noted that when the VA Black Hills Health Care System released its proposal in 2011, it showed a five-year timeline to effectively close the medical center in Hot Springs and move the Domiciliary treatment program for PTSD and Substance Abuse to Rapid City.

“We’re now more than two years into their timeline and we still have the medical center,” Nelson said. “They haven’t begun their proposal and that is because of the support of this community. You should all commend yourselves at your two-year accomplishment.”

While the status quo remains, Nelson cautioned that now is not the time to give up the fight. “We need thousands of people expressing their thoughts and ideas,” he said. “It is vitally important that everyone get involved.”

He urged everyone regardless of political affiliation to call the congressional offices and tell them that they need to become more aggressive than they have in the past.

Pat Russell, chair of the board, said that the worst thing for the effort to retain VA services in Hot Springs is ‘AIR.’

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“That’s Apathy, Indifference and Resignation,” Russell said. “Now more than ever we need to get the community involved and moving on this.”

Save the VA board member Don Ackerman also hinted of an effort to convene a Congressional Hearing specifically on the Hot Springs VA issue.

“We are close and we are winning,” Ackerman said. “We have the data, they have lied from the beginning and we can prove it.”

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