Veterans Day: November 11 set aside in commemoration of the end of hostilities in 1918 and 1945 and observed as a legal holiday in the United States to honor the veterans of the armed forces. – Merriam Webster Dictionary
You have to wonder: Are veterans being properly cared for or are the examples of egregious treatment merely high profile exceptions that are common in huge organizations like the VA?
Perhaps the highest profile case of VA failure was two years ago in Phoenix when it was reported that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for medical appointments. In a scandal of galactic proportions, VA managers concocted a secret waiting list in order to hide the fact that 1,600 ill veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor. Less serious examples of mistreatment of veterans are legion.
Closer to home, many South Dakota veterans will be affected by the closing of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs. Despite broad resistance to the move by Hot Springs residents and the South Dakota congressional delegation, among others, the VA is determined to shutter this historic hospital and build a new one in Rapid City.
The reasons for the move are the ones we commonly hear from big government and big business: A better location will mean better service; the present facility is old and too expensive to upgrade; the present location is remote and people don’t want to live there; and, centralized services are better.
The VA held out a carrot that it thought would defuse the opposition when it announced the building of an outpatient clinic in Hot Springs. It must have thought the locals were still on the turnip truck by attempting to sell such a trade-off: the loss of nearly 300 jobs, many of them high-paying, in exchange for a fraction of that number and lesser paying ones, at that.
But the key question is: What would be best for the veterans?
The Military Times, a weekly publication, wondered if the rural location providing quietude and serenity helped heal patients or held them back. The publication reported that many of the region’s veterans said the tranquil environment in a town of 3,700 people is just as crucial to healing today as at the beginning of the 20th century.
The historical significance of the hospital is also a factor. The beautiful pink sandstone hospital dominates the Hot Springs landscape, sitting high on a bluff in the center of town. Veterans from the Civil War forward have been treated there, including those who served in Vietnam and Iraq.
After it is abandoned, it is a near certainty that a wrecking ball is in its future.
Nov. 9, 2016