Hundreds protest proposed changes to Hot Springs VA Hospital

J. David Cox, of the American Federation of Government Employees says, "Every veteran wants VA healthcare at their fingertips, readily available and the best quality of care, and nationwide, veterans are rallying to this call in Hot Springs as they've done in Salisbury, North Carolina, Walla-Walla, Washington and other sites around the country."

J. David Cox has spent his life working for the VA and now represents a union for VA healthcare system employees nationwide. He flew out from Washington DC to stand shoulder to shoulder with hundred of other veterans and community members to protest changes to the Southern Hills hospital. He didn't mince words when describing the different needs in care between veterans and civilians.

Cox says, "The care of a veteran is very unique healthcare. Only in veterans do you have people who are injured by bombs and various things. When you see someone that doesn't have 3 of their extremities, you know that person is a veteran."

Native American leaders also joined the stand Saturday against the changes to services in Hot Springs. The Pine Ridge VA says there are more than 4 thousand vets on the reservation and they would have much to lose with the relocation of staff and services.

Pine Ridge VA President Bryan Brewer says, "For us, it's the closest we have for medical treatment. They want to move it to Ft. Meade and Rapid City and that would be a real hardship to vets on Pine Ridge trying to get up there, so we're really concerned about keeping this open."

Both Brewer and Cox agree Saturday's show of support was more than they could have ever hoped for.

Cox says, "This is the most tremendous community support I have ever seen in my life for a VA medical center. I believe everyone, not just in Hot Springs, but everybody in the state of South Dakota has turned out today, and I would send the word to every elected official whether they're a democrat of a republican; if they're not supporting veterans, I believe the people of South Dakota will certainly take that to the polls this fall."

Brendyn Medina

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