Governor, VA Secretary tour Ft. Meade VA Medical Center
STURGIS, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem, along with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, were in Sturgis Wednesday visiting the Fort Meade VA Medical Center.
Wilkie and Noem toured the facility in the morning to meet one-on-one with veterans receiving care.
90 percent of Black Hills-area veterans visit the Fort Meade clinic, which has one of the highest ratings in the country. Noem says there is still work to be done to improve the facilities in West River.
Streamlining technology and bettering communication between the state and private organizations offering medical care will be a priority moving forward. Another area continuing to see improvement is the VA facility in Hot Springs, something Noem says she’s working on, alongside local veterans such as Donald Ackerman from Hot Springs.
“Don and I have worked on the Hot Springs issue for years when I was in Congress,” said Gov. Kristi Noem. “The VA threatened to close that facility and our veterans were alarmed that we could lose those services so we have been trying to get these secretaries here for years and visit Hot Springs. One thing Secretary Wilkie has committed to is coming back and being in Hot Springs.”
This is the first time Secretary Wilkie has visited Western South Dakota since being sworn into office in July 2018. He says he’s making a point to reach out the American west and Native America to see what issues affect them here at home.
“It is to make sure that Washington DC understands the particular needs of the American west,” said Wilkie. “I spent my youth in Oklahoma so I know the issues of distance, the issues, the specific issues that confront Native America and that’s why I’ve spent time on the plains.”
Wilkie says this trip is the first of many more and in the next few months, he plans to return to West River to make a trip to Hot Springs.