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South Dakota Veterans voice grievances with Sioux Falls VA program

Sioux Falls VA program draws scrutiny from Veterans, Lawmakers and SD Veterans Council
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 9:36 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

A program designed to give South Dakota veterans the freedom to seek medical care outside of the VA system continues to be the source of frustration.

In a packed hall at the Disabled American Veterans building in Sioux Falls, there was a candid discussion to find solutions.

Among those attending a listening event at the DAV, the majority agreed. The Care in the Community program at the Sioux Falls Hospital has a serious problem.

Senator Rounds describes the change. “For years and years, this VA facility has always had the highest marks. Right now it’s not working right,” said Rounds.

The Executive Director of the Sioux Falls VA Hospital, Lisa Simoneau agrees. “We are not happy about this. The chief is working on it,” said Simoneau.

Eugene Murphy, who has been a fixture at the DAV in Sioux Falls says things used to be better. “They did a decent job, I think until just lately,” said Murphy.

At issue is the care in the community program, where a veteran asks for a referral outside the VA system. Once approved, veterans are supposed to have an appointment booked on their behalf. The problem is the delay in booking the appointments from the call center at the Sioux Falls VA Hospital. Veterans calling in to follow up with their referrals are waiting for over an hour to speak with someone and calls are randomly dropped.

“We’re getting about 160 calls a day to the call center,” Simoneau. “When we set it up, we were anticipating 50 to 60.”

The backlog of referrals continues to mount.

“My last figures are that we’re over 4500 that haven’t scanned their records back into the system,” says Murphy.

One of the many veterans walked up to the mic and addressed the panel. “Manpower problems and more important, Sir, we have a leadership problem,” said the man.

The recent complaints have led to a joint effort from six South Dakota veterans groups writing a no-confidence letter regarding the VA Hospital Executive Director Lisa Simoneau. They sent it to lawmakers and her regional supervisor.

“I was disappointed in the no-confidence letter,” said Simoneau. “We’ve worked very hard we have some of the best numbers and care in the community.”

Sources pointed out to our I-Team that the Care in the Community program is working very well West-River, with few complaints. In Sioux Falls, the grievances accrue. We asked Simoneau about the difference.

“They’ve told that to me too. I do not know. I really... I can’t even conjecture,” said Simoneau.

The local DAV commander Tim Walsh says one change could help.

“I think a solution in my personal opinion would be, just that once it’s approved from care in the community, let that Veteran go make their own appointment,” said Walsh.

Senator Rounds says he will take Veterans’ concerns to Washington.

“And they can’t be going through this run-around program where it is delay after delay after delay. And that’s what’s going on right now. We’ve got to fix it,” said Rounds,” said Rounds.

Senator Rounds is inviting all concerned Veterans to contact his office, as they are opening files to handle the claims.

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