Discover / Battle Mountain Sanitarium
Save a National Treasure
REGION: Midwest
LOCATION:
Hot Springs, SD
TYPE: Building
The Battle Mountain Sanitarium was established by Congress in 1902. | Photo: National Trust
The Battle Mountain Sanitarium was established by Congress in 1902. | Photo: National Trust
Opportunity
Save a thriving, historic VA medical facility from closure and abandonment.

Overview

One of the original branches of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, the Battle Mountain Sanitarium was established by Congress in 1902 and opened to patients in 1907. Although the National Historic Landmark provides essential medical services for veterans in the area, the Department of Veterans Affairs wants to shutter it and construct a new facility 60 miles away. Not only would this place the future of this remarkable campus at risk, it would severely impact the town of Hot Springs, where the medical center is the single largest employer.

National Significance

The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, established in 1865, was the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Battle Mountain Sanitarium, its only branch designed solely as a medical facility, is one of more than 1,700 historic properties managed by the VA and one of only a few that retain enough integrity for National Historic Landmark designation. The VA is proving to be a poor steward of the prized sandstone buildings at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium and has already proven to be a poor steward at other VA historic sites across the country, deferring maintenance and disregarding the regulations that require compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.

Campaign Goals

  • Prevent the closure of the Hot Springs VA Medical Center at Battle Mountain Sanitarium.
  • Secure federal dollars for the rehabilitation of Battle Mountain Sanitarium, and make certain the sanitarium continues to serve as a VA facility.

Ways To Help

Donate to our campaign to save the Battle Mountain Sanitarium.

Tell us why the Battle Mountain Sanitarium matters to you.

Posted on May 12, 2015

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Save the VA Rally

This Friday, May 15, Save the VA will be rallying in the streets of Hot Springs to protest the proposed closure of Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Despite VA Secretary Bob McDonald's pledge to not make a decision on the future of this beloved veterans medical facility before completion of the environmental review compliance required by federal law, the agency has implemented several actions that support closure of the campus. These include a fiscal year 2016 federal budget request for third party leasing followed by release of an Expressions of Interest proposal to non-government entities for campus reuse. These steps, coupled with the agency's poorly performed compliance process, have eroded trust with Secretary McDonald and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Join Save the VA and dozens of veterans from Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming at the rally this Friday. The event starts at 8am at Centennial Park in Hot Springs. More details can be found here.   

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on October 21, 2014

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Earlier this year representatives of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Save the VA met with The American Legion in Washington, D.C., to share our work on preventing the closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota, as proposed by the Department of Veteran Affairs. That collaborative partnership quickly grew with a visit to Hot Springs by members of The American Legion's System Worth Saving Task Force. There they hosted a town forum with veterans as well as detailed meetings with administration and staff of the VA Black Hills Health Care System (VABHHCS). The result was a report that included several recommendations including that VA leadership should upgrade the existing medical facility to meet disability requirements and maintain the current facility in Hot Springs.

Part of The American Legion's ongoing commitment to Hot Springs and ensuring that veterans receive the best possible care in existing VA medical centers included a resolution passed by The American Legion National Executive Committee in mid-October urging the VA and Congress to take steps that will provide greater stewardship and resources to the more than 2,000 historic properties under the agency's management, including Battle Mountain Sanitarium.

The American Legion is the country's largest veterans service organization with more than two million members nationwide. Their support of our efforts to protect Battle Mountain Sanitarium and other VA historic properties is a tremendous boost and is one we hope to exercise in encouraging the new VA Secretary Bob McDonald to take up our cause. To that end, the National Trust recently reached out to the new secretary and received a prompt response. As a former member of Cincinnati's Cultural Task Force, Secretary McDonald participated in our announcement of two Cincinnati Icons to our National Treasures portfolio earlier this year. We are hopeful that his support and appreciation of those two historic properties will be replicated for the historic properties he now stewards for veterans and the American public. We are now waiting on his acceptance of our invitation for a meeting.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on September 11, 2014

 - Written by Amy Cole, Team Member

The VA recently concluded its “scoping period” for its analysis of the future of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium.  During this period, where the VA sought the public’s thoughts about its plans, many public meetings were held in South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming, and written comments were also accepted.   The National Trust submitted detailed comments outlining our concerns and we were encouraged that so many of our members and supporters joined the effort, describing their personal experiences and concerns about the VA’s plans for Battle Mountain. 

The sibling of a disabled veteran of the Iraq War commented that “ [o]ur family is thankful that the Department of Veterans Affairs has such a strong presence right here in the Black Hills to provide that treatment.  I'm seriously concerned that the VA's plan to abandon the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs will affect the level of care my brother will require over the decades to come. The Hot Springs facility is a remarkable building in a singular location.” 

A long-time local resident observed, “I have known a lot of people who have been helped by this hospital. I feel it would be horrific thing to close it down.  Our Veterans need the best help we can give them for all they do for us. So please don't take this peaceful place away from them.” 

Other commenters focused on the sustainable aspects of historic preservation noting, " [r]ehabilitating historic buildings using green building practices provides a unique opportunity to stitch past together with future and create vibrant places that are socially and culturally connected, and responsive to the needs of the communities they serve.”  

Dozens of like-minded people from New York to California shared their thoughts with the VA and let them know that retaining and continuing to use the Battle Mountain Sanitarium was of paramount importance. 

Stay tuned to see how the VA reacts to what it heard.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on August 28, 2014

Adam JonesWritten by Adam Jones, Team MemberCongressional Hearing

The fight to save Battle Mountain Sanitarium continues, and the U.S. Congress is getting more involved.

On Thursday, August 14, a Congressional field hearing was held in Hot Springs, SD to discuss the future of Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The hearing was requested by South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Nebraska Congressman Adrian Smith, both of whom were in attendance. Joining Representatives Noem and Smith were Florida Congressmen Jeff Miller, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs, and Gus Bilirakis, Vice Chairman of the committee.

A capacity crowd of some 500 people attended the hearing, held at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs, and all in attendance strongly opposed the VA’s proposal to close Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The hearing included two witness panels. The first witness panel consisted of local advocates from Save the VA, the American Legion, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the state of South Dakota’s Department of Veterans Affairs, all of whom strongly oppose the VA’s plan to shutter Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The second witness panel included regional directors from the VA Department who defend the proposal.

The first witness panel was very well received by the Members of Congress, who earlier in the day toured the Battle Mountain Sanitarium campus. Chairman Miller commented on how impressed he was with the public turnout at the hearing, and he also complimented, as did Vice Chair Bilirakis, the quality of the Hot Springs VA facility. Miller said that photos do not do the facility justice and Bilirakis said he was “impressed with the services provided here—we must keep them here.” Later during the first panel, Chairman Miller commented that the recent VA reform bill, which was signed into law on August 7, 2014, includes $5 billion for the VA to use on construction and renovation, explaining that there is indeed money available for the VA to fix up Battle Mountain Sanitarium if it so chooses.

In contrast, the VA panel received tough questions from the Members of Congress, and the Members of Congress were often skeptical of the VA’s answers to their questions. In one such exchange, Congressman Smith questioned the VA’s assertion that it is difficult to recruit doctors and other healthcare personnel to Hot Springs, with Congressman Smith noting that the inability to recruit to Hot Springs is likely due to the fact that medical services have been systematically removed from the facility for years, and because the VA has already stated its intention to close the facility.

All told, the Members of Congress, including the top two legislators on the influential House Committee on Veterans Affairs, stated their intention to do all they can to keep Battle Mountain Sanitarium open and serving the healthcare needs of veterans in the South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska tri-state region. The National Trust will continue working with Members of Congress and local advocacy groups to try to make that outcome a reality.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on August 01, 2014

Jenny Buddenborg Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

More than two years ago, the National Trust for Historic Preservation became engaged in a fight to save the historic Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota, from abandonment by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While great strides have been made over that period of time, including widespread opposition to the VA’s proposal, the agency has continued on a determined path to close this National Historic Landmark that has provided quality medical care to our nation’s military veterans for 107 years. Because of this, the National Trust recently listed Battle Mountain Sanitarium as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Since 1988, the National Trust has used its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places to raise awareness about the threats facing some of the nation's greatest treasures. The list, which has identified more than 250 sites to date, has been so successful in galvanizing preservation efforts that only a handful of sites have been lost. Dozens of sites have been saved through the tireless work of the National Trust, its partners, and local preservationists across the country. By naming Battle Mountain Sanitarium to the 11 Most list, we want to encourage the VA’s wise stewardship of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium and the hundreds of other historic VA facilities that also face an uncertain fate.

In late June, the National Trust partnered with the local advocacy group Save the VA and the South Dakota Members of Congress to hold a press event announcing the 11 Most listing. The event fell on a clear, blue day with the majestic dome of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium domiciliary building perched on the hill in the distance. David Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer, hosted the event and kicked off the remarks. To hear the entire presentation, watch the video below.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on June 24, 2014

Excerpt from The Sun-Herald (Biloxi, MS)

The National Trust for Historic Preservation on Tuesday named a century-old hospital for war veterans in Hot Springs as one of America's 11 most endangered historic places.

The Battle Mountain Sanitarium, built with pink sandstone in a Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style, is one of only 2,500 national historic landmarks in the country, said David J. Brown, the trust's executive vice president and chief preservation officer. "If you look at the building today, it's beautiful. It's been well kept, well maintained," Brown said. "But it's the plan that the VA has put forward to abandon the facility that really is the threat."

Read the full story >>

Posted on June 16, 2014

Amy ColeWritten by Amy Cole, Team Member

Last week more than 250 people attended the first three National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) public scoping meetings about the planned closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The purpose of the meetings was to give members of the public the opportunity to weigh in about the significant issues that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should analyze in depth as it begins its compliance with NEPA, ultimately resulting in an environmental impact statement to be completed in about two years. Public comments for this scoping phase will be accepted by the VA until August 16, a two-month extension from the original June 16 deadline date.

Only one person (the former director of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium facility) spoke in favor of the closure. All others spoke passionately, and often very personally, in favor of keeping the VA medical facility at Hot Springs. They talked about the quality of the medical care they received, the restorative value of the peaceful setting of the Hot Spring site, and the need for the VA to improve the data upon which it is basing its decisions. The National Trust spoke in favor of keeping the facility open, highlighting the fact that historic buildings can be rehabilitated to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and the importance of complying with all federal laws as they proceed. We will continue to actively participate in the NEPA process, pushing for the VA's continued use of Battle Mountain Sanitarium as a veterans medical facility.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on May 26, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

When Battle Mountain Sanitarium opened 107 years ago in South Dakota's Black Hills, the U.S. Congress intended for it to provide necessary medical services to veterans as part of the Historic Image of BMS CampusNational Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, a network of homes and hospitals that signaled the first attempt by our nation's government to provide long-term care to volunteer soldiers. At the heart of the beautifully crafted campus was the desire to honor the men and women who served our country in the armed services, as well as their families. To this day, Battle Mountain Sanitarium is a beacon of pride amongst veterans who have served in the many wars and conflicts since it first opened its doors in 1907. More than that, it has continuously provided high quality care and treatment to thousands of these heroes.

Today, on Memorial Day, let's honor these men and women, the very ones who were cared for at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, and the very ones who are now fighting to keep the doors of this remarkable place of healing from closing forever, as proposed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

You can help support the veterans by telling the VA that this National Historic Landmark campus needs to remain open as a fully functioning veterans hospital. From now until June 16, the agency is accepting and considering public comments on the proposed reconfiguration of its Black Hills Health Care System. Click here for more information on how you can share your voice, either through written comments or by attending public meetings in Hot Springs and Rapid City, South Dakota. The thousands of veterans served by Battle Mountain Sanitarium need your help.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on March 21, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Following the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) announcement in December 2011 to close the entire Battle Mountain Sanitarium campus and move veterans medical services north to TAL Town ForumRapid City, The American Legion made its first visit to Hot Springs as part of its System Worth Saving program. The program aims to support VA Medical Centers across the agency’s nationwide health-care system. Each year task force members visit a select number of sites to understand facility needs in the continued provision of veterans’ healthcare. Reports are issued that focus on timely topics like rural healthcare and women’s healthcare.

Battle Mountain Sanitarium clearly falls within the category of rural healthcare, so The American Legion’s 2012 report on that topic has provided relevant information to help us make our case for the preservation and continued use of this National Historic Landmark. And our message to save Battle Mountain Sanitarium resonated enough with The American Legion during a recent visit with them in our Nation’s capital that they invested in a second visit to Hot Springs this past February out of concern for the impacts to veterans care in the VA Black Hills Health Care Network and, more broadly, to rural veterans healthcare across the country.

During this visit, representatives from The American Legion’s D.C. office and System Worth Saving Task Force held a town forum where dozens of veterans shared compelling and moving stories of how Battle Mountain Sanitarium has cared for and treated them over the years. The representatives then spent several days touring the VA Black Hills Health Care Network and meeting with the National Trust’s partner Save the VA to gain a better understanding of the place and people and the impacts they would sustain if the Hot Springs campus were shuttered.

The National Trust is building a working relationship with The American Legion to help ensure that veterans continue to receive the best medical care possible. Stay tuned for ways that this partnership will help move the needle in our work to save Battle Mountain Sanitarium.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on February 09, 2014

Jessica PumphreyWritten by Jessica Pumphrey, Team Member

After two years of appeals from veterans, members of Congress, and other stakeholders like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced its plan to move forward with assessing the proposed closure of Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  

In response to this announcement, David Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer for the National Trust, penned a thoughtful opinion piece in the Rapid City Journal expressing our deep concern about the VA’s decision. He stated that now is a critical time for veterans, community members and others to elevate their voices for the preservation and continued use of Battle Mountain Sanitarium. He also touched on the ‘watchful eye’ of South Dakota’s congressional leaders who requested that the VA adhere to all Federal review and compliance requirements, urging them to reach an objective decision based on public input regarding the fate of the historic structures. 

It’s clear that our work is far from over here but we are committed to holding the VA accountable for preservation decisions made about the future use of these priceless historic buildings and the effects of those decisions to veterans’ healthcare.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on December 12, 2013

Written by Adam Jones, Team MemberVeterans at public meeting

Battle Mountain Sanitarium will start the New Year on a positive note as Congress blocks immediate efforts to relocate its veterans’ medical services. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act (H.R. 3521). The bill authorizes 27 of the 28 major medical facility lease projects requested by the VA for Fiscal Year 2014. The only requested project not included in the bill is a new VA facility in Rapid City, SD, a project that would transfer VA medical facilities out of the iconic Battle Mountain Sanitarium medical campus located in Hot Springs, SD. Identical legislation now awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.

This is a significant step in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's campaign to save this national treasure.

Two years ago today the VA announced its proposal to shutter the Battle Mountain Sanitarium campus and move medical services to a new facility 60 miles north, in Rapid City. Since then, the National Trust has worked closely with South Dakota’s Congressional delegation—Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune, and Representative Kristi Noem—as well as congressional members from the neighboring states of Wyoming and Nebraska, the South Dakota state legislature, and local stakeholder and veterans groups to preserve the Hot Springs medical facility.

During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing earlier this year, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki assured Senator Johnson that a final decision on the fate of Battle Mountain Sanitarium had not been made, and he agreed with Senator Johnson that it was a mistake to include the Rapid City proposal in the list of authorization requests. Representative Noem, Nebraska Representative Adrian Smith and Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis then used Secretary Shinseki’s testimony to secure removal of the request from H.R. 3521.

The National Trust continues to be deeply concerned that the VA's planned abandonment of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium campus endangers this National Historic Landmark, would severely impact the economic vitality of the small town of Hot Springs, and could potentially lessen the quality of health care received by veterans in the region. Our work with partners to save Battle Mountain Sanitarium and the economic fate of Hot Springs, long known as “The Veterans Town,” is ongoing.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.  

Posted on November 11, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Pat Russell

 Last week I joined our partner Save the VA in Hot Springs, South Dakota for the release of our new report entitled Honoring Our Nation's Veterans: Saving Their Places of Health Care and Healing. Dozens of community members and Veterans attended our press event that symbolically took place at the base of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium Grand Staircase, the majestic connector between the town of Hot Springs and the medical campus. Inspiring remarks were shared, all in the name of saving the Battle Mountain Sanitarium from closure, as proposed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The two Veteran speakers, Army veterans Don Ackerman and Pat Russell, were particularly powerful and rousing with their statements.
 
The purpose of the National Trust report is to open a constructive dialogue with the VA in an attempt to help the agency improve the care and management of the hundreds of historic properties in its care. An integral part of that message is saving and preserving the very places that were built to honor our Veterans. I am always impressed with the architectural and landscaped beauty of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, but I am even more moved by what that place means to Veterans who have been treated there. Don and Pat clearly illustrated that during last week's press conference, and the Veterans in the crowd responded in kind. I found myself inspired.
 
So, today, on Veterans Day, let us honor the millions of men and women who have served in our armed forces by choosing to protect, preserve and continue to use the stunning historic medical facilities that were built as a small token of gratitude for all that our military heroes have sacrificed. At these sites it is the power of the Veteran that provides the power of the place.
 
Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 
Posted on November 07, 2013

Amy ColeWritten by Amy Cole, Team MemberVA Report

Today the National Trust released a new report entitled Honoring Our Veterans:  Saving Their Places of Health Care and Healing.  The report explores the Department of Veterans Affairs cultural resource stewardship practices, identifies deficiencies and best practices and highlights the work the National Trust has been doing at Battle Mountain Sanitarium to save this National Treasure.  We hope this report will help to change policies at the VA that are preventing historic VA properties from being saved or reused.

The report identifies four main recommendations to help save places in the VA’s portfolio of more than 2,000 historic buildings:

  1. Top management of the VA must strongly and unequivocally commit to and support the protection of historic VA facilities—in order to comply with federal historic preservation laws and to ensure the best care possible for our nation’s veterans.
  2. VA staff should be encouraged to support—and resources must be allocated for—the preservation of the historic buildings with which they have been entrusted.  The planning process for VA facilities needs to be revised to include assessment of historic resources before years of planning for new buildings, and sometimes even congressional authorization, make it difficult to change decisions that have become set in stone.
  3. Opportunities to reuse and protect the VA’s historic buildings through private developers and other non-governmental parties should be expanded and actively promoted.
  4. Preservationists and other advocates must help the VA recognize the value of historic buildings to the mission and work of the agency and the communities in which they exist.

Ultimately, the Trust will utilize the report as a tool to collaborate with the VA and help them make better decisions about using and caring for their amazing collection of architecture and landscapes.  Congress can help us with this charge, and so can local preservationists.  The preservation and continued use of the VA’s medical facilities would honor not just living veterans, but all veterans, for whom the historically significant buildings and landscapes were designed and built.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on July 31, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerNoem Invite to Shinseki

Since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced in December 2011 its intent to close the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, South Dakota and move the VA medical services to a new location in Rapid City, South Dakota, not once has VA Secretary Eric Shinseki visited the National Historic Landmark. Nor have any other VA decision-makers from the central office in Washington, D.C. This is despite numerous requests on the part of local veterans and residents, as well as the South Dakota congressional delegation.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem recently sent yet another appeal to Secretary Shinseki asking him to visit Hot Springs and see firsthand the remarkable quality, condition and vibrancy of the dozens of historic buildings at Battle Mountain Sanitarium and the community that has built itself around the veterans it serves. She notes that in the fiscal year 2014 VA budget request the condition of the buildings was cited as a reason for the closure, and contends that a campus visit will help dispel this claim. The National Trust agrees.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on May 30, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

The tri-state congressional delegation representing South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming sent another joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their “continued frustrations” regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposal to close Battle Mountain Sanitarium. It has been five months since the delegation and our partner Save the VA met with Secretary Shinseki in Washington, D.C., to discuss alternatives to this proposal, and over three weeks since a follow-up meeting was held with VA Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Policy and Planning to address discrepancies in VA data used to inform the reconfiguration of the VA Black Hills Health Care System.

The letter asserts that the VA’s inaccurate data, such as number of tribal veterans in the catchment area, has led to the “systematic dismantling of the Hot Springs campus.” The delegation requests that Secretary Shinseki re-evaluate the services provided at the Hot Springs VA Medical Center, with special consideration given to PTSD treatment and other mental health care. Following the suggestion of the Save the VA alternative proposal, the delegation suggests that Battle Mountain Sanitarium house a national PTSD program. 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on May 13, 2013

Rhonda SincavageWritten by Rhonda Sincavage, Associate Director for Government Relations and Policy

On May 6th, representatives from the Save the VA Committee were back again in Washington, D.C., this time for an all day meeting with the VA. The meeting was intended to serve as a follow-up to the meeting held on January 28th with Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki. One (of many) items that needed further discussion from that meeting was review of the data used to support the proposal to reconfigure services in the VA Black Hills Health Care System, which includes closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium

VA subject matter experts briefed the attendees which included members of the Save the VA Committee, staff from Congressional offices, and representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Subjects such as veteran population and enrollment, projected cost for domiciliary construction, estimates for renovation costs, and costing methodology for mothballing were reviewed in detail. 

Although a productive meeting, there were still outstanding questions about the data that need to be resolved and the discussion did not stray far from the stated agenda to include significant dialogue on quality care for veterans, historic preservation concerns, or aspects of the Save the VA counterproposal, the issues that are foremost in the minds of Save the VA and the National Trust.    

Following the meeting with the VA, we joined the Save the VA Committee for meetings on the Hill with Senator Johnson and Representative Noem. A highlight of a long day was getting the reassurance that the South Dakota delegation is supportive of our efforts and is ready to work with us on moving our agenda forward. We expect next steps to include a debrief of the meeting from the VA to Secretary Shinseki as well as outreach from Congressional stakeholders to the VA. 

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on May 08, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

At the heart of the fight to save the Hot Springs VA Medical Center from closure is the goal of ensuring that veterans continue to receive high quality medical care, which the Battle Mountain Sanitarium has provided for 106 years. A significant part of that high quality care includes the Hot Springs community’s open-armed support for its veterans. Shuttering the doors at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium will erase all the benefits veterans receive from its Veterans Town, as well as significantly impact the economic vitality of the city and surrounding area. The VA is the largest employer in this former resort town. It will also severely challenge the ability of tribal veterans from nearby reservations to access that care due to increased travel distances.Save the VA Dairy Queen Sign

I was reminded of this community impact when I visited Hot Springs and the Pine Ridge Reservation in late April. On my many passes along the idyllic main street, lined with pink sandstone buildings fronting the meandering Fall River, and through the well-kept residential areas, I was constantly greeted with signs, ribbons and banners shouting support for the local effort to keep the VA Medical Center in Hot Springs. Even the local Dairy Queen™ pledged its support, along with an advertisement for a chocolate pretzel blizzard. My visit with Oglala Sioux veterans vividly brought to life the challenges they already face in reaching Hot Springs for their care and how those would become virtually insurmountable if services were moved to Rapid City.

This is a grassroots driven effort to protect veterans’ medical care, a community’s quality of life, and a National Historic Landmark. But it also represents a much larger issue surrounding the VA’s decision-making process. Several months ago the National Trust began a project to examine the cultural resource management practices of the VA. We’re excited to be nearing the completion of that report which will soon be nationally released. Our hope is that the VA will realize that the veterans it serves, and the communities and buildings that serve those veterans, are not just numbers but rather are integral, qualitative parts that contribute to the agency’s very mission of honorably caring for the men and women who have fought for our nation.  

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on April 19, 2013

Rhonda AvatarWritten by Rhonda Sincavage, Associate Director for Government Relations and Policy

The last few weeks have been busy on the congressional budget front with the release of both the VA budget submission for FY14 and the President’s FY14 budget. We were surprised and disheartened to learn of the VA’s $9.9 million dollar lease request in Rapid City for a new rehabilitation treatment center and outpatient clinic to replace the facilities in Hot Springs. This was a change in strategy for the VA, who previously had requested funding a major construction project in Rapid City, and a departure from the good faith effort of VA that a decision about Battle Mountain Sanitarium had not been finalized.

Fortunately, we have a Congressional champion on our side. Senator Johnson was able to address this issue directly with Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, at a Senate hearing on April 18th. When Senator Johnson expressed his concern about the leasing request, Secretary Shinseki explained that it was an error and vowed to notify the authorizing committee that this was a mistake and should not be considered.

Although the fate of Battle Mountain Sanitarium is still undecided, this is a small victory for advocates who are working to ensure a favorable outcome in Hot Springs. Our thanks go out to Senator Johnson who is a true hero for our cause!

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on January 05, 2013

By Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Save the VA Meets with Secretary ShinsekiLast week the long awaited meeting between the National Trust's partner Save the VA Committee, the tri-state congressional delegation, and VA Secretary Shinseki to discuss the Department of Veterans Affairs' proposed closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium took place in Washington, D.C.  Five representatives of the Save the VA Committee, with the support of congressional members from Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, as well as the South Dakota governor, provided an impassioned presentation on why the VA should continue to use the medical center to serve our nation's veterans.  While the National Trust was not invited to attend the meeting, our message was shared through the Save the VA members and a handy folder of information that was provided to attendees that clearly stated our concern and purpose.  As has been the case with much of the advocacy fight at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, we now wait, to hear of Secretary Shinseki's response to the alternative proposed by the Save the VA and the veterans and Hot Springs locals it represents.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

 

Posted on December 21, 2012

Written by Rhonda Sincavage, Team Member

It was a hopeful end to a trying 2012 when U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki agreed yesterday to meet with stakeholders including the Save the VA Committee regarding the proposed closure of the Hot Springs VA Medical Center. The long-awaited response came months after a tri-state Congressional delegation, with members representing South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, sent a letter to Shinseki requesting the VA halt any action at Battle Mountain Sanitarium until a stakeholder meeting could be convened. 

The initial response from Secretary Shinseki wasn’t what we were hoping for.  On December 19th, members of the tri-state delegation received news that the Secretary deferred on meeting with stakeholders, and instead offered for members of the Save the VA Committee to travel to Washington to meet with Under Secretary for Health, Robert Petzel.

In a press release issued that same day, members of the South Dakota delegation expressed their extreme disappointment. Senator Thune stated “The offer of meeting with an Under Secretary of the VA is a non-starter as meetings with lower level individuals have resulted in wasted time, energy, and misunderstanding that can only be avoided by dealing directly with the Secretary who will ultimately decide the outcome of the Hot Springs facility.” Representative Noem echoed his sentiments by adding “Deferring a meeting to his Under Secretary in Washington DC is not a productive use of anyone’s time”. 

Senator Johnson didn’t let the initial setback stop him. On Wednesday he vowed to “continue working with Secretary Shinseki to ensure the views of affected veterans, area communities, and VA employees are heard”. He kept to his word and following a conversation between Senator Johnson and Secretary Shinseki the next day, an agreement was reached for stakeholders to meet with Shinseki next month in Washington DC. 

Secretary Shinseki also responded to a separate letter sent on October 24th from the South Dakota Delegation that expressly opposed the proposed plan for Battle Mountain Sanitarium. In his response, the Secretary assured that no final decision has been made regarding the future of the Black Hills Health Care System. 

As we look ahead to 2013, we might be cautiously optimistic that next year will bring more transparency and openness to the process, ensuring the best outcome for veterans and the Hot Springs community. Beginning on a positive note with a productive meeting between veterans, stakeholders, and decision makers is a great way to start.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.   

Posted on November 11, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

The Veterans Town Website BannerOn November 11, 1918, an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany marked a temporary cessation of hostilities during World War I until the war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles seven months later. The truce went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The date is regarded as the end of "the war to end all wars." 

A year later President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day.  It was not until 1954 that the day was renamed Veterans Day in recognition of all American veterans of all wars, not just those who served during World War I. Today, nearly 95 years since the armistice, we honor our American veterans on this Veterans Day.

This includes veterans like Eric Jankowski of Wyoming who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who says that he "would not be here today if not for the Hot Springs VA." Or Henry Amador, a Navy veteran, who shares this concern about the proposed closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium:  "The veterans showed their respect to our country by their service, and now the government is not showing their respect in return by taking away the comfortable and loving surroundings of a very special VA in a supportive and peaceful town."

More testimonials like these have been gathered by Mary Goulet, author of "Cascade of Flames," and can be found on the Save the VA Campaign website. I urge you to read and watch the testimonials. They offer a vivid picture of the amazing impact that the Battle Mountain Sanitarium has on veterans - one that should continue to be provided to veterans in the future.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on November 08, 2012

Written by Amy Cole, Team Member

We are pleased to announce that the National Trust has just issued a Request for Qualifications for a report on the Department of Veterans Affairs cultural resource management program. As we have learned in our work at Battle Mountain Sanitarium and at the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home, the VA’s current policies and practices present formidable challenges in managing its incredible collection of historic buildings as it strives to meet its mission to care for America’s veterans. We see this as a national issue and believe agency-wide progress can be made by developing and sharing a report that identifies these challenges and provides recommendations for improvement.

Proposals are due November 30, 2012, at 5 pm.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on October 25, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

With no response from VA Secretary Shinseki more than three weeks after the tri-state congressional delegation sent him a joint letter requesting a meeting in Hot Springs to listen to the concerns of stakeholders firsthand over the proposed closure and relocation of medical services provided at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, the South Dakota congressional delegation decided it had had enough. On October 24th, the three Members released another letter to the Secretary. This time, they flatly stated their opposition to the "VA's current proposal as presented" for the reconfiguration of services in the VA Black Hills Health Care System.  

This is a bold move by the South Dakota congressional members and one that we were hoping they would exercise. The support of Congress on this matter is of the utmost importance to help ensure that veterans, locals, preservationists and other stakeholders are heard. We thank Senator Tim Johnson, Senator John Thune and Congresswoman Kristi Noem for taking this stance and turning the tide at this National Historic Landmark.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.  

Posted on October 09, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Congressional members from Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their “frustration and disappointment” over a breakdown in discussions on proposed changes to the Black Hills Health Care System and requesting a meeting with the Secretary in Hot Springs.

For the past several months, Save the VA Campaign representatives and congressional staffers have participated in a series of meetings held by the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss alternatives to the proposed closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, including a forward-thinking proposal developed by Save the VA committee members. The meetings were not part of a National Environmental Policy Act public input process, which the Department of Veterans Affairs is legally required to undertake before any project decisions are made, and the National Trust was not invited to participate. At a meeting on September 10, the National Trust learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs stated that it was not in a position to negotiate on its proposal. Stakeholders were taken aback by the sudden lack of collaboration, and the tri-state congressional delegation quickly responded out of concern that the many voices impacted by the proposal were not being heard. 

While the South Dakota congressional members have been front and center in these discussions since the Department of Veterans Affairs publicly released its proposal in December 2011, this turn of events elicited increased attention from members in Nebraska and Wyoming – neighboring states with veterans who travel to Hot Springs for treatment at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. More congressional pressure is a good thing, and may be the ultimate strategy to protect the Battle Mountain Sanitarium from closure. The National Trust continues to work closely with the Save the VA Campaign committee and congressional members to make sure the Department of Veterans Affairs listens to the Hot Springs community, veterans, and other stakeholders in this important decision-making process.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on October 09, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

In my work at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, I have come to learn that the Department of Veterans Affairs relies heavily on numbers to make the case for its planning decisions. This is all well and good if those numbers and calculations are accurate. However, accuracy came into question with a financial analysis conducted by the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, which was released by the Department of Veterans Affairs this past May. 

One of the concerns voiced by the National Trust and its partners was whether or not Jones Lang LaSalle had someone with preservation expertise to help calculate the renovation cost estimates for the Battle Mountain Sanitarium buildings. It also was unclear from the report how the calculations were arrived at. In other words, what building rehabilitation factors were considered, and how could they be truly accurate if a site visit was never conducted by Jones Lang LaSalle to determine firsthand the real needs of the buildings? The National Trust and its partners were worried that Jones Lang LaSalle did not have the right expertise, and was working from a database of numbers and formulas that had not been “ground truthed.”

So the National Trust and the Save the VA Campaign requested a second opinion and the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed. Treanor Architects of Topeka, KS, a well-respected architecture firm with a preservation pedigree, was subcontracted to supplement the Jones Lang LaSalle report. While Treanor’s scope of work was not as broad as we would have liked, it did include both a one-day site visit to the Battle Mountain Sanitarium and the preservation expertise we desired. The resulting renovation impact review indicated that not only were Jones Lang LaSalle’s estimated renovation costs inflated by 35-40%, but the buildings were in remarkably good condition for their age and could indeed be rehabilitated for continued use, despite the agency’s claims to the contrary. 

While this is a feather in the caps of the advocates working tirelessly to continue providing quality medical care to veterans at Battle Mountain Sanitarium, the one thing that the Treanor Architects report did not explore was the 30-year operating costs of the existing buildings compared to the proposed new construction. Factors such as implementing energy efficiency measures in the rehabilitation were evidently not considered in the Jones Lang LaSalle calculations. We think that considering such a factor could have a major impact on reducing operating costs.

In the end, Jones Lang LaSalle incorporated the corrected renovation cost estimates into its final financial analysis and the Department of Veterans Affairs recognized them, although the agency has not altered its proposal to close the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. The National Trust is working with its partners to determine if additional studies will help make our case.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on July 22, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg

My name is Jenny Buddenborg, and I’m the National Trust’s project manager for Battle Mountain Sanitarium.

Hot Springs, the self-proclaimed “Veterans Town,” is nestled in South Dakota’s picturesque southern Black Hills. The citizens of this former resort town have banded together and launched the Save the VA Campaign to prevent the closure of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Their voices are being heard--locally, regionally, and nationally--and the National Trust is lending a powerful hand.

One of our current strategies is getting the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge their legal obligations under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, two important preservation tools. Both Federal laws require Federal agencies to initiate compliance in the earliest planning stages of a project and to consider adverse impacts of and alternatives to a project proposal that could potentially harm a historic property. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs has spent years planning for the closure of Battle Mountain Sanitarium without initiating compliance.

The National Trust is applying its legal expertise and is working with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, and South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office to push the Department of Veterans Affairs towards initiating these compliance processes. In late May, it worked; the Department of Veterans Affairs held its first Section 106 consulting parties meeting. We continue to push for National Environmental Policy Act initiation, which will provide for greater public involvement and the identification of alternatives to the closure of the National Historic Landmark.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

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Kate on June 17, 2015
The Battle Mountain Sanitarium is one of the most beautiful locations in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Apart from the beautiful structures of the campus the view of the Hills from its vita is astounding. The beauty of this facility alone is reason enough to keep these structures functioning in their present capacity. The 100 + year history of the Sanitarium's role in Veteran rehabilitation should also verify that there is no other place better suited for this facility.
Karen Erickson Stover on October 06, 2014
My Uncle Arthur Erickson was a patient at Battle Mountain in 1919. He was in the Navy during WWI when he contracted Tuberculosis while serving in a ship's engine room. It is unknown how long Arthur stayed there for treatment. He died at the age of 25 and is buried in California.
j Adams on August 03, 2014
My great grand uncle was wounded in the Civil war and moved from PA to MN with his wife and had a large family. After his wife died, he went to Wyoming with one of his sons and eventually to BMS shortly after it opened and died there in 1926. He was a survivor in many respects, born in a time where you had to make your own life on farmland, harsh elements being the easiest to bear maybe. I'm very grateful the VA was there for him, as well as for my own father, a WWII vet. I met many of my father's friends at his VA home in Yountville, CA and when he died (he was there 4 years) the medical staff there took great care of him and I go back at least once a year to the cemetery there. I think closing BMS would be like taking away all the gravestones there. You can't erase one or the other. It is as much the medical facility as it is a place honor those who found themselves there from war related injuries and those who died there.
David Giles on June 29, 2014
I have visited this site on multiple occasions. The ramps between floors are extremely steep, far exceeding the standards put in place by the ADA. hey are very difficult to manage if you are disabled. It would be fool hardy to risk a wheel chair down one of the ramps and a Sisyphean burden to push one up. It makes for a poor hospital by today's modern standards and has some major physical risks to staff and patients. Furthermore, the town of Hot Springs treats Vets badly but is angry the VA is moving. The building is beautiful, no doubt. The building should be preserved, but not as a hospital. It does not make for a reasonable hospital by today's standards. On a personal note the hospital served my great great grandfather after he was gassed following WWI and my family continues to be connected to it. I do value the building, but it is shameful to say the VA is a bad steward of this building. The VA must be committed to the needs of the veterans, not a building. And if this 100+ year old building is substandard in its physical dimensions to provide adequate care and be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act then the stewardship must fall to another party. The VA must be steward to hundreds of thousands of vets. Medical facilities are being built to be as cutting edge as possible and this building is far too costly to retrofit.
Ted Spencer on May 13, 2013
I had my Military Retirement Physical in 2010 at Hot Springs VA Battle Mountain. I then had two subsequent follow-up appointments. The staff was always very helpful, friendly, and courteous. I remember how beautiful and peaceful this facility was--and still is! I've served two tours of duty in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan, and the setting in Hot Springs is very conducive for healing, sprituality , and recovery. It would be a disgrace and disservice to abandon such a great facility, as it can easily continue to be a place of peace, solitude, and healing for generations of our nation's veterans.
john E Renstrom on November 09, 2012
when I joined the service in 1967 on of the recruitment persuasions was the comment that this facility would be here for you after you get out. it has been and inspite of upper management the people committed to caring for returning veterans have done so. every veteran since the civil war has found hope and healing here. now to close it down and rent a CBOC down town some were farming out diagnostic services some were else is a slap in the face from this administration to ever veteran that has served and a put down to the people that have served us.
Karen Meston on August 15, 2012
The first time I entered the main complex my reaction was, WOW! The pictures don't do it justice. It is very impressive and beautiful. I, too, think of the many people who have been cared for in these buildings and the many who have cared for them. It is a spiritual place, the sort of setting that is conducive to healing. If we all work together, it will continue to be a place of healing for our veterans for many years into the future.
Pat Lyke, Hot Springs, SD on June 09, 2012
When I first entered the buildings designed in 1902, I was amazed at the overall design and craftsmanship. Constructed of local sandstone and Douglas fir, they were built to last hundreds of years. I feel very fortunate to be able to care for this complex. Every time I enter the buildings, I think of the thousands of veterans who have been helped, and hope that the history of veterans being healed here continues long into the future.

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