May 17, 2022

Black Hills MOAA meeting is just around the corner!

The Black Hills Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) will meet Friday, June 17 at The Rushmore Hotel & Suites at 445 Mt. Rushmore road in downtown Rapid City.  

Our speaker for the 11:30am luncheon will  be Captain Frank Michael, USN (Ret).  Captain Michael serves as Program Director for Council and Chapter Affairs at the MOAA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and will provide an update on MOAA activities and initiatives.

Captain Michael is a 30-year Navy veteran and aviator who has served in command tours at the squadron and major command-at-sea levels.  His major assignments included a tour on the Joint Staff, Chief of Naval Operations Fellow, CNO Strategic Study Group, and Strategy Branch Chief on the Navy Staff. 

Our luncheon offers two options (1) London Broil Flank Steak......or (2) Grilled Salmon w/Pesto Cream Sauce.  Either is served with a Garden Salad, Fresh Baked Bread w/ Butter, and Chef's selection of Fresh Vegetables and Starch.  The $18 per person fee includes sales tax and gratuity.  Please RSVP no later than Friday, June 10th to LCDR Bonnie Walker at (605) 381-7285 or you can e-mail her at bonniewalker@midco.net and be sure to indicate your entree selection.

Members are encouraged to invite prospective members and guests to join us, too, for a meeting that promises to be a fun and informative gathering.  You'll soon be receiving notification via e-mail or the U.S. Postal Service about this meeting.  Keep an eye on your mail box!

And do be sure to check back to this Home Page from time-to-time for any new developments or information regarding this meeting.  We look forward to seeing you Friday, June 17th!

May 16, 2022

Cadet Kaleigh Teague wins MOAA Leadership Award

JROTC Cadet Kaleigh Teague, a Junior  at Rapid City Central High School,  was presented with the MOAA Leadership Award on Friday, May 13, "her lucky day." But luck had nothing to do with it.  Cadet Teague earned the MOAA award for demonstrating "exceptional potential for military leadership," among other requirements.

The medal and certificate were presented by CDR Larry Miller, President of the Black Hills Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

To be considered for the award, candidates must be in the upper 10 percent of his/her high school class,  be of high moral character, demonstrate a high degree of loyalty to the unit, school, and country.

Several family members were on hand for the ceremony, including her parents, Pat and Michael Teague – as well as her grandparents, Pat and Richard Salkeld.

The Leadership Medal was pinned on Cadet Teague by 1st Sergeant Ryan Wheele of the JROTC faculty.  That photo and certificate presentation are on our Activities Page.

Our congratulations to Cadet Teague for her leadership within the Rapid City Central High School JROTC program! 

 
 

April 15, 2022

Cadet Brandon Bassett presented with MOAA Leadership Award



ROTC Cadet Brandon Bassett (right) accepts the MOAA Leadership Award from  retired COL Mike Kain, Black Hills Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America during ceremonies April 5 at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.  Cadet Bassett, a Junior at Black Hills State University, is from Rapid City and is majoring in Business Administration.  The MOAA Leadership Award recognizes those cadets who have demonstrated exceptional potential for military leadership.  Bassett, a veteran, has four years prior active duty service in the Army infantry.  Congratulations Cadet Bassett!

April 14, 2022

VA Health facilities proposal gets pushback

Editor's note:  During a Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) last week in Rapid City, Senator Mike Rounds told NewsCenter1 Television that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recommended closing a number of medical facilities across the county and that  "unfortunately, they kind of 'piled on' rural facilities and that's going to hurt our veterans in South Dakota."  That same day, the story below – which appears here in its entirety –  was posted on the Senator's official website.  It deals primarily with VA recommendations that – if implemented – would have a significant impact upon medical services for Veterans across South Dakota and the nation.

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04.08.22

Rounds & Manchin to Biden: Don’t Cut VA Medical Services for Elderly Veterans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, led a group of ten bipartisan senators in calling on President Biden to consult with Congress and local stakeholders on a state-by-state basis on the potential impacts the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission recommendations would have on elderly Veterans. 

“We write to you today expressing our extreme concern with the VA’s recommendations to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, as prescribed in Subtitle A of Title II of the VA MISSION Act,” the senators said in part. “The recommendations are overly focused on quantitative data that does not do enough to consider the impact the proposed changes would have on our Veterans, particularly elderly Veterans. We request that when you receive the final recommendations from the AIR Commission you consult our offices on a state-by-state basis for our feedback before you decide to approve or deny them.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released its preliminary recommendations for the AIR commission to consider on Monday, March 14, which would significantly alter services provided to rural Veterans across the United States. On March 15, Rounds and Manchin led a bipartisan letter urging President Biden to make certain rural perspectives were taken into consideration by the AIR Commission.

“For many elderly Veterans, VA facilities are the only place they seek care. The reasons Veterans often cite are that they are better understood, respected, and cared for at their local VA Medical Center (VAMC). VA facilities often serve as the crux for elderly Veterans’ community…Veterans have put their lives on the line to protect this country. They deserve consistent, accessible, quality care when they return. That’s the promise we made to these brave men and women when they took their oath to serve, and that’s the promise we intend to keep,” the senators continued.

Rounds and Manchin were joined by Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Background on the AIR Commission:

  • In 2018, Congress passed the Asset and Infrastructure Review Act as part of the VA MISSION Act.
  • Rounds voted against the VA MISSION Act.
  • In 2019, Rounds and Manchin introduced legislation which would have eliminated the AIR Commission.
  • The VA MISSION Act established a new process for the development, review, approval and implementation of a list of recommendations for the modernization and realignment of VHA medical facilities. The VA MISSION Act requires the VA Secretary to develop an initial list of recommendations, including the acquisition of new space, the modernization of existing space and the disposal of unneeded space. The Secretary was required to publish these recommendations in the Federal Register by January 31, 2022.
  • The VA MISSION Act also established an AIR Commission, a panel comprised of nine members nominated by the president and approved by the Senate, which is meant to review the recommendations submitted by the VA Secretary.
  • However, the panel does not yet exist as all of the nominees have yet to be submitted to the Senate for consideration and approval.
  • Once it is stood up and receives the department’s recommendations, the Commission will conduct its own hearings and investigations, make its own recommendations and send the recommendations to the White House.
  • The AIR Commission is required to submit a final list of recommendations to the president by January 31, 2023.
  • The President is to notify the Commission and Congress if he approves or disapproves the list by February 15, 2023. If disapproved, the Commission may revise the recommendations and submit a new list by March 15, 2023.
  • The President has until March 30, 2023, to approve the Commission’s initial or revised recommendations in their entirety and submit them to Congress, or the modernization and realignment process terminates.
  • If the President approves the recommendations, Congress has 45 days from the date of approval to terminate the process by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval. If Congress does not enact a joint resolution of disapproval, the VA is required to implement the recommendations.

The full letter is available below or click:  HERE.


Dear President Biden:

We write to you today expressing our extreme concern with the VA’s recommendations to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, as prescribed in Subtitle A of Title II of the VA MISSION Act. The recommendations are overly focused on quantitative data that does not do enough to consider the impact the proposed changes would have on our Veterans, particularly elderly Veterans. We request that when you receive the final recommendations from the AIR Commission you consult our offices on a state-by-state basis for our feedback before you decide to approve or deny them.

For many elderly Veterans, VA facilities are the only place they seek care. The reasons Veterans often cite are that they are better understood, respected, and cared for at their local VA Medical Center (VAMC). VA facilities often serve as the crux for elderly Veterans’ community. Time and time again, we have been told by elderly Veterans that they enjoy visiting their VAMCs. They build networks of friends and VA staff that serve as support groups and keep them connected with their service. In an increasingly digital world, we cannot discount the importance of the human interaction and connection our Veterans find at VA facilities, particularly with in-person services.

We have been disappointed and concerned by the VA’s lack of assessment of qualitative data and how its recommendations will specifically impact elderly Veterans. Receiving feedback from Congress, local VA staff, and most importantly local Veteran communities must be a crucial step in your assessment of the AIR Commission’s final recommendations. Veterans have put their lives on the line to protect this country. They deserve consistent, accessible, quality care when they return. That’s the promise we made to these brave men and women when they took their oath to serve, and that’s the promise we intend to keep.

We look forward to collaborating with you further on how we can maintain quality care for Veterans across the nation without cutting services or access in our states.

Sincerely,

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March 11, 2022

Congressional delegation responds to proposed VA closures

Editor's Note:  The South Dakota congressional delegation wasted little time in challenging proposed recommendations announced by the Department of Veterans Affairs that could well result in the closure of medical facilities located in Fort Meade, Hot Springs, and Wagner.  The following information has been posted on the websites of Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds, and Representative Dusty Johnson. For a broader look at the VA proposal, check out this report originally posted in the Military Times.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) issued the following statements after the Biden administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) informed the VA medical facilities in Hot Springs, Wagner, and Fort Meade that proposed recommendations as part of a multi-year nationwide review of VA health care infrastructure suggest they would be closing.  

For nearly a decade, I’ve fought tooth and nail to defend the Hot Springs VA and surrounding communities,” said Thune. “I’ve stood side by side with veterans, health care professionals, and community leaders as we made our case to previous administrations about the significant benefits these facilities provide to America’s veterans throughout the multi-state area they serve. That’s why I’m extremely disappointed by the Biden administration’s proposal to close these facilities. I’m frustrated, and I’m angry, and I know these communities are too. Let me put this as plainly as I can: The VA is wrong, period. This is a massive mistake, and I will do everything within my power to show the administration, by working with the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, why it would be in everyone’s best interest, especially South Dakota’s veterans’, to immediately change course.”

“The concerns I warned against in 2018 when I voted against the VA MISSION Act have come to fruition,” said Rounds. “Veterans were told they could receive care in the community, and that’s proven not to be the case. The VA MISSION Act also included provisions to include this BRAC-style process, which we learned today will negatively impact much of rural SD. The VA MISSION Act was bad public policy then and it’s gotten no better with age. While the provisions of this BRAC will not be released publicly until March 14th – the threat has become clear to our local veterans. As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’ll fight like hell to make sure veterans in South Dakota receive the care they’ve earned. I call upon all veterans organizations to help us defend these services in rural South Dakota.”

“Nearly two years ago to the day, former VA Secretary Robert Wilkie came to the Hot Springs VA and announced that the VA would remain open and there would be no reduction in services for veterans,” said Johnson. “In South Dakota, promises mean something. This is a betrayal to the Hot Springs community and its veterans. If the commission is going to move forward with reducing services, they should face the people of Hot Springs, Wagner, Fort Meade, and Sioux Falls and explain why they believe these services should be scaled back. We’ve worked together to fight harmful VA decisions in the past, and we are ready do so again.”

Background:

  • In 2018, Congress passed the Asset and Infrastructure Review Act as part of the VA MISSION Act.
  • The VA MISSION Act established a new process for the development, review, approval and implementation of a list of recommendations for the modernization and realignment of VHA medical facilities.
  • The VA MISSION Act requires the VA secretary to develop an initial list of recommendations, including the acquisition of new space, the modernization of existing space and the disposal of unneeded space. The secretary was required to publish these recommendations in the Federal Register by January 31, 2022.
  • In January, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced he had pushed this action to mid-March 2022. He said that this delay was due to staffing issues caused by a surge in COVID-19 cases.
  • The VA MISSION Act also established an AIR Commission, a panel comprised of nine members nominated by the president and approved by the Senate, which is meant to review the recommendations submitted by the VA secretary.
  • However, the panel does not yet exist as all of the nominees have yet to be submitted to the Senate for consideration and approval.
  • Once it is stood up and receives the department’s recommendations, the commission will conduct its own hearings and investigations, make its own recommendations and send the recommendations to the White House.
  • The AIR commission is required to submit a final list of recommendations to the president by January 31, 2023.
  • The president is to notify the commission and Congress if he approves or disapproves the list by February 15, 2023.
  • If disapproved, the commission may revise the recommendations and submit a new list by March 15, 2023.
  • The president has until March 30, 2023, to approve the commission’s initial or revised recommendations in their entirety and submit them to Congress, or the modernization and realignment process terminates.
  • If the president approves the recommendations, Congress has 45 days from the date of approval to terminate the process by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval. If Congress does not enact a joint resolution of disapproval, the VA is required to implement the recommendations.

The delegation’s decade-long fight to save the Hot Springs VA culminated in October 2020 when then-VA Secretary Robert Wilkie notified them that the VA had formally rescinded its earlier record of decision to realign the VA Black Hills Health Care System, which would have significantly reduced services at the Hot Springs VA medical center.

Click here for an op-ed Thune wrote about his involvement with helping to save the Hot Springs facility.

February 11, 2022

1st Lt Mary V. Piper (1929-2022)

Editor's Note: We were saddened to learn that Mary Piper,  a Lifetime Member of MOAA and a Past President of our Black Hills Chapter,  has passed away.  Below is the obituary information provided on the Osheim Schmidt Funeral Home website.
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Obituary

Mary Piper, Rapid City, passed away peacefully on February 7, at Monument Health at the age of 92.  She was born December 20, 1929 in San Antonio, Texas, the daughter of immigrants Antonio and Carmen Vasquez from San Bueno Ventura, Coahuila, Mexico, one of five children 

Mom was the only child to attend high school and college.  She graduated from Incarnate Word College and earned her nursing diploma in 1951.  She joined the USAF in 1953 and was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base as a 2nd Lieutenant.  She met and married a handsome fighter pilot named Charles A Piper Jr.   

She received her Flight Nurse Diploma and Wings in 1955. She was honorably discharged as a 1st Lt Air Force Reserve Nurse during her first pregnancy.  In 1955, women in the military could not serve their country if they had children. Mom and Dad had six children and later divorced. 

Mom was her son John’s greatest and loudest fan at baseball and basketball games. Everyone present will never forget her loud and boisterous enthusiasm which included an obnoxious cowbell. Treasured memories with son Richard included travels to Washington, DC and Spain, where she fluently conversed in Spanish much to Richard’s astonishment.  Other travels included trips to see family in Texas, Utah, Canada and Alaska. 

Her nursing career of 60 years included Saint John’s, Bennett Clarkson and the VA Hospital in Hot Springs. She completed her career at Sioux San Hospital where she spent 28 years. She proudly retired at age 80.  

In the course of her long and esteemed nursing career, mom received numerous awards. To name a few, Mom was a Spirit of Dakota nominee in 2006. The SD Nurses Association honored her with the Joy of Nursing Award also in 2006. Mary received the prestigious Carruth Wagner MD Award as the Nurse of the Year in 2010. She also received the Chief Nurse Officer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Nursing. After retirement, she traded in her crisp white uniform and nurses cap for capris. 

Her proud military service and patriotism kept her involved with The Retired Officers Association (now The Military Officers Association of America) and others. Mom was involved in many organizations all her life. She loved to sing and dance. Mom lived independently and was always cleaning her dream home. We will remember Mom for her spirited personality and love of life.  Survivors include son John (Vicki), daughters Morgan, Teryn, Logan; daughter Marian(Craig) Alexander, sons Matt (Sarah), Ross (Stephanie); son C.A.(Christine), daughters Callie Piper, Candice(Keith) Sano, Piper (Zach) Ferrell; son Marshall (Lynne), children Alexander (Taylor) and Alicia Piper; daughter Louisa Piper, 13 great grandchildren and many friends and colleagues. 

She was preceded in death by her son Richard in 2003, her parents and siblings. 

Visitation will be Sunday, February 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Osheim Schmidt Funeral Home.  Funeral services will be at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 14 at Blessed Sacrament Church. Burial will be at the Black Hills National Cemetery at 2:00 p.m.  

A Memorial has been established to the Black Hills War Memorial Association.