VA medical facility opening delayed, again

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DENVER -- The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today it was again delaying the opening of the new VA Medical Center in Aurora.

The new opening date is set for May 2015, but congressional leaders say that realistically veterans who desperately need the new facility will be waiting until 2016.

The hospital has been plagued with delay after delay. The original opening date for the facility near Interstate 70 and Interstate 225 was set to open in February 2012, but contractor disputes and hundreds of change orders in design are causing the delays.  That means 160,000 Veterans will have to continue to wait for the new state of the art hospital.

At the Colorado State Capitol Tuesday, Congressional leaders with the US Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation asked VA leaders why this project, and two others, continues to face delays and cost overruns.

“You've got problems on every project, not just this project, every project has different contractors and what that leads me to believe is that you're not a construction entity," Congressman Mike Coffman told members of the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA Hospital Projects in Florida and Nevada are facing similar problems.

Coffman is proposing legislation that would allow the Army Corp. of Engineers to manage the hospital project. “Let's bring them in on these projects and let them sort it out and tell us how to move these projects forward," said Coffman.

He thinks the VA should focus on Veterans who need medical treatment, not managing hospital construction. He know there will be major push back for his proposal from the VA, because it would mean job losses in the offices of VA Logistics and Construction.

But it was revealed the costs have gone up again. The original price tag was set at of $200 million and then to $604 million and now it’s $630 million. Coffman told FOX31 Denver the price will probably go up again, citing a GAO report the final cost could cost taxpayers over a billion dollars to get the hospital built.

But Glenn Haggstron, the Principal Executive Director of Construction for the VA told panel members disagrees, “ The V.A. remains committed to meeting the current and future challenges necessary to finish this long awaited project in the most judicious and the most cost efficient and timely manner."

Vietnam Veterans Ralph Bozella is tired of waiting. He says the aging facility veterans are using today in Denver is falling apart, "I've been on record of saying we don't need a Taj Mahal, we just want a hospital." He said more delays mean more veterans, who wore the uniform to protect our country, will have to wait, yet again.