Sen. Salazar, Cong. Perlmutter, and Colorado Veterans Stand Up for Stand-Alone VA Hospital at Fitzsimons

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DENVER, CO, July 20, 2008 | comments

July 20, 2008

Today, in a press conference near the steps of the State Capitol, United States Senator Ken Salazar, United States Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer joined a large crowd of Colorado’s military veterans to urge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to follow through on its original vision and start building a state-of-the-art Veterans Medical Center at the Fitzsimons Campus in Aurora.

On Friday, after sending a letter to the VA, Sen. Salazar and Cong. Perlmutter finally received the planning documents for the stand-alone hospital. At a cost of over $4 million, the VA completed the documents in January, but withheld them from the public. Accompanying documents from the VA show that the agency, without consulting the Colorado congressional delegation or Colorado’s veterans, had shelved the plans in an attempt to cut costs.

At the event, Sen. Salazar and Cong. Perlmutter, supported by Mayor Tauer and National Foreign Legion Commander Tom Bock, urged the VA to get back to work on building a stand-alone hospital for veterans, making use of the $168 million already appropriated for the project.

With more than 1.6 million new veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and the VA health care system stretched thin, the plan for the Fitzsimons Hospital should be front and center for the VA, not sitting on a back shelf in Washington,” said Senator Salazar. “We and Colorado’s veterans want to work with the VA to find a reasonable and fiscally responsible way of getting the project done, but the fact is that we have an obligation to serve those who have served us. With $168 million already available for the project, the VA should get to work immediately on fulfilling its promise of a stand-alone hospital at Fitzsimons.”

“The delay in the construction of a new Veterans Administration Medical Center is wrong,” Congressman Perlmutter said. “The indecision on the part of this Administration has already cost the tax payers millions of dollars in inflationary costs. It is time to stop the endless planning process and start turning the dirt. Our wounded soldiers have earned and deserve nothing less.


TIMELINE OF FITZSIMONS VETERANS HOSPITAL PROJECT

1999: The VA establishes the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) process to evaluate its infrastructure needs and provide recommendations for priorities.

2004: The CARES Commission completes its work and then-Secretary of the VA Principi submits the CARES plan to Congress. Then-Secretary Principi’s plan identified the hospital at Fitzsimons as one of its top medical major construction priorities. The Secretary stated that the VA would develop a Master Plan for the project by September 2004. $30 million allocated to the project.

2005: January 26, Jim Nicholson replaces Anthony Principi as Secretary of the VA. Senator Salazar brings together the stakeholders for negotiations to jump-start the stalled Fitzsimons project.

2006: VA reaches agreement with the Fitzsimons Authority on the purchase price of 24 of the 31 acres at the site. Congress passes an omnibus veterans bill (S.3421, the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006), authorizing $98 million in funding for construction at Fitzsimons. Congress appropriates an additional $23 million for the project.

2007:
Congress appropriates an additional $52 million for the project. Colorado congressional delegation pass legislation to allow transfer authority for land parcels and introduce legislation to authorize the full remaining funding ($523 million) for the construction of Fitzsimons VA Hospital. July 17, Secretary Nicholson announces his resignation. New VA Secretary Jim Peake sworn in on December 20.

2008:
VA finalizes the hospital Master Plan in January, at a cost of approximately $4.5 million, but does not share it with the Colorado congressional delegation or veterans’ groups. VA Secretary Peake submits new scaled-down plan in April in response to a request from the Colorado congressional delegation for an update on the project.

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