By: PNC Tom Bock, Your faithful Watch Dog,

I do not want to throw cold water on the “exciting times” we are having enjoying the much touted contract signing between the Department of VA and their construction contractor, but. . .

Then again maybe it’s just me. But am I the only one that saw the “celebration” hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs on November 21 to recognize the signing of a contract to begin construction on the replacement VA Hospital on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center as dajavu all over again?

I saw the same familiar faces. I heard the same familiar speeches. I heard the same familiar old story. I felt the same familiar feelings that I felt when they celebrated the purchase of the land and the “Official Ground Breaking” on the same property under a very similar white tent. They actually were “Party in a Tent” – Versions 1.0 and 2.0.

Maybe my expectations were too high. But, I thought someone should have said “I’m sorry for all of the unnecessary delays in building your hospital.” to the veterans and the families of veterans who have died without having a replacement VA Hospital in Denver, and to those who still wait to see its completion.

You see, according to government statistics somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 World War II veterans are dying every day. If that estimate is true, then during the 27 month delay since the “Official Ground Breaking Ceremony” in August 2009 and the Nov. 21, 2011 celebration (that is 820 days – 2 years at 365 days plus 3 months at 30 days), somewhere between 820,000 and 1,230,000 WWII Veterans have died. And have you noticed that the projected completion date of the hospital has been changed from 2014 to sometime in 2015? That completion delay is at least 365 days. So, the 27 month delay has resulted in an additional 365,000 and 547,500 WWII veterans that will not see their hospital being completed.

Why? Who is at fault? Who is accountable? Who should be saying “I’m Sorry”?

For a while during the celebration, I felt that the VA should have provided some of those soft casts for some of the speakers. You know, the ones, that are used to immobilize an athlete’s leg or arm when they think it might be broken. I actually thought for a while that some of the speakers might break their arm, dislocate a shoulder or somehow hurt themselves while they patted themselves and each other on their respective backs. They all seemed that they have been doing such great things and promised to continue to keep an ever watchful eye on the progress of the construction of the hospital. Who was watching for the last 27 months?

It appeared to me that there was a lot left unsaid. I didn’t hear where the construction would begin. Which of the eight buildings would they start first? Would they begin with a parking garage? And by the way, when would they begin construction at all?

They might have mentioned the estimated completion date would be sometime in the year 2015.

Hey, we didn’t hear from the construction contractor! Representatives from the Kiewit-Turner construction team were in attendance. I thought it took two parties to sign a contract. And who has the schedule anyway? Are there timelines, target dates or a measurable performance schedule? Why did we only hear from one side?

Actually for me, the highlight of the event was that we have raised $1,500 for the construction of the new Fisher House that is to be built on the South end of the proposed VA Hospital site. This money is being raised through contributions that are rewarded with a “Golden Shovel” lapel pin with the initials B T D T on them. The letters stand for “Build The Damn Thing” and is rapidly becoming the mantra for veterans when it comes to building the replacement VA Hospital at Fitzsimons. If you want a pin, let me know.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just an ol’ fuddy duddy and being too skeptical. Perhaps, I should just trust more and believe the promises. After all. . . the money has been appropriated. . . the land purchased. . . a fence is in place. . . signs are up proclaiming the “Future site of a new VA Hospital”. . . and we have had “Party in a Tent – Version 3.0”.

Well, just in case, I will continue to monitor the progress and holler, once again when it slows or stops.