By: Pat Smith, Department Adjutant, As Published in the April 2015 Internet Observer
The American Legion is outraged, shocked, dismayed and just plain dumbfounded about the recent announcement that the new VA hospital in Denver is going to cost $1.7 billion dollars.
I guess you could say “we told you so.” The American Legion was the first veteran’s organization that saw the potential of locating a new VA hospital on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Base. We advocated the move through a resolution approved by our national organization in 1996 and submitted to the Congressional Veterans Affairs Committees for action.
Our vision was for a stand-alone high rise hospital with all of the current technology to make it state of the art facility. The leadership at the VA did not see our vision. They passed on the opportunity to purchase all of the land on the Fitzsimons site of $1.00. The first big mistake.
Next the University of Colorado saw the potential to move their entire campus to the Fitzsimons site. They jumped in with both feet. The next idea was to collocate the VA with the University in a shared tower. This would have cost the VA about 360 million. They wouldn’t go for it. No one in the VA could figure out how to share a facility and equipment with a world class hospital structure like the University. The second big mistake.
After many meetings the VA decided they wanted their own campus of about 33 acres to build a hospital. In a meeting with our congressional representatives a VA spokesperson stated that the “VA knows how to build hospitals.” Instead of a high rise with many beds and just a few elevators and low operating costs they chose to go with an architectural wonder with many elevators (56 or so) and numerous buildings each with their own operating costs and a distance of about a quarter of a mile from one to the other. They entered into a contact without a completed design for a projected cost of about $800 million. Piece of cake, they know how to build hospitals! The fatal mistake.
Now we are stuck with a price tag of $1.7 billion to finish the project. In the VA management structure it seems incompetence is rewarded with big bonuses.
The VA managers should be given a permanent bonus of prison attire to wear in their cozy 4 ft by 8 ft cells. What they have done has to be criminal.
The American Legion will continue to push for a replacement hospital for our area veterans. Unfortunately war is inevitable. With war comes the need for young men and women to answer the nations call. The name veteran will not soon be erased from the dictionary.
With war there are veterans who need for care after the war. Someone once said, “The cost of war doesn’t end when the war ends.”
Let’s figure this out, but not with VA construction managers help.
Side Note: The Executive Director of the Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction Glenn Haggstrom, resigned on March 25, 2015, with full lifetime retirement rights and huge bonus moneys paid to him, for what, trying to scuttle projects that will help our nations heroes.