Reports out of Washington say the VA is looking everywhere for the money needed to finish the $1.7 billion Denver hospital.
“The Denver VA project is a total mess. It has gone over budget by close to $800 million and the VA is scrambling to try to complete that project,” Congressman Brad Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Congress rejected the Veterans Administration’s request to authorize it to spend $830 million to finish construction of the VA hospital in the Denver area. After receiving criticism for that request, the VA reduced it to $625 million.
The medical center being built in Aurora, CO has 184 beds and now is estimated to cost $1.7 billion, making it the most expensive project the Veterans Administration has ever undertaken. The revised cost estimate is three times the initial estimate.
The problems in Colorado have caused VA officials to scramble to find the money to complete construction. Reports claim the VA is considering taking money from other projects to cover the costs, presumably threatening the $56 million set aside for Omaha since 2011.
Ashford claims he has received an “ironclad” assurance from the VA that Omaha’s $56 million is safe.
Sen. Deb Fischer is a bit more worried.
“I have not had any assurances made to me,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.
Fischer says the Denver boondoggle threatens a lot of projects.
“We’ll see how the VA thinks it’s going to be able to find that money out there somehow to meet those overruns and costs at Denver,” Fischer says, “but it better not come from Omaha.”
The Nebraska Congressional delegation, including Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, has suggested the VA consider making Omaha a model for a new type of medical center with a new construction plan.
Ashford says VA officials have promised to come to Omaha this summer to discuss the new medical center. Plans call for officials to talk to veterans about what kind of care is needed and how best to address the concerns of veterans. A number of options for the Omaha hospital is being considered.
Plans call for a new facility to replace the 65-year-old VA hospital in Omaha.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]