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Public Statements

Letter to Secretary Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

Today, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet pressed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki for answers for why the new VA Medical Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora remains stalled in the contracting process, delaying the construction of a full-service health care facility for thousands of Colorado and Rocky Mountain West veterans. The senators expressed disappointment in the lack of accountability to the veterans community and called for both an explanation and a construction start date for the facility, which is expected to be completed in February 2014.

"At this time, we are still unclear if the delay is due to the contractor, Kiewit/Turner, or the VA. While we understand the need to maintain confidentiality in order to protect the contracting process, the lack of information about the reasons for the delay has generated tremendous concern throughout Colorado," the senators wrote. "Our veterans need some explanation as to why this project has continued to be postponed."

Since the initial planning stages in 2009, Udall and Bennet - and the Colorado congressional delegation - have fought for the facility to help our veterans heal and rehabilitate, with a full range of medical, laboratory, research and counseling services, including a new spinal cord injury unit. In May 2010, they successfully ensured Congress authorized the full $800 million for construction of the hospital. The new facility promised an increase of 185 permanent jobs at the medical center and about 10,000 jobs over the course of its construction, but continued delays in the contracting agreement have held up any progress.

"Colorado's veterans - and thousands of construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and laborers - simply cannot be expected to wait any longer without word about when work will finally begin on what we believe will be the finest VA facility in the country," the senators wrote further.

Full text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

As you are well-aware, the construction of the VA Medical Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora, Colorado, is the number one priority for many Colorado veterans, their families, and their representatives in Congress. However, we are very concerned that, more than two years later, the project has languished in the contracting process, and there are no estimates as to when construction will actually begin.

We know that you fully understand how much our veterans depend on timely, high-quality health care. Colorado is proud to be the home of over 400,000 military retirees and combat veterans, and we owe them a debt that can never be repaid. In light of that fact, we are committed to ensuring that this facility is completed as soon as humanly possible.

At this time, we are still unclear if the delay is due to the contractor, Kiewit/Turner, or the VA. While we understand the need to maintain confidentiality in order to protect the contracting process, the lack of information about the reasons for the delay has generated tremendous concern throughout Colorado. Our veterans need some explanation as to why this project has continued to be postponed. Based on a meeting with VA officials in September 2011, it was our understanding that a contract agreement was imminent and that construction would begin within weeks. Those weeks have now stretched into months, with no visible signs of progress. Any further delay is unacceptable, and immediate action is required.

The construction of the Aurora hospital represents a tremendous opportunity to fulfill a measure of our obligation to our veterans and to put thousands of Americans back to work in support of an honorable cause. Colorado's veterans-and thousands of construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and laborers-simply cannot be expected to wait any longer without word about when work will finally begin on what we believe will be the finest VA facility in the country. We therefore ask that you provide, as soon as possible, an explanation for the contract award delays and a timeline for next steps including when we can expect a contract to be complete and construction to begin.

Mr. Secretary, we appreciate that you have been a strong advocate for building the new VA Medical Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora and have always fought for our nation's veterans. We look forward to your prompt response.


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