AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Before a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly constructed Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Peter O’Rourke read a prepared remark touting the center.
“This marks a significant turning point for the VA in Denver,” he said. “This facility represents the VA moving forward and providing our veterans with the best quality care and the latest technology.”
Afterward, O’Rourke took questions from reporters. Most were about the facility being $1 billion over budget and five years behind schedule. When asked if anyone would be held accountable O’Rourke said, “Let’s put this into perspective. Today we are here to cut a ribbon on a facility that’s going to serve our veterans. There’s a past, but today we are going to focus on the future.”
So the ceremony went on as planned, but the problems of the past hung over the event. In his remarks Congressman Mike Coffman touched on the issue.
“Managing the construction of a hospital is clearly not a core competency of the VA, nor should it be,” he said.
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William Hendershot, a veteran, and his friend wore shirts to the event which read, “New VA Hospital Open 2024. No arrest/No Jail 2 Billion Over Budget VA!”
“They’re missing $2 million during construction.” Hendershot said. His friend added, “If we embezzled $2 million where would we be?”
Despite acknowledged problems of the past, there was optimism at the event and hope that veterans in the Rocky Mountain region will get the healthcare they deserve.
“Truthfully, I’m excited. There’s a lot of people that really need help, and I think this will do the job,” said Veteran Jeff Paplow.
Many outpatient services will be moved from the Denver site to the new center starting July 28. Remaining inpatient veterans will be moved to their new facility on Aug. 4.