WASHINGTON – The Veterans Affairs Department gave a shot in the arm Wednesday to a proposed move of the veterans hospital in Denver to Fitzsimons,but obstacles still remain.
Robert H. Roswell,under secretary of veterans affairs for health,chose his words carefully as he addressed the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on health.
He said the VA supports the “intent” of the proposed $300 million facility introduced by Rep. Joel Hefley,R-Colo.
“Many issues still remain,including the availability of land,” Roswell said in a prepared statement,adding that the VA would be able to provide more details to Congress if the bill is enacted.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi rejected a previous plan introduced in October because the close connection the VA facility would have had to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. CU has already approved a move to Fitzsimons. Currently,the VA hospital site and CU medical center are next to each other on Colorado Boulevard in Denver.
However,Roswell said Principi is supporting the current proposal in large part due to a plan for a separate tower at Fitzsimons serving only VA patients.
Some veterans' interest groups questioned if the VA would independently run the new VA facility.
“We are adamantly opposed to any option that would essentially integrate the Denver VA Medical Center patients into the population of the University of Colorado hospital,” said Carl Blake,associate legislative director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Integrating patients in this manner would fundamentally change the way VA provides care.”
Rep. Bob Beauprez,R-Colo.,said the plan for a separate VA tower would be a definite possibility if the bill is passed quickly. The new VA hospital,however,would share some facilities with CU.
Adrian M. Atizado,the associate national legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans,said his organization is concerned about joint management and governance of the facility between CU and the federal government
Beauprez said the federal government would be in charge of the VA Medical Center.
Hefley's press secretary,Sarah Shelden,said there is no definite timetable on the bill and the earliest a new facility at Fitzsimons could open is in approximately 18 months.
Every other member of Colorado's delegation has co-sponsored Hefley's bill.