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Veterans Rally At Aurora Hospital To Advocate For Completion

More than 150 veterans gathered Sunday in front of the unfinished Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora to urge Congress not to let them down by restricting funds for its completion.

Hospital contractor Kiewit-Turner said that if funds run out for construction, it’ll cost $250 million to restart the process, making it much more expensive for Congress not to authorize additional expenditures, Aurora Sentinel reports.

The last emergency infusion of $100 million in funding for the hospital came at the last second after Secretary Robert McDonald pleaded with Congress just hours before the Memorial Day recess. Construction would have otherwise halted on Sunday. (RELATED: SecVA: Construction Of Denver Hospital Will GRIND To A Halt Sunday Without Congressional Funds)

With funds in hand, construction can continue for two more weeks.

What all sides agree on, however, is the need to “finish the damn thing,” as Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter said.

Many veterans have given up hope.

“There have just been so many broken promises … I’ll probably die before they finish the thing,” Artie Guerrero, a Vietnam veteran, told The Denver Post. “It seems like every time a hole is dug, there’s just another disappointment.” Another veteran pointed out that since the project first began, two presidents, five VA secretaries, and eight sessions of Congress have elapsed.

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman also spoke at the event, emphasizing that he’s optimistic about the possibility that Congress will authorize more funding. But it won’t be easy, he added. Instead of an end to funding worries, Congress is much more likely to permit another temporary infusion, in order to keep the VA on a tight leash. One proposal from the VA would allow the department to raid a $5 billion dollar dispensation Congress allocated last year to increase VA efficiency. The proposal has failed to gain serious traction among legislators.

Others were somewhat skeptical of the project as a whole.

“While Concerned Veterans for America recognizes the need to complete this project, we do not believe it serves the long-run interests of Colorado’s veterans, or any of our nation’s veterans, for Congress to keep throwing good money after bad,” Shaun Rieley, a legislative policy analyst at Concerned Veterans for America, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“This is especially true considering that VA has yet to hold anyone accountable for the failures at the Aurora facility, or to present a long-term plan to reform their construction programs in order to ensure that this kind of debacle does not repeat itself,” he said.

New estimates place the total cost of the Aurora hospital at $1.73 billion. This amount is almost three times as much as a VA calculation from last year.

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