Veterans have conflicting emotions ahead of new Aurora hospital opening

AURORA, Colo. -- Saturday is a day many believed would never come. The new Aurora Veterans Medical Center is scheduled to open following a ribbon-cutting ceremony. While ribbon cuttings are usually a celebration, this one is full of conflicting emotions.

Some veterans are enthusiastic.

"I'm excited about it," Elmer Seagon, a Vietnam War veteran said outside the old VA Medical Hospital in Denver Friday. "This is about used up, I think," Seagon said of the old hospital.

However, for veterans like John Hildebrande, there is little excitement around the facility.

"It took too damn long to build it," Hildebrande said.

Perhaps Congressman Mike Coffman summed the problem up best.

"It has been a nightmare," Coffman told FOX31 political reporter Joe St. George when asked to reflect on the project.

The Aurora VA Hospital is more than $1 billion over budget and it is five years behind schedule. The center has fewer exam rooms, fewer surgical rooms, and no PTSD unit.

The Problem Solvers previously examined the issues with the new facility in depth and how Congess was forced to get involved.

As a result, the current VA hospital will have to stay open for the foreseeable future.

"It is not a good design. It doesn't have a PTSD unit facility -- the signature wound of a military engaged in decades of war," Coffman said.

However, Coffman said he is pleased veterans will be given a state-of-the-art facility that they deserve -- even if no VA official was terminated for the cost overages and delays.

Some of benefits of the new hospital include private rooms for veterans, expanded family space, spinal surgery options and aquatic therapy.

Sen. Cory Gardner focused on the positives when asked about the hospital Friday.

"This will be a crown jewel of the VA system and this is something veterans have worked hard on for years to see through its completion," Gardner said.

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