President Obama’s new budget includes 56-million dollars slated for the care of veterans in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area. Will Ackerman, spokesman for the V-A Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, says the money would be used to study major upgrades and additions at the current Veterans Hospital in Omaha, which serves thousands of veterans from both states.

“It is actually for beginning the design process of a replacement facility,” Ackerman says. “It still has to go through the appropriations process and so forth.” The proposal includes building an inpatient tower and surgical suite, along with significant renovations to the current outpatient clinic and more parking. When asked about that 56-million-dollar amount just for the design, Ackerman says everything has to be done just right to make sure a state-of-the-art facility is built.

“It takes a lot to ensure that we’ve got a 21st century health care facility and there’s a lot involved with that, very detailed,” Ackerman says. “It’s really important that we get it right.” The full price on the new tower and facelift is expected to reach 564-million dollars. He says the design phase is key.

Ackerman says, “Anytime you design a major facility, it certainly takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of people to make that happen.” Construction could begin in 2012. The V-A Hospital is 57-years-old and a recent study found a half-billion dollars is needed to make sufficient repairs and upgrades to the facility.

By Karla James