'Patient safety issue' caused by Denver VA Medical Center parking; Rep. Mike Coffman pushes for fix

DENVER - U.S. Representative Mike Coffman wants answers from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans' affairs following a 7NEWS investigation that revealed insufficient parking at the at the Denver VA Medical Center.  The parking shortage is making it more difficult for veterans to get the care they need.

"This is an issue about patient safety. This is an issue about patients who are veterans, trying to go across a very significant distance, that's often icy in winter, and so it's inappropriate, it's unacceptable, and they've (Denver VAMC) got to take care of it," said Rep. Coffman. 

According to information the Denver VAMC Public Information Officer, Daniel Warvi, shared with 7NEWS in February, as many as 2,000 patients or employees are without on-campus parking on any given day.  

During a site tour on Feb 4, 7NEWS witnessed a patient with a cast, walking on crutches fall on the walkway between the VA parking garage and an entrance.  At the time, the head of the Denver VAMC facility operations was throwing salt on the sidewalk.

"As a combat Veteran myself, I just want to thank 7NEWS for the job that they did on this report. This nation has an obligation to take care of those who have served this country, and they're (Denver VAMC) not doing it here. And we've got to make sure that they do," said Rep. Coffman.

The VA had leased parking from the University of Colorado Denver, but was warned years ago that the parking structures and lots would not be a permanent option because the CU property was slated for redevelopment.  A series of parking lots have since been closed down and hundreds of parking spaces were lost.  

In a letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki, Rep. Coffman requested, "prompt answers," to his questions regarding the parking problems.

"I hope since this is an issue about patient safety, I'm hoping to get a response soon," said Rep. Coffman.

During the initial 7NEWS investigation in February,  Investigative Reporter Amanda Kost asked Warvi what was being done to fix the parking shortage.

"We've commissioned, we have a special group within our executive leadership team, we’re trying to identify areas within the neighborhood we could do," Warvi answered at that time.  "We'll have a solution. We'll come up with something."

Now, one month after Warvi made that statement, 7NEWS has learned the Denver VAMC has not found a solution.  Warvi denied our requests for a follow-up interview and hung up the phone. Five hours later he sent an email.

"We certainly thank the Congressman for his continued interest in Veterans issues." Warvi also wrote, "While there is no current change in the parking situation, the Denver VA Medical Center is actively looking into options with several private entities in the surrounding area. However, to comment on this process would be extremely premature, and may end up damaging those negotiations to the detriment of our hard-working Employees and our Veterans."

Kost asked the congressman what will happen if the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs does not respond to his requests.

"We've just got to keep the pressure on them and not let it off," he responded.

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