Keep reading for the most up-to-date information on the veterans cemetery project, including news articles, design and construction updates, and frequently asked questions.
**July 2016 Cemetery Renderings**
**Click HERE to watch the naming ceremony for the Pikes Peak National Cemetery**
New veterans cemetery near Colorado Springs will be named for America's mountain
By Tom Roeder, The Gazette
The new veterans cemetery being built east of Colorado Springs will be named for America's mountain, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday night.
The Pikes Peak National Cemetery, to be constructed off Drennan Road, got its name in a months-long process involving local veterans, leaders and the VA. The agency has already purchased 374 acres to hold the graves of veterans and Congress is expected to approve $36 million in the coming months to pay for construction starting in 2017.
"I think if you look at that, it's probably not a big surprise," said Steve Best who heads VA cemetery efforts in a nine-state region that includes Colorado, as he revealed the Pikes Peak name. "I think we got it right."
VA officials said the Pikes Peak name got overwhelming support from local veterans groups and officials.
The cemetery site was picked for the sweeping mountain views that will greet visitors. And it will be a well-visited place in the future.
When full, the cemetery will hold the remains of an estimated 95,000 veterans and VA says that's enough for more than a century of burials. Burial in the cemetery will be provided at no cost for veterans who served honorably.
The cemetery came after a nearly 20-year push by local veterans who objected to a VA policy that forced local veterans to seek their final refuge at Fort Logan in Denver.
"We finally have the place, the design, the funding and now a name," Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a prime backer of the cemetery. "It has taken a lot of years of hard work by a lot of people to get to this place."
If the process doesn't hit the rocks, the first local veterans could be buried at the cemetery in 2018.
"I'll do everything I can to make sure the timeline keeps moving forward," Lamborn pledged.
VA officials say architects are at work and they'll soon be ready to start building at the cemetery site.
"We're excited to bring this national cemetery to Colorado Springs," said Glenn Madderom, head of cemetery development for VA. "We think this will be a great addition for Colorado Springs."
Gazette Headline: Cemetery Cash in Budget
Lamborn Pledges to Keep Funding for $36M veterans project in '17 Bill
By Tom Roeder 4/7/16
Work could begin as soon as next year on a 374-acre veterans cemetery east of Colorado Springs as Congress moves forward with a measure to pay for the $36 million project.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, visited the site on Drennan Road on Wednesday and said the cemetery cash has stuck in early versions of a 2017 budget bill.
"I'll make sure it stays in the budget," he pledged.
Local veterans have pushed for a national cemetery in Colorado Springs for nearly two decades.
The Department of Veterans Affairs closed a deal for the cemetery land in 2014, but the project has languished in the absence of construction cash.
"Finally," said Vic Fernandez, an Army veteran who has led efforts to push for the cemetery for 17 years.
Steve Best, who heads VA cemeteries in a nine-state region that includes Colorado, said design work on the cemetery is ahead of schedule.
"We're about halfway through the process," he said.
The land, just east of the Colorado Springs Airport, features sweeping views of Pikes Peak and mountains as far south as the Spanish Peaks.
Best said the cemetery will be designed to maximize the views.
"This is going to be a very, very special place," he said.
The $36 million will buy the first phase of the cemetery, which will be the final resting place for up to 13,000 veterans. The agency said it plans as many as 20 burials a day at the site for decades to come.
Lamborn praised work by the Department of Veterans Affairs on the cemetery while still voicing ire over the agency's handling of heath care at its Colorado Springs clinic.
The VA's most recent report showed long waits continue for veterans seeking care at its Fillmore Street clinic, with nearly 29 percent of veterans waiting a month or more for appointments. That's a slight improvement over the 32 percent of veterans who waited a month or more for care in November.
Lamborn said he's pushing for hearings on the woes of the Colorado Springs clinic.
But the House Committee on Veterans Affairs has bigger plans, he said. The panel led by Florida Republican Jeff Miller is working on a plan to throw the book at VA leaders during a hearing by lumping the problems in Colorado Springs with similar issues found at other clinics.
"This has been going on all over the country," Lamborn said.
Lamborn began calling for a hearing in February after a report released by the agency's internal watchdog showed that workers at the Colorado Springs clinic had falsified paperwork on wait times.
For 28 veterans waiting for primary care appointments, scheduling shenanigans showed they were given same-day appointments, but in reality they waited an average of 76 days, investigators found.
VA blamed the problem on improper training and no workers were disciplined.
Lamborn said the VA has made some effort to clean up problems at the clinic since the report. But the Republican remains unimpressed.
"Every time they say they have made steps forward, we still have complaints rolling into our office," Lamborn said.
Recently, Congressman Doug Lamborn met with officials responsible for the construction of our forthcoming Southern Colorado National VA Cemetery including:
• Ronald Walters, Interim Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs
• Joe Imamura, NCA Landscape Architect
• Mark Tillotson, Director, National Region, Construction and Facilities Management (CFM)
• Omar Boulware, VA/LL
The project is currently in the design phase, is ON SCHEDULE, and will be ready for construction funding in 2017. It is important to remember that the design phase must be completed BEFORE a price tag is submitted to and funds are allocated from Congress. The master plan phase is roughly 80% done.
Below are some early architectural renderings showing the entryway and sign, Public Information Center, and Committal Service Shelter. Please keep in mind, the design is still in progress so these concept drawings may change as input is received and the design progresses.
Public Information Center/Administration Building
New Committal Service Shelter
Where will the new cemetery be located?
Colorado Springs, in El Paso County, Colorado. The land designated for the new VA cemetery is on the Rolling Hills Ranch site, southeast of the Colorado Springs Airport. The 374 acre lot sits just east of Marksheffel Road, and between Bradley and Drennan Roads. To see a map of the property, visit KKTV’s article about the location.
Who is responsible for the planning and design?
The Veteran’s Administration selected the AES Group as the contractor for the planning and design of the new cemetery. Providing key local representation for AES is the Colorado Springs firm William Guman & Associates Ltd.
How much will the new cemetery cost?
The official dollar amount won’t be reached until after the planning and design phase is completed, but early estimates predict that the cemetery will cost between $28 million and $50 million.
When will the funding get approved?
The design phase for the VA cemetery was fully funded, awarded in February 2015, and is currently on schedule. Due to the design schedule, funding for the construction portion of the cemetery project isn’t required until Fiscal Year 2017.
What will the cemetery be named?
The VA allows veterans and local leaders in the area to submit name suggestions. According to the statute, VA properties cannot be named for anything other than the geographical area in which they are located unless Congress passes a specific law to that effect.
During the month of November, the VA will send formal letters to the local military community so that Colorado residents can submit suggestions for names during the following 60 days.
The names that comply with VA guidelines will be sent to the Interim Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, who will offer a recommendation. The Secretary of VA will ultimately evaluate and choose the name for the new cemetery.
Who can be buried there?
1. Veterans of the United States Armed Forces who received a qualifying discharge, as well as their spouses and children.
2. Military personnel who passed away while on active duty, along with their spouses and children.
Estimates project that between 95,000 and 125,000 veterans and family members will be served by this new location.
I/my loved one wants to be buried in the new VA cemetery. Can I start planning now?
The VA has provided three useful documents with more information about burial benefits:
1. Arranging Burial in a VA National Cemetery
2. Military Funeral Honors: “Honoring Those Who Served”
3. National Cemetery—Colorado Springs, CO Area
The VA is in the process of creating new procedures for Veterans’ end-of-life decisions and benefits. These new procedures would allow an individual to establish eligibility for a specific burial site before his or her death.
However, actions such as state or federal capital crimes, as well as certain state or federal sex offenses, could bar an individual from a VA burial site even if these acts were committed after the initial burial approval.
Where can I find out more information?
The VA can provide more information about cemeteries, memorial services, and burial benefits online at www.cem.va.gov or over the phone at 800-827-1000. The fact sheet for the Colorado Springs cemetery is also available online at http://www.cem.va.gov/docs/factsheets/Colorado_Springs_Area.pdf.
Congressman Lamborn met with Ron Walters, the Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs. During their conversation, the Congressman emphasized the importance of visible progress on this project and asked pointed questions relating to the design, funding, naming, prioritization, and end-of-life planning processes associated with the Cemetery.
- Two public meetings took place this week to appraise area veterans of the latest information on the project.
- Master Planning is now 80% complete and is on schedule.
- Construction is slated to begin (subject to funding being allocated) in the Spring of 2017.
"This project continues to be one of my top priorities. The very first bill I introduced in Congress was the bill establishing the creation of this cemetery. I will continue to work with the VA to apply the appropriate pressure to ensure that this project is completed in a timely manner for our community. I will not tire and I will not relent in my efforts to see this project brought to a satisfactory conclusion."
- Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05)