The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Washington, has awarded a $26.9 million contract to design and build a freestanding spinal cord injury center at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, according to a statement released by the VA.

The contract was awarded to the C3T Construction Company of Milwaukee, a service-disabled, Veteran-owned small business. The 67,000-square-foot building will have a connecting tunnel, providing access to the hospital, and replace a smaller unit in the main hospital building.

Design and construction of the center will overlap, and the project is expected to be finished in less than 2 years, says the VA.

The two-story structure, like the original unit, will provide 38 beds and outpatient services. The additional space is designed to improve accessibility, privacy, and independence for patients; improve efficiency of staff; and increase space for physical and recreational therapy, a specialty clinic, a kitchen, and administration.

Funding for the project was appropriated in fiscal year 2007.

VA is a leader in research related to spinal cord injury care and rehabilitation, providing a lifelong continuum of services for injured veterans of all ages, says the agency. Its expertise in this area ranges from emergency care and surgical stabilization to rehabilitation, preventive care, and long-term care.

Some 42,000 Americans with serious spinal cord injuries or disorders are Veterans eligible for medical care and other benefits from VA. The department provided a full range of care to nearly 26,000 Veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders in 2008 and specialty care to about 13,000 of these veterans, says the VA

[Source: Department of Veterans Affairs]