09.21.16

Gardner Blasts VA for Aurora Hospital Construction Mismanagement VA Office of Inspector General Report Released Today

Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General today released a report that follows an investigation into the Aurora VA hospital construction project. The report concluded that the project experienced significant cost overruns and schedule delays due to a series of “questionable business decisions and mismanagement by VA senior officials in the following areas: inadequate planning and design of the project, initiated construction phase without adequate design plans, a change in the acquisition strategy that contributed to delays and increased costs, and change request processing was untimely.” The facility is expected to be completed by 2018, nearly 20 years after the need for the hospital was identified in the late 1990s. 

“The VA Office of Inspector General report confirms what Coloradans have long suspected: the VA grossly mismanaged the project from day one and ignored warning signs that the project would be over budget, ” said Gardner. “According to the OIG, Glenn Haggstrom, the VA official responsible for overseeing the project, failed to disclose to Congress during Congressional testimony in 2013 and 2014, never disclosing that the project would likely surpass its budget of $800 million. The VA also prematurely started construction without completed design plans, and rejected cost reduction plans that would have resulted in approximately $400 million in savings.”

Gardner has led the effort for the completion of the VA Hospital in Aurora in Congress. In his first month in the Senate, he teamed up with fellow members of the Colorado delegation to introduce the Aurora VA Hospital Financing and Construction Reform Act of 2015, and much of the language Gardner authored was later included in legislation that provided funding to the Aurora hospital. He was also instrumental in pressing for the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to hold a field hearing in Colorado in April of 2015. In May, Gardner worked to garner support for the passage of a short-term funding bill that would allow construction to continue after the project ran out of money. In September of 2015, the project once again was threatened to be shut down in the face of cost overruns. Gardner again secured the funding required to complete the hospital by working with leadership in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

Gardner added, “Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars evaporated due to the VA’s incompetence, and the people who have suffered most are the Colorado veterans who have been forced to wait for the new facility they were promised for far too long. Now that the OIG investigation is complete, the VA officials responsible for the blatant systemic failures and enormous cost overruns that plagued the project must be held accountable. No more get out of jail free cards. I was proud the Senate passed legislation that would prevent the VA from managing construction projects over $100 million, and I will continue to work to ensure that this VA-born disaster is not replicated.

Gardner has continued to press for accountability at the VA, demanding punishment for those responsible for delays and cost overruns. He has continued to monitor the project’s progress, most recently visiting the construction site and meeting with Army Corps of Engineer officials on September 9, 2016. 

“During a visit to the construction site earlier this month, I was assured the project will meet the new time and budget. I will continue to request updates on the project’s progress and look forward to when the state-of-the-art facility opens its doors. Veterans deserve the best medical care this country has to offer, and I’ll continue to fight to see the VA deliver on its promise,” said Gardner. 

The report can be found here

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

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