Report faults VA management for Aurora hospital failures

The report says the VA failed to stick to one design and adopted a complex contract too late in the process, leading to disputes and conflicting cost estimates.

AURORA | Massive cost overruns at a new veterans hospital outside Denver were caused by repeated changes in the design and a complicated contract process that VA officials didn’t understand, according to an investigation released Thursday.

Steve Newton holds a Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1071 flag with the unfinished VA hospital in the background during a rally to finish the hospital on Sunday May 31, 2015 at VA Hospital. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)The half-finished hospital in suburban Aurora is expected to cost up to $1.73 billion, nearly triple the earlier estimates. The Army Corps of Engineers, which investigated at the request of the Veterans Affairs Department, blamed the VA’s management of the project.

The report says the VA failed to stick to one design and adopted a complex contract too late in the process, leading to disputes and conflicting cost estimates.

The report also says the VA didn’t have enough construction management staffers in Denver to handle a project of this scale, and they were overwhelmed trying to make decisions and meet deadlines.

Changes required during construction have taken too long to approve, the report says.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who visited the construction site Thursday, said his department accepts the findings and is making changes.

Sloan has said all the top executives who were in charge when the mistakes were made have been demoted or transferred or have retired. He said one internal investigation is complete and another is underway, and anyone found to have had a role in the failures will be disciplined.

Work continues on the hospital, but with a reduced workforce and a slower pace.

The VA is asking Congress for an additional $625 million to finish a scaled-back version, on top of the $1 billion authorized to date. Gibson said he was optimistic a funding deal will be reached before the project hits its current spending cap at the end of the month.

The Corps of Engineers warned that the VA needs to make fundamental changes in the way it handles construction projects or it will suffer similar overruns and delays on future projects.

  • Joe Hardhat

    Demotions, transfers and retirements … a slap on the wrist. Real accountability would mean terminations.

    • ezaspie

      Agreed. Eric Shinseki and his cronies should be in prison. The only candidate talking about this right now is Heb Bush. The fact is, no one working for the government can be held accountable. This is sad.

    • gofastgo

      No one in government is hardly ever held responsible, it’s not their money, it’s ours. Lois Lerner, took the 5th, no prison time, just a big retirement package. the latest, Clintons email guy, he’s going to take the 5th also, he will also get no damage to his lifestyle.

  • indiana

    SO…..these are the people that were put in those positions by the people you voted for…so if you don’t like it….eat sh*t….it’s what you voted for.

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  • gofastgo

    No kidding, someone actually got to the bottom of this fiasco and it was government workers, who’d a thunk it?

  • gofastgo

    Who else were they going to hold responsible? Wait, I know, the gremlins under the bridge…

  • disqus_Nc13bJ8iDr

    We have a saying in the Construction Project Management biz, “At some point you have to shoot the Engineers.” Changes are terribly disruptive to the construction process. And curiously, Contractors rarely make a profit from them, because the effects are so hidden, that all the costs can’t be captured. Jack Dougherty, P.E.

  • Frank2525

    Same criticisms as before and I have posted before, and I will repeat. There are faults at all levels of government and the contracting – engineering of this project from within the veteran ranks, all the way into the oval office. I worked with those in the veteran-retiree side of this from beginning until 2011, attending three official ground breakings, and all of the meetings with VA, State, Federal officials and staff.
    Veterans, Retirees, Business, Politicians, state and federal leaders, including 3 governors and their staff, and all had supporters and opposition from within all those groups. Then water table at 20 feet, instead of 40 feet or more, resulted in changes for parking garages above ground, instead of 4 levels below ground level. Purchase of land, rather than accepting free parcel, which was rejected. Purchase of Physician Building to use as VA offices and 640th Medical Group Buckley AFB, all led to change orders, more expense. Adding Spinal clinic, Brain clinic, Women’s clinic, all separate but part of the whole, added expense.
    Easy for sidewalk superintendents and opinionated folks to second guess, but if they did not attend these meetings, these officials, and hear the complaints and comments, it is easy now to express opinions of your beliefs, and opinions. ENOUGH BLAME EXISTS AT ALL LEVELS, OVER ALL THE YEARS, TO YELL AT A LOT OF PEOPLE. AND MANY WHO WORKED SO HARD FOR THIS SINCE 1991, BEFORE LOWRY AND FITZSIMONS CLOSED (BRAC 1994 AND 1997) ARE NOW DECEASED.
    Those veterans and Retirees, and Staff members of Politicians, State and Federal officials, all knew this was developing, getting more expensive, and economy mushrooming after 2009 added fuel to the fire. So blame goes to voters too for allowing all the stimulus money being spent on other “reach for the stars” for this. Now get out your checkbooks, and quit your griping. Pay for what you voted for.

  • Frank2525

    If you did not get my basic point just before this, VA IS NOT THE COMPLETE CULPRIT ON THIS. There was mismanagement all throughout, but much of the authority was in Washington, at different levels and offices. Including the President and Congress. Leadership must come from the top, and that did not happen. Some in VA did not even want to build, simply lease facilities, and they hindered this from the start.
    And Civil Service laws and standards, with employees also belonging to unions does not help. Takes far to long to hire anyone, and impossible to fire them if they get past 1 year probation. Takes up to 9 months to year to hire a nurse, for example.

    • Fed up

      Conspiracy huh? You do know nothing will change?

      • Frank2525

        I think there will be changes. VA does good work with medical when not overloaded, trying to build. They do not have the expertise to manage that, and they also are too closely aligned with president/s, House and Senate, and all of their staff.
        Corp of Engineers have their own levels of supervision, but do have the Engineers and qualified staff, and also the backing to negotiate at the table with Contractors, Lawyers, and others with a balanced system. This project stretched out over different administrations, with personnel changes at all levels, each with their own agenda, and like all government jobs, too many have a say, without knowledge, experience, or seniority to make decisions, and stick to them.
        I was involved with Corp of Engineers in 1976 (summer) when 3 of us from AFCS, met with them in Omaha, with SAC communicators, and the Philco-Ford Electronic side, and designed Satellite Communications Terminal for Offutt AFB, (SAC). Whole week, and we discussed all aspects. Only worm in the apple, we had been allotted cap of $1.2 million for design. Then told we had to design within $800,000 for fences, buildings, doors, windows, restrooms, power, air conditioning, (Whole site design). The other $400,000 was set aside, to comply with contractor having to pay UNION SCALE to their employees, though Nebraska was right to work, and therefore would not have union. BUT GOVERNMENT LAW REQUIRED UNION SCALE PAY. So we had to leave out some, or change some, that would have to be added later, under new budget, at higher cost.
        I developed real dislike for that, besides having worked in 4 major unions (2 before military, and 2 during military, working part time. Never did anything for me, but take my dues. Anyone needing a union to keep their job, needs to think of getting into different job, where they can be more proficient, AND NOT NEED A UNION.
        In earlier years, Unions were necessary to get the kids out of the mines, and sweat shops, and keep them in school to better themselves. But Unions got into schools, and dumb kids down, then brain wash them to be dependent on government for life.

      • Frank2525

        One other comment on this with Conspiracy? Have you not wondered why the Maifia youth did not expand, when older ones were imprisoned? They just went to college, and came out to go into politics. Big money, in federal and state treasuries, will draw those types anywhere.