EDITORIAL: Only the White House can fix Aurora’s broken VA hospital project

The project is awash in complaints from unpaid contractors and sub-contractors, confusion, finger-pointing and mystery. Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman is right on aiming blame at the VA for nearly hopelessly mismanaging the Aurora VA project

Just imagine what Colorado could do with $472 million. Desperately needed Interstate 70 expansion. Lagging mass transit. New spaces for state colleges. Working public schools that don’t sap school-district budgets. A host of cultural arts facilities and expansions.

Too bad, Colorado. The Veterans Affairs has plans for that and hundreds of millions more of U.S. tax dollars, not just for critically needed VA medical programs, but for cost overruns on projects that are already costing billions of dollars.

It’s obscene. The VA is building a replacement for its dilapidated Denver hospital on the corner of the defunct Fitzsimons Army campus in Aurora. Rather than just skimp anyway possible to get the hospital built, the VA was able to win congressional approval for a $600-million marvel. The Aurora VA hospital was set to become the ideal for a retired military health care system that had gone awry. To be built as a regional medical center, complete with innovative programs and research facilities, it’s certain to be the envy of every other VA facility in the country. If it ever gets completed.

Stories about cost overruns and delays aren’t new to large construction projects, and from the beginning, this VA project was no exception. But for years now, the cost of this hospital complex and the obvious malfeasance associated with its design and construction are nearly unparalleled.

The staggering cost of the hospital practically drew gasps when it was first announced in 2004. After months of bickering about changes and cost overruns, it was nearly unthinkable that the Aurora VA project was going to cost a whopping $800 million.

That was then. This is now. Now, this nine-building medical center is pushing past the $1 billion mark. This and similar VA projects have gone so far off track that they’ve drawn scrutiny and criticism from Congress, the General Accounting Office and scores of local officials.

The project is awash in complaints from unpaid contractors and sub-contractors, confusion, finger-pointing and mystery.  Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman is right on aiming blame at the VA for nearly hopelessly mismanaging the Aurora VA project.

“Given the potential additional costs and delays due to litigation brought on by VA’s refusal to pay the contractors and subcontractors for honest work and the inevitable additional costs associated with start-up, there is no doubt that this facility will reach an unbelievable cost of approximately $1 billion,” Coffman said  in a statement in response to the hearing. “It seems apparent that Mr. (Glenn) Haggstrom is not the guy to get this job done, and VA is not capable of running a large construction project.” Haggstrom is the VA director for VA construction projects across the country.

Now, contractor Kiewit-Turner is saying that the project is essentially out of money, meaning that more delays are coming. Congress seems powerless to get the VA to get this and other VA projects under control. The only way to get clear answers and a new path out is from the White House. And even though it seems the country has forgotten that this VA hospital needs to open now, not later, to serve the growing need of vets, the Obama Administration needs to put the need of those vets before everything else. 

What a gift it would be for the VA to have completed this critical facility on time and budget and allow Colorado or somewhere else in the country to make use of the hundreds of millions of dollars in overruns associated with the Aurora VA hospital. But for now, we just need the hospital, and it appears that only the White House can make that happen.

 

  • Kevin

    Really, anyone expect the White House to actually do something? Look at the facts…is this about a black kid being killed? NO Is this about a black man detained on his front porch? NO Is this about playing golf? NO Mr. Hussein doesn’t give a hoot about our military!

    • Mr. Donovan

      Who’s Mr. Hussein? Regardless of whether you like the man or not, he is our President and deserves the respect of his title.

      • Kevin

        Sorry, Mr. Donovan, Mr. Hussein is Barrack Hussein Obama in case you weren’t aware. Also, respect is EARNED and while I do respect the office, the current occupant is an entirely different matter. The man has done absolutely nothing to earn my respect.

  • HJD

    I don’t understand why you think the White House is going to be the only avenue. You didn’t lay out a very persuasive case. The White House only cares about dividing us Americans, not about finding any real solutions to any of our problems.

  • Bob Simpson

    I beg your pardon, but the WH couldn’t pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the bottom!

  • Constitution101

    You have to be kidding! The author author of this article says, “Only the White House can fix Aurora’s broken hospital project”? Is that because the President routinely circumvents the Constitution and thinks he has the purse strings of Congress? Not surprising that a government agency cannot do a project on time and under budget. Why … when they can dip in to the deep pockets of the taxpayer.

    Question: what part of these cost over-runs is the responsibility of the contractor(s)?
    Signed,
    Retired disabled Vet of 25+ years.

    • Laura Jensen

      Exactly…its why every company in the world wants a Government contract.

  • KAG505

    Wait. Breaking News. A computer has crashed at the VA, taking with it all the information about the problems with the VA. Problem solved……Just like what happened with the IRS case today.