• VA Says Failing Hospital Project Needs $930 Million, Lawmakers Demand Heads

    The Department of Veterans Affairs says it needs $930 million to finish constructing a new hospital in Denver.

    Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, says the VA needs to fire senior executives.

    When the sorely needed project first started, the VA proposed a cost estimate of $328 million, the Washington Post reports. VA executives first drew up plans for a new hospital after realizing the aging Denver VA hospital, built in 1951, could no longer accommodate the growing number of veterans, according to The Denver Post. Veterans often complained that the facility was “threadbare.”

    The most recent figure cited by the VA for the Aurora facility is greater than five times the original cost and exactly $800 million higher than the amount allocated by Congress. The total price tag now sits at $1.73 billion. Based in Aurora, Colo., the hospital is around 1.2 million square feet and, supposing the VA can convince Congress to grant funding requests, will provide services for around 83,000 veterans.

    Aurora isn’t the only hospital that’s far behind schedule and generating higher costs than first proposed. A Government Accountability Office report in 2013 found that four main hospitals under construction, Aurora included, are running $1.5 billion over budget in total. But the Aurora hospital is by far the most expensive in VA history.

    Lawmakers on Thursday wondered aloud why the VA was even in the business of building hospitals, given the disastrous history of the state-of-the-art hospital.

    “I don’t think the VA should be allowed to build hospitals. I could build palaces in Tennessee with the amount they’ve spent,” Republican Rep. David P. Roe said at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on Thursday.

    Miller pointed to two specific executives that the VA should fire immediately: Glenn Haggstrom, executive director of the VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction Principal, and Office of Construction and Facilities Management Executive Director Stella Fiotes.

    “VA’s entire construction program is a disaster and has been for years,” Miller said in a statement on Wednesday. “Every single member of VA’s top leadership is fully aware of these issues, yet the senior executives who presided over the mismanagement that led to them remain firmly entrenched at VA, where they collect generous taxpayer-funded salaries…Therefore, I am calling upon VA’s leadership to fire them immediately. As part of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, Congress gave VA leaders the authority to immediately fire VA senior executives for poor performance.”

    Even though the VA admitted to major failures, FOX31 Denver reported that executives in charge of the four hospitals received $22 million dollars in bonuses.

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