Congress OKs Deal To Finish Over-Budget VA Hospital In Aurora

1 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Congress Moving Toward Deal To Finish VA Hospital.

Congress approved a deal on Wednesday to let the Veterans Affairs Department complete a vastly over-budget medical center outside Denver, ending months of uncertainty about the future of the ambitious project. WASHINGTON —A last-minute fight over funding for a VA hospital in Aurora was settled peacefully Wednesday and now Colorado lawmakers say Congress is ready to fully pay for construction of the $1.675 billion facility.

DENVER |After years of burgeoning cost estimates and a handful of showdowns over providing funding, Congress signed off on a measure Wednesday to fully fund the remainder of the Aurora VA hospital. But the deal strips the department of the authority to manage big construction projects in the future and gives it to the Army Corps of Engineers — a change that angry lawmakers demanded to avoid a repeat. “It’s hard for me to tell you how happy I am,” said Steve Rylant, a member of the United Veterans Committee of Colorado, a coalition of groups that pressed to complete the project. “I just want to go outside and jump up and down.” The half-finished hospital in the Denver suburb of Aurora is expected to cost nearly $1.7 billion, almost triple last year’s estimate.

Department of Veterans Affairs would cover the last $625 million needed to finish the complex, which has blown its budget so badly that its current price tag is nearly three times the $604 million the VA expected to pay in 2011. The deal probably won’t require the VA to take $200 million of the money from its employee bonus budget, as House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller proposed, Coffman said. Jeff Miller sought to cap VA employee bonuses in order to fund part of the remaining project, at one point blocking the bill from moving ahead in the House on Tuesday. “The Senate has taken the final steps to fulfill the promise of this medical facility. Ed Perlmutter said construction had been mismanaged but needed to be finished. “I am pleased Congress is finally doing its part to finish this project,” he said in a written statement. “It’s flat-out depressing to be in there,” Bozella said.

The corps also said the VA also used a complicated contract process that department officials didn’t understand, and that they adopted it too late in the process, leading to disputes and conflicting cost estimates. Under pressure from Colorado lawmakers and Republican leadership, however, Miller relented and in a floor speech Wednesday he said he would reluctantly support the Senate bill. It actually lights up.” Miller’s frustration is shared by Colorado’s congressional delegation, but lawmakers from the state said veterans in the Rocky Mountain region need the facility now to deal with growing demand. “There is no doubt the VA mismanaged this project from the start. The VA already has spent about $1 billion on the project and without getting approval from Congress to spend the extra $625 million, it was expected that work on the construction site would shut down in early October. But congressional aides said Miller gave up the fight after he realized his proposal was dead-on-arrival in the upper chamber — and after he was told that the VA would take a look at his ideas to route money to the Aurora project from less-essential parts of the agency.

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