Isakson, Blumenthal Demand Answers, Accountability for Skyrocketing Denver VA Construction Costs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, today called on the Department of Veterans Affairs and Secretary Robert McDonald to address the ongoing problems that have plagued the replacement Denver VA Medical Center hospital, including mismanagement that has led to hundreds of millions in cost overruns and repeated delays.

On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, the VA announced that the latest cost estimates for the medical center project has increased to $1.73 billion based on information developed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The latest estimates for the VA hospital in Colorado will be more than $1 billion over budget before the project is able to be completed.

“News that the cost to replace the Denver VA Medical Center has ballooned from $328 million to $1.73 billion is appalling. It is critical that we get detailed answers from Secretary McDonald about his plans to address the unacceptable surge in costs, delays and mismanagement of the construction at the replacement Denver VA Medical Center,” said Isakson and Blumenthal. “Veterans in Denver and the surrounding area deserve the best medical care available in the state-of-the-art facility they were promised years ago. Further, the American public, particularly our nation’s veterans, deserve to know who is responsible and what will be done to remedy these serious issues.”

The senators continued, “We also expect Secretary McDonald to be more transparent with Congress and the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the gross mismanagement and ongoing issues that led to these delays and cost overruns at the Denver facility. We expect a full report on what future actions the VA will take to prevent a repeat of this disastrous construction project. The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will continue to call on the Secretary to make good on his promise of transparency and accountability at the VA."

In a letter sent to leadership on the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Appropriations Committees, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson informed the committee that the VA estimates that it will need an increased Congressional authorization of $930 million to complete the project to meet the $1.73 billion estimate. The estimate includes the cost of construction, contingencies and Army Corps of Engineers costs, as well as VA’s cost to close out the original contract and continue construction until the Army Corps of Engineers assumes construction management duties this summer.

During his first VA Committee meeting as chair, Isakson stated his intent for the Senate VA Committee to make site visits to VA facilities around the country where there have been serious problems with wait times for veterans seeking health care or serious problems with construction cost overruns.

“As one of my top priorities to bring oversight directly to the VA, I intend to make Denver one of the next in a series of VA site visits and field hearings conducted by the Senate VA committee,” said Isakson.

Isakson and Blumenthal wrote to House and Senate members of the Colorado delegation last week to express the committee’s intent to conduct a site visit and field hearing at the Denver VA replacement facility as soon as possible.