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SecVA: Construction Of Denver Hospital Will GRIND To A Halt Sunday Without Congressional Funds

On Wednesday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald pleaded with Congress to fund construction of the disastrous VA hospital in Denver, saying that if no funds arrive by Sunday, construction will grind to a halt.

McDonald acknowledged that the endless cost overruns and delays in construction plaguing the new medical facility in Aurora, Colorado, are inexcusable, but added that despite his best intentions to work with Congress on a solution, the two sides remain staunchly opposed.

Time is running out. Congress soon hits recess for Memorial Day, and lawmakers are scheduled to return to their home districts. In the meantime, contractor Kiewit Turner has pledged to shut down operations on Sunday.

Congress, says McDonald, just isn’t responding to reasonable offers stemming from months of negotiations, discussions and proposals back-and-forth between Congress and the VA. The VA’s latest offer came on Monday, in which McDonald asked skeptical and disillusioned legislators not only to raise the spending cap from $800 million to $1 billion dollars, but also to allow the VA to reallocate fiscal year 2015 funds to the project.

“If Congressional leaders choose not to support VA’s proposals, or choose to offer feasible solutions of their own, then they will be punishing Colorado Veterans today for past VA errors,” McDonald said in a statement.

“Our Veterans deserve better than that,” he added. “I have presented a plan. Congress has not proposed a counter plan. I am open to reviewing any proposal that would better serve the Veterans of Colorado and the American taxpayers.”

However, a letter from House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, also written on Wednesday, presents a completely different picture of the hospital fiasco. As Miller puts it, the VA hasn’t provided an adequate explanation of what went wrong in Denver.

No final price exists for the project. No completion date exists, either, despite the VA insisting as late as last year that the facility could open in 2015 and cost only $630 million dollars. (RELATED: VA Officials Say Disastrous Hospital In Denver Now Too Small)

Not a single person has been held accountable for the cost overruns, Miller noted. Instead former construction chief Glenn Haggstrom was allowed to retire with full benefits.

“With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, go back to the drawing board,” Miller wrote. “Come up with a plan that completes the hospital in a deficit neutral way without jeopardizing the benefits and services of other veterans and includes a final price tag and construction end date. Then, we can talk about the way forward in Denver.”

The deadline before recess hits is looming, and the standoff continues to unfold.

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

 

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