Colorado

VA catches heat for hospital dispute

Congressional delegation blasts agency's actions

Posted 12/14/14

Colorado's congressional delegation last week blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs for its handling of a construction contract dispute that has further delayed the building of a new VA hospital and has left hundreds of workers in limbo.

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Colorado

VA catches heat for hospital dispute

Congressional delegation blasts agency's actions

Posted

Colorado's congressional delegation last week blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs for its handling of a construction contract dispute that has further delayed the building of a new VA hospital and has left hundreds of workers in limbo.

A fast-moving news cycle began on Dec. 10, when a federal civilian board of appeals ruled that the VA was in breach of contract with the group it hired to build a state-of-the-art veterans hospital in Aurora.

The contract dispute was over money. The contractor, Kiewit-Turner, claimed it could not finish work on the project at the price tag that the VA had originally set, which was $582.8 million. Kiewit-Turner said it would take about $1 billion to finish the work.

The Civilian Court of Contract Appeals ruled in favor of Kiewit-Turner, which resulted in the contractor abruptly stopping work at the site, located at Interstate 225 and Colfax Avenue. About 1,400 construction workers were employed at the site.

“Where we are right now is really unfortunate,” Republican Congressman Mike Coffman told Colorado Community Media. Coffman's 6th Congressional District includes Aurora.

“Workers lost their jobs right before the holidays and it's unfortunate for taxpayers who foot the bill and the veterans who earned health-care benefits that this hospital is needed to deliver.”

The day after the appeals board ruling was handed down, Coffman and every other member of Colorado's congressional delegation attached their signatures to a letter to VA officials and higher-ups at Kiewit-Turner, urging the two to come together to find a solution.

“We are deeply concerned about this situation and urge VA and KT to immediately negotiate a path forward for this project,” the letter reads.

In the letter, the elected officials urged, “in the strongest terms possible,” for the negotiations to result in a modified contract that will allow construction to continue for 60 days while a long-term contract is worked out.

Any long-term contract will be handled by the Army Corps of Engineers, rather than the VA. That's because on Dec. 11, the VA agreed to hand over construction oversight on the Aurora project to the Corps.

The next day, Coffman announced that he will introduce legislation to strip away the VA's authority to manage all future construction projects.

Coffman cited a Government Accountability Office report that shows VA projects in four cities, including Aurora, to be hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and almost three years behind schedule.

“Really, this is a pattern of total mismanagement by the VA in major construction projects,” Coffman said.

Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter said in an emailed statement that the VA wanted a $1 billion medical center, but “the project was never redesigned to fit” the near-$600 million contract budget.

“There has been a serious dispute between the VA and the prime contractor for too long,” Perlmutter said.​

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