Coffman Moves Bill to Reform VA Hospital Construction
(Washington, D.C.) Today, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs passed H.R. 3593, the VA Construction Assistance Act, out of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee with bipartisan support. The legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), who serves as the chairman of the House Veterans Oversight and Investigations (O&I) Subcommittee where significant problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) construction practices became public knowledge. Coffman’s proposed reforms are designed to help speed the construction and rein in the out-of-control costs of three major VA regional projects under development in Aurora, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Orlando, Florida.
“Today we are one step closer to ensuring that the VA has proper oversight and expertise guiding the management and completion of the Aurora VA Medical Center and other major VA hospital construction projects,” said Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran.
Coffman introduced the legislation late last year based on the investigative work of his subcommittee and in response to a Government Accountability Office report that found that VA’s major construction projects have been mired in mismanagement that has caused major delays and cost overruns. The report concluded that these three major hospital construction projects are expected to have an average cost overrun exceeding $300 million and be completed three years behind schedule.
The VA Construction Assistance Act, implements the GAO-recommended reforms such as assigning medical equipment planners to major medical construction projects and streamlining the change-order process. The proposal also goes a step further by requiring the assignment of an emergency manager, referred to as a “special project manager” from the Army Corps of Engineers, independent of the VA, to oversee each VA major medical facility project currently under construction. The GAO specifically singled out the Army Corps as an organization with a record of building similar projects within budget and on-schedule for the Department of Defense.
“Our veterans cannot simply hope that the situation will improve. We must get these construction projects delivered so our nation’s veterans receive the healthcare services they have earned, while protecting taxpayers from massive cost overruns” said Coffman.
On April 22, 2014, as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Coffman hosted an oversight field hearing in Denver titled, “Construction Conundrums: A Review of Continued Delays and Cost Overruns at the Replacement Aurora, Colorado VAMC”. The hearing addressed how VA’s handling of the Aurora VA Medical Center project has resulted in more than a year of delays and cost overruns of more than $470 million.
H.R. 3593, the VA Construction Assistance Act is expected to be voted on by the full House of Representatives for consideration.