U.S. Rep. Coffman looks for answers in growing Aurora VA hospital flap

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AURORA | U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, requested in a letter Aug. 27 that the Washington D.C.-based Veterans Affairs Inspector investigate the cost overruns and construction delays surrounding the Aurora VA hospital project.

The inspection of the project and related construction records will determine how the project reportedly deviated from the original plan for a $600 million Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, according to the letter.

Coffman’s hope is that the VA Inspector will take up the investigation and the project will get back on track, to be completed by the end of 2015, he said in the letter.

“My goal is to continue to work on this project,” Coffman said. “I’ll do what I can to ferret through these problems and bring down the costs, but at the end of the day, what we don’t want to see is work on this project to stop.”

The investigation is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the VA and Kiewit-Turner, the contractor building the new hospital that’s set to replace the Denver VA Medical Center. Veterans and lawmakers say the sparring is threatening to delay the project even further.

On July 8, Kiewit-Turner filed a complaint with the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, threatening to suspend the project because it was $400 million over budget, bringing the total cost of construction to more than $1 billion.

Attorneys for the VA on Aug. 12 demanded proof that the hospital was over-budget.

Construction continues April 24 at the new VA Hospital near East Colfax Avenue and I-225. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said he was disappointed to hear that construction might be delayed on the Veterans Affairs Hospital. However, VA officials said the hospital could still start seeing patients in October 2015 while construction is finishing up.  (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)
Construction continues April 24 at the new VA Hospital near East Colfax Avenue and I-225. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said he was disappointed to hear that construction might be delayed on the Veterans Affairs Hospital. However, VA officials said the hospital could still start seeing patients in October 2015 while construction is finishing up. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

The VA Inspector has to agree to take up the investigation within the next month, Coffman said.

The investigation will detail the changes that contributed to the “severe” budget shortfall for the project, identify each time a change was performed without funding for it, and also detail the names and titles of all VA officials who have had authority to make agency decisions about construction of the project over the past five years, according to the letter.

“Specifically, we request that you identify the officials in the VA who should be held accountable for the project’s many shortfalls,” Coffman wrote in the letter.

“It is imperative that we locate and solve the numerous issues currently holding the Aurora construction back from being completed,” Coffman said in a statement. “The Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations will continue to work with all stakeholders involved to ensure the taxpayer dollars are not being wasted and veterans are getting the care they have earned.”

Coffman is also the chairman of the federal Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]