Senate moves to strip Veterans Affairs of authority over big construction after VA Hospital overruns

The U.S. Senate has tentatively approved legislation to strip the Veterans Affairs Department of the authority to manage large construction projects after massive cost overruns on a Denver-area hospital.

The Senate voted to amend a defense bill to give the Army Corps of Engineers management power over VA construction projects costing more than $100 million.

“This is a major reform to the VAs construction management system one that we hope will save taxpayer dollars and help more efficiently deliver the quality medical facilities our veterans have earned and deserve,” said Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. “It is an important step toward accountability that will help us put in place a plan to complete the medical facility in Aurora for veterans in Colorado and across the Rocky Mountain region.

“Its time to get the VA out of the construction business, and get the responsibility for completing these critical projects into the hands of more competent agencies,” said Colorado Senator Cory Gardner. “Im proud to support this amendment, and similar language is also included in the larger VA reform bill Ive offered in the Senate. Veterans deserve our best.”

The change is one of several Congress is demanding before approving enough money to complete a half-finished medical center in Aurora. The facility is expected to cost up to $1.73 billion, nearly three times last year’s estimate.

Work has continued on the hospital under a series of temporary measures while Congress and the Obama administration try to agree on a longer-term deal to finish it. The VA has asked for another $625 million.

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