Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General (IG) report on the Denver VA Replacement Medical Facility under construction in Aurora:
"The VA Inspector General's report confirmed that the VA fundamentally and completely failed in management of this project by repeatedly not enforcing the budget and ignoring warnings from multiple sources, including from Congress. We are glad the current VA leadership has concurred with the IG's recommendations and support the IG's continued monitoring to ensure the mistakes made on the Denver facility never happen again. We have already stripped the VA of its authority to manage the construction of major medical facilities, and we will continue to scrutinize the agency's future projects.
"Focus must now be on the completing construction and the activation of the facility so the Rocky Mountain region veterans can get the world-class care they deserve. We will continue oversight to ensure activation goes smoothly and urge the VA to consult with the community in that endeavor."
Since taking office, Bennet has been committed to ensuring the hospital is completed. He helped lead efforts among Colorado's Congressional delegation to pass a bill to ensure construction of the hospital would be fully funded. When reports of delays and mismanagement surfaced, he raised concerns regarding delays to VA officials and urged the agency to work with the Army Corps of Engineers. He also offered several legislative proposals to help complete the hospital, and he led efforts to bring the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to Colorado for a field hearing at the hospital.
Bennet has also consistently fought to hold the VA accountable for mismanagement within the agency. Bennet secured an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 with Senator Cory Gardner that directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on the administration and oversight of VA contracts for the design and construction of major medical facility projects. It will examine the VA's design models, the agency's change order process, and how the agency compares to private-sector best practices.
The senators also introduced an amendment to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority to manage major construction projects for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The amendment would designate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the construction agent on all VA projects over $100 million.
He is also a cosponsor of S. 1856, the Department of Veterans Affairs Equitable Employee Accountability Act, which would give the VA Secretary authority to remove individuals who are a threat to public health or safety and require senior political leaders in the department to be held accountable for managing the department.