Bennet Condemns VA Inaction in Review of Aurora VA Hospital Fiasco

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) release of the results of an Administrative Investigation Board (AIB) review of the Denver Hospital Replacement project:

"This is an abdication of responsibility by the VA. After years of mismanagement that led to hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns and lengthy delays, it's incomprehensible that the VA concluded no further personnel action was necessary to hold these individuals accountable. The management of this project was conducted with such negligence that Congress took away the VA's authority to construct any major medical projects. Colorado's veterans, who have sacrificed in defense of our nation, deserve more from the VA.

"The VA Office of Inspector General's investigation of the project is ongoing. We will urge the Inspector General to ensure the investigation covers administrative and personnel matters in order to make the strongest possible recommendations to the VA. The VA should use the Inspector General's findings as an opportunity to punish those responsible, including referring any potential criminal acts to the Department of Justice."

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 it 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.