Coffman proposes bill to lift Aurora VA hospital spending cap, permanently remove VA management


AURORA | Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman introduced a bill Wednesdsay that would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to permanently manage construction of the Aurora VA hospital and raise the hospital’s $800 million spending cap to $1.1 billion.

“We cannot erase the unforgivable errors that have already been committed by the VA, but we can fire the VA and bring in competent managers to get this critical hospital built,” Coffman, R-Aurora, said in a statement.

He later added that additional money  for the site would most likely come from the VA searching through its own budget for unexpended appropriations in what is known as “reprogramming” within its “Major Construction Account.”

He said  reprogramming would not come without controversy as it would cause a slowdown on the start dates for other VA major construction projects across the country that haven’t broken ground yet.

Last December contractor Kiewit-Turner ceased work on the project, which was millions of dollars over budget. Soon after, a temporary agreement was reached with the VA agreeing to pay $234 million, including $157 million in money it owed Kiewit-Turner and subcontractors.

“Right now without lifting the cap, the project can go on until June,” Coffman said of that agreement.

Coffman’s bill is co-sponsored by the entire Colorado delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes Representatives Diana DeGette, Ken Buck, Scott Tipton, Ed Perlmutter, Jared Polis and Doug Lamborn. U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo., has also introduced a companion measure in the U.S. Senate.

 The Aurora VA hospital next to the Anschutz Medical Campus has nearly doubled in cost from its first estimate and ballooned to more than $1 billion, according to testimony from VA officials.

“Aurora has had the most egregious overruns in terms of cost and delay,” testified David Wise, the director of physical infrastructure issues for the Government Accountability Office, at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing Jan. 21.