Failing to pay contractors on time, running over budget and missing completion deadlines are some of the many problems the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) faces in the “abysmal” process of constructing new hospitals. These shocking statements are among several serious concerns a House panel established to investigate the financial dealings of the VA.
Besides the overspending and seemingly aggressive building schedules, perhaps the greatest concern from the panel’s findings is that the VA cannot build new hospitals fast enough to deal with the incredible influx of veterans needing critical medical services.
Of the VA construction projects studied by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), most ran over budget and schedule to the tune of $366 million and 35 months, respectively. The GAO investigated VA hospital projects in Denver, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando. Not only are our veterans suffering from this “abysmal” process, the extra money needed to finish these hospitals could have been spent on providing the care our veterans need.
It appears, however, that some of the construction delays could have been prevented. In the case of the Denver hospital project, construction was delayed after a swimming pool and underground stream was discovered. Compounding the construction process was also the discovery of asbestos in some of the buildings located on the proposed site.
Decontamination of the deadly toxin could, invariably, halt any construction until it is safely removed. The irony of the Denver hospital project is that the vary carcinogen, asbestos, halted work on a building that would have provided necessary medical care to veterans affected by asbestos exposure. Many veterans were exposed to asbestos while serving, and have later developed mesothelioma, a rare yet deadly form of cancer.
According to Representative Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the VA “continues to employ policies and techniques that have repeatedly fallen short.”
Despite the apparent shortcomings, the VA claims that they have learned from previous projects and are continuing to make adjustments and changes to ongoing and upcoming projects.
Perhaps the demand for medical care for our veterans is so great that the VA is doing the best it can to meet the ever increasing needs of a growing population. What is clear from the investigation, however, is that more care, oversight and reasonable planning must be taken in these and other VA construction projects.