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Congress Members Visit Denver To Discuss VA Medical Center Delays

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AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Members of Congress came to Colorado this week with an inquiry about what is stalling a new hospital promised to veterans more than a decade ago.

The Veterans Administration was represented at a hearing on Tuesday and it defended its handling of the project.

The project itself is nearly $500 million over budget, a year overdue and the subject of 16 lawsuits from contractors who say they aren’t getting paid.

Members of Congress’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations flew in from Washington to discuss the problems.

Veterans, members of Congress and Colorado contractors all confronted the Veterans Administration at a hearing aimed at unraveling what many are calling a debacle.

Five years after groundbreaking the new VA Medical Center in Aurora is under a cloud of litigation and nowhere near being complete.

“How many vets have gone unserved, how many needs gone unmet, how many promises have been unfulfilled,” asked Rep. Cory Gardner.

The main contractor, Kiewit Turner, claims the VA’s design has become increasingly complex and costly and it has dragged its feet on payments.

The VA says it has agreed to $30 million in changes and insists Kiewit Turner knew what it was getting into.

“They signed. We didn’t twist arm we didn’t demand that they sign, they signed the contract for $604 million,” said Glenn Haggstrom from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“There has been no change in scope or complexity dramatic enough to justify the contractors alleged cost of over $1 billion.”

The general accounting office found major cost overruns and delays at four VA hospitals around the country.

Rep. Mike Coffman, whose district includes the building site, says he has introduced legislation to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers step in.

“They have built similar projects for the Department of Defense, major medical facilities on budget on schedule,” said Coffman.

The new scheduled completion date for the hospital is May 2015.

“The United States military was sent in harm’s way many times over many years. We did the job asked of us, now we ask Congress do their job and get this job done,” said one veteran on Tuesday.

The completion date is still very much influx and it’s not even clear at this point how much of the project is done. Kiewit Turner — whose representatives were at the hearing but didn’t testify — says only 27 percent is built, while the VA told the subcommittee that it’s 44 percent complete.

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