Bennet, Gardner join Coffman in push to re-start Aurora VA project

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DENVER -- Colorado's entire delegation is backing legislation introduced Wednesday aimed at jump-starting the problem-plagued VA hospital project in Aurora.

Rep. Mike Coffman, the Iraq war veteran who represents the area, is the prime sponsor of the House version of the bill, while Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner are co-sponsoring the Senate bill.

Both pieces of legislation seek to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers as the permanent construction authority on the project, taking that role away from the VA itself; and the bills seek to raise the $800 million spending cap for the project 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,” said Coffman. “We owe it to Colorado’s veterans, taxpayers and the 1,400 construction workers to ensure this project is completed as quickly and cost effectively as possible going forward.”

The contractor on the project, Kiewit-Turner, had shut down the project late last year after the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals determined that the VA breached its contract by failing to provide a contract that could be built for $582 million.

Prior to the shut-down, Kiewit-Turner had already spent $100 million out of its own pockets to keep the project going.

“The United States has no greater responsibility than taking care of those who have served our country,” Gardner said. “This Veterans Affairs Hospital in Aurora is absolutely essential for Colorado veterans, and I’m proud to work with Congressman Coffman and Senator Bennet on getting this project done.

"Importantly, this bill also contains strong oversight provisions with strict reporting requirements which will help contain costs and ensure building happens on schedule. Passing this legislation will also help ensure that progress on the facility which has already been made is not lost.”

“We’re introducing this bill to put the tools and resources in place when the Army Corps of Engineers, Kiewit-Turner, and the VA finalize an agreement on the cost and completion of the VA medical center,” Bennet added.

“We can’t afford any further delays.  We won’t relent until this hospital is completed.”

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