Congressman calls 176-yard VA staff shuttle service ‘wasteful’

DENVER -- A FOX31 investigation into the cost of driving VA hospital employees about one block every working day for five years has gotten the attention of a congressional leader.

By using surveillance, financial documents and witness accounts, the Veterans Administration was found to have spent at least $750,000 shuttling staff between two doors on the same medical campus.

That’s a conservative figure because records concerning the cost of gas, maintenance of buses and some extra driver/staff time have not been released.

A few days after questions were raised about the program’s cost, the VA shut down the shuttle program.

Deputy director of Eastern Colorado VA Health Care Systems Duane Gill said the program was “smart money” and prevented staff from being injured during the construction phase of the new hospital.

“We have got to change the culture of the VA," Rep. Mike Coffman said. "I was disappointed how dismissive the VA was and I want to thank Channel 31 for bringing this issue to light -- to my attention. I was not aware of it. One-hundred seventy-six yards? Really?”

Coffman, who has led the efforts to strip the VA of ever being able to construct another hospital again on its own, said VA administration involved in wasteful spending are never disciplined.

He said that is despite a congressional effort to give the VA authority to dismiss people at the senior management level who break the public’s trust.

"I fundamentally believe that the culture of bureaucratic incompetence in the VA is no different than in the prior administration,” Coffman said.

“The great tragedy is that is does add up and every dollar wasted is money that could have been spent on medical care for our veterans.”

Coffman also said he expects to speak with the director of Veterans Affairs in the coming month to discuss cleaning up incompetence where there are documented failures.

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