No More Aurora VA Hospital Funds Without Reforms, Coffman Says

Photo: Aurora VA Hospital construction April 2015, chain link fence (AP Photo)AP
As seen through the pattern of a fence, a sign stands at the construction site of the Veterans Affairs hospital Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Aurora, Colo.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., says lawmakers will insist on significant changes in the Veterans Affairs Department before approving money to finish an over-budget VA hospital in suburban Denver.

Coffman spoke Sunday after addressing a rally of more than 150 veterans and supporters demanding the hospital be completed.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., also spoke at the event, and said the delays and controversy over the facility's construction were frustrating.

“It certainly is nothing I ever wanted to see," he said. "Getting the first $800 million for this was very difficult, but we’re going to finish this thing.”

The project is expected to cost $1.73 billion, nearly three times last year's estimate. Completion isn't expected until 2017.

Tennith Camelle, of Boulder, a veteran of three wars, says he’s waited for 10 years to see the hospital and research facility built.

"It’s so frustrating.  The minute we see a little bit of completion, maybe a goal in sight, something happens," Camelle said. "The funding runs out, or they have a disagreement, and now it’s the funding running out again.”

The VA is struggling to persuade Congress to approve up to $830 million to finish. Lawmakers are demanding the department fire those responsible for the overruns and change the way it handles big construction projects.

Only a short-term deal approved by lawmakers nine days ago is keeping the money flowing. Unless a new agreement is reached by about June 12, construction could stop.