Congress Close To VA Hospital Deal, Coffman Says

September 29, 2015
Photo: Aurora VA Hospital construction April 2015, chain link fence (AP Photo)
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.

Congress is expected to sign off on a plan soon that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to complete construction of its hospital complex in Aurora.

The project's cost ballooned to $1.7 billion earlier this year, three times the original estimates. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said the House could vote Wednesday to increase a spending cap on the project.

Then House lawmakers could take a second vote letting the VA shift money in its own budget to find the funds to complete construction.

“It’s huge because it doesn’t do the piecemeal funding that we’ve done in the past.  It does the whole thing," Coffman said. "It does the whole $625 million that’s necessary to complete the hospital.”

That news is drawing cautious optimism from veterans like Ralph Bozella, an American Legion official who served in the Army in Vietnam.

“Well, nothing is ever done until it’s done," Bozella said. "And until the thing is done, we’re not going to celebrate.”

Another bill in the House would require the VA to shift employee bonus money toward the project -- a move that the VA opposes and one that could sidetrack the funding plan. Coffman said that bill is still up for consideration. 

The Senate has already lifted the spending cap and is expected to approve the construction funding this week.

Coffman said the agreement would require the VA to relinquish future major construction projects, costing more than $100 million, to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Coffman said he doubts thinks there will be any additional requests for funding for the project beyond the $625 million being voted on this week.
"Let me tell you, it better not be the case," Coffman says.