Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and his office issued the following:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Senate Approves Funding for New Denver VA Hospital, Temporarily Avoids Construction Shutdown
Isakson to VA, Obama administration: ‘…take responsibility for this deeply flawed project and develop a workable plan to get the job done once and for all.’
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today praised the Senate passage of legislation that will allow the construction of the new Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) medical center in Denver to continue.
The legislation authorizes the VA to use $150 million in its existing fiscal year 2015 budget for the project in order to avoid a looming shutdown on June 12, 2015 and provide enough funding to continue construction through at least the end of this fiscal year.
Since construction began in 2012, the seriously flawed project has been plagued by numerous delays and hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns. Originally slated at $800 million for the project, the medical center is now expected to cost taxpayers $1.7 billion – making this hospital the most expensive construction project in the VA’s history.
“From the very beginning, this project has been about making sure Colorado veterans get the care they deserve,” said Isakson. “I’m proud to join Sen. Gardner in introducing legislation that will allow construction to continue and give the Department of Veterans Affairs ample time to get its act together and develop a workable plan to finish the project.”
“Congress has now done everything that it can to ensure the continuation of this project,” Isakson continued. “The VA and the administration must now clean up the mess they’ve made. I urge Secretary McDonald and President Obama to finally take responsibility for this deeply flawed project and develop a workable plan to get the job done once and for all.”
Last month, Congress passed H.R.2496, which modestly increased funding authorization to avoid another shutdown of the project after the VA exceeded its original budget of $800 million. Upon passage, Senator Isakson called on the VA to develop a plan to fund the construction of the hospital using its own existing resources.
In response, the VA submitted a plan to finish the project by reworking its fiscal year 2016 budget, a move that, based on the options the VA provided, would either cut funding to other construction projects or drastically hinder the VA’s ability to provide health care to veterans.
“Instead of thoughtfully examining their budget to identify wasteful spending, the VA has developed an irresponsible plan that would make unacceptable, across-the-board cuts to vital programs for veterans,” said Isakson. “Both of the VA’s options – to take money from other VA construction projects or take money from healthcare funding – rob veterans in other parts of the country of the care they deserve. These options are non-starters.”
The legislation passed today will prevent a construction shutdown and allow the VA to develop a feasible plan to reprogram its fiscal year 2016 funds without depriving other veterans of necessary services or care.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.
Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.