The construction of the Veterans Affairs medical center in Aurora, CO has been an ongoing scandal. First the VA ignored repeated warnings that the project was behind schedule and over budget. Then it fined the employee who raised those concerns. The contractor quit, leaving behind unfinished facilities after the VA was found in breach of contract. Today, nearly twenty years after the need for this hospital was identified, the project still isn’t complete and the cost has exploded from $604 million to $1.7 billion.
As the House looks today to pass a historic reform bill, another chapter is unfolding in the ongoing Aurora fiasco. The Justice Department told the House Veterans Affairs Committee they had declined to prosecute two VA executives after lawmakers accused them of lying to Congress under oath.
The committee had asked the Justice Department to launch a perjury investigation into Glen Haggstrom and Stella Fiotes last year after a startling report from the VA inspector general. The report found Haggstrom knew the construction project was headed towards massive overruns, but testified before the committee multiple times that no overspending was expected. “It is an absolute fact that numerous VA officials repeatedly misled Congress regarding cost overruns related to the replacement Denver VA medical center,” Jeff Miller, former chairman of the committee, said at the time.
The Justice Department told lawmakers they failed to find sufficient evidence to prosecute the executives.
“It cannot be disputed that VA’s handling of this construction project was thoroughly mismanaged, and VA officials at the time decided not to provide Congress with an accurate picture of their failures,” committee chairman Phil Roe said.
To date, no one from the VA has been held accountable for the mess in Aurora. This makes the passage of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 all the more welcome. This groundbreaking piece of legislation will finally give VA Secretary David Shulkin the authority he needs to hold bad employees accountable. Learn more about why VA accountability is so important here.