Top Legislator Says The VA Won’t Get A Dime More Of Taxpayer Funds Until It Shapes Up

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Republican Rep. Jeff Miller said Congress “will not authorize another dime” for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ hospital in Denver until the VA “takes it seriously.”

The VA thinks it needs around $830 million to finish construction of the state-of-the-art hospital. Just last year, VA officials estimated that the new Denver hospital would open in May 2015 and cost only $630 million dollars. That estimate has since been shattered.

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson recently sent a letter to Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, saying the total cost will amount to $1.73 billion. According to Gibson, the department will need Congress to authorize an additional $830 million.

Miller isn’t interested.

“VA’s handling of the Denver construction fiasco has been a case study for how not to handle a crisis, and that remains true to this day,” Miller said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“In the wake of the biggest construction failure in VA’s history, it appears department officials think hollow claims of responsibility in the absence of any accountability whatsoever will be enough to prompt Congress to clean up the mess the department created,” Miller added. “But if VA is waiting for a taxpayer-funded bailout, it’s going to be waiting a long time.”

The VA has not submitted any kind of legislative proposal to Congress yet for more funding. However, Gibson moved quickly to reject the idea that bonuses might be repurposed from departmental employees to the Denver hospital construction fund, calling it a “lousy” idea.

From Miller’s point of view, the VA’s rejection of the only plan on the table at the moment “indicates an outsize sense of entitlement among some at VA that is utterly baffling given the agency’s long line of construction failures,” adding that “Congress will not authorize another dime for the Denver project until VA takes it seriously – something the department has failed to do from the beginning.”

For Miller, if the VA continues its track record of allowing employees embroiled in scandal to retire, history will simply repeat itself. The day after top VA construction official Glenn D. Haggstrom was deposed in relation to the Denver hospital fiasco, he retired from federal service with access to full benefits.

The standoff between the VA and Congress will come to a head on April 15, when HVAC holds a hearing to discuss if the project will even move forward. Whether Miller and other members of HVAC will make good on their threat to withhold funds from the VA remains to be seen.

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