By: Frank McCurdy, National Executive Committeeman, Published January 2015
The single most important veteran issue is the successful completion of our Colorado Fitzsimons VA Medical Center (VAMC). I believe the ruling by the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals is a very positive development. The ruling in favor of Kiewit Turner (KT) allows KT to terminate their contract with VA. The VA had refused mediation and has never supplied a complete design in which KT could provide a fixed cost. KT and VA have been locked in a dispute in which the VA lawyers seem to be providing bad advice. Fortunately, the VA, under new leadership is now determined and committed to completing our new VAMC.
Deputy VA Secretary, Sloan Gipson met with the veteran leadership Dec 16th. I can report that Sec Gibson briefed the veterans on the steps necessary to move the project forward. There are many unknowns that must be resolved to include issues with KT, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and to identify sources of funds. Sec Gipson spoke about the determination and commitment under Sec Bob McDonald to complete our VAMC. I was impressed by Deputy Sec Gipson’s knowledge, candor, and sincerity. He clearly recognizes the hurdles that must be addressed in future negotiations.
The first order of business is to convince KT to return to work on the project using a sixty-day interim agreement with VA. KT has demanded payment of 100 million dollars KT spent from there own resources to keep the project on track. It was reported that VA finally has a complete design ready for KT to bid a fixed cost project. During the sixty days, the ACOE will review the project, negotiate a new contract with KT, and assume overall management of the project. Completion of the VAMC will require additional funds.
It may be possible to obtain funds from three different sources. The estimated overall construction cost is $1.1 billion dollars. First, the VA may be able to find unexpended funds within the VA’ $ 165 billion dollar budget.
Second, the Justice Department manages a Justice Fund that is used to settle claims. However, since KT did not request damages, there is no court order to justify expenditures from the fund.
Third, the probable final solution is an additional appropriation from Congress. To get Congress to act in sixty days is unlikely. When all is said and done, we may accumulate funds from all these sources to include unexpended funds in the original $600 million dollar appropriation. If the Congressional path is chosen, you can expect Congressman Coffman and Congressman Perlmutter to be very pro-active in obtaining additional funding. The entire Colorado Congressional Delegation appears to be very supportive of an additional funding request.
By the time you have access to this article, I am hopeful that many of the conditions preventing the completion of the VAMC are resolved. In reality, I personally believe this VAMC is actually “TO BIG TO FAIL.” Update: Dec 17, 2014 VA and KT agree to an Interim Contact