Frank McCurdy, NEC

Frank McCurdy, NEC

By: Frank McCurdy, National Executive Committeeman, As Published in the June 2015 Internet Observer

Today, Memorial Day, the major issue concerning Colorado veterans is the completion of our new VA Medical Center (VAMC}. Whoever would have thought it would be so hard to get this new VAMC built. Last December, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson took responsibility to complete our VAMC. A difficult task after VA’s catastrophic loss to Kiewit Turner (KT) in the Civilian Court of Contract Appeals. With Gibson in charge, it appeared that we had the horsepower to get the project completed. At the time, we did not anticipate problems, such as a preliminary $1.73 billion dollar price tag provided by the Army Corp of Engineers (USACE).  Too make matters worse, other problems within the VA created a credibility problem between the VA and Congress.

Do you know the final design of the VAMC was not completed until December 2014?  Two years after the initial $630 million dollar contract was signed. The VA was using a construction concept called Integrated Design. The Integrated Design concept demands construction cooperation between VA, the designer, and contractor KT. For whatever reason, that cooperation never occurred.

Since that cooperative effort, between VA and KT, never occurred, the project was doomed to fail before the first shovel of dirt was turned. The VA continued to issue change orders with little cost consideration. The United Veterans Committee {UVC} and the American Legion (AL) had expressed numerous concerns throughout the entire process. Kiewit Turner (KT) warned the VA and our Congresspersons about construction concerns and increasing costs. The UVC and AL were made aware of problems during our quarterly briefings with KT. KT had estimated cost increases of three to four hundred million dollars. Beside change orders, why are costs increasing?

The Denver real estate market is booming. Delays and late payments for work completed by VAMC sub-contractors are causing contractors to avoid this project. A project shutdown will only exacerbate cost increases. Therefore it is prudent to fund this project during the interim period, allowing detailed USAGE cost figures to be provided to Congress in late July.  As of today, we have two to three weeks to obtain an additional extension from Congress.  House Speaker Boehner wants accountability.

Speaker Boehner has stated that the VA must exercise accountability and provide realistic cost figures. Well, for accurate figures, give the USACE the time they need! The issue of accountability will take time. Speaker Boehner obviously understands federal civil service rules. We cannot put our VAMC on hold while the US government disciplines their employees responsible for this debacle. What actions do we expect in the next six weeks?

Veterans need a $1.73 billion authorization and an additional somewhat less than $830 million appropriation. The $830 million will be a combination of internal VA repurposed funds plus new appropriated funds from Congress. What is next?

May 31st, the UVC’s member VSOs will conduct a RALLY at the VMAC site. The UVC wants to present our VAMC as a national issue. We expect the Legion, VFW, DAV, PVA, Purple Heart, plus other VSOs from the current 53 VSO UVC memberships.  American Legion National is involved as is other VSO’s National Organizations. The ball is now in the hands of Congress. The veterans did not cause this problem; therefore Congress should finish this VAMC an ensure veterans are not deprived of the medical care they earned and need.