House panel to vote on subpoena over Denver VA hospital cost

House panel to vote on subpoena over Denver VA hospital cost

DENVER—According to the Associated Press, a House committee will vote on whether to issue a subpoena to the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) requiring the bureaucracy to turn over documents that could explain how the cost of a Denver-area VA hospital ballooned to almost $1.7 billion, nearly triple earlier estimates. The VA gave Congress a summary of the investigation’s findings but withheld the supporting documents, despite repeated requests from lawmakers. The investigative summary has not been made public, and the VA hasn’t responded to an open records request from The Associated Press to release it. Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has said making it public “could have a chilling effect on future internal investigations.”

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a top VA critic earlier this summer sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald asking that the VA make public the review it completed — as well as supporting documents that led investigators to conclude in March that no new punishments were necessary for the cost overrun.

“I urge you, again and hopefully for the last time, to release the complete Administrative Investigation Board (AIB) report on the Aurora, Colorado Replacement Medical Center construction project to all members of Congress and the American people,” wrote Coffman in a letter dated July 7.

When asked about the reports, according to the Denver Post, a VA spokesman said the agency welcomed Coffman’s interest but pointed to a previous statement by Gibson as to why the VA didn’t want to release the AIB investigation.

“As soon as you start making the material from those AIBs public, you wind up killing the whole investigative process,” Gibson said. “So by doing that, we wind up jeopardizing the future of that device as a means of getting at the ground truth, and I’m not going to do that.”

Advancing Colorado Executive Director Jonathan Lockwood released the following statement:

“The deputy VA secretary’s comments are despicable as usual and they show he is more interested in protecting the VA than protecting our veterans. The VA seems to be in the business of using veterans as human shields to continue their bad behavior and to protect themselves from criticism against their incompetence and mismanagement. Our veterans kept their promises to us, and the VA is failing to uphold our promises to our veterans. Coffman has been a leader on this issue and it is time for the VA to release the documents related to the investigation of how the VA hospital’s budget ballooned to $1.7 billion for nothing.”