Secured VA funding must be backed by accountability and reform

Secured VA funding must be backed by accountability and reform

DENVER—Today the House of Representatives voted 423-0 to pass funding for the Aurora VA hospital as lawmakers work to avoid a government shutdown. Now the measure must be signed into law.

Advancing Colorado Executive Director Jonathan Lockwood released the following statement:

“Now that the hospital project looks like it can continue moving forward it is time to enact sweeping changes to fundamentally reform the VA’s toxic culture that is hurting our veterans. The VA Accountability Act is one way of taking the necessary steps to ensure our veterans get the health care they deserve and that employees within the VA are treated properly. The VA cannot just take the money and run, this obviously-needed funding absolutely must be backed by the tight leash of accountability and reform.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) needs the last $625 million needed to finish the complex, which according to the Denver Post, “has blown its budget so badly that its current price tag is nearly three times the $604 million the VA expected to pay in 2011.”

The VA already spent about $1 billion on the Aurora VA hospital project so the agreed funding will prevent construction site shutdown. According to the Associated Press the deal also “turns over future big VA construction projects to the Army Corps of Engineers.”

The Aurora hospital project skyrocketed from $604 million in construction estimates to $1.73 billion in just over two years.

The VA Accountability Act of 2015 is being proposed as a solution to the severe problems and lack of accountability within the VA. The proposal would expand authority to remove or demote any VA employee based on poor performance or misconduct.

Earlier this summer, the House passed, 256-170, the VA Accountability Act of 2015. The bill will give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) the ability to fire VA employees who are found to be incompetent, or who are found to have engaged in mismanagement or misconduct. Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis voted “NO” on the VA Accountability Act, while the rest of the Colorado delegation voted “YES.”

President Obama threatened to veto the VA Accountability Act in a statement claiming it would create “disparity” between VA workers and officials at other government agencies.