$1.73 billion: that’s the newest price estimate for VA hospital under construction in Aurora, Colorado. Coming in a five times what the VA originally estimated, this latest figure is so high and the project itself so dysfunctional that the local American Legion is furious. The Washington Post reports:
“A design that has grown from a basic hospital into a Taj Mahal, mismanagement of funds, arrogant attitudes by the VA’s head of construction and the Design Team has been allowed to plague not only the Aurora VA Replacement Hospital but three more that are under construction,” Legion members said in a press release at the time.Ralph Bozella, a leader of the American Legion in Colorado, said the area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country.“All we ever wanted was a hospital,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s just such a symbol of the Va’s lack of transparency and lack of accountability.”
In the meantime, VA employees overseeing the project have continued to receive bonuses even as the hospital fell behind schedule and dramatically overshot its budget. There was a time when health care wonks on the left praised the VA as the best part of the American health care system. Ezra Klein argued in 2009 that “if you ordered America’s different health systems worst-functioning to best, it would look like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration.”But if the scandalous corruption and inefficiencies exposed by an independent federal investigation weren’t enough to cast doubt on that conclusion, bloated boondoggles like the Colorado hospital show just how inefficient the VA can be. The VA could become a potential testing ground for ideas that could improve the whole U.S. health care system—like telemedicine. But that promise will remain unrealized as long as the VA continues to operate without accountability.