- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., announced that President Donald Trump had personally assured him that he will include a $400 million-plus request for a new $900 million Veterans Affairs hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, in his 2020 budget request to Congress set to be released this month.
- McConnell has already secured $450 million for replacement of the Robley Rex VA Medical Center, and the senator said he has been working to secure support for the project from key decision makers in Trump's cabinet.
- Although the new hospital will be operated by the VA, the agency will not lead the construction of the facility.
In 2013, a Government Accountability Office report highlighted VA hospital failings on four projects in Florida, Louisiana, Nevada and Colorado — which collectively incurred $1.5 billion in cost overruns and experienced up to 74 months of delays. The new Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, outdid all the others with a 144% cost increase.
In light of substantial funding overruns and construction problems, Congress eventually passed a law requiring the Army Corps of Engineers supervise any VA construction project estimated at $100 million or more. In an August 2018 op-ed in The Denver Post, former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, D-Colo., gave credit to the Army Corps for taking over the Aurora hospital and seeing it through to completion, even though its costs were more than $1 billion higher than what was originally projected.
Coffman said that before the Army Corps took over, the Aurora project was in such a state of disarray that the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals gave general contractor Kiewit-Turner the choice to exit the project, but the company decided to stay once it was clear that the Army Corps was going to manage it instead of the VA.
But even the Army Corps couldn’t perform the miracles it would have taken to set the Aurora project 100% right. Due to design errors, the new hospital cannot accommodate certain services and programs, so, despite being twice the square footage of the old facility, both new and old hospitals will have to remain open in order to accommodate all patients.
The VA must also hire a contractor to perform “hundreds of repairs” to the new hospital. In addition, the renovations that are necessary to keep the old hospital operating could cost as much as $350 million.