Veterans Hospital Dubbed 'Biggest Construction Failure' Gets $100 Million Bailout

PHOTO: Workers toil to build the Veterans Affairs hospital Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in Aurora, Colo. PlayDavid Zalubowski/AP Photo
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A project dubbed the "biggest construction failure" in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs -- already $1 billion over budget and more than a year behind schedule -- is getting another $100 million taxpayer bailout.

Construction will continue on a new veterans medical center near Denver, expected to serve 400,000 former military service members and their families. Ahead of Memorial Day, contractors had prepared to stop work on the project as approved funding dried up after repeated overruns and delays.

The Republican-led Congress approved the cash infusion this week before leaving Washington, D.C., for the holiday; President Obama on Saturday morning signed on the dotted line.

The fix is only a stop-gap measure: The $100 million funds just three more weeks of work.

"I am pleased that Congress has taken action to ensure that construction at the site of the Denver Replacement Medical Center will continue," VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Congress in the coming weeks to determine a path forward to finishing the campus."

The costs to taxpayers for the project have already ballooned from an initial $328 million price tag in 2005 to $1.73 billion, with years more construction to go, according to government watchdog groups.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has called the agency's entire construction program "a disaster" and the Denver project its "biggest construction failure."

Congress had imposed an $880 million spending cap on the program, but the agency has repeatedly lobbied lawmakers to lift the cap and provide more funds.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald was hailed during his appointment last year as a fiscal hawk and seasoned manager, a former CEO of Proctor & Gamble, who would restore efficiency to the nation's largest federal agency.

But the Denver project, which was a boondoggle before he arrived at the agency, has remained an embarrassment. He has said the "mistakes" were "made years ago by VA officials" who preceded him.

Government watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste named McDonald "porker of the month" for his role in not resolving cost overruns and continuing to ask Congress for more funds.

A recent Government Accountability Office report cited several factors behind the ballooning price tag, including "changes to veterans' health care needs, site-acquisition issues, and a decision in Denver to change plans from a medical center shared with a local medical university to a standalone VA medical center."