Report: VA wasted billions on projects while veterans waited for care

Matters just keep getting worse for Veterans Affairs. The department continues to waste billions on elaborate, controversial projects even as it struggles to address urgent quality of care issues, according to a new CNN report.

The VA has been in the spotlight since CNN first revealed that extreme delays in care led to patient deaths at the Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina and the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, which kept a secret wait list to conceal the backlog, Those reports sparked a massive scandal that resulted in President Barack Obama calling for a system-wide investigation, the resignation of the VA secretary and repeated calls for reform.

The Office of Inspector General also recently called into question the VA's own report on the scope of the harm inflicted on patients, and records subsequently uncovered by the Washington Free Beacon indicate that 1,452 adverse events were reported at all VA facilities since 2010, 526 of which resulted in patient deaths.

As these patient care issues continued to fester, the VA was tied up in construction projects that were rife with excesses and mismanagement, according to CNN's latest report. Examples that it cites include:

  • A $2.3 million wind turbine built at the VA hospital in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which was shut down in 2011--the same year the project was finished--due to oil leaks that required the turbine to sit idle for years while undergoing repairs
  • A disastrous attempt to build a medical center in Denver, which massively exceeded its budget due to its heavy-on-aesthetics design and that led the partnering construction firm to win a court battle that resulted in the VA paying the company $157 million in owed costs
  • Three other construction projects, in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, that were dogged by delays and mismanagement, and which along with the Denver project, contributed to a $1.5 billion cost increase over what was projected

The controversial construction projects aren't the only initiatives that have called into question the VA's finances. VA leaders in several states received substantial bonuses even after the system's systemic shortfalls had been made public, FierceHealthcare reported. Yet acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, before being replaced by Robert McDonald, estimated the VA will have to spend $17.6 billion over the next three years to hire enough doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, and build outpatient clinics to fix its widespread patient care issues.

To learn more:
- read the CNN article