VA turns over documents as part of investigation into hospital cost overruns

By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

The Veterans Affairs Department turned over documents to Congress on Wednesday in response to a subpoena demanding information about how the cost of a Denver-area VA hospital soared more than $1 billion over budget.

VA spokeswoman Linda West said the department gave the House Veterans Affairs Committee some of the documents that lawmakers wanted and that more were on the way.

“VA intends to fully comply with the subpoena and continue providing additional materials on a rolling basis,” she said.

The subpoena, issued three weeks ago, sought documents the VA had gathered during an internal investigation into why a hospital under construction in the Denver suburb of Aurora is projected to cost nearly $1.7 billion, almost triple the earlier estimates.

The subpoena also sought documents related to millions of dollars spent on artwork and ornamental furnishings at VA offices nationwide, including more than $6.4 million spent on the Palo Alto, California, health care system.

Wednesday was the deadline for the VA to comply with the subpoena. Earlier in the day, committee member Mike Coffman, R-Colo., said the department had failed to turn over any documents, but about 30 minutes later, he said the VA gave the committee the documents on CD shortly after 5 p.m. Washington time.

Congress has repeatedly asked to see a detailed account of the Denver investigation, but the department had previously provided only a summary to the Veterans Affairs Committee.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson had said releasing details of the investigation would have a chilling effect on similar internal investigations in the future. Coffman and others rejected that argument.

A separate investigation by the VA’s internal watchdog, released last week, said a former high-ranking VA official knew the hospital was veering toward huge cost overruns but didn’t tell Congress when he was called to testify about the price on two occasions.

That prompted 21 members of the committee from both parties to formally ask the Justice Department to launch a perjury investigation. The department hasn’t said whether it will.