Opening Statement of Hon. Silvestre Reyes, Democratic Member, Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Thank you Chairman Miller for convening this important hearing. One of the most critical functions of this committee is to ensure that we provide the necessary oversight of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs major construction projects. Oversight is crucial especially during times when we must be financially prudent, while at the same time ensuring our veterans are able to access the facilities they deserve.
Today, I am particularly interested in hearing how the Department will deal with the issue of long range planning and management in regard to its major construction projects that have been authorized and appropriated, but yet timelines are not being met and additional funds were requested.
Since 2004, the VA has received appropriations for 86 major construction projects. However, of the 86 projects, only 32 are complete; 30 are under construction; 20 are under design; and 4 are in the planning stages. I am interested in hearing from VA if there is a time line and integrated master schedule for these projects and what is the current total cost for the 86 major construction projects.
Each of the four locations being highlighted today; Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans, and Denver all experienced some degree of delays in scheduling and all have increased in cost since the initial estimate. Those that pay the price are our veterans who rely on the VA for their medical needs.
It is imperative that we meet the needs of our nation’s veterans and this requires effective long range planning that reflects fiscal responsibility. Had these delays and/or extensions been prevented, the Department could have spent the funds providing more benefits and services to veterans. The Department must improve its management of these major construction projects to ensure that they are completed on time and within the allotted budget. We fail to help our veterans when these projects meant to assist them are delayed in their dates of completion.