Vets' Group Supports Better Version of Bill 3169

Recommends Bill be Considerably Broadened for Support

Immediate Release: 02/22/2018                               

Contact: Jake Lynn

          The Center for American Homeless Veterans (CAHV) provisionally supports proposed House Bill 3169 (the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Workforce Improvement and Streamlining Act), but believes major additions to the bill will help reduce waste and increase accountability. This bill was prompted by the disastrous cost overruns at the new VA Hospital under construction in Aurora, Colorado. Once completed, the hospital is estimated to cost over $2 billion - more than three times the original estimate. Furthermore, the VA Inspector General reported that the Department’s Construction Chief was aware of the overruns as early as 2014, but failed to inform Congress.

          CAHV supports the general purpose and thrust of the bill, i.e., establishing training and certification programs to address attrition of key personnel from the VA. We also support the provision that would accept veterans with appropriate degrees into acquisition internship programs, where they would gain valuable skills for future VA careers. However, we believe the bill can go much further toward preventing cost overruns and increasing cost efficiencies, without sacrificing quality of care to our nation’s veterans.

  • The bill recommends VA managers pursue certifications, but does not provide enough specifics and does not include VA contractors. There are dozens of reputable industry organizations that credential or certify professionals; these should be the point of departure. Certifications cannot be “empty” credentials —VA personnel and contractors must have the expertise for cost-effective facility construction and procurement.
  • The bill should require the VA to study using pay-for-performance compensation systems. These systems would strongly encourage
    VA managers and contractors to keep costs in check, without compromising health care quality and patient accessibility.
  • The bill does not address auditing, an essential and critical element of cost control. Establishing project-specific or VISN-specific auditing programs should be evaluated.
  • The bill should mandate independent technical expert reviews for health care facility projects above specific total cost thresholds. Independent examinations of designs and construction methods often produce ideas for sizeable cost savings that do not reduce quality of care.
  • The bill should require the VA to use innovative facility acquisition strategies, such as centralized procurement, design charrettes, and cost modeling of comparable alternatives. These strategies optimize resources, meet the mission, and reduce overall spending.
  • The bill does not address when and when not to use conventional or accelerated (e.g., design-build) construction strategies. Accelerated strategies can reduce delivery time and cost, but they also often surrender control of the project to a single contractor. Without aggressive oversight, this can be an invitation to mismanagement and waste.

         All the above additions are strongly suggested, to prevent boondoggles like Aurora, and ensure that our veterans (and not the VA or contractors) come first in spending decisions.

          We call upon Congress to introduce and pass a revised House Bill 3169 and take other prudent steps to reduce waste and provide close oversight of all VA spending.

Since 1993, The Center for American Homeless Veterans has harnessed the power of the media to rally public support on behalf of American Veterans. CAHV has sponsored 196 programs and forums, with well over 100 Members of Congress speaking at its events. The Center for American Homeless Veterans has supported local homeless veteran transitional facilities by organizing and conducting programs for public support in their local areas, as well as through earned media. 

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