retirement cake

Colorado lawmakers have demanded that VA officials be held accountable for outrageous cost overruns at the Aurora hospital project that has continually stalled construction.

Unfortunately, that VA official who bestowed upon himself $64,000 in bonuses for gross mismanagement got the federal government’s brand of justice — full retirement, with benefits.

We’re guessing VA Secretary Robert McDonald also threw a going away party, with cake.

The Washington Post reports on the sudden retirement of Glenn Haggstrom, director of the Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction:

A Department of Veterans Affairs executive is “stepping down” after reports that he received nearly $64,000 in bonuses despite overseeing $2 billion in cost overruns at four troubled VA hospital projects, including one in Aurora, Colo., that is now the most expensive hospital in the VA’s history.

The VA called the situation with its Aurora hospital “unacceptable.” But Haggstrom is still entitled by law to apply for federal retirement benefits, officials there said.

Well that’s just ducky. Rob taxpayers blind, steal vital healthcare from our nation’s vets, and win a free lifetime of leisure in the islands. This must be part of that new agency reform effort by McDonald to revitalize their mission and clean house of those bureaucrats caught up in wait-time scandals that resulted in the death of numerous veterans.

“Nine hundred people have been fired since I became secretary. We’ve got 60 people that we fired who have manipulated wait times,” McDonald claimed last month on “Meet the Press.”

However, it turned out only eight people were actually fired for their participation in that scandal and a lot of other folks got a letter reprimanding them for wrongdoing, or in this case, a retirement party.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman has taken on the lead watchdog role over the agency, and in a statement did not mince words over this retirement development.

“He should have been fired years ago and his ill-gotten bonuses should be rescinded. Everyone knew back in April 2013 that VA executives were incompetently managing this project and I have been fighting for serious reforms ever since. This personnel move is years late and billions of dollars in cost overruns short. The VA needs major reform and I will continue to fight for them.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has repeatedly called for accountability at the VA for the construction delays and cost overruns, and said veterans deserve better than the incompetence shown by the VA.

“The time for excuses is over. The VA must continue to clean house, while swiftly completing the facility they promised and veterans need.”

Haggstrom’s sudden retirement celebration comes on the heels of revelations that cost overruns at the Aurora hospital have climbed to $1.73 billion, more than five times its projected cost.

How on earth an employee collects $64,000 in bonuses while racking up cost overruns of $2 billion at four VA hospitals is completely beyond our reasoning. This would never EVER happen in the private sector, there’s simply no excuse for it in the public sector.

Thankfully, Gardner and Coffman introduced legislation today in the House and Senate to authorize the funding needed to complete the hospital, transfer construction authority to the Army Corps of Engineers, require an independent review of the project’s mismanagement up until this point, and prohibit the VA from awarding any bonuses until the Aurora facility is fully operational.

“The massive VA mismanagement of this hospital is offensive to the veterans it is supposed to serve and offensive to the taxpayers funding the project,” said Coffman, a Marine Corps combat veteran. “My bill will help get the hospital built for the veterans who deserve the care it will provide, while holding the VA accountable for its failures and ensure this never happens again.”

We hope the Democratic members of the Colorado delegation will support this measure without a lot of partisan bickering.