Veterans Affairs employees in Aurora, Colorado, who played a role in the agency’s expanding scandal, have found a way to escape punishment – they’re retiring.
In May, the building of the Aurora Veterans Affairs department was $1 billion over budget and more than a year behind schedule, ABC News reported. Taxpayers were forced to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to bring it back on track. Contributing factors to the project's slow progress included "changes to veterans' health care needs, site-acquisition issues, and a decision in Denver to change plans from a medical center shared with a local medical university to a standalone VA medical center." Thanks to the expensive mess, Aurora was named the “biggest construction failure” in the agency’s history.
Two particular VA employees played a role in Aurora’s earning that title, but they’re quietly exiting stage left.
But now that attorney Phillipa Anderson and construction chief Glenn Haggstrom have left the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is unlikely they will face any punishment for their part in developing the over-budget medical complex. It's now estimated to cost $1.73 billion.
In a hearing last week, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson explained that the administration is powerless to punish employees once they’ve left their positions.
"Once a person is resigned or retired, they are no longer an employee and we have no basis for taking any disciplinary action," Gibson said in an interview.
But that’s not all. Not only are Anderson and Haggstrom leaving Scot free - they are doing so with full pensions in tow.
"Years-late, bureaucratic knuckle-rapping will not suffice for accountability, especially when the two officials retired unscathed with their full pensions and bonuses," U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said in a statement.
Ironically, Gibson recently announced that accountability efforts are working.
VA employees who were complicit in the agency's disaster deserve to be reprimanded – and our vets deserve better.