Lawmakers want to overhaul Orlando VA hospital construction

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The Orlando Veterans Affairs Hospital should already be open to patients but it's two years behind scheduled and $100 million over budget.

But there's a major new push to speed up construction of the facility in the Lake Nona area of Orlando. Some lawmakers even want to take control of the project out of the VA's hands.

Congressman John Mica, who had a December deadline for the hospital's completion, said legislation that would put the Army Corps of Engineers in charge is not the answer.

Some veterans who pushed alongside Jerry Pierce to have the Orlando VA Hospital built have died waiting.

"It's a shame. Even the Korean veterans are getting close and the Vietnam era. We really need to get this hospital done right away, as soon as possible," Pierce said.

Now two lawmakers want to pull the power away from the VA and put someone else in charge of finishing the project.

"I'm not sure if shifting it from government agency to government agency is the answer," Mica said.

Mica said the government shouldn't be used to fix a government mess.

"Why should we be giving this to a government agency when the private sector and some construction management firms can very well handle a project much larger than those VA hospitals," Mica said.

By the numbers, Orlando's projects isn't the worst of them all. Denver's VA Hospital is expected to cost $800 million by the time it's finished next April. And the New Orleans VA Hospital won't open for another two years, at a total cost of nearly $1 billion, 59 percent higher than originally planned.

"Right now all we can do is put pressure on them to get it done and start moving things quicker," Pierce said.

Mica didn't say whether he plans to introduce legislation to allow private companies to take over the project. The hospital's general contractor blames the delays on the VA.