During a tour of the Orlando VA Medical Center on Monday, U.S. Rep. John Mica pointed fingers at both the VA and a contractor for the months of delays in construction.
"We're looking at both the contractor and also the VA for responsibility," said Mica, R-Winter Park.
Orlando's $660 million Lake Nona facility was supposed to open five months ago, but delays and disputes between contractors and the VA have stymied construction.
"I think that the problem is that the government can screw up a two-car funeral, and in this case, we're messing up a very important veteran's hospital," Mica said.
The government blames contractor Brasfield & Gorrie for the mix-ups, but the contractor says red tape provided by the VA is keeping them from getting the job done.
Each time the VA wants to change something at the hospital, it notifies the contractor of the changes. The contractor makes new drawings and submits them to the VA for approval and payment. Thousands of those change orders have languished in Washington, D.C., government offices. When they do, Brasfield & Gorrie is not able to reimburse the subcontractors.
Mica says it has left the entire job a mess.
"Some of these change orders, and there are pages of them, and this particular subcontractor, this is only one of them, is now three-quarters of a million behind in payments, and it's putting a strain on his business."
The VA has threatened to terminate Brasfield & Gorrie for not performing the contract properly.
A delegation of Central Florida politicians sent a letter to the VA asking them not to fire the contractor. That would mean at least another year in delays. They want the two sides to sit down and come to an agreement first on finishing quickly, then on payment issues.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, joined Mica today for the tour, and she didn't want to play the blame game.
Brown and Mica are both demanding the hospital be opened by the end of the year.
"All I want to do is to figure out how to get this resolved, and get these veterans using this facility," Brown said.