VA awards all stimulus money

Monday - 8/30/2010, 10:30am EDT

Ed Murray, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance, Department of Veterans Affairs.

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By Vyomika Jairam
Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Many have tried, but few have succeeded. Earlier this month, Veterans Affairs awarded the last of its $1.8 billion Recovery Act grant money, and was among the first to do so.

The money funded over 1,500 hundred projects, many of them with veteran-owned companies. Among the contracts are improving VA medical facilities, and upgrading technology systems. Ed Murray, VA's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance told the Federal Drive it wasn't easy to award all of the money, but VA benefited from planning ahead.

"We recognized early on that we were going to have a challenge, as do most agencies, when it comes to the acquisition community. Skilled contracting officers, acquisitions specialists are in short supply," Murray said. "So what we did is we very early organized weekly meetings with all the key stake holders, with the acquisition community to layout and plan the work."

VA used brand new contract writing system, which also had management capabilities, so that they could "plan the work and work the plan," Murray said.

Per their initial planning, VA had targeted to finish awarding contract by the end of July so that just in case of contract protests, or negotiations going long, they would still be under September 30 obligation deadline.

VA received $1 billion to use toward increasing patient safety and facility efficiency. Among other things, VA awarded contracts for:

building renovations, roadway and walkway repairs, high cost equipment replacement, security improvements, new construction, replacement of steam lines and boiler plants, upgrades in emergency power distribution, and purchases of additional emergency generators among others. To help Veterans access care, Recovery Act projects in VA medical facilities will add or improve more than 26,000 parking spaces and 39 elevator banks are being built or upgraded. VA will upgrade nearly 14,000 inpatient bed spaces, while 16 pharmacy renovation projects will help Veterans get medicines quicker and more efficiently. More than 14,400 clinical improvement projects, some with multiple exam rooms, will be undertaken.

Another major initiative: greening the department. Up first? Cemeteries. After conducting feasibility studies, VA concluded that installing windmills would be a good way to go to make national cemeteries in Massachusetts self-sufficient.

"We just find that to be just great, exactly the type of thing that is feasible, we ought to do, kind of lead by example, and do the right thing for the enviornment," Murray said.