Coffman tangles with new VA Secretary in hearing

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Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora.

DENVER — Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman raised the ire of new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald by suggesting that he hasn’t done enough to turn around the troubled agency in his first six months on the job.

“I ran a large company, sir, what have you done?” McDonald said to Coffman, R-Aurora, at one point.

Coffman, a former Marine and, as it turns out, small business owner, has been one of the biggest critics of the VA, especially its mismanagement of the project to build a new VA hospital at the Fitzsimmons Medical Campus in Aurora, located within his district.

“I think that’s just characteristic of your glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department,” Coffman said. “This is a department mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption. I gotta tell you, I think the public relations are great today but there’s no substance.”

McDonald said he was offended by Coffman’s comments and even offered him his cell phone so that he could hear from veterans calling to thank him for his work to improve the agency.

On the issue of the VA hospital project in Aurora, McDonald turned the attack around, noting that he’s only been in the job six months.

“You’ve been here longer than I have,” he told Coffman. “If there’s a problem in Denver, you own it more than I do.”

Following the hearing, the battle moved to Facebook, where Coffman offered his own rebuttal to McDonald’s “what have you done?” question.

“Let me start by telling you something I haven’t done,” Coffman said in a post. “I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has. I’ve never built a hospital that’s years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. And I’ve never been a shill for inept bureaucrats who allowed American heroes to die on a medical waiting list while waiting for medical service.

“This is the most arrogant administration in our lifetime. Most would apologize for a scandal committed against our military service men and women. This administration is seemingly incapable of feeling shame.”

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