Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald got into a verbal dust up with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado), an Iraq war veteran, over the somewhat disastrous VA hospital project in Denver.
After the two men argued about the project at a VA budget hearing on Feb. 11, McDonald reportedly snapped. “I've run a large company, sir," he said. "What have you done?”
Coffman didn’t respond at the hearing, but he later issued a statement listing the things he hadn’t done: "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."
Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki lost his job after soldiers died because the wait-time for treatment at VA hospitals was so long.
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McDonald, the former CEO of Proctor & Gamble, took over the position in July, vowing to make the VA a model for other government agencies.
The fight between McDonald and Coffman started when Coffman critiqued the VA for hailing their legal action to defend the Denver VA hospital as a victory.
"How is that a success?" Coffman asked. "You lost that case on every single point for the hospital in my district that is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.”
"I think that that's just characteristic of your glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department," he added. "This is a department mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption.”
Offended, McDonald pointed out that he’d only had the job for six months. "You've been here longer than I have," he said to Coffman. "If there's a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do."