Some veterans advocates are calling VA Secretary Bob McDonald to apologize to Rep. Michael Coffman, Colorado Republican, after a heated exchange in Wednesday’s House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, said Mr. McDonald’s tone in responding to Mr. Coffman’s questions in the hearing was representative of a larger problem within the agency.
“The disrespectful comments made today by Secretary McDonald are unfortunately emblematic of the attitudes of many top-level VA executives: The VA bureaucracy cannot be questioned, and the VA system itself comes before the veteran it is intended to serve,” Mr. Hegseth said in a statement.
Mr. Coffman questioned the secretary about an over-budget construction project in Denver, but went on to say that he thought Mr. McDonald would not be successful at changing the culture of the scandal-plagued VA where investigators found corruption, data manipulation and overall poor care for veterans last year.
Mr. McDonald responded that the construction problems in Denver were more Mr. Coffman’s responsibility than his own and offered to give the congressman his cell phone to speak to veterans about how much care has improved since he took over in August.
“I’ve run a large company, sir. What have you done?” Mr. McDonald said to Mr. Coffman, who is a 22-year veteran of the Marine Corps and Army who served in both Iraq wars.
Though his questions in the hearing ended there, Mr. Coffman later posted a response on his Facebook page.
“Let me start by telling you something I haven’t done. I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has,” the Facebook post says. “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,” he wrote.