Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald had a heated exchange with Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanColorado remap plan creates new competitive district Colorado governor says he was not exposed to COVID-19 after Aurora mayor tests positive Colorado mayor says he called protesters 'domestic terrorists' out of 'frustration' MORE (R-Colo.) at a hearing on Wednesday as he defended his work at the troubled agency.
During a contentious hearing, Coffman upbraided the Department of Veterans Affairs and McDonald for problems with the construction of a VA hospital in his district and called for the Army Corps of Engineers to take over.
"I hope you can make a difference,” Coffman said, questioning McDonald's ability to change the culture in the VA system.
"Well, sir, maybe if you want I'll give you my cellphone tonight and you can answer some of the calls and see if I'm making a difference for veterans and see what they say,” McDonald said, agitated.
McDonald who ran Proctor & Gamble for years before taking the helm at the VA interrupted Coffman as he began to speak.
“I've run a large company, sir, what have you done?," he asked the lawmaker.
"The fundamental challenge is for this organization to reflect your values, and I'm not sure that that's going to happen and I hope that it does,” Coffman replied.
“I want your help with that,” McDonald said.
McDonald was testifying on the VA's upcoming budget request on Wednesday.
He took over at the VA after then-Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last year amid a scandal over long patient wait times that critics said led to deaths.
The sharp exchange between McDonald and Coffman was one of many during the Wednesday hearing as the Colorado lawmaker criticized the VA's handling of construction projects and questioned whether the agency would change.
“This is a department mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption,” Coffman said earlier in the hearing. “And I got to tell you, I think the public relations is great today. But there is no substance, there is no substance.
“As unfortunate as it is, that at the end of the day, at the end of the president's term, you will not have made a difference in changing the culture of this organization by virtue of the fact that you continue to gloss over its problems,” the lawmaker added.
“I'm offended by your comment, McDonald responded. “Actually, I've been here six months. You've been here longer than I have. If there's a problem in Denver than I think you own it more than I do."