CongressHot SheetMilitary

Mike Coffman talks tough about next VA chief

Author: Joey Bunch - April 25, 2018 - Updated: April 24, 2018

VAWhite House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson speaks to reporters during a daily press briefing in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, in Washington, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman was pretty hard on the last head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he’s not lowering the bar on the proposed replacement, who is mired in questions.

Ronny L. Jackson, President Donald Trump’s former doctor, faces a tough road to confirmation over concerns about his qualifications and allegations about his oversight of medical staff, including that he created a hostile work environment. Jackson also will face questions about alleged drinking on the job and improperly dispensing medication.

Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, repeatedly called for Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to resign, until Trump fired Shulkin last month after growing ethics scandal and lack of support within the VA.

Coffman’s east-metro Denver district is home to the VA’s Aurora hospital project, which has been embroiled in cost overruns and scandals.

He said Jackson should be scrutinized, as any other nominee would be. The VA is a critical federal agency of about 360,000 employees and a budget of about $186 billion.

“As I said from the beginning, any nominee will have to prove that they are the right person for the job,” Coffman said in a statement Tuesday. “I expect the next VA secretary to do what Dr. Shulkin failed to do — that is, cleaning out the senior leadership that created a culture of bureaucratic incompetence at the VA.

“The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has an obligation to fully vet Admiral Jackson’s military record as part of the confirmation process and millions of veterans and I will follow this process closely.”

Coffman is a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. where he sits on the Disability Assistance & Memorial Affairs Subcommittee. He also is on the House Armed Services Committee and chairs the Military Personnel Subcommittee and serves on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs postponed a hearing Jackson on Wednesday. More than 20 current and former military members lodged complaints with the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee about Jackson, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the committee, told NPR.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.