Rep. Coffman Demands Shinseki Resign Over VA Scandals

May 7, 2014

Rep. Mike Coffman

Rep. Mike Coffman

WASHINGTON — Citing “chronic mismanagement and systemic failures” at two medical facilities for veterans in Colorado, Rep. Mike Coffman on Tuesday called for the ouster of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“If he had the same responsibility as an Army officer, he would have been relieved a long time ago for his lack of leadership,” Coffman said of the retired four-star Army general.

“If he fails to resign, then the president, as the commander in chief, has the duty to fire him for gross incompetence,” Coffman said.

The Aurora Republican was an Army infantry soldier in the Gulf War in 1991 and a Marine officer in the Iraq War in 2005 and 2006, and chairs the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

Coffman has also criticized $470 million in cost overruns at a VA hospital under construction in Aurora that are projected to run as high as $1 billion, while delaying the hospital’s opening until 2017.

Coffman’s demand comes on the heels of a USA Today report that medical staff at the VA outpatient clinic in Fort Collins had falsified appointment dates to make it appear as if veterans were receiving care within the 14-day time limit.

The report of fixed scheduling was based on findings by the VA’s Office of Medical Inspector, and mirrors a recent scandal at an Arizona VA facility where officials kept a secret list of backlogged appointments during a time frame that 40 patient deaths were reported.

The scandals also prompted calls for Shinseki’s resignation in the Senate from Republicans Jerry Moran of Kansas and John Cornyn of Texas.

“If he submits his resignation to the president, I would say to Obama, you should accept it,” said Moran, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall was asked to comment on the situation but referred questions to his spokesman, while Sen. Michael Bennet did not respond to a request for comment. Neither of the senators’ spokesmen replied to a call and email for comment.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada defended Shinseki, who in addition to serving as Obama’s chief of Veterans Affairs was also President George W. Bush’s Army chief of staff during the Iraq War. Shinseki made waves in 2003 when he contradicted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and advised that “several hundred thousand soldiers” would be needed to pacify Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion.

“He’s a fine man, a disabled veteran,” Reid said. “He’s been given a tremendously difficult job. We’ve got thousands of returning veterans, some of who have been coming back to the states with PTSD.”

Republican Sen. John McCain, who represents the State of Arizona where the first VA scandal occurred, noted that he had called for Rumsfeld’s resignation but would not consider whether Shinseki should step down until an investigation by the VA is completed.

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