Mike Coffman

Mike Coffman

COLORADO's 6th DISTRICT

Read the Threatening Emails Sent to a VA Whistleblower After He Appeared on TV

2014/10/22

[[{"fid":"595","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"The Blaze"},"type":"media","attributes":{"title":"The Blaze","style":"width: 188px; height: 40px;","class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]]  The Department of Veterans Affairs last month tried to force one of its employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement and threatened disciplinary action, after the employee appeared on television to criticize the VA for failing in its mission to deliver health care to veterans. Scott Davis is a program specialist at the VA’s Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, and more recently is a whistleblower who has testified in Congress about the VA’s numerous failures. Davis has also been on several TV and radio shows to discuss the VA’s failures over the last few months. After appearing on Fox News on September 2, Davis was emailed just minutes later by William Lamm, who asked Davis to appear at an Administrative Investigation Board meeting scheduled for September 4. Lamm said Davis would be asked to sign a copy of a “notice” at that meeting. Davis told TheBlaze that he isn’t sure what the Board meeting would cover, but based on the notice, it appeared to be an attempt to start an internal VA investigation into Davis’s actions. The notice Davis was asked to sign said employees must testify “freely and honestly in cases respecting employment and disciplinary matters,” and also said issues discussed as part of the investigation cannot be talked about outside the VA. “VA Directive 0700 requires you to refrain from disclosing any information developed in the course of the investigation, including the substance of your testimony, with others, if so directed by the Convening Authority or by a member of the administrative investigative board,” it reads. “This is to protect the integrity and fairness of the investigative process.” Davis replied in an email on September 3 that the White House Office of Special Counsel is already investigating his whistleblower case, and said the VA has already determined that the OSC investigation must be concluded before the VA itself takes any action against Davis. “Therefore, I will have to decline your invitation to meet tomorrow,” Davis wrote. “Mr. Lamm, I respectfully ask that you please stop contacting me about this matter.” Later that day, Lamm wrote back that Davis had no choice but to attend the meeting, and reminded him that the notice Davis was required to sign says refusing to testify on disciplinary matters “may be ground for disciplinary action.” “Mr. Davis, with all due respect, the notification that was sent to you and to your representative to appear before the Administrative Investigation Board was not an invitation to which you can decline,” Lamm wrote. Lamm backed off his demand later in the day, in an email that said the VA wants to cooperate with the OSC, and that the OSC would not be able to have an “Agent” attend the planned hearing. Davis told TheBlaze that this veiled threat seemed empty, as the OSC told him personally that it does not employ any such “Agents.” Still, the exchange prompted Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) to write VA Secretary Robert McDonald about the VA’s effort to silence Davis. “Mr. Davis recently indicated to my staff that he is receiving threatening emails regarding disciplinary action against him,” Coffman wrote. “He indicated he is being harassed and investigated and that human resource officials have demanded that he sign a document, without a VA or OMB identification control number, purporting to be a Notice of Witness Obligations, Protections and Privacy.” “Please be assured that retaliation against VA employees that have provided whistleblower information to Congress will not be tolerated,” Coffman added. “I request a response and explanation within five working days.” Davis and House aides said they are not aware of a response from McDonald, more than a month after Coffman’s letter was sent. In the meantime, Davis is continuing to blow the whistle on the failure of the VA to clean up the mess after the health care scandal broke earlier this year. He’s also tweeting updates at his Twitter profile, @ScottDavis_WB. Most recently, Davis has warned that the VA appears to be preparing to jettison thousands of old veterans’ claims for healthcare that were never processed. Davis said the VA has been sending letters to people who filed these unanswered claims, and appears to be preparing to argue that it can freely drop any outstanding claim unless veterans write back. The trouble is, Davis said, is that the VA is getting a response rate of about 8 percent, and said the VA appears to be looking for an easy way to justify ditching these old claims. Davis added that eliminating potentially hundreds of thousands of old claims would let the VA boast about improving its performance rate for veterans seeking medical help, when really it would only be trashing claims it never answered. “By deleting the record, you’re deleting your true turnaround time,” he told TheBlaze. Read More

Delay for Butler VA project prompts groans from American Legion

2014/10/20

[[{"fid":"594","view_mode":"teaser","attributes":{"style":"width: 130px;","class":"media-element file-teaser"},"fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media"}]] Work may not resume on an outpatient health center for the Veterans Affairs Butler Healthcare System until 2015, nearly two years after crews broke ground, an official said. For the 2.4 million-member American Legion, which has been critical of construction delays and cost overruns plaguing the VA, the Butler project is the latest sign of a troubled system. “Every day a medical center is not completely done, it's a day a veteran may or may not be receiving care,” said Ed Lilley, the Legion's assistant director for health care, veterans affairs and rehabilitation. An April 2013 Government Accountability Office report determined that costs increased for the VA's four largest, most recent projects — in Aurora, Colo., Orlando, New Orleans and Las Vegas — from 59 percent to 144 percent. The average overrun was nearly $366 million. Delays ranged from 14 to 74 months, averaging 35 months, the report found. The American Legion is so concerned, its executive committee in May urged more congressional and legislative oversight and that the VA consider using the Army Corps of Engineers to complete projects on time and on budget. “Veterans are frustrated and concerned with the VA's construction processes and the continued delays and cost overruns and unsure whether VA's improvements will ensure VA major construction in the future will be within schedule and budget,” its resolution stated. The VA established a construction review council in April 2012 to oversee development and execution of building programs, the GAO report said. Legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, which passed the House on Sept. 16, would require the VA to hire a medical equipment planner as part of a project's architectural and engineering team and use the Corps of Engineers as a special project manager. It is awaiting action in the Senate. “It is the sense of Congress that the management of the major medical center construction projects of the Department of Veterans Affairs has been an abysmal failure,” the measure reads. VA spokeswoman Genevieve Billia said her agency doesn't support the legislation as written. Creating a special project manager “would be problematic in the management and supervision of these projects,” she said. The Army Corps has assisted on 70 VA construction projects since 2008, she added. The Las Vegas project is done and the Orlando project should be almost done by the end of the year, Billia said. The New Orleans project has a February 2016 completion date. The Colorado project is 58 percent finished. Work continues despite the contractor filing a lawsuit seeking to drop out, she said. The VA likely won't award a contract for the Butler facility until 2015, Billia said. The General Services Administration now reviews all potential leases. Once the GSA finishes its review, the VA could select a site for the outpatient center and award a development contract within three months, Billia said. Westar Development Co. beat out five other companies in May 2012 to build the $75 million outpatient center, which it would have rented to the VA for 20 years while receiving an average $7.6 million annually. The project collapsed when the VA Inspector General's Office became concerned that Westar had misrepresented itself, including a claim that it was veteran-owned when it isn't, and that it may have had ties to a businessman sentenced on federal charges of racketeering, bribery and fraud unrelated to the Butler project. Westar officials denied any wrongdoing. Jefferson resident Stan Schubert, a Marine who served in Vietnam, said Friday that fellow veterans at a Marine Corps League meeting he's attending in Fort Indiantown Gap have been asking about the Butler project. “It's the talk of the town,” Schubert, 72, said. “People are wondering what's going on, when it's going to be built, where it's going to be built. It's very important.” Read More

Coffman urges President to take concrete steps on Ebola outbreak

2014/10/16

(Washington, D.C.) Congressman Mike Coffman and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have called on the Obama administration to take concrete steps to address the Ebola outbreak. Last week, the lawmakers sent a letter to the President, suggesting additional steps that include increased screening for people arriving from affected West African nations, possible quarantines during the dormancy period for individuals who have been to affected areas, and a travel ban from affected West African countries until the epidemic has been defeated.  Read More

America may never have a draft again. But we’re still punishing low-income men for not registering

2014/10/16

[[{"fid":"592","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"style":"width: 304px; height: 50px;","class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]] The last time Danieldevel Davis got out of prison it was 2012 and he was 38. “I ain’t going back into no man’s prison again,” he vowed. He’d been locked up for six years, which was the longest he’d ever lived in one place. Davis grew up in foster homes, dropped out of school in the 11th grade and then hit the revolving door: streets, juvenile detention, streets, prison. He’s never possessed a driver’s license. He’s never had a bill in his name. “I’ve never had anything in my name,” he says. So, this is what happened when Davis went to fill out his financial aid paperwork at a Virginia Beach technical college. “Have you registered for the Selective Service?” the financial aid officer asked. “What do you mean?” Davis said. “Did you register to be drafted?” “Huh?” This may be a nation with an all-volunteer military, one that ended conscription more than 40 years ago, but federal law still requires men ages 18 to 25 to register for a draft that does not exist. There are few exemptions and no second chances. Davis never registered with the Selective Service System and so learned that he was looking at potentially lifelong consequences. No access to federal student loans or grants. No federal job training money or certain government jobs. And, in Virginia, no driver’s license. “I didn’t know I had to register and now I can’t get anything,” Davis says. “I can’t do nothing.” The odds of this country returning to a draft are almost zero, but the price for failure to register is high and is largely born by the men who can ill afford to pay it: high school dropouts, disconnected inner city residents, ex-offenders and immigrants — legal and unauthorized — who do not know that failure to register can jeopardize citizenship. In other words, those precisely in need of the type of job training, education and citizenship opportunities that could help move them from the margins to the mainstream. In California, the Selective Service System estimates, men who failed to register were denied access to more than $99 million in federal and state financial aid and job training benefits between 2007 and April of this year. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts saw $35 million in combined lost benefits between 2011 and spring 2014. “Why are we setting up these barriers?” says Regina Tyler, director of Virginia State University’s Upward Bound program and the Education Opportunity Center, which helps adults return to school. “Why are we attaching them to financial aid? We don’t have a draft, so what is the point?” The point, supporters of registration long have argued, is that almost-zero odds of conscription are not zero odds. “You can never say never,” says Lawrence G. Romo,  director of the Selective Service System. “We are a deterrent. We want to make sure our adversaries understand that if we had an extreme national emergency, we would have the draft.” A fair and equitable draft, which would include alternatives to military service, requires 100 percent compliance, he argues. “We need to have some type of penalty in order to help us get that compliance.” The agency grants few exceptions, but, Romo emphasizes, it is ultimately up to the financial aid officer or the workforce specialist – the agency dispensing the benefit  – to decide whether someone “knowingly and willfully” violated the law and therefore should be denied. “The door may have closed, but the window may still be pried open,” agency spokesman Matthew Tittmann puts it. A majority of men do register – 2.5 million in 2013 alone. The agency casts a huge, largely effective dragnet in high schools, motor vehicle departments, post offices and elsewhere. The average compliance rate nationally among 19-year-olds who registered last year was 89 percent. So, how many run into the sanctions as Davis did? There’s no good way to track, but the Selective Service System estimates it’s in the tens of thousands every year.  Men such as Davis also make up part of a larger group of suspected violators  of the law whose names the agency turns over every year to the Department of Justice, which hasn’t prosecuted anyone for the offense since 1986. The potential for punishment is there, however: A fine of up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in prison. The federal sanctions are just the half of it. According to the Selective Service System, 32 states now have made registration a prerequisite to a variety of benefits, from state financial aid to state jobs to tuition breaks. Tennessee requires males who failed to register to pay out-of-state tuition to attend the University of Tennessee system – even if they are state residents and citizens. Selective Service registration raises two separate but related issues, the larger of which is whether it is necessary in the absence of a declared war or national emergency, and if so, whether it is discriminatory in an age of expanded roles for women in military combat. (Short and hotly-debated answers: Maybe and yes. Neither of which will be decided by the Selective Service agency itself.) But the concerns of Davis and men like him are more immediate: how to move forward when his education path is blocked. Davis is working part-time as a janitor for $7.50 an hour and cannot pay for school without help. “The job part I understand because I put myself in this position, that’s the bed I laid in,” he says. “But as far as the Selective Service goes, I don’t feel as though I should be punished. I am someone trying to rehabilitate myself and go to school.” By far, the agency’s most successful tool to enforce compliance lies in the issuance of state driver’s licenses. Forty states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories now tie issuance or renewal of driver’s licenses to Selective Service registration. Most of those have moved to an automatic registration. Other have opt-in or opt-out provisions. Agency spokesman, Mr Tittmann, indicated that Selective Service strongly favors state laws for automatic registration when getting a driver’s license because it helps those most in need of the benefits linked to registration – young men out the mainstream, the disadvantaged, minorities, and immigrants. “This is absolutely unfair,” Rep. Mike Coffman, a veteran of both Iraq wars, says of the sanctions. Coffman, a Republican from Colorado, is among the most outspoken critics of the system. Earlier this year, he co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that would abolish the $23 million agency, suspending registration – and sanctions — except by executive order in a time of national emergency. “The Selective Service is a bureaucracy that needs to die because it no longer serves a viable purpose,” he said in an e-mail. “Even during the height of the War in Iraq and Afghanistan the Department of Defense never considered using the draft.” Says Romo, “You have 435 congressmen and so you have 435 opinions on the Selective Service.” One of them, he notes, belongs to Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who earlier this year introduced two bills related to the draft. The first would require women to register with the Selective Service. The second calls for all citizens and residents between 18 and 25 to perform two years of military or community service and would reinstate the draft only when a clear threat to the nation is present and Congress formally has declared war or the president proclaims a national emergency. Rangel has long argued that the burden of fighting war has fallen unfairly on the shoulders of a few, and that a more-inclusive draft “would compel everyone in the nation to stop and think about who we sent to wars, how we fight – and why we fight them at all.” But, Rangel says, until the day comes that the United States is engaged in a declared war and the nation’s security is violated — or Congress passes his National Service Act — there is no reason for the Selective Service System. “Having people penalized for not registering is a fraud,” he said. Rangel emphasized that registration is current law and should be followed, but said he now intends to introduce a  draft-related bill — one abolishing the service. Romo argues that if the system were abolished, the nation would lose time it could not afford in reactivating it in the event of national emergency. “It would take a minimum of two or three years to get the system going,” he said. It’s about readiness, he says, “and the Selective Service is a very inexpensive insurance policy.” The agency, he says, is engaged in constant public outreach, particularly to those most in danger of falling through the cracks. That includes education sessions in inner-city neighborhoods, the Bureau of Prisons, halfway houses and groups working with immigrants and minorities. “We are trying to ensure that a man does not ace himself out of potential opportunities down the road because he was ignorant of the fact he had to register,” Romo says. Until a few days ago, Davis did not realize that in the phrase “knowingly and willfully” lies his hope. He thinks he can prove to a financial aid officer that he did not deliberately evade his duty. He’s calling his former probation officer to get his juvenile and adult criminal records and is trying to figure out how to get his school records. Davis is building his case.   Read More

Denver VA Medical Center says operating rooms open for limited surgeries after contamination issues

2014/10/14

[[{"fid":"330","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"ABC 7News","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"ABC 7News"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"ABC 7News","title":"ABC 7News","class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]] After staff members told 7NEWS that the surgical unit at Denver's Veterans Affairs Medical Center would be closed again this week due to contamination issues, VAMC Public Information Officer Dan Warvi, provided an update, saying the hospital's operating rooms are open for limited procedures, and that disposable surgical tools would be used. Warvi released the following statement to 7NEWS: "We have been performing surgical procedures with disposable instrumentation, and now have completed enough resurfacing and sterilization processes to resume doing procedures with our stainless steel instrumentation. We have surgeries scheduled for tomorrow and the remainder of the week. I would ask that you emphasize on-air and on your web page that any Veteran who has a surgical procedure scheduled for tomorrow should go to the Denver VA." Just two weeks ago, the hospital revealed that "trace mineral deposits" on surgical equipment forced the hospital's seven operating rooms within its surgical unit to shut down. It's an issue that could have grave consequences for patients such as Daniel King, who suffers from papillary thyroid cancer. "And if (I) don't get surgery soon, I'm going to be inoperable - Stage 4," said King, a U.S. Army veteran. "I signed up for Vietnam when people didn't say, 'Thank you for your service.' They spit on us and called us 'baby killers' and every name in the book when we had to go through the airport in uniform. It's a whole different culture now. But, we're still being spit on by the government." The Denver VA is trucking in sterile instruments from Ft. Carson, but only for critical surgeries. King called the VA issues a "culture of slackerism." Monday, Colorado Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, also criticized the culture of big bonuses and no accountability within the VA. "Where everybody gets a bonus," said Coffman. "Where nobody's ever fired. Where nobody's ever disciplined. Where we do have patient safety problems. We still have a long way to go, to be able to fix this broken system." Coffman vowed reform is coming from Washington, including a choice option for patients waiting too long to be seen. "So they can go outside the VA system, their choice, and have that choice provider reimbursed under the Medicare rates for whatever services they receive," said Coffman. King hopes it isn't too little, too late. "There are literally thousands of veterans that are going without surgery that need it," he said. "Lately it just seems to be coming unglued." Read More

No Labels Awards "Problem Solver Seal of Approval" to U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman

2014/10/09

Washington, D.C.— No Labels, a national organization dedicated to a new politics of problem solving, has awarded its “Problem Solver Seal of Approval” to Colorado Republican Mike Coffman his support of the group’s year-long effort to create a National Strategic Agenda, a roadmap for the country based on goals shared by both parties. “In his three terms in Congress, Representative Mike Coffman has shown a firm commitment to problem solving,” said Bill Galston, a Co-Founder of No Labels. “It is this kind of leadership, coupled with the creation of a National Strategic Agenda, that is going to help us solve some of the most challenging issues we’re facing as a country.” No Labels’ National Strategic Agenda will chart a course for America based on policy prescriptions and principles that are forged through consensus and aimed at meeting four key goals for the country: Create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years; Balance the federal budget by 2030; Secure Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years; and Make America energy secure by 2024. The National Strategic Agenda, with specific policy proposals to address each of the four goals, will be developed over the course of the next year through working groups and meetings all over the country with elected officials and policy experts, business and community leaders, and citizens. No Labels will be developing the Agenda in partnership with Deloitte Consulting LLP, a worldwide leader in strategy consulting. Rep. Coffman will be among those participating in the process. The comprehensive agenda will be unveiled in New Hampshire in October 2015. More than 80 members of Congress have already endorsed the campaign for a National Strategic Agenda.     Read More

From Our Politician – Reforming Congress

2014/10/09

[[{"fid":"397","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"The Villager","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"The Villager"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"The Villager","title":"The Villager","style":"width: 210px; height: 40px;","class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]] Dear Friends: From the day I was elected to Congress in 2009, I have been engaged in a fight to change the culture of Washington, D.C. No doubt, trying to sell reform to members of Congress on changing a system that they have benefitted from has been an unbelievable tough sell but this is one that we can never give up on.  There are many reforms that could easily make Congress better serve the American people but I believe that the top three are a balanced budget amendment, mandatory term limits for every member of Congress, and a requirement that all members of Congress be subject to all of the same laws, rules, and regulations that Washington, D.C. imposes upon the American people. Balanced Budget Amendment.  In 2010, I founded the Balanced Budget Amendment Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives to help build support for its eventual passage. A balanced budget amendment would strip the power away from Congress to continually spend money that we simply do not have.  It would put an end to the decades of reckless out-of-control spending and stop our crushing debt from rising further and threaten the future of our country.   A Constitutional Amendment requiring the President and Congress, like every family and nearly every state in the country, to balance the budget each and every year.  Colorado, along with 48 other states, has a balanced budget requirement in its constitution. Requiring a balanced budget forces legislators to come together, in a bipartisan way, to decide what their spending priorities are within the resources available.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Mandatory Term Limits for Every Member of Congress.  In 2011, I introduced House Joint Resolution 93, a proposed Constitutional Amendment to limit members of Congress to no more than 12 years in the Senate (two terms) and 12 years in the House of Representatives (six terms).   Last year I signed on as a cosponsor of House Joint Resolution 41, which accomplishes a similar goal.  I believe that by requiring mandatory term limits on every member of Congress the institution will ultimately be more responsive to the American people.  Colorado has had term limits for all elected state and local officials for over twenty years.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Make Members of Congress Subject to the Same Rules, Regulations, and Laws that they impose on the American People.   No one in public office should live under a different set of rules than the American people have to live under.   When I served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, I never ordered my subordinates to do anything that I was not willing to do myself. Consequently, after Obamacare passed, I dropped out of my federal health insurance plan, available to members of Congress, and I purchased an individual plan, without a taxpayer subsidy, through Colorado’s health insurance exchange.  My co-pay tripled and my deductible skyrocketed from $350 to $4,500 and from $4,500 to $6,200, I’m responsible for 40%.  If every member of Congress did what I did, Obamacare would not be in place in its current form today.  Instead, the President granted a waiver that excused members of Congress from Obamacare and it will be the middle class that will now bear the brunt of these dramatically increased out-of-pocket costs. Reforming government, at any level, is never easy and changing Washington, D.C. is a really tough fight but with 21 years of combined military service, I’ve been trained not to give up or give in. U.S. Representative Mike Coffman is a Marine Corps combat veteran and a former small business owner. Rep. Mike Coffman The Villager Newspaper October 8, 2014 Read More

VA’s loyalty to reverse auction firm FedBid raises red flags

2014/10/09

[[{"fid":"419","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"The Washington Times","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"The Washington Times"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"The Washington Times","title":"The Washington Times","style":"width: 233px; height: 75px;","class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]] As far back as 2012, a Department of Veterans Affairs advisory board was warning about excessive sway that reverse auction firm FedBid, a well-connected contractor employing former top White House officials, had on VA contracting officers. One internal VA email obtained by The Washington Times shows that the VA advisory group warned in 2012 that contracting officers inside the Veterans Health Administration had been told that “the use of FedBid is mandatory, and that they can take no other path.” Investigators found that a top VHA contracting official, Susan Taylor, along with FedBid officials, plotted to discredit another VA official who questioned whether the company’s reverse auction business saved the government as much money as the contractor claimed. Ms. Taylor, who has since been removed from her job, leaked nonpublic information, gave false statements and strong-armed staff into using FedBid, according to the report, which also revealed the company’s aggressive behind-the-scenes lobbying. “Need to assassinate his character and discredit him,” former FedBid President Glenn Richardson wrote in an email to colleagues, referring to the VA procurement official, Jan Frye. Mr. Frye angered FedBid by enacting a moratorium in 2012 on the use of reverse auctions amid complaints from suppliers about costs. In the wake of the report, Rep. Mike Coffman, Colorado Republican and chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs investigative subcommittee, questioned whether FedBid should be allowed to continue doing business with the VA. FedBid “was actively conspiring to defame an honorable public servant in an attempt to protect a friendly, corrupt bureaucrat and continue pushing a system of contracts that undercut fair competition,” the congressman said in a letter last week to new VA Secretary Robert McDonald. In 2012, VA suppliers were growing increasingly concerned about FedBid, which handled VHA’s reverse auctions — a form of contracting in which sellers, not buyers, bid against one another. FedBid handles most of the government’s reverse auctions. Former VA Chief of Staff Harold Gracey, a retired career federal executive, worked with a contractor who put together a group of VA contractors and suppliers to advise the agency on how to improve its procurement process. In an interview, Mr. Gracey said the industry advisory group was concerned about FedBid and how VA was acquiring some medical supplies through reverse auctions. “There were concerns they were paying more than they would have had to pay if they’d gone through the federal supply schedule,” Mr. Gracey said. Mr. Gracey helped the advisory group put its concerns in writing. In an email to Mr. Frye in 2012, Mr. Gracey told the senior procurement official of concerns among VHA contract officers who were told they had to use FedBid for reverse auctions. He also passed along a spreadsheet with a list of seemingly “inappropriate” reverse auction procurements, according to the email. Mr. Gracey said the industry advisory group also gave a formal presentation to top VA acquisition officials, including Ms. Taylor. “Susan was vehement in saying they were wrong on almost every point, that specifications were terrific, contracting officers were doing their jobs and VA was in fact not paying any fee to FedBid,” Mr. Gracey told The Times. He said she became so adamant that the meeting took a nasty turn. “I kind of interrupted and said, ‘Let’s all agree that it works for some things and not for others and not just argue,” Mr. Gracey said. In response to questions Wednesday, a FedBid spokesman provided a statement by email saying the company cooperated with the inspector general’s investigation and believes it took “appropriate actions” to protect its business. “Our company has always been transparent about its fee structure and the savings the FedBid marketplace can facilitate when buying commodity goods and simple services. It is important to point out, as our data demonstrates, that this report does not dispute that the FedBid marketplace stimulated competition that resulted in lower prices for VHA.” The VA inspector general’s report also revealed undue pressure on contracting decisions. A similar case surfaced last year when the General Services Administration inspector general released an audit detailing how top managers were overruling contracting officers on behalf of influential contractors. Brian Miller, a former GSA inspector general, said Wednesday that although the VA report raised troubling and serious questions, the news wasn’t all bad. “The good news coming out of the IG report is that at least one person stood up and did the right thing. A courageous senior procurement executive did the right thing and suffered for it,” Mr. Miller said. “Contracting officers at times need supervision, but when a supervisor is shilling for a particular contractor, it undermines the integrity of the whole process and sends the message to the public and the entire contracting community that influence can buy government contracts,” Mr. Miller said. FedBid’s advisers, employees and directors include Joe Jordan and Steve Kelman, both formerly in charge of the White House’s office of federal procurement policy. The company also relied on former Rep. Chet Edwards and retired Gen. George W. Casey Jr. to help lobby VA officials to overturn Mr. Frye’s reverse auction moratorium. Mr. Jordan was not named in the inspector general’s report. He left the White House in December while Congress and the Government Accountability Office were scrutinizing reverse auctions. Mr. Jordan oversaw federal procurement policy across the federal government. The Washington Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of Management and Budget seeking information on post-employment ethics rulings related to Mr. Jordan’s move, but the White House has yet to respond. Read More

Colorado's Coffman leads on veterans' issues

2014/10/09

[[{"fid":"581","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"style":"height: 40px;","class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]] At first glance, the ongoing scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be that rare bipartisan moment. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have fallen over each other to exclaim just how upset they are and how much they value the men and women who served in uniform. But for most of them, their strong words haven't translated into strong actions in support of veterans. That's why Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman deserves special praise. He identified and tried to fix the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs well before it became politically popular. He was one of the original co-sponsors of the VA Management Accountability Act, legislation that served as a blueprint for the historic VA reform bill President Obama signed into law last month that empowers the VA secretary to fire failing VA executives and gives veterans a choice to seek private healthcare if they live too far from a VA facility or cannot receive timely care at a VA facility. His work is particularly important to the more than 390,000 veterans who call Colorado home. Right now, veterans in the state wait an average of 421 days for the VA to process their disability claims. The average new patient at the Grand Junction VA waits nearly 40 days to receive care. At the Denver VA, they wait an average of 45 days. These problems were present and persistent long before the current scandal made national headlines in April. As recently as December, the backlog for disability claims was as high as 700,000, with over half a million veterans waiting more than 125 days for the bureaucracy to process their paperwork. Some veterans waited years. Rep. Coffman has been working to reform the dysfunctional VA. As a member of the House's Committee on Veterans Affairs, he has held and participated in many hearings that focused on the VA's failure to give veterans the care we need. This leadership was on display from the moment the VA scandal broke in April. Rep. Coffman promptly held congressional hearings to get to the bottom of the crisis. Within a week, he called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki—one of the first politicians in Washington to do so. He also helped craft the Veterans Access to Care Act, which would give veterans access to private health care facilities. This bill would help get veterans out of the failing VA system. Few things are as important considering that veterans are dying while on VA waiting lists. In light of his actions in support of veterans, Concerned Veterans for America publicly thanked Rep. Coffman for his actions in a television ad that aired last month. His peers and coworkers in Washington could take a page from his book. Since the VA scandal became the story of the summer, many politicians have done little more than issue press releases, make a few television appearances, and then use that material in their next fundraising email. They've feigned outrage but done nothing, while veterans languish and perish on the VA's waiting lists. But veterans remember who our friends are. If military service teaches you anything, it's the importance of looking out for those who have your back. Rep. Coffman likely learned that lesson himself during his time in the military—he's been there for us since before the VA scandal broke. Would that the rest of Washington would follow his example. Amanda Moore of Fort Collins is a Marine Corps veteran who served with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadrons 39 and 36 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Read More

Lawmaker questions VA exec’s management of benefit appeals

2014/10/08

[[{"fid":"521","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"style":"height: 75px;","class":"media-element file-full"}}]] A House panel says the head of the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals continues to mismanage the legal office and may have been “untruthful” in her sworn congressional testimony claiming improvements in processing vet appeals last month. Despite reassurances to lawmakers, Board Vice Chairman Laura Eskenazi appears to have still promoted unqualified attorneys, not properly advertised open job positions and created new employee positions that will not decrease the board’s growing backlog, according to Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. Coffman, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs oversight and investigations subcommittee, questioned whether Eskenazi could perform her job in a letter sent to VA Secretary Bob McDonald on Oct. 1, weeks after a department whistleblower also testified before the House about records manipulation and improperly delayed appeals cases by her and other board employees. The board is a relatively small legal department within the Department of Veterans Affairs that reviews vet appeals over benefits decisions. “These actions call into question the credibility of Ms. Eskenazi’s leadership and whether she is taking the BVA down the right [path],” Coffman wrote. “I question her decision-making process, knowledge of the current backlog situation, foresight to [move] the BVA forward, and commitment to veterans to get cases decided in a timely manner. I simply question her abilities.” The complaints over job performance come as the VA announced Tuesday that it is firing four top executives to root out misconduct and corruption in the wake of a national scandal over records manipulation and long wait times in its health care system. Over the summer, Congress passed a comprehensive reform bill that streamlines the firing and appeals process. Among Coffman’s claims against Eskenazi’s leadership: - The board’s 300,000-case backlog is increasing. - Board attorneys were promoted to positions they are not qualified for and positions were not advertised as required by law - Three part-time administrative law judge positions were created, but will be part-time and not be required to meet a quota of resolving 700 cases per year as part of the effort to decrease the backlog. - Eskenazi also added two chief judge positions to the board, though the judges are not required to meet the quota and so represent “1,400 appeals that will go undecided in a year.” Coffman asked the VA to explain the criteria for promoting attorneys and for Eskenazi to give a detailed description of her plans to reduce the large number of appeals yet to be decided. “Ms. Eskenazi testified that morale at the BVA had increased, and she was working with all of the attorneys to discover new ways to process cases more efficiently,” Coffman wrote. “However, it appears that Ms. Eskenazi’s statements may not be wholly truthful and in fact actions are occurring that would effectively hurt veterans, as resources are not being fully utilized to make determinations in veterans’ appeals.” Coffman issued a statement to Stars and Stripes Tuesday saying “the testimony offered by Ms. Eskenazi before my subcommittee on Sept. 10 does not conform with the facts as we know them. My concerns are predicated on what seems to be a pattern of misleading testimony and public statements from VA officials in the past.”   The VA did not respond to questions Tuesday morning. A spokeswoman said the department is working on a response to Coffman. Last month, a whistleblower from the appeals board, Kelli Kordich, testified before the House subcommittee, saying Eskenazi and others manipulated records to hide overly long delays in deciding cases. Kordich testified that the vice chairman and head office staff shifted cases in a tracking system in 2012 to wipe evidence it had held some for months or longer. At least one case was held for over a year and Eskenazi personally delayed five appeals cases, she said. In response, Eskenazi told lawmakers that some appeals languished due to specific issues preventing a decision or because VA attorneys were overloaded with work. On Tuesday, Kordich, who remains on the BVA, told Stars and Stripes that Eskenazi has continued to deny dysfunction in the VA appeals process following the congressional hearing and the VA “secretary has done nothing to rectify the situation at the board, which I assume prompted Congressman Coffman to compose this letter.” Read More

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Contact Information

2443 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-7882
Fax 202-226-4623
coffman.house.gov

Mike Coffman began his distinguished career of serving our nation at a very young age.  At age seventeen, after finishing his junior year at Aurora Central High School in 1972, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.   Through the Army, Coffman was able to earn a high school diploma.  In 1974, he left active duty to attend the University of Colorado under the G.I. Bill where he continued his military career by serving in the U.S. Army Reserve.  Coffman took a leave of absence from the U.S. Army Reserve and the University of Colorado to attend D.G. Vaishnav College in Chennai, India in 1976 and the University of Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico in 1977.  Coffman graduated from the University of Colorado in 1979 and immediately transferred from the U.S. Army Reserve to the U.S. Marine Corps where he served as an infantry officer.

In 1983, Coffman came back home to Colorado and started a small business, an Aurora-based property management company, that would grow to over 20 employees. He remained the senior share holder of the firm for the next seventeen years until selling his interest in 2000. While in business, he continued serving in the military by joining the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

In his role as a Colorado small business owner, Coffman saw the need to bring more common sense pro-growth economic policies to state government so he ran and was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1988 and re-elected in 1990.  Shortly after his 1990 re-election, Coffman took an unpaid leave of absence from the state legislature and volunteered to return to active duty for the first Gulf War where he served as the executive officer for a light armored infantry company.   The battalion that Coffman served in was ordered to attack and defend positions inside of Kuwait, for three consecutive days prior to the main ground attack, as part of a deception and reconnaissance-by-fire operation.  Coffman retired from the military in 1994 after having served for seven years between the U.S. Army and the Army Reserve and thirteen years between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 1994, Coffman was elected to the State Senate where he served as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  While in the State Senate, he completed the Senior Executive Program for State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  In 1998, Coffman was elected to the office of State Treasurer and re-elected in 2002.  In 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps was under strength in meeting their requirements for the Iraq War and begun to extend Marines beyond their active duty enlistments, recall Marines recently released from active duty, and selectively reach out to retired Marines and request their return to active duty.   Coffman resigned his position as the State Treasurer and volunteered to return to the U.S. Marine Corps for an assignment in Iraq.  In Iraq, Coffman was a civil affairs officer where he worked in support of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) in 2005 and in 2006 he was reassigned to help establish interim local governments in the Western Euphrates River Valley.

In 2006, Coffman came home after completing a full tour of duty in Iraq and was appointed by Governor Bill Owens to serve out the remainder of his term as the State Treasurer.  In that same year, he ran and was elected to the Office of Secretary of State and served in that capacity until he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.

Coffman is the only veteran in the Colorado delegation and the only Member of Congress to have served in both the first Gulf War and in the Iraq War.  Congressman Coffman represents the 6th Congressional District of Colorado and serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Veteran’s Affairs Committee where he is the Chairman for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and on the House Committee on Small Business.

Coffman and his wife Cynthia were married in 2005 just before he deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps.  Cynthia Coffman was the Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Bill Owens before becoming the Chief Deputy Attorney General for the State of Colorado under Attorney General John Suthers.  Coffman attends Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora with his eighty year-old mother, Dorothy Coffman.


Serving With

Scott Tipton

COLORADO's 3rd DISTRICT

Cory Gardner

COLORADO's 4th DISTRICT

Doug Lamborn

COLORADO's 5th DISTRICT

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