GOP Congressman Calls for VA Secretary Shulkin to Resign

VA chief of staff doctored email to cover up travel expenses inspector general finds

Greg Nash

The call for Shulkin to step down comes after the release of a watchdog report that said Shulkin's chief of staff had doctored an email regarding travel expenses for Shulkin's wife.

Shulkin told USA Today in an exclusive interview that "there was never anything intentional".

"In retrospect, I wish I had asked additional questions of my staff", he said.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin's chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, has been accused of altering an email and making false statements in an effort to ensure that taxpayers could be billed for Shulkin's wife's European jaunt last summer. "Secretary Shulkin has done little to clean up the VA and given the facts of this IG investigation, it's clear to me that he lacks the moral authority to get the job done". He said he was moving to comply with the inspector general's recommendations, including reimbursing the government for his wife's $4,312 airfare and paying his friend for the Wimbledon tickets. The reports said Shulkin made "misleading statements", "improperly accepted wimbledon tickets" and turned an aide into a "personal travel concierge" to plan "high tea" and "Roman baths" at the request of Shulkin's wife, a Philadelphia dermatologist.

To top it off, the OIG said that Shulkin himself misrepresented how he obtained the tickets to the Wimbledon tournament when discussing the issue with ethics officials. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned in September after spending $400,000 in taxpayer funds on chartered flights, and the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general is questioning Administrator Scott Priutt's trips.

Shulkin was the latest high-ranking Trump administration official to be caught up In controversies over their penchant for first-class travel, their use of government and military aircraft, and their activities during trips listed as official business.

Several other Trump cabinet members have been faulted for excessive travel expenses, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Tom Price resigning a year ago.

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"The abuses detailed in the VA's Inspector General Report violate the trust and integrity that our veterans and taxpayers demand and deserve", Coffman said in a written statement. The email suggested Shulkin would be receiving an award while in the Netherlands.

V.A. Secretary David Shulkin and his wife Merle Bari spent 10 days in Copenhagen and London during July 2017. According to the report, that misrepresentation was forwarded to the Department of Justice, which declined to pursue criminal prosecution.

In a response to VA's Inspector General Michael Missal dated February 12, 2018, Shulkin called the portrayal of the trip "overall and entirely inaccurate".

The traveling party included senior VA officials and a security detail, leaders of the department. Inspectors' analysis of the costs revealed discrepancies and potential errors that they said "warrant a closer examination by VA auditors".

Shulkin did not accept most of the findings in this report, as his legal counsel sent a lengthy letter to the VA Inspector General, accusing the VA of running an unfair investigation, which itself was beset by misconduct.

But that didn't sit well with Coffman, a Marine and combat veteran who sits on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and who has consistently hammered the VA over its over-budget and behind-schedule construction of the new hospital in Aurora.

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