VA head changed records to hide travel boondoggle, report alleges

VA head changed records to hide travel boondoggle, report alleges

Shulkin was previously scheduled to appear before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday morning, and he will likely face questions about the trip. I accept responsibility for that.

The report found that the VA chief of staff altered an email to make it seem to ethics staff like Mr. Shulkin would be getting an award in Denmark during part of the trip, thereby qualifying his wife for about $4,000 in airfare at the agency's expense.

The report centered on an official, 10-day trip Shulkin, his wife and a small staff took to Europe last summer, which included full days of leisure activities and cost taxpayers at least $122,000. Only Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a frequent critic of the department's woes in constructing a hospital in his district, has called for Shulkin's resignation.

Following the report's release yesterday morning, Shulkin has said that he would follow the inspector general's recommendations - which included asking the department's counsel to review whether administrative punishment is appropriate, and suggested that Shulkin reimburse the VA for the cost of his wife's travel, and the improperly accepted favors. Ms. Wright Simpson initially asked staff to request the department ethics office designate Dr. Bari as an "invitational traveler", which would lead the VA to cover her travel expenses.

Shulkin said he did nothing wrong and said the investigation had a "thread of bias", adding that the report was "a direct assault" on his wife, character, and his "unblemished record of service" to the VA, as Shulkin put it.

When question by investigators, however, the woman who provided the tickets was unable to state Shulkin's wife's first name.

The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general referred Wright Simpson's behavior to the Justice Department, as Missal said her actions could have violated federal criminal statutes. We believe that public officials must be held to a higher standard, and whether intentional or not, misusing taxpayer dollars is unacceptable. Investigators also found another of Shulkin's aides "effectively acted as a personal travel concierge", spending many hours arranging tourist activities for Shulkin and his wife, rather than conducting official VA business.

"The investigation revealed serious derelictions" by Shulkin and his staff, said the report, which cited "poor judgment and/or misconduct".

Prior to the Shulkins' trip, Simpson allegedly sent emails to one of Shulkin's aides, James Gough, who was communicating with European veterans officials at the time, asking for Gough to confirm whether their boss would be receiving the award.

Shulkin was the latest member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet to come under fire for travel practices. In September, Health and Human Secretary Tom Price resigned over his use of private jets.

Shulkin also said he will pay the department back for the travel costs incurred previous year.

In London, Shulkin said he participated in a summit on veterans issues including "post-traumatic disorder, rates of suicide and homelessness among veterans, barriers to mental health care, alternative therapies, veteran-centric approaches to the provision of services, and early intervention".

The IG recommended that Shulkin reimburse the VA for his wife's airfare, repay the cost of the Wimbledon tickets to Gosling or pay the same amount to the U.S. Treasury.

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