US Representative calls for resignation of VA Secretary Shulkin


"This was time that should have been spent conducting official VA business and not providing personal travel concierge services to Secretary Shulkin and his wife", Inspector General Michael Missal wrote in his 87-page report.

Simpson, Shulkin's chief of staff, pushed for Shulkin to get an award from the Danes, which she thought would allow the secretary's wife, Merle Bari, to join her hubby on the taxpayers' dime.

Shulkin is the only Obama administration holdover in President Donald Trump's cabinet. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned past year after billing taxpayers more than $1 million for military and private flights, and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt this week claimed security concerns force him to stick taxpayers for his first-class travel.

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. VA ethics officials initially declined to approve Bari as an "invitational traveler", so Wright Simpson got involved and falsely stated that Shulkin would be receiving an award while in Denmark, according to the IG report. He did not immediately comment on the report.

In London, the personal activities included excursions to the Churchill War Rooms, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, and Westminster Abbey; a Thames River cruise; and visits to St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London (including the Ceremony of the Keys), the Tower Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe, London Eye, and Windsor Castle. It recommended that the secretary repay the cost of the tickets and reimburse the government for his wife's travel.

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Shulkin improperly accepted the tickets to Wimbledon as a gift, the report said.

When asked previously about the expense of the trip, especially in regards to his wife, and the Wimbledon tickets, Shulkin brushed off concerns as an "entirely inaccurate" report that "reeks of an agenda". The report includes their rebuttal, which says Shulkin's travel was valuable to the mission of the VA, his acceptance of the Wimbledon tickets was not inappropriate and that Shulkin relied on the approval of the VA ethics committee for his wife's travel.

Though investigators determined the trip cost at least $122,334, a lack of accurate documentation means the full cost is unclear. Because Shulkin's team failed to properly document expenses, the investigators couldn't fully assess how much of the spending was misused.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was investigated for use of government aircraft for official trips.

In a response attached to the report, Shulkin said he did nothing improper and he attacked the investigation as containing the "thread of bias".

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Clarke, who oversaw the jail until his retirement last August, was not charged in the matter because he was not directly involved. He said, however, that later charges could be laid against the company contracted by the jail to provide health care to inmates.

In fact, Shulkin pointed out that OIG disregarded that Shulkin met with the Danish Ministry of Health to discuss healthcare implementation and veteran policies.

The trip included a weekend during which Shulkin and his wife did sightseeing. A story by The Washington Post in September sparked the investigation.

The Chairs and Ranking Members of the Veterans Affairs Committees in both chambers issued a joint statement expressing "disappointment" in the reports' findings.

Shulkin lied to ethics officials, telling them "the tennis tickets were provided by a personal friend, Victoria Gosling, an adviser for the Invictus Games, a sporting event for wounded warriors", USA Today's report adds.

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