Highlights of the VA Report on David Shulkin's Trip to Europe

VA chief David Shulkin misused taxpayer money to fly wife to Europe: report

The details of the report from the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General drew quick reaction in Congress, where one GOP lawmaker, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), wasted little time in demanding Shulkin's resignation. They attended an worldwide summit in London that focused on veterans' issues and had meetings in Copenhagen.

Shulkin improperly accepted free tickets to Wimbledon.

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.

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.

According to the OIG report, Shulkin's chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, altered an email she received from a staff member before forwarding it to the VA's ethics office.

Wednesday's report describes how Shulkin's own "chief of staff" altered an email from an aide, to make it appear "that Secretary Shulkin would be receiving an award" in Denmark, so his wife's $4,300 airline ticket would be paid by the USA government.

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"Personal conveniences" added more than $15,000 to the cost of the trip, including last-minute flight changes to avoid longer layovers and a flight change so that Shulkin and his wife could attend Wimbledon with expensive tickets gifted to them by Victoria Gosling, a United Kingdom woman involved in several sports governing bodies, the inspector general found.

But when the inspector general interviewed Gosling about the issue, she was unable to remember Bari's first name. Shulkin said the tickets were a gift to the couple from his wife's friend but federal ethics rules prohibit the acceptance of a gift because of an employee's official position. The investigation found Shulkin treated the aide coordinating the trip as though they were a "personal travel concierge" to him and his wife.

David Shulkin and his wife Merle Bari.

In addition, documentation was "inadequate to assess the accuracy and appropriateness of the trip costs". The VA said the two flew commercially, and the taxpayers covered her airfare as part of "temporary duty" travel expenses. Investigators also determined that the nine-day, mid-July trip, which cost taxpayers $122,300, involved only 3 1/2 days of meetings, and VA workers arranged numerous sight-seeing activities in Copenhagen and London for the Shulkins. For the London trip, planned tourist 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), Tower Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe, London Eye, and Windsor Castle.

"This was time that should have been spent conducting official VA business", the inspector wrote in the 84-page report. This time it's the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, a troubled agency that Trump campaigned on improving to ensure veterans' needs were the top priority. "Ms. Wright Simpson's false representations and adjustment of an official record may have violated federal criminal statutes", the report said, adding that the inspector general had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

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