Veterans Affairs Secretary, Staff Misled Ethics Officials About Taxpayer-Funded Europe Trip


Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal said in a report that Simpson tried to push for her boss to get an award from the Danish government, which would then allow Shulkin's wife, Merle Bari, to join him on his 10-day trip overseas - leaving American taxpayers footing her bills, the New York Post reported. Shulkin has denied any wrongdoing. "This was time that should have been spent conducting official VA business and not for providing personal travel concierge services to Secretary Shulkin and his wife".

The report found Shulkin misused government resources by accepting Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife as gifts when he took a trip to Europe last summer. He also said that Shulkin's chief of staff misrepresented details about the trip, going so far as to alter an e-mail, in order to allow taxpayers to pay for Shulkin's wife's expenses. A VA spokesman, Curt Cashour, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Wright Simpson.

In a statement initially published on the VA's site, Shulkin said he had "done nothing wrong". The DOJ decided not to prosecute at that time, according to the OIG report.

The members of Congress in charge of the committees that oversee the department - Senators Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Jon Tester of Montana, and Representatives Phil Roe of Tennessee and Tim Walz of Minnesota - issued a joint statement expressing disappointment at the allegations detailed in the report.

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

He has also previously told the Washington Post that he had purchased the Wimbledon tickets. The gift was neither reviewed nor approved by the ethics counsel, although the secretary told reporters that it had been, the report said. The IG said it ultimately concluded that the information it obtained was "insufficient to accurately describe his [Shulkin] or his wife's relationship with Ms. Gosling [the provider of the tickets]".

"Secretary Shulkin must immediately address the allegations in this report", said Kuster, the lead Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Missal also recommended that Shulkin reimburse Victoria Gosling, the former CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games, for the Wimbledon tickets she provided to Shulkin and Bari.

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An 11-member VA delegation, including Bari and six members of Shulkin's security detail, traveled to England and Denmark last July, at a total VA cost of at least $122,334, according to the report.

While the trip did include the Ministerial Summit on Veterans' Affairs in London and meetings with Danish officials, a large portion of the time was spent on leisure.

"The report is neither accurate nor objective", he said. VA paid more than $4,300 for her airfare.

Shulkin's lawyers reacted earlier this week to the impending release of the inspector general's report, writing a letter to the inspector general that was quoted by CNN: "The draft report ignores critical facts, presenting a one-sided version of events that casts aside evidence contradicting your chosen narrative".

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Army veteran and retired Marine Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) tweeted Wednesday that, 'It's exactly corruption and abuses like this that doesn't help our veterans, ' adding that Shulkin 'must RESIGN now'.