Republican Calls on VA Secretary David Shulkin to Resign over Ethics Complaint

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Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) called on Veterans Affairs Secretary David Sulkin to resign Wednesday over a new inspector general’s report that found Shulkin spent taxpayer funds on his wife’s travel to Europe last summer, and that his staff misled an ethics inquiry.

Shulkin is the only Obama administration holdover in President Donald Trump’s cabinet.

Coffman, who serves on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, tweeted:

The Washington Post details the allegations against Shulkin and his staff:

Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general has found.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most-senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government, then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael J. Missal said in a report released Wednesday. VA paid more than $4,300 for her airfare.

The account of how the government paid travel expenses for the secretary’s wife is one finding in an unsparing investigation that concluded that Shulkin and his staff misled agency ethics officials and the public about key details of the trip. Shulkin also improperly accepted a gift of sought-after tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match, the investigation found, and directed an aide coordinating the trip to act as what the report called a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife.

The inspector general’s report also indicated that it was unclear what benefit the VA had gained from the London and Copenhagen portions of the trip.

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.” Shulkin himself wrote to the inspector general that the trip was indeed valuable for the VA and that the report “draws conclusions based on subjective and arbitrary criteria,” The Hill reports.

The inspector general’s report recommends that Shulkin reimburse the department for the unnecessary travel costs, and reimburse an overseas acquaintance for the cost of the Wimbledon tickets. It also proposes auditing travel costs within the department.

Mismanagement within the VA was a chronic problem under the Obama administration — one that Trump promised to fix.

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

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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