Inspector: 'Serious Derelictions' By VA Secretary Related To Overseas Travel

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Shulkin is among five current or former Cabinet members under President Donald Trump who have come under investigation by their agencies' inspectors general over taxpayer-funded travel.

The VA inspector general found Shulkin improperly accepted gifts to a Wimbledon tennis match in July for himself and his wife, Merle Bari, and spent much of a 10-day, official trip sightseeing - excursions planned by a VA employee working on official time. They attended an global summit in London that focused on veterans' issues and had meetings in Copenhagen.

"Although the [inspector general's office] can not determine the value VA gained from the Secretary and his delegation's three and a half days of meetings in Copenhagen and London at a cost of at least $122,334, the investigation revealed serious derelictions by VA personnel, " the watchdog concluded.

"Your staff's conduct related to this investigation reeks of an agenda", Shulkin wrote.

Meanwhile, Shulkin had said the Wimbledon tickets were from a personal friend, but he had only met Gosling three times at official events, according to the report. Shulkin aggressively dismissed those concerns, accusing the newspaper of "poor reporting".

Others, including the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees, have said Shulkin needs to "fully address" the inspector general's findings.

"We believe that public officials must be held to a higher standard, and whether intentional or not, misusing taxpayer dollars is unacceptable", the joint statement said.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, the VA's third-most senior official, doctored language in an email from another aide who was planning the trip to make it look like Shulkin was getting an award from the Danish government.

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Other problems the IG report cited with the trip included directing misuse of a subordinate's official time and false statements made by the VA to the media about the trip.

"The report takes issue with several matters for which VA ethics approval had been obtained, with which I had no involvement", Shulkin said, adding that he had compiled his own rebuttal that he urged those interested to read. When she was approached a second time about altering the email, Simpson said, 'I responded appropriately to the email'.

Health Secretary Tom Price resigned last September after an uproar over his use of private charter planes for government business.

According to the report, Vivieca Wright Simpson altered the text of an email to make it sound as if Shulkin was being honored at the USA ambassador's residence in Copenhagen.

During the trip, Shulkin is said to improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets as a gift, as well as gone on a tour of England's Westminster Abbey and Denmark's Rosenborg Castle, and taken a cruise on the Thames.

Shulkin issued a statement Wednesday that was posted to the VA website but taken down after about an hour.

The report found the 11-day trip cost more than $122,000 in taxpayer dollars and was misrepresented to ethics lawyers when Shulkin returned to the U.S. Zinke and Pruitt are being investigated by their respective department's inspector general for their trips, which they said were pre-approved by ethics officials.

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".

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