Thursday, 22 February, 2018

IG: Shulkin's chief of staff altered email for wife's expenses

School shooting indiscriminate killed students and staffers VA Secretary In The Hot Seat For European Pleasure Trips And Lying To Media
Nicole Thomas | 15 February, 2018, 15:29

Colorado Republican Mike Coffman said that as a veteran, he is "deeply offended".

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.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, Shulkin's chief of staff, altered language in an email regarding the logistics of the trip that led to the department paying $4,312 in airfare for Shulkin's wife, Merle Bari, according to the report.

The report by VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal says Shulkin and his wife spent nine days in Europe, but business meetings only accounted for 3 days. "After closely reviewing the IG report, and the findings that VA Secretary Shulkin and his staff misled ethics officials and lied to investigators, I have concluded that it is time for him to step down".

Missal wrote that his office's investigation into the trip overseas had uncovered 'serious derelections by VA personnel, ' while noting that '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'.

Shulkin said will consult with the agency's general counsel and reimburse the costs for his wife's airfare and the Wimbledon tickets if advised to do so.

Shulkin tasked a "VA Program Specialist" subordinate "to work with Dr. Bari to plan personal activities for the Secretary and Dr. Bari during the trip".

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, also the target of an inspector general's probe, faced growing scrutiny after the Washington Post reported on Monday that he had racked up about $90,000 in first-class, private and military jet travel. "We're counting on Dr. Shulkin to actively address all of the allegations outlined in this report".

Shulkin, 58, took office as the 9th Veterans Affairs secretary exactly one year ago Wednesday. The report also cited incidents involving Shulkin accepting Wimbledon tickets, and directing a VA employee to coordinate leisure activities on the trip.

In September, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after he racked up $400,000 in bills for charter flights.

No award was actually given to Shulkin during the trip to Denmark. Its report said federal ethics rules prohibit the "acceptance of any gift given because of the employee's official position", or if it comes from a "prohibited source".

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

The inspector general said that "since Ms. Wright Simpson's false representations and adjustment of an official record may have violated federal criminal statutes", it referred the matter to the Justice Department, which decided not to prosecute.

The Office of the Inspector General was unable to determine how much time the aide dedicated to the unofficial tasks, but determined that the communications uncovered during the investigation showed that it was substantial. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife have been targets of investigation - along with mockery - over their actions and excessive trips.

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