Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has become the latest Trump cabinet official to be accused of using their publicly funded office for personal gain, following a scorching new report from the VA’s Inspector General.
Citing an “anonymous complaint,” the OIG investigation concluded that an 11-day, $122,334 trip that Shulkin took to Europe was full of personal excursions for himself and his wife—and that official documentation surrounding the trip had been explicitly altered by VA staff in order to accommodate Mrs. Shulkin’s publicly funded participation.
From the OIG report:
After a thorough investigation, OIG’s findings included (1) the Chief of Staff’s alteration of a document and misrepresentations to ethics officials caused Secretary Shulkin’s wife to be approved as an “invitational traveler,” which authorized VA to pay her travel costs (although only airfare was claimed); (2) Secretary Shulkin improperly accepted a gift of Wimbledon tickets and related hospitality; (3) a VA employee’s time was misused as a personal travel concierge to plan tourist activities exceeding that necessary for security arrangements; and (4) travelers’ documentation was inadequate to determine the trip’s full costs to VA.
Shulkin, the sole Obama administration holdover in Trump’s Cabinet, has largely stayed out of the public eye. But several other Cabinet officials have been criticized for their own suspicious travel-related spending. Most recently, EPA Director Scott Pruitt justified tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on first class airplane tickets by explaining, “there’s not much civility in the marketplace.”
Shulkin called the OIG report “entirely inaccurate.”
“It is outrageous that you would portray my wife and me as attempting to take advantage of the government,” Shulkin said in a statement on Wednesday.
In a letter to CNN, lawyers representing Shulkin promised a forthcoming “robust response” to the OIG’s report.