SEVERE WX : Freeze Warning View Alerts

Inspector general: VA Secretary Shulkin's chief of staff altered email for wife's expenses

The chief of staff for Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin altered an email and made false statements to a depar...

Posted: Feb 15, 2018 4:31 AM
Updated: Feb 15, 2018 4:31 AM

The chief of staff for Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin altered an email and made false statements to a department ethics official that led to taxpayers covering expenses for Shulkin's wife on an official trip to Europe last summer, the agency's inspector general said in a report released Wednesday.

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 Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General referred those allegations to the Justice Department, which decided not to prosecute at this time, according to the IG report.

The investigation additionally found that Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon championship tennis match during the trip and deemed inappropriate Shulkin's decision to use a VA staffer to arrange personal activities for himself and his wife during the trip, saying that the aide "effectively acted as a personal travel concierge" for the couple.

The report includes emails from Bari to the aide, in which she directs the aide, James Gough, to arrange visits to tourist attractions.

In one June 2017 email, Bari wrote to Gough: "Is there earlier flight from Copenhagen? Wimbledon tickets? High tea? Roman baths in [B]ath. Would want to do baths not just tour."

Gough's "tourist planning activities were in excess of what was reasonably necessary to perform any official security planning duties," the investigation found.

Shulkin's lawyers said he did nothing wrong, and in a response to VA Inspector General Michael Missal, Shulkin called the portrayal of the trip "overall and entirely inaccurate."

The investigation additionally found that Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon championship tennis match during the trip, directed a VA program specialist to plan leisure activities for himself and his wife during the nine-day trip, saying that the aide "effectively acted as a personal travel concierge" to Shulkin and his wife.

Lawyers representing Shulkin told CNN on Monday that they had submitted a "robust response" to the findings of the review and that Shulkin "has not done anything improper."

In a response to VA's Inspector General Michael Missal dated February 12, 2018, Shulkin called the portrayal of the trip "overall and entirely inaccurate."

"Your staff's conduct related to this investigation reeks of an agenda," he said. "Your portrayal of this trip is overall and entirely inaccurate."

Missal has called on Shulkin to reimburse the money paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs for his wife's travel, as well as the price of the Wimbledon tickets he received as a gift.

Shulkin told investigators that he received the Wimbledon tickets as a gift from Victoria Gosling, the former CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games, who he described as a friend of his wife's. But, according to the report, when Gosling was interviewed, she could not remember Shulkin's wife's name.

"The OIG concludes that Ms. Gosling gave a gift of the Wimbledon tickets because of Secretary Shulkin's official position," the report states.

When President Donald Trump tapped Shulkin to head the VA in January 2017, he described Shulkin as "fantastic" and said he would do a "truly great job." Shulkin was a holdover from President Barack Obama's administration and previously served as the department's undersecretary for health.

A VA spokesman did not immediately respond to CNN's inquiry as to whether Wright Simpson remains on staff.

Other Trump cabinet secretaries have been mired in controversy over travel practices, including: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Tom Price, the former Health and Human Services secretary who resigned under scrutiny last year for his use of chartered planes for business purposes.

In his response to the report, Shulkin, who has been the head of the VA for a little more than a year, characterized the report as a "direct assault on my spouse, my character, and my unblemished record of service to the Veterans Affairs Administration."

He wrote that it was the department that suggested that his wife travel be funded by the VA, citing past practice.

"To clarify once again, I had nothing to do with the process of obtaining approval for my wife's travel or otherwise planning the day-to-day travel arrangements," Shulkin wrote, saying that those tasks were delegated to his staff. "It is outrageous that you would portray my wife and me as attempting to take advantage of the government."

Lafayette
Cloudy
35° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 35°
Kokomo
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 20°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 32°
Lafayette
Cloudy
35° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 35°
Danville
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 32°
Frankfort
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 27°
Frankfort
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 27°
Monticello
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 31°
Monticello
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 31°
Logansport
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 27°
Snow to Two Nights of Freezing...
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 709455

Reported Deaths: 13234
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion967001722
Lake51824946
Allen39279673
Hamilton34580406
St. Joseph34207541
Elkhart27376432
Vanderburgh22091394
Tippecanoe21886212
Porter17952299
Johnson17556374
Hendricks16837310
Clark12705190
Madison12358337
Vigo12226244
Monroe11484166
LaPorte11175204
Delaware10374184
Howard9677211
Kosciusko9152114
Hancock8000139
Bartholomew7896155
Warrick7698155
Floyd7567176
Wayne6910198
Grant6852171
Boone6562100
Morgan6404138
Dubois6086117
Marshall5792109
Dearborn570776
Cass5689102
Henry5582101
Noble542683
Jackson493970
Shelby479895
Lawrence4347118
Gibson429089
Harrison428970
Clinton420253
Montgomery418386
DeKalb412184
Whitley381439
Huntington380180
Miami373265
Knox367089
Steuben366657
Putnam353360
Jasper351346
Wabash347878
Adams338153
Ripley334968
Jefferson313280
White308554
Daviess289699
Wells286681
Decatur279192
Fayette277362
Greene270785
Posey269133
Scott261553
LaGrange254270
Clay253545
Randolph235880
Washington231131
Spencer228031
Jennings225147
Fountain208945
Sullivan207942
Starke205452
Owen192656
Fulton192140
Jay186429
Carroll186120
Perry181036
Orange178053
Rush170824
Vermillion166143
Franklin165635
Tipton161043
Parke144616
Blackford133931
Pike130334
Pulaski114045
Newton104234
Brown100740
Crawford97914
Benton97113
Martin82915
Warren80115
Switzerland7698
Union70110
Ohio56011
Unassigned0408

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events