Public Paid for European Trip for VA Head's Wife: Report

After chief of staff allegedly altered email, made false statements
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2018 1:57 PM CST
Report Cites Suspicious Email in VA Chief's Travel Expenses
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks during a House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing on veteran caregiver support, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Taxpayers footed the bill for the wife of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to go on a 10-day European trip with her husband after his chief of staff altered an email to make it look like he was getting an award from the Danish government. The Washington Post reports that was one of the findings in a report released Wednesday by the VA's Office of the Inspector General. Airfare for Shulkin's wife, Merle Bari, cost taxpayers $4,312, according to CNN. Shulkin's chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, who is also accused of making false statements, says she doesn't recall if she altered the email. In addition, the report found Shulkin accepted an improper gift of Wimbledon tickets during the trip and had a VA program specialist act "as a personal travel concierge," planning vacation activities for him and his wife.

Of the 10-day European trip, less than four days were used for meetings with British and Danish officials; the rest was sightseeing. Despite VA Inspector General Michael Missal finding "serious derelictions by VA personnel," the Justice Department decided not to pursue the allegations. Shulkin calls the report "entirely inaccurate." He says the "investigation reeks of an agenda" and his family and staff were treated with "extreme contempt, bordering on badgering and harassment" by Missal and his staff, Politico reports. Shulkin is the fifth Trump administration Cabinet member to be investigated over travel expenses. (Health Secretary Tom Price resigned after taking expensive charter flights.)

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