Shulkin says he has reimbursed government for wife’s travel expenses

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Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin said he has reimbursed the government for travel expenses for his wife after the VA inspector general found Shulkin’s chief of staff attempted to cover up the expenses.

Shulkin told USA Today that he mailed a $4,312 check to the government Wednesday to cover the cost of his wife’s airfare and said he would reimburse Victoria Gosling, an adviser for the Invictus Games, for Wimbledon tickets he received.

He told the newspaper “there was never anything intentional” to covering up the expenses.

“We act with the highest ethical character,” Shulkin said. “I relied upon my staff to do this, and in retrospect, I wish that I had asked more questions.”

Shulkin’s remarks follow a scathing VA inspector general report released earlier Wednesday that found his chief of staff, Viveca Wright Simpson, made changes to an official email to get approval for taxpayer funding for Shulkin’s wife’s flights.

The report also found Shulkin misused government resources by accepting the Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife when he took a trip to Europe last year that overall cost at least $122,000.

According to the report, Wright Simpson changed the text of an email to make it appear Shulkin was going to be honored at a special dinner during the trip, thus necessitating his wife’s travel.

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.

In the interview with USA Today, Shulkin denied any involvement with Wright Simpson’s actions. He also said he did not realize Gosling did not meet the legal bar for personal friendship.

“I believe that I relied upon the processes that are there, you know what every Cabinet secretary has to rely upon their staff to do this work,” Shulkin said. “And in retrospect I wish that I had asked more questions.”

Shulkin’s interview comes after lengthy rebuttals from him and his lawyers that were included in the inspector general report.

In a letter to the inspector general, Shulkin wrote that the report “draws conclusions based on subjective and arbitrary criteria.”

“It is outrageous that you would portray my wife and me as attempting to take advantage of the government,” Shulkin wrote.

At least one lawmaker, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), has called for Shulkin’s resignation after the release of the report.

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.

Updated at 4:42 p.m.

Tags David Shulkin David Shulkin Mike Coffman VA

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