VA watchdog to say Shulkin improperly used taxpayers' dollars: report

VA watchdog to say Shulkin improperly used taxpayers' dollars: report
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The Department of Veterans Affairs will find that VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinOvernight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Former VA chief Shulkin: 'Chaos' probably a 'pretty accurate term' to describe Trump White House Veterans group sues to block advisers known as ‘Mar-a-Lago Crowd’ from influencing VA MORE acted improperly when he spent taxpayer dollars on his wife’s flights and accepted tickets to Wimbledon during a European trip last summer, USA Today reported Monday.

USA Today obtained a copy of Shulkin’s lawyers’ rebuttal to the inspector general’s report, which is set to be released later this week.

The attorneys called the watchdog report unfair and inaccurate.

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“The draft report ignores critical facts, presenting a one-sided version of events that casts aside evidence contradicting your chosen narrative,” the lawyers wrote, according to USA Today.

The VA inspector general's office declined to comment to USA Today.

The investigation was opened into the agency head after The Washington Post reported last year that Shulkin and his wife had gone shopping and sightseeing while he was in Europe for a conference in London and meetings in Denmark.

Shulkin’s wife’s airfare was paid for by the government and she also received a per diem for meals during the trip. A VA spokesperson told the Post at the time that the cost of her flights was covered because she was traveling on “approved invitational orders.”

The document authored by Shulkin's attorneys reveals that inspectors found that his wife’s airfare shouldn’t have been approved by ethics officials or paid for by the VA.

And the report also found that the couple might have improperly accepted tickets to Wimbledon from an individual who may not have been a personal friend.

A strategic adviser to the Invictus Games UK, Victoria Gosling, had given the couple the tickets. She had said in an affidavit that she considers the Shulkins friends, but couldn’t remember Shulkin’s wife’s name when asked by investigators.

“The investigators unexpectedly called me on my mobile phone whilst I was driving on a very busy highway,” Gosling wrote. “Given the nature of the interview, I felt flustered and could not remember Merle’s name.”

The couple had stayed in Europe for four days between the end of the conference in London and before the meetings in Denmark. Shulkin's lawyers claim that it would have been more expensive for the couple to fly back and forth between the two events.

However, the VA investigators found that the Shulkins' trip might not have been considered “essential travel” according to a rule implemented by Shulkin weeks before the trip. The report also finds that the secretary improperly had agency staff arrange sight-seeing trips for the couple.

Shulkin's legal team dismisses the findings in the rebuttal, calling it “beyond obvious” that the trip counted as "essential travel."

They said the findings show a “fundamental lack of understanding of the Secretary’s work and the VA’s mission.”