The Office of Inspector General (OIG) received an anonymous complaint alleging that Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and other senior leaders misused VA funds by taking an official July 2017 trip to Europe for more personal than official activities. Secretary Shulkin traveled with a group that included senior VA leaders, his wife, and a six-member security detail. The 11-day trip included two extensive travel days and three-and-a-half days of official events—with a cost to VA of at least $122,334. The VA delegation had a day-and-a-half of meetings with Danish veterans’ healthcare officials and experts in Copenhagen and attended the Ministerial Summit on Veterans’ Affairs in London. Secretary Shulkin stated that he also worked on VA matters when there were no official functions. The group’s schedule, however, included significant time for preplanned tourist activities by Secretary Shulkin, his wife, and others on the delegation. 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. The OIG did not assess the value of the trip to VA or determine whether the Europe travel, as conducted, was “essential,” per VA policy. The OIG made five recommendations to ensure reimbursement to VA by the travelers of all unallowable expenses incurred; redress of any VA employee misconduct; and retraining of VA personnel on ethics and travel policy matters.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
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Office of the Secretary
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