VA Secretary faces calls to resign on Capitol Hill after travel expense report

VA Secretary faces calls to resign on Capitol Hill after travel expense report

Last Updated Feb 14, 2018 6:39 PM EST

WASHINGTON — In a 97-page report released Wednesday, the VA’s inspector general outlined “a number of serious derelictions” by VA Secretary David Shulkin in his travel expenses. The reports said Shulkin made “misleading statements,” “improperly accepted wimbledon tickets” and turned an aide into a “personal travel concierge” to plan “high tea” and “Roman baths” at the request of Shulkin’s wife, a Philadelphia dermatologist.

“It was done on our dollar, no taxpayer dollars,” Shulkin said in defense of his 10-day European trip.   

Painting a very different picture than the visit Shulkin described to “CBS This Morning” in November.

“It was a business trip,” Shulkin said. “We did the business. That was always our top priority.”

Wednesday’s report describes how Shulkin’s own “chief of staff” altered an email from an aide, to make it appear “that Secretary Shulkin would be receiving an award” in Denmark, so his wife’s $4,300 airline ticket would be paid by the U.S. government.

Colorado Republican Mike Coffman said that as a veteran, he is “deeply offended.” Coffman, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is calling on Shulkin to step down.
“Certainly people make mistakes, but when people aren’t honest about coming forward and admitting that they made a mistake and they try to cover it up, that’s not a mistake,” Coffman said. 

Shulkin’s official statement changed dramatically as the day progressed. At 12:11 p.m., he said in a statement posted to the VA’s website saying the report’s claims were a “direct assault” on his character and on his wife, and that he had done “nothing wrong.”

By 4:11 p.m., the VA had deleted that statement, which CBS News retrieved with an Internet history tool, and simply said, “Accountability and transparency are important values at VA under President Trump, and we look forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations in more detail before determining an appropriate response.”

Shulkin is one of five Trump Cabinet members whose travel practices have been scrutinized by agency watchdogs.

Even Republicans were surprised to learn this week that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt exclusively flies first class.

“Regardless of what Cabinet people can do or not do, I think they ought to ride like I do in the back of the bus,” said Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. 

Pruitt insists the pricey tickets are not his choice, the decision was made by security personnel. As for Shulkin, he first released a statement calling Wednesday’s report an attack on his character. But that statement has since been removed from the VA website

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