Veterans Affairs Secretary Shulkin’s chief of staff altered email for wife’s expenses: Report

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Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks about issues regarding the VA, during a luncheon at the National Press Club, on November 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The chief of staff for Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin altered an email and made false statements to a department ethics official that led to taxpayers covering expenses for Shulkin’s wife on an official trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general said in a report released Wednesday.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, Shulkin’s chief of staff, altered language in an email regarding the logistics of the trip that led to the department paying $4,312 in airfare for Shulkin’s wife, Merle Bari, according to the report.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General referred those allegations to the Justice Department, which decided not to prosecute at this time, according to the IG report.

The investigation additionally found that Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon championship tennis match during the trip, directed a VA program specialist to plan leisure activities for himself and his wife during the nine-day trip, saying that the aide “effectively acted as a personal travel concierge” to Shulkin and his wife.

Lawyers representing Shulkin told CNN on Monday that they had submitted a “robust response” to the findings of the review and that Shulkin “has not done anything improper.”

In a response to VA’s Inspector General Michael Missal dated February 12, 2018, Shulkin called the portrayal of the trip “overall and entirely inaccurate.”

“Your staff’s conduct related to this investigation reeks of an agenda,” he said. “Your portrayal of this trip is overall and entirely inaccurate.”