Investigators at The Department of Veterans Affairs are set to rule that VA Secretary David Shulkin violated internal rules when he accepted a gift of tickets to the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament and used taxpayer money to pay for his wife’s flights to attend the event, USA Today reported this afternoon.
The VA Inspector General is due to release the findings of their investigation into the matter this week, but the newspaper got an early look at the results through the detailed rebuttal put together by Shulkin’s legal team that they managed to obtain.
The Inspector General’s report is expected to attack Secretary Shulkin for “taking a possibly unnecessary trip and using a VA employee to arrange his leisure time,” according to the paper. The VA head made the trip over 10 days last July along with his wife and some VA staff, visiting Denmark to meet with local health officials and attending a veterans’ issues summit in London.
“VA Inspector General Michael Missal began investigating the excursion in October after The Washington Post reported the couple spent nearly half of the trip sightseeing,” according to the paper.
Shulkin’s attorneys are denying all of the Inspector General’s findings, including the charges that “the trip may not have qualified as “essential travel” under a cost-saving directive Shulkin himself issued to VA leaders just weeks before his trip,” that the VA should not have approved and paid for Shulkin’s wife’s airfare, that Shulkin lied when he claimed that the Wimbledon tickets were a gift from a personal friend, and that he improperly instructed VA personnel to arrange for personal sightseeing excursions.
In their rebuttal, Shulkin’s lawyers assert that the report from the Inspector General “improperly applies the relevant regulations, at times mischaracterizing them. And it imposes subjective and arbitrary criteria for evaluating the propriety of the Secretary’s actions.” They further claim that the report demonstrates a “fundamental lack of understanding of the Secretary’s work and the VA’s mission.”
Expect further developments in this story once the Inspector General’s findings are officially released.