February 17, 2018 / 1:17 AM / 5 months ago

U.S. veterans affairs official to retire after report on travel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chief of staff to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, named in a report that found “serious derelictions” in a visit to Europe by Shulkin, will retire, the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin arrives to testify to the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on the VA's budget request for FY2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The agency said in a statement that it had opened a formal investigation into actions by chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson that were detailed in a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general.

The report, released on Wednesday, said Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament during a government trip to Europe last summer and that his chief of staff made false statements and altered an email so the government would pay travel expenses for Shulkin’s wife.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin testifies to the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on the VA's budget request for FY2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“VA will continue to review the IG report and its recommendations in more detail before determining possible additional personnel accountability actions,” it said in Friday’s statement.

The inspector general opened the investigation after receiving an anonymous complaint accusing Shulkin of misusing travel funds because the trip to Europe, which cost at least $122,344, was more personal than business.

Shulkin criticized the findings in an addendum to the report, saying, “It does not appear accurate or objective, and it contains a thread of bias.”

He told USA Today in an interview on Wednesday that he was moving to comply with the inspector general’s recommendations, including reimbursing the government for his wife’s $4,312 airfare and paying his British friend for the Wimbledon tickets.

Several other members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet have come under fire for travel practices. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned in September after an uproar over his use of costly private charter planes for government business.

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham

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