Ousted Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin said Thursday that the White House didn’t allow him to respond to allegations that he misused taxpayer dollars, but he actually responded three times.
Shulkin improperly used government money to bankroll a trip to Europe for him and his wife and also improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets, according to the VA’s inspector general (IG). The report was one of a number of likely reasons Shulkin was fired from his position Wednesday.
Shulkin said the White House did not let him respond to the report.
“This was completely mischaracterized,” Shulkin told NPR Thursday. “There was nothing improper about this trip, and I was not allowed to put up an official statement or to even respond to this by the White House. I think this was really just being used in a political context to try to make sure that I wasn’t as effective as a leader moving forward.”
But February’s IG report actually contains three responses from him: two from lawyers representing Shulkin and one from the then-secretary himself.
The “report does not appear accurate or objective, and it contains the thread of bias,” he wrote to IG Michael Missal. “A report of this nature is a direct assault on my spouse, my character and my unblemished record of service to the Veterans Affairs Administration.”
“The current draft report … ignores critical facts, improperly applies the relevant regulations and draws conclusions based on subjective and arbitrary criteria,” Shulkin continued, adding that he conducted official business on the trip.
Nearly half of the 10-day trip was spent vacationing, according to the IG report.
Meanwhile, a Monday IG report showed that a VA subagency Shulkin previously ran didn’t conduct background checks on thousands of medical personnel and didn’t review more than 10,000 completed investigations within the required 90 days.
Shulkin also pointed out that the report was leaked to the media before he “had an opportunity to respond.” But the initial USA TODAY report that received the leaked information included Shulkin’s response to the IG.
The IG report also included statements from lawyers representing Shulkin, including a 16-page letter from MoloLamken lawyer Justin V. Shur.
“The draft report cannot be published in its current form,” Shur wrote to Missal. “It ignores critical facts, presenting a one-sided version of events that casts aside evidence contradicting your chosen narrative.”
Shur provided arguments that the European trip was “immensely valuable to the VA,” that “Shulkin did not improperly accept Wimbledon tickets,” and that ethics officials approved Shulkin’s wife’s travel.
Shulkin’s chief of staff allegedly made false representations to a VA ethics official, according to the IG.
“[U]nder applicable ethics regulations, Secretary Shulkin’s acceptance of Wimbledon tickets was proper,” Miller & Chevalier lawyer Andrew D. Herman said in his statement to the watchdog. The IG “does not establish that Secretary Shulkin received an improper gift.”
The IG report also included a statement from Victoria Gosling — who gave Shulkin the Wimbledon tickets and defended the then-secretary — as well as a response from deputy secretary Thomas Bowman.
The VA did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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