After the Veterans Affairs inspector general found that VA Secretary David Shulkin and his chief of staff misled ethics officials about a trip to Europe of the summer, Shulkin told USA Today on Wednesday afternoon that he regrets the mistakes made in the process for approving the trip.
The inspector general found that chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson doctored an email to make it seem like Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government during a trip in July in order to obtain government funding for his wife’s plane ticket, which cost more than $4,300. The investigation also found that Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets from someone he met a few times at officials events.
Shulkin told USA Today that he did not intentionally mislead government officials about the trip and tried to shift blame to his staff.
“We act with the highest ethical character,” he said. “I relied upon my staff to do this, and in retrospect, I wish that I had asked more questions.”
He said that he mailed a check to the government to reimburse taxpayers for his wife’s $4,312 airfare and that he will reimburse his acquaintance for the Wimbledon tickets.
Shulkin was previously scheduled to appear before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday morning, and he will likely face questions about the trip.
The VA secretary is just the latest cabinet to face scrutiny for his expensive air travel. This week, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt was forced to defend an expensive first class ticket.