Following the release of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, the die seems to be cast for a major shakeup at Veterans affairs.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, the last holdover from the Obama administration that President Trump chose to keep on his cabinet, is facing a variety of issues that the President promised to rid Washington of.
Shulkin previously served as VA’s undersecretary for Health since 2015 and was chosen for the nomination just days before Trump took office. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
With several choices declining the position, it has been known from the beginning of Trump’s administration that Shulkin was not the President’s first choice. Part of Shulkin’s job as VA Secretary is to oversee the largest healthcare system in the nation. The VA has more than 1,000 outpatient sites and 170 hospitals that serve more than nine million veterans annually.
At the heart of the Secretary’s problems are a much-publicized mistreatment of a 75-year-old veteran and purposeful mismanagement of VA funds for personal use.
Representative Mike Coffman (Rep – CO) of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, wasted no time in calling for Shulkin’s resignation. Coffman said that the IOG charges of mismanagement reflect a systemic “culture of corruption” in the VA system. Marine Corps and Army veteran tweeted, “It’s exactly corruption and abuses like this that doesn’t help our veterans.”
Both charges point back to Secretary Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright who is also a holdover from the Obama administration. Wright altered emails and other official documents about the arrest of Vietnam Veteran, Robert Rosebrock, apparently with Secretary Shulkin’s full knowledge.
Rosebrock was arrested for placing a flag on a fence at a VA facility in southern California. Judicial Watch obtained records that show that Wright and others in Shulkin’s inner circle lied to him about the Federal case charging Rosebrock with placing a small American flag on the fence surrounding the VA facility and taking “unauthorized” photographs of both the Flag and VA police.
Judicial Watch represented Rosebrock, who faced up to six months in jail for the offense of honoring those who served their country.
Wright went out of her way to change the narrative about Rosebrock’s arrest including altering emails and directly lying about crucial details of the case. Over a month before the trial Secretary Shulkin’s staff manufactured official emails that indicated the veteran chose to go to court rather than pay a fine and that he faced no jail time.
Only a short time after that report came out Department of Veterans Affairs OIG reported another violation tied this time to not only Wright but her boss, Secretary David Shulkin.
Wright doctored the VA travel system to make unethical use of taxpayer funds to finance the Secretary’s travel to London and Copenhagen.
Shulkin did need to travel to Europe for VA business but inquired of Wright if his wife Merle Bari could travel with him at taxpayer expense. When Wright discussed that question with the VA ethics she found that Bari must be in some official capacity or be accompanying her husband as he received some award. Sulkin’s chief of staff then made false documents for an award that he knew he had not been granted.
Shulkin told the House Veterans Affairs Committee this past week that he has agreed to reimburse the government for the airfare and the tickets, but he has no intention of stepping down. He told USA Today:“I
am committed to continuing the work that I came here to do, which is to support the president’s agenda to reform the VA and fix the VA the way that veterans deserve, the care and services they’ve earned.”
A source within the White House reports that President Trump is targeting VA Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman as a “warning shot” to Shulkin that Trump’s patience for seeing real reform at the VA is growing thin.
Democrats and Republicans on the Veterans Affairs Committees of the House and Senate are now urging that the IG’s report be referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges.
With his summons to the White House by Chief of Staff John Kelly, it is obvious that Shuklin is in big trouble. Kelly has no intention of letting his performance come into question again as it did in the uproar over spousal abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter.
~ Freedom News Report