VA's Shulkin Now In Trouble Over Shopping Binges: Reports

In this photo taken April 27, 2017, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is seen at the Veterans Affairs Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
In this photo taken April 27, 2017, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is seen at the Veterans Affairs Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, already embroiled in controversy over his travel expenses and locked in a feud with Trump administration political appointees, now has another problem that could cost him his job -- shopping binges.

The office of VA Inspector General Michael Missal has been asked to investigate a complaint from a member of Shulkin's round-the-clock security detail that he had to accompany Shulkin on a shopping trip to Home Depot and later lug the furniture Shulkin bought into his home, the Associated Press reported.

Shulkin's office did not immediately respond to the shopping charge, but the AP and other news outlets reported that the White House was feeling out Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, to take over from Shulkin at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last month, Missal issued a scathing report charging that Shulkin wrongly charged the $4,132 airfare for his wife on a trip to Denmark and London last July, and also accepted free tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Missal also charged that Shulkin used an aide as his "personal concierge" during the trip.

Shulkin at first denied the charges but later accepted responsibility and agreed to reimburse the government.

Then last week, Missal issued another damning report charging that "serious leadership failures" resulted in conditions at the Washington, D.C., Medical Center, a flagship hospital in the VA's system, that put patients at risk.

In the midst of the controversies, Shulkin has complained that he is the victim of "subversion" from within the VA and at the White House organized by Trump administration political appointees who see him as an obstacle to expansion of the choice program allowing veterans to opt for private health care.

Shulkin has insisted that he still has the support of Trump, and the White House thus far has backed him in public.

Major Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) have also expressed their support, but those Shulkin has accused of undermining him remain in place at the VA and the White House, and reform of the Choice program was still bogged down in Congress.

In a bid to show he was in control and committed to revamping the VA, Shulkin last week announced a top-to-bottom management overhaul of the agency beginning with the ouster of three regional directors in charge of hospitals and clinics in 12 states serving three million vets.

"We can do better and we have to do better" throughout the entire VA health care system of 170 hospitals and more than 1,100 clinics, Shulkin said at a news conference. "It is time for this organization to do business differently."

Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com

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