Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s troubles are far from over.
Although Shulkin wants to move past the controversy over his use of taxpayer’s money to partially fund a European trip last summer and recent revelations of a power struggle within the department, the drama over the leadership at the department rages on.
Shulkin has reimbursed the VA and U.S. Treasury for his wife’s travel after a VA Office of Inspector General investigation found he and his staff misused taxpayer money and a senior staff member deliberately altered an email to justify that the department should pay for the travel. He initially called the report inaccurate, but in recent weeks expressed regret that the controversy was a distraction from his main mission to fix the troubled VA system.
But that’s not enough for Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., who called for Shulkin’s registration after the release of the inspector general report, and this week renewed his call for Shulkin to resign.
In a letter (PDF) to President Donald Trump, Coffman accused Shulkin deliberately misleading government ethics officials and then lying to investigators to cover up the abuse of taxpayer money and government resources. Coffman said Shulkin “lacks the moral authority to lead the VA.”
“When the leader of a department is seen as willing to violate or stretch the rules to personal advantage, the example set is unacceptable,” Coffman wrote. “Inevitably, employees throughout the VA will consider the example set by Secretary Shulkin as a ‘green light’ to avoid accountability, to take opportunities for personal enrichment, or other violations of laws, regulations, and their duties.”
Coffman asked Trump to remove Shulkin from his duties and appoint a replacement who is a “true outsider to the VA’s bureaucracy.”
Although he is the only lawmaker to seek Shulkin's removal from office, others have expressed concern over the negative press, reported CNN. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., described the reports of “chaos” at the highest levels of VA as a “huge disservice to millions of veterans across the country who deserve a department that is fully focused on serving their needs."
That chaos includes a recent revelation that two top staffers for Shulkin asked a senior aide to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to convince legislators to contact the White House and remove Shulkin.
But Shulkin still seems to have the support of the White House as well as major veterans’ groups, who praised the work he has done to decrease waiting times for care and expand veteran access to mental healthcare.