The chief of staff for Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin retired Friday amid accusations that she was involved in a travel scandal involving the secretary’s wife.
Shulkin is the fifth Trump Cabinet member to face ethics probes related to travel costs, but it looks like a black woman—Vivieca Wright Simpson—is out.
The BBC reports that the VA’s inspector general, Michael Missal, accused Wright Simpson, the chief of staff, of faking emails so that airfares to Europe for the secretary’s wife, Merle Bari, would be paid for with public money.
In a report dated Feb. 12, Missal recommended that Wright Simpson be disciplined for the tickets, worth about $4,300, and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
According to the Military Times, the IG report says that the “false representations and alteration of an official record may have violated federal criminal statutes.”
At issue is the allegation that Wright Simpson changed an email to make it appear that her boss and his wife had been officially invited to Europe for an honorary dinner in Denmark when they had not. However, Wright Simpson maintains that a “special recognition dinner” did take place.
After disputing the charges, and two days after the report, Wright Simpson, the third-most-senior official at the VA, which has a $182 billion budget and more than 340,000 employees, retired after 32 years with the agency.
“She called me this morning and told me she doesn’t want to be in this environment anymore,” Shulkin told the Military Times.
The MT reports that Wright Simpson had been a target of critics within the VA for not jumping to implement a host of reforms proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration.
“President Trump has made clear that he expects VA leaders to hold themselves and other employees accountable when they fail to live up to the high standards taxpayers and veterans deserve,” VA spokesman Curt Cashour said in an email to CNBC.
Secretary Shulkin is one of the few Obama holdovers in the current administration. Shulkin, for his part, says that the IG report is “entirely inaccurate” but has reimbursed the government for his wife’s airfare.
Some members of Congress have called on Shulkin to resign. Shulkin says he ain’t going nowhere.
“Your staff’s conduct related to this investigation reeks of an agenda,” he said of the inspector general.
Wright Simpson’s page on the VA website has already been taken down.