White House still reviewing IG report on VA secretary

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that the Trump administration continues to review a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general that found that Secretary David Shulkin misused taxpayer funds during a trip to Europe.

“Secretary Shulkin has repaid, I know, several thousand dollars toward some of the travel costs of the trip that was in question, and we’re continuing to focus on a lot of the great work that’s taking place at the VA while that’s still under review,” Sanders told reporters

Sanders opened her press briefing, at which Shulkin did not appear to be in attendance, by declaring that “transforming the department of Veterans Affairs has been one of the President’s top priorities,” and adding that “accountability is being restored.”

She introduced two service members whom she said she met at a recent trip to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, saying that one of the reasons they were at the briefing was to put “extra encouragement” on Shulkin “to make sure we’re doing everything we can for veterans.”

“Secretary Shulkin has done a great job as I’ve laid out several of the things that have happened and one of the reasons these guys are here is to continue pushing to make sure that we improve the VA system and to continue to put extra encouragement on the VA secretary to make sure we’re doing everything we can for veterans,” she said.

Sanders, however, declined to comment on whether Shulkin’s conduct was consistent with the standards that President Donald Trump holds for the VA.

The latest comment from the White House comes as the VA has been rocked by the IG report and Shulkin’s belief that Trump administration political appointees, including a top aide, have been working toward his ouster.

VA Inspector General Michael Missal released a report last month that found that Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements during preparations for a July 2017 Europe trip that led to the department paying for Shulkin’s wife, Merle Bari, to travel with him on the 10-day trip to Denmark and England.

The report also found that Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match and directed a VA staffer to act to what Missal described as a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife.

Shulkin has maintained that he did nothing wrong, and that he regrets that the travel scrutiny has taken away from the focus of his agency.