Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has created an official government web page where the VA will post the his official travel and use of both private and government aircraft, in an effort to be more transparent.
So far, the VA reports that Shulkin has not used private aircraft to date, and shows that the secretary has taken four trips on Air Force One, out of six trips taken on military aircraft since January. The VA is also posting itineraries – including one from his recent trip to Europe, which lists official meetings and several sight-seeing events.
This comes after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned last week following controversy over several trips using private charter and military jets that were fronted by taxpayer dollars, upwards of $1 million worth. The White House later issued a reminder to officials that “government-owned, rented, leased or chartered aircraft should not be used for travel by government employees, except with specific justification.”
Shulkin said in a press release: “Under this Administration, VA is committed to becoming the most transparent organization in government, and I’m pleased to take another step in that direction with this move. Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know about my official travel as Secretary, and posting this information online for all to see will do just that.”
The site lists all of Shulkin’s travel since Jan. 20, and will reportedly be updated within five business days of an official trip. The site includes:
- Use of private aircraft by the Secretary (none to date);
- Use of government aircraft by the Secretary;
- Itineraries (key events) of official international trips by the Secretary; and,
- Itineraries (key events) of official domestic trips by the Secretary (to be added by Oct. 15).
The Washington Post reported last week on Shulkin’s itinerary it had obtained from a 10-day trip to Europe, which included official meetings and also listed Grand Slam tennis tournament Wimbledon, a tour of Westminster Abbey and a cruise on the Thames, among other things.
The Post had also reported that the federal government paid for the flights for Shulkin and his wife, and also provided a per diem reimbursement for meals and other expenses.
“The federal government paid for the flights for Shulkin and his wife, Merle Bari, and provided a per-diem reimbursement for their meals and other expenses, VA said Friday. An agency spokesman did not respond to questions about why Bari qualified for the reimbursements and taxpayer-funded airfare, other than to say she was traveling on ‘approved invitational orders’ and had ‘temporary duty’ travel expenses,” the Post reported. “The agency also did not respond to questions about the cost of the flights and the total reimbursement. If Bari took the full per diem every day of the trip, she could have been reimbursed as much as $3,600 under federal guidelines.”