The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it will begin publishing all of the agency secretary’s official travel on its website.
The lists include all official travel taken by Dr. David J. Shulkin since January 20, and the site will be updated within five days after the conclusion of each trip.
The webpage (which will be available at http://www.va.gov/opa/secvatravel) will list the use of private and government aircraft by the Secretary, and also itineraries of international and domestic trips. The details on domestic trips will be added to the website by October 15.
The information posted will also include what VA staff and spouses accompany Shulkin on each trip, if any, but for security reasons, members of the Secretary’s security detail will not be listed by name or number.
Shulkin notes that the VA is the first agency to make this kind of data public. The agency also recently began posting all disciplinary actions taken against agency employees on its website in an effort to spotlight actions the agency is taking to reform its culture.
“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,” Secretary Shulkin said. “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.”
Increased Scrutiny of Agency Officials’ Travels
The announcement from the VA comes right after an article appeared in the Washington Post that was critical of a recent trip that Shulkin took to Europe with several individuals, including his wife, that mixed business and pleasure, the latter part including shopping trips and a Wimbledon tennis match.
The investigation conducted by the Post noted that although all aspects of the trip were approved by the agency, the VA paid for the airfare and meal per diems for Shulkin’s wife. It noted, however, that Shulkin flew on a commercial aircraft with at least one leg of the trip in coach seating.
VA press secretary Curt Cashour told the Post, “These were important trips with our allies to discuss best practices for taking care of veterans. The secretary has been transparent on his down-time activities that were similar to what he would have done with his family over a weekend in the U.S.”
The Post takes at least some credit for the VA now disclosing details about the Secretary’s travel. “In response to questions from the Post, VA announced Friday that the agency will begin posting details of the secretary’s travel online, including itineraries, and disclosing any use of government or private aircraft. That information had not previously been disclosed publicly,” according to the Post article.
The VA’s announcement also comes after news that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came under heavy criticism for trips he took using a private charter jet using taxpayer money. Price has said he will repay the Treasury for costs incurred from the trips and also resigned from his position as HHS Secretary over the situation.