WASHINGTON — In response to the growing scandal of Cabinet officials using pricey private aircraft for business trips, Veterans Affairs officials announced Friday they will post details of all official travel by department Secretary David Shulkin online to provide transparency about his travels.
“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,” Shulkin said in a statement.
The move comes one day after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price announced he would reimburse the government about $52,000 for charter flights made in recent months for government duties, a sum that amounts to only a small portion of the flights’ costs.
The White House announced Friday afternoon that Price resigned.
Reports of Price’s charter flights have prompted congressional investigators to look into travel expenses for all of Trump’s Cabinet.
The VA’s announcement also comes on the same day as a Washington Post article that details a trip Shulkin and his wife took to Europe last summer that included government business but also sightseeing and other non-work activities.
The VA told the Post that the government paid for Shulkin’s wife’s airfare because she was traveling on “approved invitational orders.” The VA added that all of Shulkin’s activities were reviewed and approved by ethics counsel. The couple flew commercial, including at least one leg in coach, according to the Post.
VA officials said Shulkin has not used any private aircraft for travel to date, but will list them on the department’s website if he employs that option in the future.
In addition, the new site will list all use of government aircraft by the secretary, along with itineraries of all official trips. That information will be available within five days of any travel, starting in mid-October.
Shulkin has used government aircraft for transportation six times so far this year. Five of them were aboard Air Force One, accompanying the president to events.
The sixth was a recent trip to the Invictus Games in Toronto, where he traveled with first lady Melania Trump to see wounded U.S. troops and veterans participate in athletic competitions against teams from other countries.
Shulkin has made department transparency one of the key focuses of his department reform efforts. Earlier this year, the department began posting online information on medical center wait times, employee firings and workplace settlements.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.