Vivieca Wright Simpson, chief of staff to VA Secretary David Shulkin, stepped down Friday.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, chief of staff to VA Secretary David Shulkin, stepped down Friday. Veterans Affairs photo

Ready, Set, Retire
What's Next for Government Data
Smart Cities: Beyond the Buzz
Third-Ranking VA Official Steps Down Over Altered Travel Records

Investigators said Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s chief of staff altered an email to obtain ethics officer’s approval for covering his wife’s travel costs.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, the embattled chief of staff to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, told colleagues Friday morning that she is retiring, USA Today reported. Shulkin’s most senior adviser had come under fire for  “false representations” to a VA ethics official and altering an official record during the course of arranging taxpayer-funded travel for Shulkin and his wife last summer.

According to an inspector general report released Wednesday, Wright Simpson doctored an email from a colleague to make it seem as if Shulkin would be receiving an award during a visit to Copenhagen, Denmark. She then forwarded the doctored email to an ethics official as justification for paying for Shulkin’s wife’s travel, and the ethics official signed off.

The department paid more than $4,000 for that airline ticket, an expense the ethics official told the IG she would not have approved without the doctored email. The IG referred the matter to the Justice Department, which declined to prosecute.

Wright Simpson was Shulkin’s senior-most adviser and served 32 years at the department, according to her official bio.

After initially denying any wrongdoing, Shulkin told lawmakers on Thursday he had reimbursed the government for the cost of his wife’s travel and for tickets to a tennis match the IG said he improperly received as a gift.