Great Britain

Trump's health chief 'asked taxpayers to foot £35,000 bill for stolen jewellery'

A health chief appointed by Donald Trump tried to get taxpayers to reimburse her for stolen jewellery, clothing and other possessions, including a £4,500 Ivanka Trump-brand pendant, it’s been claimed.

The items were stolen from Seema Verma’s luggage during a work-related trip, according to documents obtained by website Politico.

Ms Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), filed a $47,000 (£35,700) claim for lost property last August after her bags were stolen as she was giving a speech in San Francisco.

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The property was not insured, she wrote in her claim to the Health and Human Services department, which administers the Medicare scheme.

The department ultimately paid her $2,852.40 (£2,170), a spokesperson told Politico.

Ms Verma’s claim included $43,065 for about two dozen pieces of jewellery, based on a valuation she received from a jeweller three weeks after the theft.

Among the items was an Ivanka Trump-brand pendant, made of gold, prasiolite (green quartz) and diamonds, which the jeweller valued at $5,900, according to the documents.

The claim also included about $2,000 for clothes and another $2,000 for other goods, including $325 for moisturiser and $349 for noise-cancelling headphones.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said the department had a long-standing policy of paying for certain goods lost during a work trip so long as they “are not inherently for other uses”, which is why Ms Verma was partially reimbursed.

“When paying for such goods, the department pays a discounted rate based on age for the items that were lost,” the spokesperson said. “It’s perfectly appropriate that the administrator filed a personal property loss claim for goods stolen while on work travel, and this is not an unusual practice for federal employees.”

But the department is expressly barred from reimbursing staff for lost items such as jewellery, the spokesperson said.

The health agency Ms Verma has led for two years administers Medicare, America’s health insurance scheme for pensioners; Medicaid, for low-income Americans, and Obamacare, among other schemes.

Her spending of taxpayer money has been under scrutiny by the department’s inspector general, after Politico reported in March on her extensive use of outside public relations consultants.

Politico said it confirmed the documents’ authenticity with multiple sources.

A CMS spokesperson told Politico that Ms Verma, from Indiana, was one of three members of staff whose luggage was stolen, and departmental lawyers instructed them to file detailed claims for all missing items, including Ms Verma’s jewellery.

“At her own expense, the administrator travels to Washington, DC, from Indiana each week to work at CMS, which was why she was travelling with her personal collection of jewellery,” the spokesperson said.

She was in San Francisco on a trip that included a speaking engagement and had been approved by the ethics counsel, the spokesperson said.

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