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Blumenthal Statement on Inspector General Report on Senior VA Officials' Response to Veteran's Sexual Assault Allegations

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Veterans Committee, released the following statement in response to a report issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Senior VA Officials’ Response to a Veteran’s Sexual Assault Allegations:

“The VA top management implicated in this report should resign or be removed right away – holding accountable leaders responsible for this abuse. This Inspector General report is deeply disturbing – and for thousands of women veterans, not at all surprising. For women who work at the VA or seek care there, Andrea Goldstein’s experience is all too familiar. Flagrant disregard for an epidemic of misogyny, harassment, and assault clearly infected the most senior staff at the VA, including Secretary Wilkie. Failing to confront this crisis of sexual or gender harassment is bad enough – actively working to undermine a survivor seeking simple accountability is despicable beyond words.”

“The VA is long overdue for a reckoning on these issues – our recently passed legislation takes a good first step by mandating an anti-harassment and anti-sexual assault policy at the VA and requiring staff to implement it. Our bill will also make much needed investments in expanding health services and resources for survivors of domestic violence, Military Sexual Trauma, sexual harassment and assault. I look forward to working with new leadership at the VA to repair the damage that Secretary Wilkie and President Trump have inflicted on VA and veterans – especially women, LGBTQ+, and minority veterans – over the past 4 years.”

Yesterday, the Senate approved the Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act, which included several provisions based on the Deborah Sampson Act to address the medical care of women veterans, including:

  • Expanding Military Sexual Trauma (MST) counseling at VA to former members of the National Guard or Reserve, who currently only receive such counseling if they are current members of the Guard or Reserve, and allowing VA to treat physical health conditions arising from MST, not just mental health conditions;
  • Expanding the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans’ mandate to include examining the effect of intimate partner violence on women veterans;
  • Requiring VA to create an anti-harassment and anti-sexual assault policy and designate points of contact at various levels of VA, including each facility, to receive reports of harassment;
  • Creating a pilot program to care for survivors of intimate partner violence, including establishing local intimate partner violence coordinators who can work with former servicemembers and local community partners;
  • Requiring a baseline study on the prevalence of intimate partner violence amongst veterans and the creation of a task force, in consultation with HHS and the Attorney General, to develop a national program to address intimate partner violence and sexual assault amongst veterans; and
  • Requiring VA to study the barriers women veterans face when accessing care and benefits from VA by conducting a survey of women veterans and requiring relevant VA officials to review such survey and submit the results and any recommendations for administrative or legislative actions to Congress.