The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs is charged with care and services for ALL who have "borne the battle" in service to our nation. Back in 2018, we raised concerns about Robert Wilkie's background of discriminatory conduct and policies at the time of his confirmation. This week, the VA's own Inspector General released a report showing that he and VA senior staff deliberately targeted a Navy veteran (who hails from New York, no less!) who reported that she was sexually assaulted on her visit to the VA Medical Center in Washington, DC. Wilkie, Acting Deputy Secretary Pam Powers, senior public affairs staff, and even Congressman Dan Crenshaw were named in the report as focused on smearing the reputation of this Navy veteran rather than actually addressing the environment of harassment at that facility that many other women veterans had already made known to VA leadership.
Secretary Wilkie and his team of senior officials have placed politics and "good PR" above the basic needs of the veterans they are charged with serving. They would rather an assaulted veteran have her credibility and reputation trashed in national media than to ensure ALL veterans can access care in facilities free of harassment and violence. Veterans tell us they must walk "the gauntlet" of harassment at VA facilities here in New York, and we know this continues to be a problem around the country. Harassment and assault must end at all VA facilities. This requires leadership to be committed to the solution--not part of the problem.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was created to provide support to all who served our great nation and should reflect the broad assembly of men and women who have sacrificed so much for us all. Secretary Wilkie and any leader involved in this malfeasance are not a reflection of the values and moral courage that our veteran community embodies and is unfit to lead the agency tasked with their care.
In protection of and solidarity with the veterans we serve who must suffer not one more instance of harassment, assault, or reprisal for reporting wrongdoing--we call on Secretary Wilkie, Acting Deputy Secretary Powers, and all staff involved in these attacks on this Navy veteran to RESIGN.