In 2019, Andrea Goldstein, a reserve Navy intelligence officer was working to investigate and reduce sexual assault and harassment at VA facilities. She was at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for a hearing, with the text of a proposed bill to address the issue in her purse, when she was assaulted. A man slammed into her, rubbed his body against hers, and told her that she looked like she “could use a good time.” Not only did Goldstein reported the incident to a number of people on site, there were also witnesses. But she had to report what had happened to her own doctor before police were called.
On Thursday, the Inspector General for Veteran’s Affairs issued a scathing report on actions by VA secretary Robert Wilkie, saying, “The tone set by Secretary Wilkie was at minimum unprofessional and at worst provided the basis for VA leaders’ attempts to undermine the veteran’s credibility.” Not only did Wilkie compound the attack on Goldstein, he ordered his assistants not to cooperate with the investigation.
And now the most powerful veterans groups are joining Nancy Pelosi to demand that Wilkie be removed from the VA.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued an especially strong statement on Saturday morning.
“The VA Inspector General report makes clear that Secretary Wilkie engaged in an extremely disturbing cover-up campaign of sexual assault against a veteran. Secretary Wilkie has not only been derelict in his duty to combat sexual harassment, but has been complicit in the continuation of a VA culture that tolerates this epidemic. He has lost the trust and confidence to serve, and he must immediately resign.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, Pelosi was joined by the biggest veterans organizations in the country, including the American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America. In fact, all of the “big six” veterans groups are in agreement that Wilkie has to go, and the statements from these groups could not be more blunt.
“Based on the troubling findings and conclusions of the recent VA OIG report, that Secretary Wilkie’s personal actions in response to a reported incident of sexual assault at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center, breached the trust of those whom he is beholden to honor and serve. Rather than swiftly investigating the sexual assault allegations and focusing on preventing future incidents, Secretary Wilkie and other senior VA leaders took actions to investigate and disparage the veteran who was assaulted.” —Disabled American Veterans
AMVETS has supported the call from the DAV.
Even if the inspector general’s report did not find Wilkie definitively guilty of working to smear Goldstein and confuse the issues around her assault, it found that Wilkie’s failure to cooperate made it impossible to determine the truth. Meanwhile, a statement from one of Wilkie’s assistants made it clear he had no intention of resigning, while providing a response that—like Donald Trump talking about the Mueller investigation—complains about the number of people interviewed and the amount of documentation examined, rather than addressing the issue.
As The New York Times reported in September, women veterans often praise the level of care they are given in VA facilities, while describing a frustrating and terrifying situation in which male veterans and staff members engage in sexual harassments and assault without consequences. It was exactly this situation that brought Goldstein into the Washington facility, where she was assaulted by a contractor who had been the subject of previous complaints.