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Veterans Groups Call for VA Secretary’s Firing

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie holds a briefing at the White House, November 8, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The six largest veterans groups in the U.S. joined together on Wednesday in calling for the ousting of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie over a report that found he mishandled a congressional aide’s claim that she was sexually assaulted at a VA facility.

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America sent a letter to the White House saying Wilkie “must be held accountable” for the actions detailed in the report.

“This is a tremendous breach of trust among veterans and Secretary Wilkie must be held accountable,” they wrote. “His actions not only threaten to deter veterans from seeking care at VA, but also undermine the efforts of VA staff who have been working to bring an end to sexual harassment throughout the department.” 

“Sexual assault and harassment have no place in the VA or our society as a whole,” the groups added. “As the Secretary has refused to take responsibility for his documented wrongdoing in this matter, we, the leaders of the undersigned veterans service organizations, call on you to take further action by immediately removing him from office.” 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) have also called for Wilkie’s resignation after the VA inspector general found that Wilkie had looked to discredit Andrea Goldstein, who in September 2019 accused a man at a Washington, D.C. VA facility of sexually assaulting her.

The report said Wilkie’s rhetoric about Goldstein being a repeat complainer and the tone he took toward her allegations led staff to spread negative information about her.

The medical center where the alleged assault occurred “increased pressure on the VA police and risked interfering with or introducing bias to the criminal investigation had it not been transferred to the independent OIG.”

The investigation did not conclude if Wilkie had violated government policies or laws as Wilkie and other senior VA officials did not cooperate with the probe.

“Secretary Wilkie has led VA to achieve landmark improvements in Veterans’ trust, quality of care and employee satisfaction,” the VA told The Hill. “He will continue to lead the department, including its historic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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