- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Veterans Affairs Committee is pressing Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to release information on the department’s study of sexual harassment of female veterans in the VA health care system.

In a letter to the secretary, the members “applauded” the VA for funding the research, but said the findings need to be more widely disseminated and complained that “there is no accountability regarding facilities that continue to fail to respond to sexual harassment.”

Earlier this month, female veterans told the committee they often feel “invisible” to VA employees, adding they faced a “culture of sexual harassment” at VA campuses, Military.com reported.

The department’s research has shown that about 25% of women have experienced inappropriate or unwanted comments and behavior from male veterans at VA facilities.

A VA representative told The Washington Times that in both 2017 and 2018, “VA had just three Equal Employment Opportunity findings of discrimination involving sexual harassment.”

Although the number of women veterans who use VA facilities has increased, they still only make up about 8% of all VA patients. The overall number of female veterans who utilize one or more VA benefits has increased from 31.2% in 2005 to 41.1% in 2015, according to VA.

The lawmakers have requested that the VA disclose the total collection of data at the local level regarding harassment of veterans and employees alike.

“To change the culture at VA facilities, it’s not enough to simply have sexual harassment training available, this training has to be both mandatory and comprehensive,” said committee Chairman Mark Takano, California Democrat. “VA needs to step up to ensure all of our veterans can receive the care they earned and deserve free from harassment.”

A VA spokesperson told The Times, “VA recognizes that all veterans should feel safe and at home in VA facilities, and that at times women Veterans have experienced harassment by others.”

The spokesperson said the VA wants “Veterans to be aware that VA is taking action so that all Veterans can engage fully in their own health care.”

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