Washington, DC – On Friday, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) introduced the Stop Harassment and Sexual Assault at VA Act, legislation urgently needed to implement a department-wide policy to stop harassment and sexual assault that too often occurs at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities throughout the country.
“Since I launched the Women Veterans Task Force in March, I have continuously heard concerns from veterans about the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault at VA facilities. Shockingly, studies show that at least one in four women veterans experience sexual and gender-based harassment at VA facilities,” said Congresswoman Brownley.
“Most recently, we learned about a case in California, where a VA doctor was convicted of sexually assaulting five patients. Two weeks ago, a member of my own staff was recently assaulted at the VA in Washington, DC while waiting for her appointment.
“Earlier this year, I urged VA to address this urgent problem. However, it has become abundantly clear that VA’s internal policies are wholly inadequate and ineffective. Today, I introduced legislation to implement a department-wide policy to stop this epidemic of rampant harassment and sexual assault at VA facilities throughout our country.
“For far too long, women veterans have been treated as an invisible minority and their concerns have not been heard. I want to say to them: we see you, we hear you, and we are working hard to ensure that you have safe, welcoming, and unfettered access to the benefits that you have rightfully earned.”
The Stop Harassment and Sexual Assault at VA Act will require that VA has in place a department-wide policy and mandatory annual training for employees to ensure that veterans, public visitors, and employees are free from harassment and sexual assault at VA facilities.
The bill will ensure that VA takes action to respond to harassment and sexual assault when it occurs. It will ensure that VA employees and contractors report instances of harassment or sexual assault that they witness at facilities so these instances can be properly addressed. It will ensure that there are designated points-of-contact at each VA facility to receive these reports.
This bill will also require that VA provide Congress with an annual report on harassment and sexual assault of veterans and other public visitors that occur at VA facilities.
Lastly, the bill will ensure that veterans and other VA beneficiaries receive critical information and education on harassment and sexual assault, including how to report instances of these acts.
Read the full text of the bill here.