Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) issued the following statement on the VA Inspector General’s investigation of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie:
“I am speechless that Secretary Wilkie, and his staff, would work to discredit a woman veteran for reporting an assault while seeking care at a VA facility. An attack like this is clearly beneath the office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, which is entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of ensuring that all veterans receive the care they have earned. The prevalence of sexual assault at VA facilities, and the deterrence it creates for veterans seeking care, is a stain on our nation. That a Secretary of the VA would seek to undermine someone for reporting an assault is a disturbing and potent reminder of the deeply rooted culture that must change. While I am not surprised President Trump turned his back on this problem, I look forward to working with President-Elect Biden and his VA Secretary to address this issue.”
In September 2019, Andrea Goldstein, a Navy veteran and policy advisor to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Women Veterans Task Force, was at a VA medical care facility in Washington, DC when she was sexually harassed and assaulted. After reporting the assault, news reports of Secretary Wilkie’s multiple efforts to discredit her story broke in the media and, subsequently the VA Inspector General launched an investigation to look into the Secretary’s conduct.
As Chairwoman of the Women Veterans Task Force, Brownley has worked to ensure a safe environment for everyone at VA facilities. The culmination of the task force’s work was the Deborah Sampson Act, landmark legislation which will take bold steps toward achieving gender equity in access to VA benefits and address needs specific to women veterans. Included in the legislation is a provision authored by Brownley to direct VA to establish a comprehensive policy to end harassment and sexual assault, including sexual harassment and gender-based harassment, throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Last night, the U.S. Senate passed the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D., Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 (H.R. 7105), which included this language. Ironically, this is the same legislation that Andrea Goldstein was carrying with her on the date she was assaulted at the Washington, DC VA Medical Center.