Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie over his handling of sexual assault allegations at a VA facility lodged by a women veteran.
“The Secretary of the VA is responsible for the veterans in his care, and they should be his first concern — not his own political wellbeing,” Sherrill said. “Secretary Wilkie should resign immediately.”
Sherrill’s call follows an investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General that found Wilke and other senior staff at the VA disparaged Andrea Goldstein, the senior policy aide to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) who claimed she was assaulted at Washington’s VA hospital.
”Secretary Wilkie and other VA officials privately disparaged the veteran, with the Secretary referring to her as ‘the Takano staffer whose glamor shot was in the New York Times,’” the inspector general’s report said. “The tone set by Secretary Wilkie was at minimum unprofessional and at worst provided the basis for senior officials to put out information to national reporters to question the credibility and background of the veteran who filed the sexual assault complaint.”
The report found Wilkie claimed Goldstein made similar claims in the past to other senior VA officials despite denying doing so to investigators.
It also found agency officials attempted to shift the focus of national reporters to Goldstein instead of her alleged assault and otherwise questioned the congressional staffer’s credibility.
“One of the very first things I did when I got to Congress was write to Secretary Wilkie, urging him to take immediate action to ensure VA medical facilities equitably serve women veterans and to address the reports of sexual harassment at the VA,” said Sherrill, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “After two years of work to raise the level of care women veterans receive, the Inspector General’s report and the Secretary’s behavior are extremely disturbing.”