The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General was asked to review the response of facility leaders at a certain VA health location when there had been allegations of sexual harassment of a mental health patient. Specifically, the patient claimed to have been harassed via social media by a food service worker and reported this to several people, including a supervisor and an HR specialist. No one, it appeared, had done much of anything, and the patient was increasingly stressed and anxious.
It was only after the patient was admitted to a mental health ward that a nurse reported it to the VA’s police, with the social media posts as proof. Too little, too late. The people who should have intervened tried to weasel out of responsibility during the investigation by saying they didn’t think they could take any action because the social media posts were done after working hours and off-site. Later, when someone else called for a welfare check at the patient’s home, the police found the patient dead by suicide.
Sexual harassment becomes sexual assault when it’s hands-on, and a VA physician was indicted on just that: sexual assault of at least four women during routine exams while working at a VA hospital. Authorities suspect there were additional women who were assaulted and ask that they come forward to add to the investigation. The doctor, meanwhile, has been assigned to a job with no patient interaction.
If this isn’t bad enough, consider the VA employee who was sending out child pornography — over the public Wi-Fi at a VA medical center. Not only did the perp send it out, but he had a collection at home, and the children involved were under the age of 12. Distribution could get him up to 20 years in prison, and the possession could get him an identical amount of time, including possible fines of up to $250,000 for each charge.
If you suspect wrongdoing at the VA, submit a complaint via the VA OIG Hotline at www.va.gov/oig/hotline or call them at 800-488-8244.
Freddy Groves – (c) 2023 King Features Synd., Inc.