A call center employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been accused of using his post to gather information of a female patient and then stalk her, often with intimidation. A group of Washington lawmakers demand answers.
Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA) leads of group of 50 House members who sent a letter Thursday to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, saying they are "deeply concerned about the sexual harassment of women veterans and employees at the department."
The group wrote that the VA should implement the streamlined, centralized place reporting place for such harassments—which has been passed by recent legislation.
The victim in this case from February said she called both local and VA police, but the ease of filing a complaint was not that easy.
"The lack of consistent policies has led to deeply troubling incidences of sexual harassment, including a recent incident in Massachusetts where a woman veteran was intimidated and sexually harassed by a supervisor from the VA's National Call Center," the lawmakers wrote.
"Using personal information that he improperly collected from her VA medical records, this VA supervisor called the female veteran," the group said, adding that the supervisor "commented on her appearance, asked about sexual preferences, and made abhorrent, threatening remarks while urinating on camera."
The string of events allegedly began in February as the female victim called the VA about a claim. The employee who took the call reached out to her on her personal mobile number. He allegedly spewed false information about her VA claim, and he also made comments about some of her online photos, according to the letter. While on the phone, he questioned her relationship status and then offered to drive her home "to keep her company."
Once she refused, the call-center employee brought up his issues with PTSD, and told her about the guns at his home.
The victim called both local and VA police, to which they responded by saying she would need to report this to the call center employee's boss or physically go to the police station to file a formal complaint.
...The VA has stated that the accused employee no longer works there, according to a statement from Terrence Hayes, the VA press secretary.
"VA takes all allegations of discrimination, harassment and assault extremely seriously," Hayes said. "The Veterans Benefits Administration launched an immediate investigation upon reporting of the incident. And while the accused is no longer a VA employee, the investigation continues."
The VA has been in hot water for other sexual misconduct allegations, most recently in the last couple of years. In 2020, lawmakers demanded then-VA secretary Robert Wilkie to resign after mishandling a complaint. In that complaint, a congressional staffer visited the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and Wilkie questioned the woman's credibility.
The inspector general's office at the VA said Wilkie was "unprofessional" by questioning the woman's character in that instance.
Original story here.