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Pelosi calls on Wilkie to resign from VA after watchdog report findings

Pelosi calls on Wilkie to resign from VA after watchdog report findings
© Bonnie Cash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (D-Calif.) called on Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert WilkieRobert WilkieBiden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Two headstones with swastikas removed from Texas veterans cemetery MORE to resign following the release of a watchdog report revealing he disparaged a congressional aide who said she was sexually assaulted at a VA facility.

“The VA Inspector General report makes clear that Secretary Wilkie engaged in an extremely disturbing cover-up campaign of sexual assault against a veteran. Secretary Wilkie has not only been derelict in his duty to combat sexual harassment, but has been complicit in the continuation of a VA culture that tolerates this epidemic," she said. "He has lost the trust and confidence to serve, and he must immediately resign.

“This case and the misconduct that followed are part of a broader, well-documented crisis of violence against women who serve,” Pelosi added. “It is a profound injustice that any patriot with the courage to defend our nation has had to experience having their voices silenced and their integrity questioned.” 

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The remarks from the speaker mark the most significant in a small but growing chorus of voices calling for Wilkie’s ouster. 

The rebuke comes after the VA’s inspector general (IG) found that not only did Wilkie disparage the aide, but that visits to the medical center where the aide was allegedly assaulted "increased pressure on the VA police and risked interfering with or introducing bias to the criminal investigation had it not been transferred to the independent OIG."

The report also said the IG could not confirm accusations that Wilkie had directed VA officials to investigate the alleged victim, an aide to Rep. Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoUS tensions with China risk fueling anti-Asian harassment at home Democrats rush to Biden's defense on border surge K Street navigates virtual inauguration week MORE (D-Calif.).

Two top veterans’ advocacy groups called for Wilkie to resign following the report, with Disabled American Veterans (DAV) saying in a statement it “no longer has confidence that Secretary Wilkie can effectively lead the department.” 

“DAV does not take this action lightly; but it is clear, based on the troubling findings and conclusions of the recent VA OIG report, that Secretary Wilkie’s personal actions in response to a reported incident of sexual assault at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center, breached the trust of those whom he is beholden to honor and serve,” the group said. 

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Jan Brown, the national commander of American Veterans, another top group, later said her group “supports DAV's call to remove VA Secretary Wilkie.”

Wilkie has maintained he did nothing wrong regarding the complaint or the IG investigation. The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding Pelosi’s comments, but did say in response to the advocacy groups’ calls for his resignation that Wilkie intends to serve as VA chief until the end of the Trump administration. 

"Secretary Wilkie has led VA to achieve landmark improvements in Veterans’ trust, quality of care and employee satisfaction. He will continue to lead the department, including its historic response to the COVID-19 pandemic," the department said in a statement to The Hill.