Hoyer calls on VA Secretary Wilkie to resign after watchdog report
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Sunday called on Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to resign after a watchdog report revealed he disparaged a congressional aide who reported being sexually assaulted at a VA facility.
Hoyer followed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others in requesting Wilkie step down as secretary after the VA’s inspector general (IG) determined that Wilkie disparaged the aide, who works for Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), in a report released Thursday.
“There is an epidemic of harassment and violence against women who serve, and Secretary Wilkie has a duty to all Americans to work to address it,” Hoyer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Inspector General’s report makes clear that Secretary Wilkie attacked the integrity of a victim of sexual assault and engaged in a cover-up that contributes to this crisis.”
The House majority leader said Wilkie “ought to resign immediately.”
“He has lost all credibility, and he has no place leading the Department of Veterans Affairs,” he said.
“No service member or veteran – and no woman – should have to endure a culture of sexual harassment and violence,” he added. “House Democrats will continue to stand with all women to end this scourge once and for all.”
Hoyer’s demand for Wilkie to resign echoes Pelosi’s Saturday statement, in which she called the secretary out for engaging “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.
The IG report that sparked the calls for Wilkie’s resignation also determined that visits to the medical center where the aide said she was 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 watchdog report said the inspector general could not confirm allegations that the secretary instructed officials to look into the aide to Takano.
Two advocacy organizations, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and American Veterans, called on Wilkie to step down after the report’s release.
Wilkie has said he did nothing wrong in reacting to the veteran’s complaint or the IG probe.
The Department of Veterans Affairs responded to Hoyer’s comments with a statement previously sent to The Hill after the two groups requested the secretary resign.
“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.