Two major veterans’ groups demand Wilkie resign after watchdog report findings

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Two major veterans’ groups on Friday demanded Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie step down following an explosive watchdog report that found he disparaged a congressional aide who said she was sexually assaulted at a VA facility.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) said in a statement it “no longer has confidence that Secretary Wilkie can effectively lead the department” and that the secretary has lost the trust of VA employees following the release of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report.

“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 in a statement.

“Rather than swiftly investigating the sexual assault allegations and focusing on preventing future incidents, Secretary Wilkie and other senior VA leaders took actions to investigate and disparage the veteran who was assaulted.”

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

In a statement Saturday, the VA indicated Wilkie will not resign before the end of the Trump administration next month.

“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.

The rebukes from the advocacy groups come a day after the VA’s inspector general (IG) released a report saying Wilkie disparaged a congressional aide and interfered in the IG’s investigation of the sexual assault claim and lied to investigators.

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 Takano (D-Calif.).

“This analysis is not conclusive, however, because access logging was not activated for the veteran’s VA electronic health record, and military record searches were limited to those accessible by VA personnel directly. Accordingly, the OIG cannot substantiate the allegation that Secretary Wilkie investigated or asked others to investigate the veteran,” the report stated.

Wilkie has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement this week, he addressed claims that he ordered a probe of the alleged victim.

“After nearly a year of investigation, interviews with 65 people and analysis of nearly 1.5 million documents, VA’s inspector general cannot substantiate that I sought to investigate or asked others to investigate the Veteran. That’s because these allegations are false. What’s more, the IG could not identify a single instance in which any VA employee violated any rule, regulation or policy,” Wilkie said.

Updated: Dec. 12 at 10:31 a.m. 

Tags Department of Veterans Affairs Disabled American Veterans government watchdog Mark Takano OIG report Robert Wilkie
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