Pelosi joins calls for VA secretary’s ouster

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday joined veterans groups in calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie after an inspector general’s report detailed his mishandling of a congressional aide’s sexual assault allegation.

“Secretary Wilkie has not only been derelict in his duty to combat sexual harassment, but he has been complicit in the continuation of a VA culture that tolerates this epidemic,” Pelosi said in a statement. “He has lost the trust and confidence to serve, and he must immediately resign.”

An investigation by the Veterans Affairs’ inspector general on Thursday found that Wilkie tried to discredit a veteran and staffer for House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano after she alleged in Sept. 2019 that she was sexually assaulted by a man at a VA medical center in Washington, D.C.

The inspector general stated that Wilkie and senior VA officials, while ignoring problems at the facility, “engaged in confrontational messaging” as they tried to discredit the veteran’s credibility and characterize her allegations as “unsubstantiated.”

“The tone set by Secretary Wilkie was at minimum unprofessional and at worst provided the basis for senior officials to put out information to national reporters to question the credibility and background of the veteran who filed the sexual assault complaint,” Inspector General Michael Missal concluded in his report.

However, the inspector general said while statements reported to have been made by Wilkie were “unprofessional and disparaging,” they did not violate the law or any department policy.

Wilkie responded to the report, saying the the VA takes all allegations of sexual assault seriously and claims made against him were “false.”

Numerous veterans groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America, called for Wilkie’s ouster after the release of the report.

President-elect Joe Biden nominated former Obama White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Thursday to succeed Wilkie at the VA.

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