On April 14, 2021, VA Secretary Denis McDonough held a virtual ceremony to underscore his zero tolerance for gender-based harassment or sexual assault in VA facilities. At the ceremony, McDonough and VA senior leaders, including Army combat Veteran Chief of Staff Tanya Bradsher, affirmed their commitment to the White Ribbon VA pledge.

Hundreds of VA and Veterans Service Organization (VSO) leaders, and their senior leadership teams from across the country, joined the virtual ceremony. McDonough reflected on President Biden’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month Proclamation. The President said, “Little can destroy institutional trust faster and more painfully than sexual assault or sexual harassment.”

Secretary McDonough has made it clear since assuming his role that all VA staff, patients, families, caregivers, survivors, visitors and advocates must feel safe in a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. He told the virtual audience, “This is about excellence in leadership. Expecting, preserving and perpetuating the highest standards of ethical and professional leadership.”

As a show of unity and commitment, McDonough asked the audience to raise their right hands and take the White Ribbon VA pledge along with him:  “I, (state your name), pledge to never commit, excuse or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence against others.”

The pledge is more than words. It must be the example – the standard we all abide by.

Join us in taking the White Ribbon VA pledge and document your commitment at: https://www.whiteribbonusa.org/whiteribbon-va-pledge.


Lelia Jackson is a senior strategist in VA’s Assault and Harassment Prevention Office.

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4 Comments

  1. Truthy McTruthteller May 18, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    It isn’t just sexual assault it is also a culture of bullying and nastiness that has been permitted to fester and been incubated in the warmth of cronyism and nepotism. Whistleblowers have been targeted for calling out poor care of veterans and colleagues or even standing up for themselves. Some VAs are worse than others. There needs to be widescale investigation, start with the VAs who are not performing well. Independent taskforces need to be brought into each VA and start at the bottom and work up to the top. Bob McDonald’s plans to get rid of the rot of management was never seen through after he was replaced with the incompetents that followed him. They used those rules to fire janitors instead – guess what – that didn’t lead to substantial change. Listen to the whistleblowers. Contact staff who have left to the private sector in the past 3 years and ask them – why did you really leave? You will find your answers.

  2. A Fitch April 21, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Me Secretary, I’m calling you out on your pledge. I am a veteran and a former employee of a VA hospital. I was assaulted by a patient at that hospital, an incident that was witnessed by a coworker. The civilian administration went out of their way to hide info that could have helped me. I already deal with PTSD due to MST, a condition worsened by the trauma at the hospital. The administrative staff thought the best way to handle the situation was to avoid me and give me no help. I Even reached out to the HR department, that promptly threatened me with termination. The difficulty I faced daily became too much and I finally quit. So you can have all the pledges and pretty words you want, it needs nothing. I can attest to the fact that vA leadership works harder at covering things up than helping people.

  3. Charles H Gonzalez April 20, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    Where is my claims at. I filed BWN claim almost tow years ago and Sam thing with my breathing claim. The VetrransAffairs don’t give a damn about their veterans. Filing a claim should never take almost two years. Come on Mr. Secretary of The VIA. Start processing claims faster or hire new people. Maybe you need replace with someone whom cats about their Veterans.

  4. Sherry Blosch April 20, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    I hope it will be truly honored and it holds true. Sexual assault or harassment has lasting memories or should we say PTSD and It prevents you from being who you were ment to be. I hope we can really realize this and help those effected.

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