The following letter from VA Secretary Denis McDonough is VA’s annual distribution about anti-harassment and sexual assault.

The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes that Veterans are a diverse group who served and sacrificed on behalf of this great Nation. We all have a responsibility to ensure every Veteran who receives treatment, benefits, or services at a VA facility is treated with dignity and respect.

VA is committed to ensuring our community is safe, welcoming, and a place that is free of harassment for all Veterans, their caregivers, volunteers, visitors, and employees. We thank you for honoring all those you encounter in any VA facility by treating them with dignity and respect, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, language, physical or mental disability, socioeconomic status, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

VA has a zero-tolerance policy for harassing, disruptive, abusive, or violent behavior. Harassment and sexual assault, including sexual harassment and gender-based harassment, is inappropriate conduct and will not be tolerated. Reports of inappropriate conduct are taken seriously. VA will investigate and take action, if warranted, to hold the person engaging in such conduct accountable for their actions. If the offender is a Veteran, such conduct may result in the Veteran being restricted as to the manner and location at which they can receive treatment.

Experiencing or exposure to harassment can impact us all. When harassment is observed and not reported, it can embolden the harasser to continue the inappropriate conduct and make the experiencer feel unsafe, disrespected, and unwelcome. VA strongly encourages those who witness harassment to support their fellow Veterans by reporting it.

If you have been harassed, sexually harassed, or sexually assaulted or witnessed such behavior at any VA facility contact the VA Police or a VA Management Official. To make a confidential report of sexual assault against any individual or if a non-employee wants to report sexual harassment contact the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Hotline at 1-800-488-8244.

Veterans can find more information on VA’s zero-tolerance harassment policy, reporting procedures, resources, and training opportunities within the VA Anti-Harassment and Anti-Sexual Assault brochure.

Thank you for your service to our Nation and support for your fellow Veterans.

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19 Comments

  1. HT riding cattle cars in Philly December 7, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    It never stops. We received a 5 point preference in the late 1980s since women were not allowed in combat. They were recently added to the tenders. They gave it to everyone to make it equal. In 2012, they took it away. I was told that in order to get it back I needed to see combat. I was not allowed in combat by Congress but some days on the ship felt like a fight for my life. No grandfather clause given. When I went to get a new job, my application was kicked back saying I was not 5 points yet I had used it 2 years prior. How can they take that away? So if you think your benefits will stay, think again. We are not even called what we should be which is Cold War Vets. They call us from the 80s era Post Vietnam Vets but that ended in 1975. We did not get the same benefits either so call us what we really are. That time playing Cold War games with Russia was stressful. I went to file a claim, twice once at the county level and once at the site level. I was asked why am I doing it now. The years of built up harassments, i was grabbing my chair trying not to use it with white knuckles. In one of those I had my Vet daughter with me and she asked what the hell was that about. In the other was my Vet spouse and he was wondering what was going on. He didn’t like the way I was treated. I am trying again. It is just so hard to keep digging all that up. In Nov 2019, I went in really sick. It was a weird kind of illness like the flu but with added symptoms such as headache, dizziness, heart racing at times, to name a few. . My lungs were a mess. It hurt to breathe. I went to patient care, it was like a resort. I was waiting for a drink to be served. The guys were getting awesome care. The NP listened to me, didn’t try to push drugs on me like they did in women’s health with a broken toe. Same question here why a broken toe in women’s health. You would think it is for other services. We are rolled into one bundle for everything if you go that route. If your thinking it was to see a women doctor, you can question that. Patient care sent me to get an xray. The NP said she would call me about results. She could hear how bad my cough was. She commented I was almost borderline pneumonia. I waited over a week, no call ever came. They sent my xray to women’s health. You know the place tucked away on the 4th floor that no one ever sees. They didn’t see me but their diagnosis said there was nothing wrong. My lungs are still messed up. I am trying now to get my claim updated. We shall see what happens since I posted something here. We would like to be positive that things would change but if active duty is still having issues with items like harassments (like a Capt. of a carrier calling a young servicewoman a ho) then what makes you think the Vets will get it any better.

  2. Carl D. Mervyn December 7, 2021 at 1:11 am

    The VA needs to be over hauled from the top ( congress department who runs the agency) down to the bottom). The veterans hot line is a joke. They do more harm than good. The officers are to good to talk to the Veterans who served their country. You can only get appointments 2-6 months out. They tell you to go to the er where you get no one to listen to you. The hospital has policy in place that mandates sexual abuse and approves unsafe environment.

  3. Larry Smith December 2, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    left a comment
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  4. Larry M Smith December 2, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    the Eureka, CA, VA has seriously deteriorated in its vet care due to being unable to keep adequate medical personal because of the distance from any serious culture. That said I have been neglected by Ft Miley for a number of years. Though short of Doctors, the Eureka, VA has designed a structure of helpers, in teams. When I call for medication they follow through. I have downscaled my needs after having both hips and an ankle replacement. They used to examine me and x-ray my replacements though they are decades old at Ft Miley. Until they stopped with no reason or communication. The gentleman who started up the Eureka Clinic, whose name I have long forgotten but still revere for his dedication to all Veterans exemplified for me what the VA is all about. Do the present day contractors receive any care or are they on their own as they are paid so highly. Perhaps the VA is fading away like the rest of us old-timers

  5. Chris Longmire December 2, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    I have read many of the appalling comments and know your pain all so well. However, I will tell you to never give up the fight. There has to be a logistical way to pool all of this information together and get it to the respective Congressmen. When I was active duty, Senator Dole started his investigation with the Department of Defense and let the (s***)blame roll downhill. I assure you, HEADS went to rolling!!!! People Retired, PCS without prior orders, etc.,!!!! That’s results. The military base saw a 180 degree morale and productivity growth. You guys are not asking for anything beyond what should be normal daily operating procedures and human decency and/or fair treatment as a real and whole person. Let’s brainstorm. Together we can come up with solutions for any and everything. Don’t forget, we are U. S. military Vets. It’s what we DO!!!

  6. Robert Tingey December 2, 2021 at 9:42 am

    I was shorted to viles of aspart insulin called and told them I had 3 days left. No problem they would have it to me in 2 days. It showed up up a week later. Funny a medical facility doesn’t know about diabetic rage. They do now but I’m on the bad boy list.

  7. Anonymous Citizen December 2, 2021 at 8:23 am

    These claims of zero tolerance are untrue. When you report unlawful behavior and even go to VA police, you get retaliated against by your supervisors, the Union, and find out that HR can swipe the police report under the rug and consider it an ‘Admin issue”.

    Racial slurs, unlawful imprisonment, sexual harassment, retaliation by coworkers, supervisors, et al with no repercussions allows the behavior to continue because the chain of command does nothing with their limited training to handle such matters.

    Then they claim that the investigation is ongoing (unprofessional and biased), and never give you adequate updates with any accurate timeframe for results. And do not expect anyone to tell the truth when they are interviewed because they fear for their job and will also be retaliated against. They (VA, HR, Union, EEO, Police department, Reasonable Accommodation) are more concerned about appearances than actual results in truthful resolution or consequences.

    Once you say anything your future care or employment status will become red flagged. They deem you as the problem for advocating for your right to a healthy care facility or workplace. Occupational Health is also limited in assistance with such claims as the director of these facilities does not care about their employees.

    Trust no one, take notes daily and make sure you get proper permission (fill out request from OIG) to obtain video surveillance (if the cameras are operable) because that footage that was requested on specific dates will magically disappear.

    • Tina Wimberly December 2, 2021 at 5:55 pm

      I totally agree!! This happened to us at our VA. One of my coworkers threatened me. One of my other coworkers stood up for me and the “bad”coworker stood up and chest bumped him, and even asked him to go outside! He said he could “take us out from 100 yards away!” And when we reported all of this to our supervisor, nothing! We took it to our Chief, NOTHING!! She said we were being petty and ganging up on the other coworker. He even put RED tape on the floor to alienate himself from our team and they allowed it. The Union allowed it, even our Pentad allowed it! He would even look up guns and bullet proof vests on the VA computer during work and still nothing happened to him. They said that was his “hobby”. And they always took his side for anything. The VA police wouldn’t do anything until he actually carried out one of his threats. We were on pins and needles every day. I started calling in several days a week because it triggered my PTSD so bad.
      So, Yes!! I agree that bullying is tolerated from the top down on a VA campus.

  8. Richard Goldsmith December 2, 2021 at 8:20 am

    I have been waiting for an answer for a claim for 19 months. Is this how the VA treats veterans with a disability? I was exposed to asbestos.

  9. John Greene December 1, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    I reserve the right to disagree with transgender and gender identity ideology.

    • DJB December 2, 2021 at 11:43 am

      Ewwww. You’re worried about what’s in other people’s underpants? Perhaps you need a hobby?

  10. Leon Lovess December 1, 2021 at 9:42 pm

    You give me an appointment at 0900, I am there on time,”early as I was trained”! And don’t get seen until 1300hrs. Some of the civilian staff behind the desk, talk to you like so what! My ” brother was in the military” so what! It hurts to go away to honor,and come home for care and be insulted. My uncles, did Vietnam, told me this would happen.

    • DJB December 2, 2021 at 11:47 am

      Vietnam era vet here. Exactly. The abuse stories were tacked onto hippies and women – when too often it was resentful Lifers despising draftees for not being delighted to be dragged into their war. They’re still mad draftees didn’t care about silly parades they’d have to march in.

  11. Judy Leonard December 1, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    You should start with retraining the VA cops. The are the worst abusers of all.

  12. DAVID December 1, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    All talk — they might say something but that’s not what happens in everyday life at a VA hospital and your just trying to work

  13. Brian Thomason December 1, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    I’m glad to see the VA take sexual assault seriously now if they would just take the same approach to claims against the military for rape by your boss while serving.

  14. Time to Go December 1, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    I worked for the VA for a few years and left because of the constant harassment from two employees. When I reported it I was told one was the former union president and nothing would happen to him. The other had an affair with a former Assistant Director and would not be reprimanded. When I stood up for myself I was moved to another section. As long as the VA keeps protecting these types of employees they will not be able to focus on the Vets.

  15. Gunner December 1, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    Every time I want to believe that the VA is here to support the Veteran, I get reminded that the organization is only as good as its staff or leadership. Case in point, while this article clearly states the VA is committed to ensuring our community is safe from blah, blah, blah, I truly believe its a façade. For example, I need quarterly prosthetic supplies, yet sometimes, I have had to leave several messages over a two month period to get my supplies. Another example, the clothing allowance policy clearly states that veterans are to submit an application for their annual clothing allowance by August 1st of the year applied and that the veteran will receive notice of his allowance or denial between September 1st – October 31st of the year applied. I applied June 01, 2021. The Richmond office received my application June 10, 2021. It is December 1st and I have yet to receive my clothing allowance. The funny thing or what is disturbing is that the telephone recording (804-675-5000) still has 2020 information on the voice message and in 30 days it will be 2022. On top of this, I have spoke with the patients advocate’s office and found them useless or no more than a reporting office with no solution. I called the 800-827-1000 and they refer me back to the Richmond Office. Seriously, harassment goes further than just verbal or mental abuse or even physical abuse. How about getting the employees to follow through with what the policies state. I am not convinced and neither are my comrades that the VA is just another bureaucratic façade sucking up tax payers funding. Show me you mean what you state and that you are not just another appointed mouth piece.

  16. Patricia Gregory December 1, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Really? I can’t get adequate, timely care and you really think a letter to the VA OIG about the VA is going to do any good? I can’t even get the VA dental clinic to respond to a VA White House Complaint and I’ve submitted 4 of them this year and I might as well have been blowing smoke up my a**. The Secretary of the VA doesn’t respond to anything and neither does the President of the United States. What do I do. Guess it’s true “DENY DENY DENY TILL THEY ALL DIE!”

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