Senior leaders at the Department of Veterans Affairs Office for Resolution Management, Diversity and Inclusion were reassigned Tuesday, hours after congressional Republicans accused them of ignoring reports of sexual harassment and threatening behavior by another official working there.
Neither VA nor congressional sources named any of the individuals involved, but a department spokesman confirmed that more than one administrator was moved in response to the allegations. No one has been fired, but the staffers “have been moved to other positions while investigations are conducted.”
On Monday night, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., made public letters he sent to VA Secretary Denis McDonough detailing allegations of sexual harassment by an unnamed senior leader in the office. He said nearly seven weeks after his initial query about the accusations, agency leadership has yet to issue a formal response.
Committee officials said earlier this fall that two whistleblowers reached out to Congress to report “unwarranted sexually suggestive and aggressive messages” from a senior manager at the ORMDI. The allegations included threats and disparaging comments about one victim after she refused the advances.
Bost said both the accusations and lack of immediate response from VA leadership were upsetting.
“The disturbing allegations brought to my attention by VA whistleblowers suggesting that there has been sexual harassment in VA’s ORMDI office for at least a year are not in line with VA’s mission of being a place where dedicated public servants are able to care for and serve America’s veterans,” he said in a statement. “Should these allegations be true, those individuals have no place serving at VA, and they should be disciplined appropriately and immediately.”
VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said officials are preparing a formal response to Bost’s requests and launching a full investigation into the allegations.
“VA is committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming, and harassment-free environment for all,” he said in a statement. “Whenever there are allegations of wrongdoing, we investigate thoroughly and take appropriate action.”
The office, established in 1998, changed its name two years ago to reflect a new focus on diversity efforts. Its mission statement includes a mandate to “grow a diverse workforce and cultivate an inclusive work environment, where employees are fully engaged and empowered to deliver the outstanding services.”
The office’s website also promises employees that staff there can “assist you with resolving conflicts and building a healthy organization.”
Hayes could not say whether other staffers have been reassigned to oversee the office’s work while the investigation is underway.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.