Woman at the heart of Veterans Affair sexual assault report: VA ‘abandoned responsibility to protect those they serve’

“VA is fully aware of it,” said Andrea Goldstein, the staffer and a lieutenant commander in the US Navy Reserve, when asked in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper about ‘The Lead’ if the department was aware of this. the prevalence of assault and intimidation within military and veteran hospitals.

Goldstein cited 2019 data that one in four female veterans experienced sexual harassment at VA healthcare facilities, and 2016 data that about one in four women working at VA experienced sexual harassment.

“It should be enough for women to say that I am experiencing this, and that VA is responding, but VA has the data and has not responded adequately,” she said, adding that “VA is aware of this and has been for many years. is aware, but has given up their responsibility to protect those they serve. “

She continued, “VA has world-class health care and treatment for survivors of military sexual trauma, and in fact we should look to VA for their understanding of the impact of military sexual trauma.”

Goldstein’s comments come after VA Inspector General Michael Missal told prosecutors this fall that his investigation into VA Secretary Robert Wilkie had revealed possible criminal behavior, three current and former federal officials told The Washington Post.

Missal launched its review in February after a request to investigate allegations that Wilkie had sought “harmful information” about Goldstein and revised claims that Wilkie wanted to discredit her after reporting a sexual assault at a VA facility in Washington.

Prosecutors thought there was not enough evidence to press charges, two federal officials told the Post, but Missal’s statement underscores the seriousness of the probe.

Wilkie told the Post in a statement: “After nearly a year of research, interviews with 65 people and analysis of nearly 1.5 million documents, the VA’s inspector general cannot substantiate that I wanted to investigate or have asked others to Veteran to investigate. That’s because these allegations are untrue. ”

Wilkie added that “VA is taking all allegations of sexual assault seriously.”

Goldstein attacked the VA on Wednesday for its apparent inability to properly respond to its attack.

“The day it happened, I had to file a report with several VA employees, including some who saw the event happen, before calling the police – indicating that VA was already not well equipped to deal with this issue that they already did. were informed, “she said, adding,” that the VA leadership chose to investigate me. “

When asked for comment, Christina Noel, press secretary for the VA, sent CNN to the inspector general’s report, specifically stating that “the OIG cannot substantiate that Secretary Wilkie was investigating or asking others to see the veteran. to research.”

The allegations mark yet another controversy that has marred Wilkie’s tenure since taking the role in the summer of 2018. In October, top Democrats on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees accused Wilkie of potentially misusing taxpayers’ money to help the campaign. of President Donald Trump – an indictment the VA denied. And CNN’s KFile reported in 2018 that Wilkie had lavishly praised President of the Southern States Jefferson Davis in a 1995 speech, calling him a “martyr of ‘The Lost Cause'” and an “exceptional man in an exceptional age.” .
Earlier Wednesday, six major veteran groups sent a letter to Trump calling for Wilkie to be removed from his post in light of the Inspector General’s findings.

When asked if she agreed with the group’s call for Wilkie’s resignation, Goldstein said, “I think the veteran service organizations are really the ones we should look to to speak on behalf of our country’s veterans.”

“It’s not about me,” she added. “This is about creating a safe and welcoming environment for female veterans, sexual trauma survivors, and other veterans who feel marginalized.”

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.