Rep. Ann McLane Kuster wants Congress to confront what she sees as a pervasive sexual harassment problem in the Veterans Affairs Department.
The New Hampshire Democrat called for Chairman Jack Bergman of Michigan to schedule an immediate hearing on the matter in the Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, on which she is ranking member.
The Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent executive branch group that promotes employee protection and advancement, found that 26 percent of female employees and 14 percent of male employees at the VA said they experienced sexual harassment from 2014 to 2016.
That’s the highest rate of sexual harassment of any federal agency.
“I was disturbed to learn of the high rates of sexual harassment for both men and women employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Kuster said in a statement. “Our veterans deserve a VA that is functioning effectively and efficiently, and employees who are impacted by sexual harassment aren’t able to live up to that mission.”
Kuster urged Bergman in a letter to “conduct a thorough investigation into the causes” behind the results of the MSPB report and whether the problem has persisted beyond the survey’s end date in 2016.
Kuster also wants to identify any VA officials who need to be held “accountable for failing to address reports of sexual harassment and creating an environment where employees do not feel comfortable reporting harassment or intervening when harassment is witnessed,” she wrote.
With offices all around the country, the VA is the second largest federal agency, employing more than 360,000 people.
Overall in the federal government, 21 percent of female employees and 9 percent of male employees said they were the targets of sexual harassment between 2014 and 2016.
The MSPB released its comprehensive findings in March.
“Sexual harassment has no place in any workplace, and we must get to the bottom of what is taking place at the VA immediately,” Kuster said.
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