One of the Major problems that has recently come to light in our military is the idea of Military Sexual Trauma. Shocking numbers of male and female soldiers are being raped in military service. ABC News reported a 73% increase in rapes and sexual assaults from 2004 to 2006 alone.
Then, when they try to claim that the rape, or sexual assault, left them physically or emotionally disabled, the VA presents them with a path to benefits that is every bit as hard as climbing Mt. Everest.
The culture inside the VA doesn’t take Military Sexual Trauma seriously at all – denying a large proportion of Military Sexual Trauma related disability claims without explanation, forcing survivors of Military Rapes and Sexual Assaults to jump through hoops to “corroborate” that they were raped, and, if you ask some Veterans, the VA is employing as raters the very men that sexually assaulted and/or raped other service-members.
One would think that the VA would be particularly sensitive to the issue of rape and/or sexual assault.
Then – AGAIN – a VA Employee (allegedly) Sexually Assaults a 16 year old Girl at a VA Facility.
On August 19, the Washington Times reported that an employee at the VA medical center in Tuskegee, Alabama, was charged in Federal Court with the crime of sexually assaulting a 16 year old volunteer with Down Syndrome.
As the father of a child with Down Syndrome, I promise you this: sexually assault my child and I can’t guarantee you’ll ever see the inside of a court-room.
Here’s what happened, according to the Washington Times:
Eric Allen is a 44 year old man working in the VA’s Compensated Work Therapy program at the Central VA Health Care System in Tuskegee Alabama. He was employed in this capacity even while the VA knew he had a substance abuse problem and mental health issues.
In a taped interview, the volunteer said VA employee Eric Allen pushed her into a restroom in the basement of a VA building in Tuskegee on Aug. 8 and kissed and touched her. In a taped interview with the FBI, Eric Allen admitted that he thought the young girl liked him and that he went into the bathroom with her.
Ummm….why would a 44 year old man go into the bathroom with a 16 year old girl?
A witness – another VA employee reported to police that he walked by the restroom and heard the 16 year old girl say “stop” inside the restroom. Then he saw her come out while Allen was in the restroom, zipping up his pants.
On August 19, 2014, VA Employee Eric Allen was charged with engaging in a sex act with someone physically incapable of declining participation or communicating unwillingness – a 16 year old VA Volunteer that had a Down Syndrome diagnosis.
Allen’s court-provided attorney said the volunteer didn’t appear disturbed or disheveled in a surveillance camera video showing her leaving the restroom.
You may remember the Tuskegee VA Medical Center as the brain surgeons that thought it was okay to take a Veteran recovering from a drug addiction to a crack house. The director of this facility is on administrative leave – meaning he is getting paid while VA Secretary McDonald figures out what to do – or not to do – with him.
Mr. McDonald is an enigma so far. In his bio on his VA Profile, he states:
“I’ll be reorganizing the Department to efficiently leverage VA’s resources and operate cohesively as One Team, One Dream in delivering the best in care and services to Veterans“
But then in a letter to VA employees in August 2014 – the bureaucrats themselves – he said (this is a direct quote):
“We are going to rate the relative performance of employees—everyone cannot be the best.”
VA Rape of a Volunteer or Veteran at a VA Facility is not a “One Time” Problem.
This is not the first time this has happened at the VA.
In 2011, USA Today reported that – on average – 63 rapes a year were committed at VA Facilities between 2007 and 2011.
That same year, in June 2011, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (headed up by Congressman Jeff Miller) took testimony that:
GAO found that between January 2007 and July 2010, nearly 300 sexual assault incidents, including 67 alleged rapes, were reported to the VA Police. Many of these alleged crimes were not reported to VA leadership officials or the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), in direct violation of VA policy and Federal regulations.
The VA shared, in that same hearing, the chart that appears to the right.
Jeff Miller – known colloquially in Veterans’ Circles as Congressman “I-Bark-But-Don’t-Bite” – appears to have done exactly nothing after learning about this information in testimony before his committee.
The Veterans Law Blog has asked Congressman Miller’s office for comment as to actions his office took in response to this problem, but have not heard back at the time of the posting of this article.
Tom Coburn – a US Senator from Oklahoma – published this list of the 10 Most Outrageous VA Behaviors. (The Veterans Law Blog is in the process of verifying these allegations). 4 of the 10 are sexual in nature, and none are alleged to occur at the Tuskegee facility – this suggests that the VA may be building a Culture that Permits Sexual Abuse.
* Veteran Patients Suffer Sexual Abuse by VA Doctors
* VA Employee Sells Ecstasy to Patients Recovering from Substance Abuse
* Child Pornography
* VA Police Force Chief Plots to Kidnap, Rape, and Murder Women and Children
The problem is pervasive – and Congress and the VA have shown no desire to fix it.
Coupled with the way the culture at the VA treats those who allege – no less survive – rape or sexual assault in the military, some Veterans state that they cannot recommend the VA to a fellow Military Sexual Trauma Survivor.
This is not “Our VA”, folks.
The VA can – and should – be so much more than it is.
It should be the one place where Veterans can go to feel safe, accepted and celebrated
It should be the one place where Veterans can go to work through their Reintegration
It should be the one place where Bureaucracy is NOT permitted – where the focus is on Reintegrating Veterans and helping them cope with the physical, mental, and moral wounds of war and military service.
Why is it not? Who knows, really. The VA is so accustomed to give the “We’re Trying” or “Change is on the Way” response that they may not know how to create change in a Federal Bureaucracy. Congress doesn’t really care – there is no money in this cause to line their campaign coffers.
Sadly, many Veterans just accept this kind of nonsense from the VA – we have allowed the VA to divide us. Combat v. Non-Combat. OIF v. Vietnam. Male v. Female. Poor v. Wealthy. Officer v. Enlisted.
We can change this to “Our VA” – but it’s going to take time. And it starts with the idea that we are: “One Veteran. One Voice.”
“Our VA” – the one that does not yet exist – will be a place where our fellow Veterans and the Volunteers and employees that support them are not raped or sexually assaulted.
Zero Tolerance for sexual transgressions would be a great start, Mr. McDonald.
Are you with us, or against us?
Because when it comes to “Not Raping” People – Veterans (all Americans, actually) should have a basic expectation that every VA employee will be the best.