Chairman Bost Launches Investigation Following Whistleblower Allegations of Harassment and Misconduct in VA Office
Washington, November 13, 2023 | Kathleen McCarthy
Tonight, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mike Bost (R-Ill.), released the following letters (see here and here) he sent to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough after whistleblowers came forward to the Committee alleging sexual harassment and misconduct within VA’s Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion (ORMDI), the office charged with preventing harassment and promoting diversity and inclusion within VA.
In September, a VA ORMDI whistleblower used the Committee’s whistleblower portal to submit disturbing allegations of ORMDI senior leadership committing sexual harassment and misconduct. Further, a second VA ORMDI whistleblower informed the Committee they received numerous unwarranted sexually suggestive and aggressive messages from their senior manager over the course of a year. During this time, the second whistleblower also alleged the senior manager gave the whistleblower unequal access to communications with senior leaders and promised he would approve trips at government expense. Allegedly, when the whistleblower did not agree to consensually engage with the senior manager, the senior manager’s attitude towards the whistleblower changed and the senior manager began allegedly bad mouthing the whistleblower to ORMDI leadership. As such, Chairman Bost has launched an investigation into the VA ORMDI office.
“Zero tolerance means zero tolerance in my book. But I guess the Biden administration has a different interpretation of this. I find it incredibly concerning that it’s been over 50 days since I sent a letter to Secretary McDonough asking him to explain why an alleged sexual harasser is still employed at VA – let alone in his Department’s office of diversity and inclusion,” said Chairman Bost. “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. Should these allegations be true, those individuals have no place serving at VA, and they should be disciplined appropriately and immediately,” Chairman Bost continued. “I want to express my deep appreciation for the brave whistleblowers that brought these allegations to my attention. They can trust that we will follow the truth where it takes us to ensure sexual harassers have no place working at VA.”
Full text of the most recent letter the Chairman sent can be found here and below. To date, the VA has not responded to either of the Chairman’s inquiries.
Dear Secretary McDonough:
As you know, I have received troubling allegations of improper relationships and sexual harassment within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Resolution Management, Diversity, and Inclusion (ORMDI). I am incredibly concerned that some of the same ORMDI leaders who are tasked with upholding a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy, may be violating the law themselves.
It is vital VA achieves a culture free of harassment. If ORMDI leaders are not held accountable, there is little hope VA will create an environment appropriate to provide veterans the quality care and benefits they have earned. To that end, I sent you a letter, dated September 29, 2023, asking you to provide written responses to questions needed to investigate this troubling situation. I asked you to provide me with this information by October 27, 2023.
I am concerned that, more than a month after sending the letter, I have not received a response from you or your staff. Since sending the letter, I have reviewed additional evidence that confirms the seriousness of the allegations. As Chairman, I take VA’s zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy seriously. I trust you do as well. When can I expect to receive your response to my September letter?