Updated, 9:38 a.m.
The Government Accountability Office reported Wednesday that there have been nearly 300 alleged cases of sexual assaults at Veterans Administration facilities over a three-year period through 2010, and that many of the alleged incidents were not reported up the chain of command by VA police.
Among the events examined were 67 incidents of alleged rape, 185 incidents of alleged inappropriate touching, eight incidents of alleged forceful medical examinations and 24 other alleged sexual assaults.
Nearly two-thirds of the rape allegations were not reported to the VA inspector general as required by VA regulations. In all, 284 sexual assault cases were reported to VA police from January 2007 through July 2010, though not all the cases have been substantiated.
The cases included assaults by patients on other patients and employees, as well as assaults by employees on patients or other employees.
The report was requested by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which has scheduled a hearing next week to examine the findings.
“When I first read this report, I was aghast,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement Wednesday. “It reminded me of a 1950s prison system — lawlessness, lack of security and reporting, and outright disregard for human dignity.”
“The VA failed to protect patients and staff because it did not take the system-wide allegations seriously enough to actually address them,” said Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.), chairman of the committee’s health subcommittee.
The GAO investigation found weak physical security at some VA facilities, including poor monitoring of security cameras, alarm malfunctions and understaffed VA police.
The VA concurred with recommendations made for improvement by the GAO, according to the report.
Patient and employee safety and security are paramount at the VA,” Josh Taylor, press secretary for the VA, said in a statement. “We take all allegations seriously and investigate them thoroughly.”
The VA in 2009 established a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week Integrated Operations Center that serves as a focal point for reporting and following up on any serious crime on a VA property, he noted. “We are taking steps to expand and improve our reporting of allegations and to provide more secure facilities for our patients,” Taylor said.