In 2016, I helped my colleague Leslie Cooperman write a column for The Hill about mishandling of sexual assault cases by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA secretary had the power to discipline leaders for their mismanagement of cases, but he chose not to. Months later, I saw an urgent message from my inbox and, while visiting a doctor for another issue, I found Cooperman’s column in progress. Then I looked into it.
The details were shocking. A Central Ohio VA hospital had been accused of mishandling sexual assault cases. Only one nurse’s aide had been disciplined and then only after a complaint by a staff member had been raised with top leadership.
“The complaint was filed with VA headquarters in Washington, and me and [another staff member] were there to talk to executives about it,” Cooperman recalled in a recent phone interview with ProPublica. “I wasn’t very successful.”
Despite a formal complaint to VA’s top management office, nothing was done. “I don’t think they were taken seriously enough,” Cooperman said. “That bothered me a lot.”
Cooperman’s case is an example of the slew of allegations of mismanagement and mishandling of sexual assault cases that have recently been reported at the VA, highlighting a public safety crisis at a department that cares for the men and women who risk their lives for our nation.
To read more about Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and the allegations of misconduct at his department, visit ProPublica and NPR.