WASHINGTON — Two U.S. Senators, including one representing West Virginia, have sent a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requesting the release of information related to allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was joined by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in making the request of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, according to a release from Capito's office. 

Two specific incidents form the basis for the senators' request. The VA Office of the Inspector General recently revealed it is investigating reports of multiple alleged incidents of sexual assault at the VA Medical Center located in Beckley, West Virginia. 

The letter also cites recent case of a contracting doctor brought on by the VA who has pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of five female victims. 

The letter goes on to point out that the Government Accountability Office had in a 2011 report "uncovered deficiencies in the VA’s oversight resulting from unclear reporting standards, a lack of risk assessment tools and an inadequate amount of information about a veteran’s legal history to generate a comprehensive risk-assessment process." 

While recommendations made as a result of that report were implemented, the senators contend the recent incidents "indicate that there may be lingering issues within VA policies, procedure and system that must be resolved." 

The senators have asked the secretary to provide answers to a series of questions regarding the VA's general policy and recent handling of allegations of sexual misconduct. They are:

  • How does the VA assess the credentials of contracting providers? Do standards exist to ensure these providers have no history of sexual assault or sexual harassment? If not, how can the department improve this process?
  • How many current employees of the VA have been convicted of sexual assault or had a complaint involving sexual assault sustained by an administrative determination? Has the VA increased an employee’s rate of basic pay, awarded an employee a bonus, or promoted an employee after said employee was found to have a Title VII sexual assault complaint declared final by administrative or judicial determination?
  • Does the VA offer counseling and other services to victims who were sexually assaulted while receiving care from the Department? What is the VA’s policy on making sure that victims are properly attended to if they do fall victim to this crime?
  • How is the department working with medical staff, non-medical staff, and patients to raise awareness about sexual assault and sexual harassment at VA facilities?
  • What are the current VA policies for reporting and responding to instances of sexual assault or sexual harassment? What actions does the department take to hold perpetrators of sexual assault or sexual harassment accountable?
  • How is the VA working with the Department of Defense to gather information about sexual assault in the military in order to improve programming across the Veterans Health Administration to better understand the needs of veterans who were victims of sexual assault while on active duty?
  • Last, what is the department doing to accommodate the needs of our growing female veteran population at VA medical facilities?

Capito and Ernst have requested the secretary provide the information by Nov. 14.