GAO Probe Reveals Staggering Trend of Underreporting Sexual Assaults At VA Facilities

MIAMI, FL— June 14, 2011 – A recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that a significant portion of the almost 300 alleged sexual assault reports received by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police between January 2007 and July 2010 were not relayed to the VA Inspector General’s Office. Veterans Affairs policies mandate that all rape reports be passed on to the chain of command and the VA inspector general, the Washington Post explained.

Over a span of approximately three years,  VA police officials received a total of 284 reports of alleged sexual assaults at nationwide veterans hospitals and facilities. The alleged assaults were described as “suspected, alleged, attempted, or confirmed cases of sexual assault.”
Among those reports, there were 67 cases of alleged rape and 185 cases of alleged groping. Furthermore, there were eight cases alleging “forceful” medical exams and 24 cases claiming miscellaneous forms of sexual assault.

Of those 67 alleged rape cases, only about one third were reported to the VA Inspector General’s Office, as mandated by Veterans Affairs regulations. Reports noted that many of the sexual assault allegations have yet to be formally proven.

The GAO report also suggested that the level of “physical” security being upheld at many VA facilities was of a substandard nature. The investigation found that many facilities had defective alarm systems and an insufficient number of VA police officers on hand. The probe also revealed that some facilities failed to examine surveillance footage in an efficient manor.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which requested that the GAO conduct the VA audit, was expected to discuss the security issues and the apparent trend of under-reporting next week. According to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), “When I first read this report, I was aghast… It reminded me of a 1950s prison system — lawlessness, lack of security and reporting, and outright disregard for human dignity.”
Additionally, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.), chairman of the committee’s health division, contended, “The VA failed to protect patients and staff because it did not take the system-wide allegations seriously enough to actually address them.”

About the Miami Sexual Assault Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A.

Working closely with advocacy groups such as the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), the Miami sexual assault attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz are dedicated to protecting and enforcing the rights of rape and sexual assault victims. With more than 30 years of experiencing litigating a variety of complex injury and assault claims, the Florida injury attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. will fight to help victims of sexual assault and rape obtain the justice a compensation they deserve.

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