WASHINGTON – The firm investigating a case of 17 raped military veterans suing the Pentagon responded Monday after a report that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mishandled sexual assault cases.
"This shocking report is consistent with the findings of our investigation," Keith Rohman, president of Public Interest Investigations, the lead investigator for the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, told Raw Story in an e-mail.
"Many survivors of sexual crimes reported to us that their military commanders too often cannot or will not pursue perpetrators of sexual crimes within their units. It is no surprise to us that these same practices continue after active duty. Without meaningful reforms, the military justice system will continue to revictimize thousands of service member survivors of sexual crimes and allow perpetrators to go unpunished," Rohman said.
The remarks were in regards to Government Accountability Office report that concluded that "many" of the 300 sexual assault cases reported to VA police between January 2007 and July 2010 did not make their way to the VA Inspector General's Office or other VA leadership officials. The lawsuit by the 17 veterans targets Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The VA did not respond to a request for comment.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing late Monday afternoon.
"Upon reading GAO's draft report, I was sickened by its findings – the prevalence of sexual assault incidents at VA facilities, the lack of accountability from VA leadership and the lack of safeguards in place for these victims," said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the committee, who called the findings "intolerable."
Committee members roundly expressed shock and outrage at the VA's mishandling of the cases.
Joseph Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations for the VA Inspector General, assured them his office would "conduct criminal and administrative investigations involving crimes impacting the department's programs and operations and serious misconduct by senior management."
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