FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Minority Veterans of America Calls for Resignation of VA Top Brass and Congressional Ethics Investigation into Rep. Dan Crenshaw
[Seattle, WA – December 12, 2020] This week, multiple veterans service organizations called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie, in light of his retaliation against a survivor of sexual assault. In response, the Department issued a statement rebuking the call for departure and mentioned landmark improvements in veterans’ trust and quality of care – both of which, as evidenced below, are patently false.
In January of 2020, a female veteran was sexually assaulted by a contractor at the DC VA Medical Center. At the time, Secretary Wilkie issued a tone-deaf statement to the public, calling Andrea Goldstein’s allegations “unsubstantiated,” highlighting the VA’s inability to find needed evidence due to non-functioning security cameras. Goldstein is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve and serves as a senior policy advisor with the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
“The VA Inspector General’s Report into Secretary Wilkie’s smear campaign of a sexual assault survivor was released earlier this week, nearly a year after the incident occurred,” said Lindsay Church, Navy Veteran and Executive Director of the Minority Veterans of America. “The Report unequivocally highlights that Secretary Wilkie initiated an investigation into Goldstein 48 hours prior to initiating an investigation into the assailant, despite prior sexual assault allegations being brought against him in the same facility. VA Police confirmed that Goldstein’s background check was then circulated to senior VA officials.”
Richard Stone, the VA’s top health official, inappropriately leveraged his personal relationship with Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-2) to gain insider information to smear the survivor. Rep. Crenshaw and Goldstein had a pre-existing professional relationship, having served together. Multiple sources have confirmed Rep. Crenshaw’s involvement in the smear campaign. His actions illustrate blatant abuse of power and position and abuse of a victim, sibling-in-arms, and citizen.
“This smear campaign’s intentional distortion of the truth and the Secretary’s failure to accept accountability signals to survivors that the Department’s top brass is not qualified to acknowledge or serve survivors of sexual trauma,” said Cassie Gabelt, a Navy Veteran and military sexual assault survivor. “The Congressman’s interference with proper judicial processes is unacceptable. Secretary Wilkie and his senior leadership have clearly indicated that they are not equipped to lead an organization charged with serving the nation’s 2-million women veterans. Rep. Crenshaw’s actions have additionally demonstrated an inability to equitably serve our nation’s veterans and his constituency.”
In January, Minority Veterans of America called on Secretary Wilkie to accept responsibility for the Department’s failures by offering an unconditional apology to Goldstein; reform policies and procedures to address the Department’s toxic and abusive culture; and to tender his resignation. None of those measures were implemented or addressed by Secretary Wilkie or his senior leadership.
“We once again call on Secretary Wilkie to tender his resignation. Those that enabled his callous and calculated disregard for survivors, including like Pam Powers, Richard Stone, and Larry Connell, should also resign,” said Lindsay Church. “We additionally call upon the House Ethics Committee to investigate the actions of Rep. Crenshaw.”
Finally, in looking towards the future, the minority veteran community calls upon VA Secretary-designate Denis McDonough to issue an apology to Andrea Goldstein, for her treatment by Secretary Wilkie and his senior leadership. Moving forward there must be an open dialogue with veteran-serving organizations that have prioritized eradication of military sexual trauma and sexual assault/harassment at the VA. Emphasis of these conversations must be on the development and deployment of solutions to equitably address this scourge.
“It is imperative that the Secretary-designate understand the depth and magnitude of the Department’s rot for survivors, women, and our minority veteran community at large. Restoring faith with these communities will require an informed commitment to change,” said Lindsay Church. “We stand ready to work with the Secretary-designate and his incoming leadership to ensure that the Department stands able and ready to truly serve and support the entire veteran community or to organize our community in the event these practices at VA continue.”
Minority Veterans of America (MVA) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that was designed to create belonging and advance equity for underrepresented veterans, including women, people of color, LGBTQ, and (non)religious minorities. The organization aims to transform the narrative of the American veteran by building an interconnected community, fostering greater understanding of our memberships’ identities, and serving minority veterans through the development of targeted programming and advocacy. For more information, visit www.MinorityVets.org.
Contact: Cassie Gabelt, Communications Manager