Sexual Assault Reporting Procedures at Veterans Affairs Hospitals Criticized

By Carlton Purvis


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) need to make improvements to the way sexual assaults are reported in its medical facilities. An examination of sexual assault incidents showed that of nearly 300 reported incidents, many of them were never forwarded to VA leadership or the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
By regulation, all felonies that occur in VA facilities must be reported to the OIG, but a lack of clear definitions of what constitutes felony sexual assault in a VA facility caused some incidents to be reported while others were left out, according to the report. For two-thirds of rape allegations, the reports never made it to the inspector general, the report states.
GAO determined that the main contributor to inconsistent reporting was that the regulation has no criteria for how VA medical facilities determine whether or not a criminal matter meets the felony reporting threshold.
In a review of its own, the OIG said that only one-third met the felony criteria based on “what a reasonable law enforcement officer would consider a felony.”
Most of the hospitals where assaults occurred had security measures designed to prevent sexual assaults and other security threats, however, faulty equipment and poor monitoring of surveillance cameras, they noted, contributed to physical security shortcomings.
During itsrecent work with VA services, GAO said that all five facilities visited lacked continuous monitoring of closed-circuit surveillance cameras. At one facility the surveillance system used in the residential programs could not be monitored by police command because it was incompatible with other systems in the facility.  
GAO recommended that the VA develop a better way to monitor and report sexual assault incidents and improve the tools used to address their physical security vulnerabilities.
By the numbers:
The VA has 237 residential programs at 104 of its facilities.
 Sexual assaults are reported on 2 different chains of command; A management side and a law enforcement side.
 Last year, 66 sexual assault incidents were reported to VA police.  Since 2007, 284 have been reported.
89 were patient-on-patient sexual assaults; 85 were patient-on-employee sexual assaults.
 46 were employee-on-patient sexual assaults; 15 were employee-on-employee sexual assaults.
 Of 67 rapes reported, 42 were not reported to the Office of the Inspector General.
 photo by Michael Oh from flickr



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