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IAVA Seeks Answers Over Firing of Former VA Official After Sexual Assault of Hill Staffer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 20, 2020
CONTACT: press@iava.org

NEW YORK, NY — Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for transparency and accountability following the allegations that former Deputy Secretary James Byrne was fired after refusing to disparage a veteran that was assaulted at the Washington, DC VA Medical Center. 

“Sexual assault and sexual harassment are pervasive within the Department of Defense and carry over to VA,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “This latest reporting that Secretary Wilkie worked so hard to discredit a survivor underscores how far we are from fully acknowledging, let alone fixing, the broken system.”

It is estimated that three out of four victims of sexual assault will not report and despite VA stating that they have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and harassment, claims like these, and the major gaps in VA’s policies, make it more difficult for victims to feel comfortable coming forward or even safe utilizing VA services. 

“The Deborah Sampson Act (S. 514/ H.R 3224), the Military Justice Improvement Act (S. 1789), and the I am Vanessa Guillen Act (H.R.8270) are all steps towards bringing justice and treatment to those who deserve it,” Butler said.  “But none will become law if Congress does not act. However, legislation is only part of the fight. Listen to survivors, hold leaders accountable, and stop protecting the guilty.”

The safety of our nation’s veterans is not a partisan issue, but an ethical issue that can not be ignored or diminished. IAVA stands with survivors and urges agency leaders to protect military personnel and veterans, and Congress to pass legislation that would protect those that have fallen victim to the gaps in VA’s sexual assault and harassment policies.

IAVA encourages anyone who has been impacted by sexual harassment or assault to reach out to IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force who will assist service members, veterans, and their families with a variety of needs including 24/7 peer support and connections to resources.

IAVA is the voice for the post-9/11 veteran generation. With over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide, IAVA is the leader in non-partisan veteran advocacy and public awareness. We drive historic impacts for veterans and IAVA’s programs are second to none. Any veteran or family member in need can reach out to IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force at quickreactionforce.org or 855-91RAPID (855-917-2743) to be connected promptly with a veteran care manager who will assist. IAVA’s The Vote Hub is a free tool to register to vote and find polling information. IAVA’s membership is always growing. Join the movement at iava.org/membership.

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