Ava here, hijacking Trina's site (with her permission) to cover the Senate Veterans Affairs Hearing today.
Patty Murray is the Committee Chair, Richard Burr is the Ranking Member (highest ranking member from the minority party). I'm focusing on one aspect, sexual assaults.
It came up during the first panel.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: . . . I want to turn to Dr. Jesse because recent work by the GAO uncovered very disturbing information about sexual assaults among veterans in in-patient mental health and other programs. It is unacceptable that our veterans -- especially our most vulnerable veterans -- under the Dept.'s supervision cannot be kept safe. I am very concerned that the VA police failed to inform leadership about these many allegations. I wanted to ask you today what's going on out there and what VA's doing to address this situation to make sure that our veterans are safe?
Robert Jesse: [Loud spit out sigh] Vvvv-VA does take patient and employee safety very seriously. Since Gen Shinseki was sworn in as the Secretary [of the VA], he has constantly reminded us that we have two responsibilities: To accomplish the mission and to take care of the people. And uh much of the Secretary's agenda has centered around the safety of both veterans and employees. And one of the first things he did was to stand up the Office of Security and Preparedness Under Secretary [Jose] Riojas which includes operationalizing -- in 2009 -- the integrated operationalizing center which gets reports -- all of the aggregate reports from all of the police departments of the VA. And provides the Secretary frequent briefings on what indeed is going on. And we take any of these allegations very seriously -- we investigate them very seriously. Uhm, so we're in the process right now of reviewing the GAO's recommendations -- and particularly where they've identified critical areas where they point out that we may have issues for improvement. Uh, we also have uh in 2010, I believe March of 2010 issued VA directive -- 2010-04, I believe -- which is uh-uh-uh assigns responsibility to the emergency departments in the VA for the appropriate management of veterans who have uh uh -- present with alleged sexual assault to ensure that they get sensitive and appropriate treatment including treatment that meets all the standards that will protect their legal rights. We think that uh-uh that was a very important component of bringing this in place. Uh we will take steps to improve our reporting of allegations. We have two processes, as I mentioned. The IOC but also the issue group process that comes up through the medical centers themselves. And I think we need to reconcile them and make sure that we're-we're -- that we've got coherence and clarity from both of those directions. But the bottom line is that we do have a responsibility to protect our veterans and to protect our employees. And, uh, just as the veterans have protected us we would take that responsibility very seriously. I know that we have discussions next week to go into this in depth.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Well this Committee is going to be following this very closely because this is very disturbing and it's just hard to believe that senior leaders in the facilities didn't know what was going on and the breakdown in communication is a serious issue. You addressed it for a second there. But just that these were happening and people didn't feel safe enough to tell people about it or follow up on it or report it is extremely disturbing so, Dr. Jesse, we want to keep this conversation going and we expect it to be followed by the VA.
Ranking Member Richard Burr noted 67 rape allegations in the last few years (I believe 2007 to 2010) and that the VA only referred 25 to the Office of Inspector General.
Murray and Burr were very vocal that this issue was not going away and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee was not going to wash its hands of it or forget it.
But did you notice how Chair Murry asked a basic question and, even though Jesse used a lot of words, he never managed to really address what she asked?
I can't stand him. He is my least favorite witness. Kat usually does a low hiss that no one can hear except on our row whenever Jesse starts testifying in a hearing. He's just too awful. He is always a pain and he just strikes us as, at best, inept. This is not a conclusion we came to immediately. But we've been going to these hearings for five years now and Jesse is one of the worst witnesses there is. He also is generally proven (in subsequent hearings) to either have lied about some detail or not known what he was talking about.
He's so smarmy and he really seems to take pride in not answering a question.
I was learning of the sexual assaults in this hearing. You might have already heard about the crimes.
Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"