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Union Decries VA Response to Lynched Doll Found in Staff Area of Louisiana Facility

Employees at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center have questioned the finding that the person responsible was not an employee, given where the doll was located.

A union representing employees at a Veterans Affairs Department facility in Shreveport, La., on Friday decried the department’s response to a racist display left in a staff-only area.

Louisiana TV station KTBS reported that last week, employees of the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center discovered a brown stuffed doll with its legs bound hanging by its neck from a cabinet in a staff lounge.

VA officials said the person responsible has been found and is "no longer welcome" at the medical center. But officials with the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents workers at the facility, said the department is not doing enough to reassure employees.

“In addition to the physical safety of our members, I became concerned about their psychological well-being, too,” said Cassandra Buckhanan, president of NFFE Local 1956. “We have veterans on staff and others who have experienced extreme trauma during their lives, and we are very cognizant of their needs to help them on the road to recovery.”

In a statement to Government Executive, VA officials condemned the display and said the person was not a department employee, but rather a resident physician from Louisiana State University. An investigation by the VA inspector general has been requested.

Union officials said these steps do not go far enough, taking issue with a suggestion by officials that the culprit “meant it as a prank.”

“The fact that the perpetrator may not work at the VA facility is irrelevant,” NFFE National President Randy Erwin said. “This person clearly lacks the judgment needed to be around our nation’s cherished veterans. Moreover, with threats and acts of violence against people of color increasing across the country, every instance of racism or an act of violence must be taken seriously. I hope leadership at Overton Brooks VA can demonstrate a true understanding of the impact this incident had on staff, and I hope they can reassure employees that management can provide a safe workplace.”

This incident is the latest in a slew of bigoted vandalism that has occurred at federal facilities recently. Last year, a federal contractor left a number of racist notes and messages at Environmental Protection Agency facilities, and last month, union officials accused managers of the National Science Foundation of discrimination and retaliation against LGBT workers.

This post has been updated to include additional information from the Veterans Affairs Department.