VA officials reassigned following a House Committee's investigation into harassment allegations
Members of the office tasked with investigating harassment claims have been transferred following an investigation by the House Veterans Affairs Committee into sexual misconduct claims within that office.
The Veterans Affairs Department has transferred multiple leaders of its Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion to other parts of the agency following an investigation into sexual harassment claims within the office.
The ORMDI is tasked with, among operations, harassment prevention at the VA, but House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., said in a statement Monday night that the committee is investigating harassment claims occurring within the office.
According to Bost, the committee received two whistleblower claims, beginning in September, that alleged sexual harassment and misconduct by senior leadership within ORMDI.
One of the claims alleged that a whistleblower received “numerous unwarranted sexually suggestive and aggressive messages from their senior manager over the course of a year,” including offers of unequal access to office leadership and approving paid trips.
“Allegedly, when the whistleblower did not agree to consensually engage with the senior manager, the senior manager’s attitude towards the whistleblower changed and the senior manager began allegedly bad mouthing the whistleblower to ORMDI leadership,” Bost’s office said in a statement.
Bost sent letters to VA Secretary Denis McDonough on Sept. 29 requesting information on policies and potential sexual harassment claims within the office dating back to 2021, followed by a Nov. 2 letter again requesting the information.
“I find it incredibly concerning that it’s been over 50 days since I sent a letter to Secretary McDonough asking him to explain why an alleged sexual harasser is still employed at VA – let alone in his department’s office of diversity and inclusion,” said Bost, in a statement. “The disturbing allegations brought to my attention by VA whistleblowers suggesting that there has been sexual harassment in VA’s ORMDI office for at least a year are not in line with VA’s mission of being a place where dedicated public servants are able to care for and serve America’s veterans. Should these allegations be true, those individuals have no place serving at VA, and they should be disciplined appropriately and immediately.”
Terrence Hayes, VA press secretary, told Government Executive, in a statement, that personnel have been transferred while the investigation is ongoing, though he didn’t specify how many have been transferred and to which offices.
“VA is committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming and harassment-free environment for all. Whenever there are allegations of wrongdoing, we investigate thoroughly and take appropriate action. While we cannot comment on the specifics of this case due to ongoing investigations, we can say that the individuals involved have been moved to other positions while investigations are conducted,” said Hayes.
“VA has been in the process of collecting the information and documents requested by Chairman Bost and will provide it directly to the committee soon. We will continue to make improvements, be transparent and hold ourselves accountable to ensuring a safe, welcoming and harassment-free environment for all.”
Originally known as the Office of Resolution Management when it was established in 1998, the office was renamed in 2021 and is tasked with receiving, investigating and possibly resolving complaints of employee discrimination.
Harvey Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of resolution management, diversity and inclusion, has led ORMDI since 2015, having previously served as director of the Defense Department’s Defense Travel Management Office.
The investigation comes as VA officials are already weathering criticism of its whistleblower protection office over past allegations of reprisal.
MilitaryTimes.com first reported the ORMDI employee transfers.