The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) continues to be plagued with problems in data collection and assessment of sexual harassment incidents that occur within the agency, according to a recent follow-up report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In June 2020, GAO issued a report that reviewed the VA’s procedures for collecting and handling data on sexual misconduct. That initial report found that the data available to the department was flawed in large part due to the VA’s reporting systems which didn’t require agency managers to document all complaints properly.
“In our 2020 report, we made seven recommendations to improve VA’s organizational structure, policies, data collection, and training,” the new report reads.
Of the seven recommendations that GAO made to the VA, the agency has thus far completed only two of them – formalizing the VA’s Harassment Prevention Program, and developing new mandatory training that includes more information on sexual harassment and the reporting processes available to employees.
“Although VA has started to take steps to implement these recommendations, fully addressing them would better protect VA’s employees from sexual harassment,” GAO said.
The VA still has five incomplete recommendations that need more work. Those include realigning the VA’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) organizational structure to avoid potential conflicts of interest, and monitoring, and assessing data to ensure its completeness and accuracy.
Specifically, GAO recommended that the VA use sexual harassment complaint tracking system data, and other available information about sexual harassment prevalence at VA to inform program improvements. GAO also recommended that the VA monitor whether evidence of recorded assaults is entered into its existing tracking system.
While the VA acknowledged that certain changes were needed within its EEO program management structure, it didn’t indicate if the current EEO management roles would change per GAO’s recommendations, the report noted.
In addition, GAO noted that the VA didn’t clarify its plans to analyze Federal government survey data on sexual harassment, or specify other data sources or metrics to improve the accuracy of sexual harassment incidents within the agency.