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Government Accountability Office launches investigation into Veteran Affairs systemic racism claims

Over 80 percent of VA workers believe the department is filled with racism.

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The US Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan watchdog, is investigating the Department of Veteran Affairs amid claims of rampant racism and discrimination within the bureau. 80 percent of VA employees believe there is widespread racism throughout the federal agency, according to survey administered by American Federation of Government Employees, which represents VA workers.

The GAO plans to “determine the extent to which systemic racism impacts the VA, including whether VA employees and veterans in the benefits offices, medical centers, and other facilities under its jurisdiction experience racial discrimination in the workplace,” over six months.

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Brian Schatz put in a request for the GAO to conduct the investigation following the survey’s revealing findings.

According to the survey, Black employees reported disturbing incidents such as managers using the n-word on conference calls and being asked to serve as “living displays” for a Juneteenth celebration. They also accuse the VA of shutting out Black workers from leadership roles.

The VA has since responded and stated that they do “not tolerate harassment or discrimination in any form.”

“AFGE is pleased to hear that, unlike the VA, GAO is investigating our members’ serious claims of systemic racism within the department,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley told The Root in a statement upon the GAO’s decision to look into the findings. “For far too long, VA leadership has turned a blind eye to employee claims of racism, disparaged their credibility in the media, and refused to meet with the union to discuss this serious issue. These problems have been exacerbated under the Trump administration and will only get worse with actions like President Trump’s executive order banning diversity training at federal agencies.”

“For nearly four years, the Trump administration and VA leadership have attempted to silence worker voices through intimidation, retaliation, and the stripping away of their collective bargaining rights in the workplace, which is a safeguard against illegal racism,” she added.

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