The Department of Veterans Affairs will be investigated by a watchdog agency following allegations from VA staff that racism and discrimination are widespread at the department.
In August, one of the largest unions representing federal employees, including hundreds of thousands of VA workers, released the results of a nationwide survey that showed 78% of VA staff reported that racism is a "moderate" to "serious" problem at the department.
More than half -- 55% -- said they witnessed racial discrimination against veterans while at work.
The survey conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees included responses from about 1,500 VA workers and showed that 76% of employees who responded said they "experienced racially charged actions" while working at the department. AFGE says it represents about 270,000 of VA's more than 400,000 employees.
Following the release of those survey results, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, on Thursday asked that the Government Accountability Office investigate the "culture, policies and practices" of VA to "determine the extent to which systemic racism" affects workers and veterans.
GAO accepted the request to investigate the department and said it will likely begin in about six months, GAO Congressional Relations Managing Director Orice Williams Brown wrote in a letter to the senators.
"VA does not tolerate harassment or discrimination in any form," Press Secretary Christina Noel said in a statement Thursday. "The senators’ request to GAO is nothing more than a shameful attempt to besmirch the reputations of hundreds of thousands of dedicated career government employees at VA."