A Veterans Affairs physician working at the department’s hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, was indicted on assault and abusive sexual contact charges Thursday for allegedly molesting two women in separate incidents last year.
The accusations raise new concerns about VA’s response to sexual misconduct in their facilities and represent the latest criminal scandal for the Louis A. Johnson VA Hospital, where earlier this year a former nursing assistant earlier this year pleaded guilty multiple counts of murder in a string of suspicious patient deaths.
The assault charges against Kenneth Ramdat, of Silver Springs, Maryland, carry the possibility of up to five years in prison and fines of more than $1 million.
Ramdat, 65, is accused of grabbing the breasts of two women working at the hospital in separate incidents in August and October 2019. Department of Justice officials announced the charges this week.
In a government poll, more than one-quarter of women who worked for the department reported experiencing sexual harassment.
The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, the FBI, the Veterans Affairs Police and the Clarksburg Police Department also cooperated in the investigation.
In a statement, VA officials said they are conducting their own investigation into the charges.
“These are serious allegations and VA has no tolerance for this alleged behavior,” said Wesley Walls, spokesman for the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center. "That’s why this individual has been removed from patient care and has been isolated from fellow employees
“VA has asked law enforcement officials for evidence in this case to support personnel actions and will take appropriate action once law enforcement officials provide that evidence.”
VA officials have sparred with outside advocates in recent years over accusations that the department’s sexual assault training and response efforts aren’t sufficient to counter systemic sexism within the department.
In July, a Government Accountability Office report criticized VA for shortfalls in VA training, reporting and oversight of sexual harassment events.
According to federal survey data from 2014 to 2016 — the latest year the survey was conducted — 26 percent of women who worked at VA reported some form of sexual harassment, and 14 percent of male employees said they were subject to similar unwelcome workplace behavior.
In response to the report, VA officials said that the department in recent years “has championed several efforts aimed at preventing harassment in all forms while improving employee experiences, retention and morale.”
Lawmakers have criticized VA policies which do not require reporting of all sexual harassment complaints, which say could lead to under-reporting of cases and inefficient responses to the problem.
Families still don't have a motive for the crimes or answers on whether proper hospital safety protocols were in place.
The Louis A. Johnson VA Hospital drew unwanted headlines in July when former nursing assistant Reta Mays pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the deaths of eight patients in 2017 and 2018.
Federal prosecutors said Mays used her position as a night shift worker to secretly poison patients with insulin injections, triggering seizures, comas and eventual death.
No trial date has been set for the charges against Ramdat.