During GAO's recent work on services available for women veterans (GAO-10-287), several clinicians expressed concern about the physical safety of women housed in mental health programs at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility. GAO examined (1) the volume of sexual assault incidents reported in recent years and the extent to which these incidents are fully reported, (2) what factors may contribute to any observed underreporting, and (3) precautions VA facilities take to prevent sexual assaults and other safety incidents. This testimony is based on recent GAO work, "VA Health Care: Actions Needed To Prevent Sexual Assaults and Other Safety Incidents," (GAO-11-530) (June 2011). For that report, GAO reviewed relevant laws, VA policies, and sexual assault incident documentation from January 2007 through July 2010. In addition, GAO visited five judgmentally selected VA medical facilities that varied in size and complexity and spoke with the four Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) that oversee them.
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