Photo: Alastair Pike/AFP/Getty Images

An audit released Wednesday shows that 1 in 4 Department of Veterans Affairs employees say they've experienced unwanted sexual remarks or other forms of harassment, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Why it matters: The GAO audit says efforts to protect VA employees have been insufficient, and the agency has incomplete and outdated policies. Its leadership structure has also created conflicts of interest during reviews of harassment complaints.

The state of play: VA officials said the department is committed to "changing the culture" during a House hearing on Wednesday, but they added that improvements recommended by GOA could take until 2024 to fully implement, AP writes.

  • "The VA is not the same VA as four years ago," acting VA deputy secretary Pam Powers said. She noted that outreach to women has increased and trust ratings have improved, per AP.
  • GAO also found that 22% of VA employees reported experiencing sexual harassment between 2014 and 2016.

What the GAO found:

  • The VA has not finalized its Harassment Prevention Program, even though it's been active for over 4 years.
  • There is limited information on the prevalence of sexual harassment and corrective actions.
  • The VA provides limited sexual harassment training to its employees.

Read the full report:

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