Watch CBS News

Senate calls on Pentagon watchdog to investigate handling of abuse allegations against Army doctor

Army doctor accused of sexual abuse
Patients of Army doctor accused of sexual abuse speak out 05:40

The chair of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee has asked the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate whether the military "failed" to support alleged victims of sexual assault in the massive and unfolding case of an army pain doctor charged with abuse, CBS News has learned.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts made the request after hearing from advocates for alleged victims in the widening case against Army doctor Maj. Michael Stockin, a pain management anesthesiologist at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Washington.

Ryan Guilds, who is representing seven of the 42 alleged victims in the sexual misconduct case, says that from the outset of the Army's investigation, his clients have been kept in the dark and have not been properly supported or provided with victims' resources, including access to legal services.

"These services have failed because leadership has failed," Guilds wrote in a letter to the House and Senate Armed Services subcommittees on personnel.

Guilds, a civilian attorney, represents his clients pro bono through the organization Protect Our Defenders. Both Guilds and Josh Connolly, senior vice president at Protect Our Defenders, wrote to Congress because they were concerned that more than half of the alleged victims in the Stockin case appear to have no legal representation — civilian or through the Army's special victim's counsel program.

"Access to legal representation, victim advocacy, and counseling services should be fundamental rights afforded to survivors within our military. These services should not be optional or subject to inadequate implementation," Connolly said in a statement. "The Stockin case should be a code red for the Pentagon."

Guilds said that after an alleged victim was interviewed by Army investigators, he experienced virtual radio silence about the status of the case until he was informed his allegations would be included in the charges. 

"Many of my clients were… left to fend for themselves with no follow up; No lawyer; No victim advocate; No services," Guilds said. "That is not how we should care for our men and women in uniform, especially given the robust support services Congress annually allocates to this area."

Stockin has been charged by the Army with 48 counts of abusive sexual contact and five counts of indecent viewing under the military code of justice, according to documents reviewed by CBS News. All of the 42 alleged victims in the case are men. The documents include allegations that he attempted to cover up sexual abuse of patients by falsely representing that it had a "medical purpose."

The Army has declined to comment on both appeals by advocates, citing the ongoing litigation, as did leaders of the House Armed Services committee who received the correspondence. 

However, the Army's Office of Special Trial Counsel, which is prosecuting Stockin's case, told CBS News, "If a victim has a concern about how their case is being handled, they are encouraged to contact the [base's] Office of Special Trial Counsel to discuss their concerns."

Michelle McCaskill, communications director for Army's special trial counsel said the office is  "committed to supporting victims throughout the court-martial process and keeping them informed of the status of their case."

A spokesperson for Warren told CBS News the Massachusetts senator is "committed to ensuring the Department of Defense meets its obligations to survivors of sexual misconduct."  

A spokesperson from the Defense Department Office of Inspector General confirmed that the OIG "received an informational referral from Sen. Warren's office" and said it is being reviewed. 

The subcommittee's ranking member, GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, considers the allegations in the Stockin case "extremely disturbing and unacceptable," said his communications director, McKinley Lewis. 

Meanwhile, the Army's Office of Special Trial Counsel, which is prosecuting the case, says investigators are continuing to look into Stockin's conduct and they have interviewed patients at his duty stations, which prior to Joint Base Lewis-McChord included locations in Maryland, Hawaii and Iraq. Guilds says he has concerns there may still be many more victims.

The statistics regarding male reporting of sexual abuse in the military point to an additional hurdle. Studies by the Defense Department show that active-duty male service members are far less likely to report their experiences of sexual assault than their female counterparts, with statistics showing that only one in 10 do so, based on data from 2021. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.