Politics

Veterans Affairs Employee Mocks Mental Health Issues In Christmas Emails

| by Ethan Brown
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A manager at an Indiana veteran’s clinic was caught sending out an email mocking soldiers who visit her office to discuss their mental health issues and receive medication after coming home from war.

The women who sent the email, Robin Paul, is a licensed social worker and manager of the Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic at Roudebush VA Medical Center just north of Indianapolis. 

In the emails dated Dec. 18, 2014, that she sent to other employees of the STICC, three pictures are shown with Christmas themes, including a toy elf and Christmas lights. One photograph shows an elf next to a post-it note that reads, “Out of XANAX – please help!” Below this, in caption form, it says, “Self-medicating for mental health issues when a CNS would not give him his requested script.”

Another photograph shows the toy elf looking between the legs of a female doll with a caption that says, “Trying his skills as a primary care provider (doing a pap).”

A third picture shows the toy elf hanging himself from Christmas lights with the caption reading, “Caught in the act of suicidal behavior (trying to hang himself from an electrical cord).”

After being confronted with this information by the Indianapolis Star, who obtained the emails, Paul’s response was, “Oh my goodness.” 

Later, a spokesperson for the clinic released a statement on Paul’s behalf that said: “I would like to sincerely apologize for the email message and I take full responsibility for this poor judgment. I have put my heart and soul into my work with Veterans for many years. I hold all Veterans and military personnel in the highest regard and am deeply remorseful for any hurt this may have caused.”

While it’s unknown what kind of punishment Paul has faced from employers, she still is currently employed at the hospital, with an annual salary of $79,916. In 2013, she was given a bonus of $2,000, according to public records.

The scandal in Indiana comes shortly after last year’s VA scandal, which exposed mismanagement of funds, scheduling conflicts, lack of oversight and leadership, and long waits at VA clinics around the country for veterans, some of who died as a result. The scandal forced then-VA secretary Eric Shinseki to resign and led to stricter laws on how the clinics are run across the country.

To combat rising rates of veteran suicides, Congress has recently passed two pieces of legislation aimed at ensuring better health care for military personnel returning to the states. The first law, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, will allow the VA to learn new ways to combat suicide and provides student loan relief for psychiatrists who are willing to work with veterans.

The second law, the Sexton Act, requires mandatory health screenings for all soldiers and forces the Pentagon to review current mental health practices.

Sources: Indy Star, Washington Post, CNN, USA Today, documentcloud.org

Photo Credit: Tom Jacobs/Flickr, Email obtained by the Indy Star