March 10, 2015
The Honorable Robert McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
I write you today to express simple outrage. The recent reports of your manager’s conduct in Indianapolis are absolutely disgusting. Robin Paul, a licensed social worker under your employ, charged in part with managing mental health and wellness for our veterans, has mocked suicide and severe anxiety disorders in an email to the team under her supervision at the Indianapolis Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic.
I have reviewed the original email, which is attached for your reference. The email depicts an elf, clearly a proxy for a transitioning veteran, in severe distress, “self-medicating,” according to Paul’s description, because a clinical nurse specialist arbitrarily and with apparent glee refused to refill a prescription for a requested anxiety medication. The next image in the email depicts an elf, in Paul’s words, “Caught in an act of suicidal behavior (trying to hang himself from an electric cord).”
First, Robin Paul, by this email, disparages and injures anyone with a mental illness. In my opinion, she has no business in the mental health profession, none whatsoever. Certainly, it is an affront to veterans everywhere that she remains under your employ. Second, my observation is that her conduct is but one example of many in a pattern of treatment of veterans by your Department. In our area of focus, environmental war injuries, patient concerns about deteriorating health are regularly discounted. I am told that providers prescribe and withhold medications without regard for the effect on psyche and physiology. Our ongoing assessment of VA care for environmental injuries reveals a general pattern of misdiagnosis, along with a gleeful dismissal of veteran’s suffering in the same tone as Paul’s email.
Enough is enough. Today, there is no question in my mind that there is a systemic problem of psychological abuse in the way care is being provided to our nation’s veterans within your Department. This abuse is not just offensive; it leads to preventable injury and death. Please clean your house, Bob. We owe our nation’s veterans so much more.
President, The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center
Read the Original Letter Letter to VA on Paul Email