While the e-mail(s???) by Robin Paul is despicable, it was a matter not addressed by management for months, then a sudden (and magical?) unspecified sanction was announced, and only after a firestorm of publicity erupted was an investigation launched. Much more than a simple firing is needed to get to the bottom of this incident and the larger issues and problems with the VA it so aptly symbolizes. As such, we have sent the following to the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA):
I am writing to make a formal request for an investigation by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency of Robin Paul of the Roudebush VA Center in Indianapolis in regards any and all professional licenses held by her. While highly publicized, it is worth noting that her e-mail made light of veteran suicide and suicidal behavior; depicted veterans as “drug shopping” and otherwise misusing prescription medication; and, engaging in a variety of socially unacceptable, if not criminal, activities. These are not acceptable for someone working in the Behavioral Health and Human Services, Health Facility Administration, and Psychology fields.
The actions by Ms. Paul would appear to be extremely unprofessional and not in keeping with the standards expected and promoted by the Board. Further, her conduct would appear to also be extremely unethical and in stark violation of the rules and policies of the Board. I would further state that her actions would appear to have put an already at-risk population at even greater risk and as such constitute a complete abrogation of her professional obligations.
Further, her actions have reinforced popular misperceptions of all veterans, and that additional bigotry is adding to the problems already facing those troops and veterans trying to transition to civilian life. The stigma and false perceptions of PTS and other issues is already a major obstacle to employment and/or training for new careers, and the actions of Ms. Paul simply reinforce those barriers. When combined with the unacceptable rate of veteran suicide, her actions are clearly unacceptable and unprofessional.
It is my sincere hope that you will investigate her actions, and take an appropriate stand via sanctions or revocation of her license. I further hope you will share any actions taken to the widest extent possible, including any and all relevant professional organizations or certifying authorities.
Thank you very much for your immediate time and attention to this matter. I look forward to a timely response on this request.
C. Blake Powers, CEO
The following was sent to select members of the Indiana Legislative Delegation for their consideration:
The recent revelation of the e-mails by Robin Paul at the Roudebush Veteran’s Administration (VA) Center in Indianapolis once again highlight the horrific problems faced by far too many of our veterans at the VA. The actions by Ms. Paul also contribute to the bigotry and misperceptions faced by our troops and veterans, and that are – sadly – having a significant impact on veteran employment. While highly publicized, it is worth noting that her e-mail made light of veteran suicide and suicidal behavior; depicted veterans as “drug shopping” and otherwise misusing prescription medication; and, engaging in a variety of socially unacceptable, if not criminal, activities.
While popular sentiment is for her to be fired, as CEO of Mission: VALOR, a 501(c)(3) focused on practical solutions to the crisis in veteran employment, I would ask you not to seek such. It is my opinion that a simple firing will have no improvement in either her actions nor, more importantly, those of the VA.
Far too often, it seems that when someone is fired from the VA they simply move to a corresponding contractor or similar position with even better pay and benefits. Further, such firings tend to foster a victim mentality in those fired, reinforcing the very attitudes being censured. Finally, it also allows the VA to “Do Something” in a public way while not doing anything to address the core issues and problems that actions such as hers exemplify.
Instead, I call on you, the other members of the Indiana Congressional Delegation, and members of the appropriate Congressional Committees to:
- Conduct a Congressional investigation into the e-mail and other activities by Robin Paul; the response of management at the Roudebush VA Center in Indianapolis to her e-mail at the time of sending and immediately after; the response of management after the e-mails became public; and, the rather sudden investigation they have announced.
- Should the investigations by the VA and Congress verify the charges and activities by Ms. Paul and others in management, I strongly recommend significant demotion with corresponding reductions in pay for those highlighted rather than simple termination.
- Use this opportunity to encourage or force real and substantive change in the administration of the VA, both locally and nationally.
The e-mail is clearly horrific, and constitutes a complete and total breech of professional ethics and the policies and procedures of the VA. I am extremely concerned with both the fact that she was willing to put at-risk populations even further at risk, and at how her actions reinforce popular ignorance and bigotry about troops and veteans. Rather than do what is easy and simple, I ask you to act so that this opportunity to enact real and substantive change to an organization clearly in need of such is not missed.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration on this most urgent matter.
C. Blake Powers, CEO
That’s our position, sound off on yours in the comments!