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VA Manager Resigns Over Elf Photos

VA Manager Robin Paul

VA Manager Robin Paul

VA manager Robin Paul just resigned following public outcry at her senseless elf Christmas photos that belittled suicidal and distraught veterans. Robin Paul was a manager and counselor in a VA military transition program based in Indiana.

Paul claims she is the victim of a misunderstanding. What do you think? Are veterans better off? Did Paul get what she deserved?

RELATED: See all Robin Paul elf photos

In December, Paul made numerous photos that poked fun at veterans suffering from suicidal tendencies and drug withdrawals. The photos were circulated inside the facility with other colleagues. Paul substituted an elf doll for the veteran when taking the pictures. The photos first surfaced in major news media outlets last month.

Paul accepted a temporary 90-day suspension of her social work license in a settlement with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. She was paid while on leave, but just last week decided she should resign from VA due to harassment.

Paul claims to be the victim of harassment once the story broke. She reportedly received death threats and eventually sought the protection of the police.

Read the full statement from Robin Paul:

The “elf” email I sent in December 2014 was to an internal staff email group following a clinic holiday lunch party. I take full responsibility for sending the email; however, the intent of the email and pictures has been misrepresented. My intent was not to mock Veterans; the intent was to thank the team for their work in dealing with tough issues on a daily basis. The elf did not represent a Veteran; it was a toy elf — nothing more. However, I understand how taken out of context, the email and pictures could be misconstrued. I used poor judgment in sending out this email.

Since the initial press coverage, my family and I have been subjected to harassment and hostility. I received death threats, my minor child was harassed, and we had to seek police protection. In the best interest of the VA and my family, I voluntarily agreed to a temporary summary suspension of my license pending further investigation.

Even though I have had an excellent work history with the VA, my career with the VA is effectively over as a result of this incident and the resulting public and political pressure. Accordingly, on April 7, 2015, I voluntarily resigned from the VA. I am truly sorry to our Veterans and anyone else who I offended by my actions — that was not my intent. I seek the public’s forgiveness, and I respectfully request that the public refrain from directing further hatred and hostility toward me, my family or the VA.

Is this an example of public pressure ridding VA of a bad actors? Or, is this a case of bad luck for Robin Paul?

SOURCE: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/10/va-supervisor-resigns-after-email-controversy/25615513/

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49 thoughts on “VA Manager Resigns Over Elf Photos”

  1. So the Robin Paul saga get’s an update. Doubt it ever trully ended.So was she fired ? or did ..IT leave the va on their own accord ? Will she/ DID SHE get a retirement package ? Bet she did ! ?She could go work for Holly Graf (ex-capt usn) WHY not go after her supervisor ?

  2. It’s possible to take up a Fund in this case to purchase the World’s smallest violin for Robin to stand on the corners of America alongside some of our Veterans looking for money to eat and maybe get a shower. I will send a penny.

  3. This woman seems to think her VA Office was a playroom in need of toys and dolls. Did she actually do any work? The arrogance she displayed towards those who served is an example of how too many VA employees act. Did she ever bother to serve in the Military? It’s doubtful she could make the grade, but like a leech she was sucking the blood out of the system by paycheck and incompetence. She should lose any ‘license’ given to her since she has no empathy or compassion for patients who did risk all for the US.

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  6. I’m a veteran with a disability. I’ve tried to overcome my handicap as best I can. I obtained a Masters of Arts in Counseling and tried to pay it forward by seeking a counseling job with the VA. I was successful BUT the type of mentality that is being discussed in this article is what I witnessed as a MH professional. I was appalled by this degradation of veterans and was bullied and forced out of my position before obtaining my 1-year probation. Totally disillusioned about the hiring of DAVs, the health care and treatment of veterans provided by the VA. I agree with a previous statement, privatize the entire shebang! These so called healthcare professionals do not deserve to serve those who have served. Godspeed

    1. Your 100% correct privatize the VA We have whistle blowers on our group Veterans for Independence In fact the one person is a MSW-MPH 100% disabled former homeless veteran that became a whistle blower for the same reasons you have gone through. We are aligned with a group of Centers for Indepednt Living now being run by disabled veterans and also on the boards of such centers for all persons with disabilities I am responsible for the 16 centers state funded where in pennsylvania many years ago. I too have my degree in counseling psychology with a graduate degree in geriatric mental health and believe it or not despite being a 100% disabled veteran and despite over 100 SF 171 forms I was old by the field placement office of the VA I was only qualified as a VA Vocrehab counselor despite my specialization in Geriatric Mental Health which they use social workers to do such counseling and therapy. I suggest you strongly look at the Centers for Independent Living for persons with disabilities which are consumer directed and consumer run You will definitely enjoy the c consumer run and directed concept and now they are involving many disabled veterans See Centers for Independent Living in your state or contact me as well.

      Lee Horowitz, M.Ed., CAGS
      US Navy Disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
      Veterans/Disabled Veterans advocate and civil rights advocate
      [email protected]

  7. I believe her. bad decision to place it for others to see forever. Anyone who has worked in a people business, especially where there is bad news coming as a natural outcome, resorts to black humor. Anything said in jest should be penalized, but not warrant termination or suspension. Aside from the comment, how was she regarded?

    1. So, “you believe her”…having quite a hard time understanding your stance of ALWAYS leaning on the VA’s side and that everything is “just rosy with your experience with the VA”…don’t you think that comes across a tad self-absorbed and entirely disrespecting what other Veteran’s plight with the VA happens to be? Just because YOU have no problems, it does not mean there’s NOT systemic problems within the VA system.

      It was not only totally unprofessional for her to concoct the displays she made and to take photos and then email them, but ALSO entirely unprofessional for her to EVEN THINK THAT WAY….BAD DAY OR NOT…there’s absolutely no excuse.

      Oh…the term is “Dark Humor”, not “Black Humor”, nor is it ANY “natural outcome from working amongst BAD NEWS…”, as you state. (paraphrased)

      Makes you actually appear more of a VSO or VA employee…same difference.

      1. I agree with you namnibor, stanman is so judgmental about anyone who goes against the VA. I sure hope he doesn’t have a job in which he is not supposed to judge people. If he does have a great experience with the VA then that is good for him. I don’t know many that have had a good experience with the VA on a continuous basis. I have had a few good visits and procedures but I have also had many more that are the opposite and those outweigh the god ones.

  8. usedtoliveinindy

    Robin Paul has just shown her fellow failing VA employees how to dodge accountability. Resign and play the martyr with your pension and seniority intact. It seems likely that the next act is in this saga is that the VA will quietly hire her someplace else. Even if she loses her social work license, look for her to turn up as a patient advocate at a VA hospital near you. Her comic stylings will be a sure-fire hit at in-service training.

    She said, “The ‘elf’ email I sent in December 2014 was to an internal staff email group following a clinic holiday lunch party.”

    So this means the pictures were taken *at* the party? The email was sent shortly after 1 pm. Does that mean the clinic shut down for a party? Considering the clinic’s mission, that meant they had fewer appointments to take care of patients in need of help getting through the holidays. It seems like Paul should have been more sensitive to this and organized an after work party.

    The fact that these photos are somehow connected to a party make them even more reprehensible. Yet Paul insists it was all harmless fun. I think its pretty clear what the staff at Roudebush VAMC really thinks of their patients, and they are willing to shut down on government time to say it out loud.

    Everyone who witnessed or took part in this photo shoot deserves to be fired as much as Paul did.

    1. usedto, I agree with you about your statement of “I think its pretty clear what the staff at Roudebush VAMC really thinks of their patients” I go to this VAMC and the staff shows what they think about their patients every time I have gone to this facility. Someday I will have to leave this VAMC as it is so bad. I sometimes think that the VA wants more of us to leave and then they will have only those who will do what the VA tells them to do. Their ratings would go up if that happens and the rest of us who left will get better care. Such a shame because I like to go to the VA because almost all of the people there have something in common with me, the military. We are a group of people that have so much in common with each other and that is special.

  9. [ Who’s running the VA? Not Sec. McDonald, and not veterans. ]

    https://bit.ly/1CB92TS

    most of us knew this was a possibility, though we held out McDonald was going to actually be allowed to try to fix VA. not gonna happen i suspect. current status of VA shows its more than likely getting worse not better.

    Robin Paul must have been low lying fruit. ~22 million veterans should be shaking that tree a few branches up.

  10. Wow. Looks like she was able to walk. She should have been fired for a stupid stunt like that. What a woman. You say she is a social worker? Isn’t she held to a higher standard especially with background as a social worker. I doubt that she has ever really dealt with patients or families in a clinical setting.

    This is the kind of stuff that makes regular folks just walk away because there ain’t anything we can do. She did resign due to public pressure but where are her bosses. They should have been all over this.

    What a bunch of crap.

    1. Robin, those two are from VA Criminal Investigation Division, they think they are from the Impossible Mission Force, namely, they have a shared delusion with the rest of the VA that they are secret agents and can impersonate anyone they want. The truly believe they are living out a real world Mission Impossible career, thinking they are doing something besides terrorizing and even killing off vets and their families. A VA cop recently tried to frame me for conspiracy to commit murder and he and the VA are still trying to. They have other vets addicted to opiate prescriptions that will do anything for their next fix. A group of them tried to get me to take their sniper rifle and their ammo to assassinate a VA Administrative Director a couple of weeks ago. The VA cop and clearly other VA cops and VA CID in particular, conned me and my wife to come to the local VA Outpatient Clinic in Chico, California, to identify the man who tried to get me to accept his 30 ought 6 rifle and his ammo to “kill that bitch”, as he said with others standing all around us. The VA cop had me pick the suspect out from a photo line-up then he went crazy dangerous on me and my wife. I left the interview room then was attacked by the VA cop, Officer Sorrels and a private guard that had blocked my exit. They falsely arrested me, badly injured my shoulder that I recently had Agent Orange tumor removal surgery on and it was still in severe pain. The intended victim of the assassination came out of the clinic to my rescue and that of my wife who they were also ready to arrest. The VA is trying to kill their own Administrative Director because they are insane and messed on drugs. A drug pusher doctor at this same clinic is addicted to valium and other stronger opiates. They are out of control and you are dealing with the same kind of dangerous psychos. Be careful, and Semper Fi.

  11. Please read VA Handbook 5021/15, Part I. Appendix A, Employee/Management Relations, 2. Range of Penalities for Stated Offenses. Table of Penalties for Title 5 and Title 38 Employees, July 19, 2013.

  12. Has anyone ever taken the time to truly read those Federal mandated employment posters at ALL employer sites? Federal, State, County and Municipal employees are EXEMPT from polygraph protection. In a nutshell an employee can and in my opinion should be held at a higher standard and take polygraph test. Perhaps this tool should be used to protect the public, from two faced employees that feel that having a public trust position from staying employed. At least those of us that expect professional behavior at all times, not just when they happen to get caught.

  13. She made her bed and now she has to lay in it! As a veteran who is struggling with PTSD and who has been struggling with suicidal thoughts for some time now, it worries me that my current psychiatrist may be behaving in a similar manner after I leave a therapy session. This type of thing just adds to the many reasons that I do not like going to the VA for health care. There are a handful of really great providers that I see at my local facility and I hold on to them for dear life.

  14. As a former psychologist and one who also taught ethics we very person who received her email and did not report such in the VA is guilty of ethics violations. So my simple question is why weren’t the rest of them taken to licensing as well and why were not their licenses revoked as well?? The Va just loves to cover up its employees and pay them as well No one is ever fired as they would be in the private sector. I would take very employee that received that email and knew about the it including the VAMC Director and go to licensing and have their licenses talon . A person who knows about an ethics violation and fails to do anything nor report it is as guilty as the ethical violation it self. Please explain why the rest didn’t go in front of the licensing bard that received this or knew about it It is a very clear ethical violation to know of such and not report. Its why the VA all the way up to Directors and beyond all should be sued for ethics violation via state licensing.

    Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
    US Navy disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
    V eternal advocate/Veterans civil rights advocate
    [email protected]

    1. I agree Lee, but this is the VA. The sole reason why she has any impact on her license is due to the publicity, otherwise NOTHING would have happened. By the way, you are asking for ethics in an organization that allowed vets to die simply so managers could collect bonuses…something that was known at all levels of the VA for some time. In addition, this is an organization that routinely stomps on whistleblowers rather than fixing the problems being reported. Ethics is the VA is unheard of. In fact, I would like to hear from VA employees that comment here as to whether they take any annual ethics training, or whether they have any annual Whistleblower protection training.

  15. Good riddance to bad rubbish ,sorry that’s the nicest way to say it,not to change subject But has anyone ever heard anything about Kenndal Et Al vs USA it is a class action lawsuit on abuses by VA it’s pretty interesting & I Beleive was filed in 2012 ,I am reasonably sure it will be held up in court for many years ,if you get a chance you should give it a read.it applies to almost all of us .Good Day my fellow Veterans

  16. Don’t get distracted on minutia Soldiers. This does little for our efforts. Let’s focus more on the big wasteful Disney Land Dog!

  17. She should be required to get her Axis II personality disorder dealt with before she is allowed to have any job counseling others. Too many VA staff VA funded SSVF, Non Profits , and even VA funded legal do harm and escape scrutiny. This is hopeful but it is still sad and concerning that she was not fired outright .

  18. Yep, she did a horrible thing. I was personally appalled and offended. However, the bottom line (and I doubt the death threats or harassment) is, she is gone. Considering there are still a whole bunch of people in the wait list scandal that are still on paid leave, 4 months from exposure to resignation is a nano-second in VA time.

    Let’s face it, if any MH worker did this in a private setting and management learned of it, she would have been gone before one of those elf’s could take a wizz.

      1. You are correct, she does not, and her statement makes that clear. She tries claiming the elf was not a veteran or meant to depict a veteran, but that is complete BS. She also states it was meant to show the tough issues her team deals with. Well, according to her statement, her team must only deal with elves then rather than vets.
        A 90 day suspension? Her license needs to be revoked. She does not need to be around any mental health clinic providing treatment.

  19. Good riddance. Anyone know what is up with VBA Director Michael Stephens? That little rat has been AWOL more than in his office for months and just now “Kyle” in his office said he should be back sometime this week. Last week they said the same thing.

    Not that he is any sort of Captain steering a semi-functioning ship but the SS INDY VBA/Titanic is rudderless and heading for chaos.

    I for one vote for a crash and burn. Fire most of them and let Under Secretary Hickey’s Fully Developed Claim process she touts as Heaven just takeover with some extra help from Emily’s List.

    Change it to any claim taking over 90 days is automatically approved and watch the monkeys dance.

  20. 04/13/2015

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    We have 293 unexplained dead veterans here in Phoenix according to Gannett’s USA Today journalists. We, Americans, have 19,500 veterans dying a year [causes all across the board]. We now have Jed Bush, Koch brothers, and Carl Icahn’s Gannett [USA Today/The Arizona Republic/and many other Newspapers surrounding the VA Empire] trying to privatize the VA [see what happens when private companies take over—see the 1998 Cox Report published by the US Congress].

    Now, I have more disturbing news about the now breaking Relocation Scandal at the VA? What is this? Yeah—like the US Post Office, the VA has their own scandal; but is this news? The Answer, no! This is 2012 news just being delivered to us by Chuck Ross at the Daily Caller.

    https://dailycaller.com/2015/04/06/va-officials-288k-relocation-payment-tied-to-little-known-house-buyout-program/

    Stone Financing is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brookfield GRS

    Where was Gannett?

    Where was USA Today?

    Where was The Arizona Republic 17 investigative Reporters?

    Where was Wagner?

    Two and half years have gone by and we are just catching wind of
    “’travesty of lies’…contracts marred by cronyism, corruption, and conspiracies.”

    https://www.ottawasun.com/2012/10/26/court-hears-federal-government-relocation-contracts-tainted-in-travesty-of-lies

    This company is operating like the VA—-it fought production requests for documents and it took a court order to get it to turn them over.

    https://www.lawtimesnews.com/201305273248/commentary/editorial-contract-mess-leaves-pile-of-legal-headaches

    The question is—-Is it the Queen or is it the Central Bankers?

    Benjamin Krause—think big! That is what the guys at Puch [Mr. Lifka (Austrian Trade L.A., now in Chile)] told Karlheinz Halter when he was running Puch International out of Torrance, California as he was getting the “Royal Treatment” of a 100 break-ins at three retail stores in Los Angeles [one store was steps away from Editor James Box at the Daily Breeze].

    America is losing their trained soldiers, and we should not be looking at the small picture…especially when Sabotage and Treason is involved.

    Sincerely,

    Don Karg

    Is this an example of public pressure ridding VA of a bad actors? Or, is this a case of bad luck for Robin Paul?

    It is both.

  21. This woman’s statement was all about her and how bad it has been for her and her family. What about the vets she was supposed to be treating? She has in her statement one line of how sorry she is towards veterans and anyone else she offended. The rest is about her and how rough it has been on her. How much did she get for her “resignation”? That is probably why it has taken this long for her to “resign”. She should not have been allowed to resign; she should have been fired right after she was caught. She is not the only one at this VAMC that needs to be looked into. This VAMC is full of people who think they are above any recourse.
    I am sure she will be reassigned to this or another VA somewhere and will continue to have a job that she truly does not deserve. She was probably negotiating for her settlement money and for the position that she wants in the facility of her choice.
    She states that she was intending to “thank the team for their work in dealing with tough issues on a daily basis”, if you want to thank them, try sending something that states “THANK YOU”. I don’t see how an elf mocking vets in situations that are making fun of veterans’ problems, problems that need serious attention, is thanking anyone. She knew what she was doing and she is only sorry she was caught. Look at the original e-mail and you will see that she made many references to “vet this…” or “vet that…” and she expects us to believe that she was not intending to mock veterans! She was the least of those who have been harmed by this and if she was truly sorry she would have started her statement with that to show she was sorry she offended the people she was there to help. Glad she is gone, now for the others in this place that need to go.
    Sorry if this posts twice, my internet died when I posted this and it did not send me the subscription notice in my e-mail.

      1. Something else to think of, she was on paid leave for 90 days after mocking vets who depended on her to get the help them. At the average rate that has been given, 22 vets take their own lives everyday. That means that 1980 vets took their lives while she got to go home to see her family and friends. Those vets who are no longer with us do not get to do that. She should have been thinking of that before sending out this e-mail.

  22. Perhaps Ms. Paul can begin working in the stop motion film industry she loves so much by gaining employment as toilet scrubber for Director Tim Burton.

    1. @gparsons1960-
      No, am pretty sure she would be working for “Secretary McDonald’s Disney”, and probably making stop-action VA training films with her collection of ‘merry elves’…(I am being both sarcastic and sardonic here).

  23. I wonder how she can actually think this is just a “misconstrued misunderstanding”? I hold onto the belief that she’s ONLY sorry she got caught because she tries to ‘minimize and justify’ her actions by stating it was related to a “Dept. Holiday party and the elf was just an elf, not meant to be representation of a Veteran”….WTF??!! Sure sounds and reads like this social worker needs more therapy than those she supposedly was there to help!
    Her statements jump all over the map and are consistently contradictory when you take into consideration what her profession supposedly is. What’s sadly potentially true is now she will probably sue the VA for defamation of character or some hog wash of similar origin and all the while staying the course of coming across self-absorbed while at same time in total self-denial that she caused ANY harm…it was JUST an “elf” after-all, in her reasoning. How ELSE would one interpret her staging of those scenes and dolls?
    She’s crying about supposed “death threats” she and he family received (and I do not condone that at all, regardless), yet what about the Veterans that had to see those things on her desk and how many suicides did her ill-thinking actually instigate? We probably will never know.
    Glad to see her gone but something tells me since she was NOT officially ‘fired’, she still will probably make out much better than all the Veterans still waiting for care at that VAMC, of which a Veteran buddy of mine that has to use that VAMC has had nothing but horror stories to tell…so I wonder if this is a much DEEPER problem at this VAMC that requires investigation?

    Call me a bit unforgiving here but if I were in a position of power, EVERY VA EMPLOYEE that forwarded that email onto another within that VAMC and beyond would have been immediately fired just to clean the rest of the foul smell from such an important dept. that supposedly is to prevent Veteran Suicides…not fan the flames.

    This adversarial environment the VA condones and even creates does no good service to our fellow Brothers and Sisters and Survivors.

  24. Disabled Navy Veteran

    This is not a case of bad luck or bad acting for Robin Paul. She had her head embedded so far up her ass she couldn’t see the forest from the trees. We do not need this type of subterranean pond scum working with veterans,

    1. Agree entirely and very well stated! If she were “thinking” in first place and a “true professional”, she would have never even done this…but…she did and it’s not like she did only -1- such ‘scene’ nor was it anything that could be loosely interpreted any other way than it came across.
      Bye Bye…and I hope this is something that follows her around in her attempts to be gainfully employed again in the ‘real world’….the sad thing is she probably will be offered a job of even MORE responsibility at another VA all under the radar. It’s the mode of operandi of the VA after all!

  25. Well, I think making fun of veterans goes on at the VA from time to time. I’ve read graffiti bad mouthing veterans that was written on the bath room walls in a VAMC. It was obvious that an employee wrote it.I know there are some people at the VA who just don’t like veterans the same as anywhere else. I’ve often wondered about what the motivating factor is that makes some people hate us as veterans

    1. I don’t think most VA employees hate you as a veteran, Dennis. As a VA Employee, I/we need better training to deal with the needs of all our veterans: yourself included. This means that our customer service towards you needs to match the level of gratitude each of our veterans deserves. I still see a systemic failure in recognizing/applying all that we do in our jobs to be veteran-centric and nothing short of it.

      1. Training? It’s not training, it’s culture. Sitting in a mandatory class for an hour once a year does not change the culture, but it does check the block for training. The VA has promoted a culture of abuse. Veterans are routinely lied to, talked down to, and disrespected. My theory is to privatize the entire shebang and run it like TRICARE. No (and I mean NO) VA facilities. Just admin. Since the VA can’t get out of their own way, let ’em find real jobs where there are no shield laws and performance equates to continued employment.

    2. I agree, however, I think this type of behavior is much more prevalent than from “time to time”. It really is funny in a not ha ha kind of way, if it was not for those that served, the VA employee would not have the job that they have. I don’t think any veteran is asking for a red carpet welcome, but I don’t feel some respect and being treated like a human being is too much to ask.

  26. I started a petition on change.org asking for Robin Paul to resign and I am glad it happened.
    With what my husband has gone through with 2 suicide attempts and being commited I found her e mail in horrible taste.
    I am happy she woke up and did the right thing.

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