Hospital spokeswoman Julie Webb has said the issue was "administratively addressed" but has
provided no further details. She said there was no investigation of the incident.
didn't sit well with members of the Indiana congressional delegation.
"With as many as
22 veterans committing suicide every day, there is absolutely no excuse for making light of this tragic situation, most especially
when you are a public employee responsible for the care of our nation's military heroes," said U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks,
R-Ind. "Roudebush leadership must take appropriate action to demonstrate this type of behavior is not acceptable under
The VA is already reeling from a scandal last year, when hospitals and
clinics across the country were discovered to have manipulated data to downplay long patient wait times. It's also trying
to combat a scourge of veteran suicides. One VA study found that 22 veterans take their own life every day.
"I was very angry when I learned about this email," said U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. "One of the
most critical hurdles to improving mental health care for service members and veterans is overcoming the stigma attached with
The Dec. 18 email was sent to the hospital's Seamless Transition Integrated
Care Clinic team with the subject, "Naughty Elf in the STICC clinic."
have appeared that indicate that the STICC clinic may have been invaded," the email says. "Looks like this magical
character made his way through a few areas."
One photo depicts the elf peering between the
legs of a female doll. "Trying his skills as a primary care provider (doing a pap)," the email says.
Another shows the elf next to a sticky note with the words, "Out of XANAX — please help!" A caption
says, "Self-medicating for mental health issues when a CNS would not give him his requested script."
A third photograph shows the elf hanging from a strand of Christmas lights. "Caught in the act of suicidal behavior
(trying to hang himself from an electrical cord)," the email says.
It is unclear from the
email whether other VA employees were involved in the joke, but a note visible in one photo appears to include directions
about passing the elf to others.
Neither Webb, the Roudebush spokeswoman, nor the VA's national
office returned phone calls or emails from The Star on Monday.
Paul's voice mail said she
was out of the office Monday and would be working "off campus" Tuesday.