Veteran Mistreated at VA Hospital

A friend of the person whose story is told here sent this link along. It’s an appalling story of a nurse at a VA mental health clinic abusing a veteran who came there for help with depression after being wounded and given an honorable discharge from the military.

Esther Garatie is a Marine veteran, wounded in service to her country and Honorably Discharged from the Marines as a result. She walked into a mental health clinic at the Dallas VA Medical Center on October 13, 2011 and was seen by a nurse practitioner named Lincy T. Pandithurai. Nurse Pandithurai subjected Esther to a vitriolic, hateful rant that lasted THREE hours (you read that right!) on the topic of Esther’s sexual orientation. Ms. Pandithurai told Esther that the only reason she’s depressed is because she’s gay. When Esther broke into tears, Ms. Pandithurai announced that her tears were clearly a manifestation of guilt over her sexual orientation (rather than distress at being abused while seeking help). Ms. Pandithurai stated that Esther is living in darkness and needs to “return to the light.” She also told Esther that there are churches now that “actually accept homosexuals and can help you get your life back on track and stop choosing to be gay.” She further stated that “homosexuality used to be a diagnosis until recently, but they changed it because of Obama.” (In point of fact, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. President Obama was 11 at the time.) This is only a brief sample of the verbal and psychological abuse Esther was subjected to. As a result of this mistreatment, Esther left the VA in far more danger of harming herself than when she entered.

The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Nurses Association have all stated publicly that homosexuality is not a choice and is not pathological. So-called “reparative therapy,” which Ms. Pandithurai seemed to be attempting in brief, has also been condemned by these same organizations as ineffective and potentially damaging psychologically.

Nurse Pandithurai was operating as an employee of the U.S. Government, a mental health professional, and a licensed Nurse Practitioner. Her treatment of Esther violated laws and ethics governing all of these roles. The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment prohibits the government, and thus any government employee acting in her professional capacity, from endorsing any particular religion or, indeed, religion at all. Clearly Ms. Pandithurai is acting in violation of U.S. Constitutional law. She is also practicing in violation of state law in the form of Texas’ Nursing Practice Act, Sec. 301.452(b)(10) and 301.452(b)(13).

Ms. Pandithurai needs to be fired from her position and subjected to appropriate discipline by the Texas Board of Nursing, so that she can no longer disguise hate under the pretense of providing professional help.

I’ll go along with that.

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  • Ms. Pandithurai needs to be fired from her position and subjected to appropriate discipline by the Texas Board of Nursing, so that she can no longer disguise hate under the pretense of providing professional help.

    Fundies only know how to destroy. That skill is in conflict with the duties of a nurse, namely to preserve and restore the physical, mental, and emotional well being of their patients.

  • Fortunately there actually is some chance her professional license will be yanked for this.

    Unfortunately I doubt the violation of constitutional rights will be prosecuted and there is some chance she will keep her license.

  • carolw

    Dallas isn’t too far a drive from here. I would so love to go yell at that nurse for three hours. What a hateful woman. And I’m sure Ms. Garatie is not the first one to have been subjected to her crazy rants. Damn. It’s hard as hell for veterans. The last thing they need is some harpy yelling at them.

  • Aside from everything else about this being outrageous, how the hell did she get away with spending 3 hours on an intake? I have psychologist friends who do evals in VA hospitals and the psych staff is buried in work. Prior to the Iraq war they were laying off people, but since the vets started returning, they’ve been so understaffed it’s disgraceful. Very competent psychologists I know say that they are essentially prohibited from doing their jobs properly because congress hasn’t seen fit to take care of damaged veterans. And this shameful excuse for a human being had 3-hours to sit around abusing a patient? She should be stripped of her nursing license and never let near any patient for any reason ever again.

  • raven

    Hitchens: Religion poisons everything.

    Sums it all up.

  • Tualha

    Would be delighted to sign this petition, but…source? Evidence? Witnesses? Anything beyond bare claim?

  • Providing this is true (a quick Google search doesn’t even bring up the petition, just this blog), how long until conservatives start viewing this as an attack on Pandithurai’s religious freedom?

  • Kiwi Sauce

    A different question: how do the more fundie xtians justify going into healing occupations when, the sick/injured person must be in that state because god wants them to be sick/injured?

    On a related note, a work colleague of mine’s father used to be on the screening committee for applicants into one medical school. He refused to admit anyone who, in the interview, said they wanted to be a doctor because god told them to.

  • interrobang

    I’m not surprised the patient in question was a woman. IME, female veterans seem to have a much harder time with the VA in general.

  • slc1

    Re Raven @ #5

    Dawkins says it even better. Religion is the root of all evil.

  • “Aside from everything else about this being outrageous, how the hell did she get away with spending 3 hours on an intake?”

    That’s what I was wondering too. The story, or at least this aspect of it, strikes me as suspicious because the VA is notoriously understaffed and veterans are having to wait months to get treatment for PTSD, and counseling is hard to come by.

    This story is probably at best an exaggeration, and without independent confirmation, I’m going to remain skeptical.

  • Tualha

    I’ve been trying to remember the time that another blog got zapped with a hoax. I think it was Pharyngula? Someone made a claim similar to this, harrassment of someone gay or atheist, and it turned out to be 100% BS. It was on FaceBook, I think. Anyone else remember it?

  • Tualha

    Another implausible aspect is that Ms. Garatie would sit there and listen to it for three hours. Depressed or not, she was a Marine, and Marines are seldom wimps.

  • brianengler

    A Google search readily brought me to the NP’s info, including a page where she could be graded by her patients (–but there were no grades there, good or bad, posted by any patient. I searched further and found nothing derogatory on her beyond this story. The fruitless search for other problems along with the already posted concern about why anyone, let alone a former Marine, would allow herself to be subjected to 3 hours of trash talk like this, makes me very uneasy as to how much fact there is behind this story. This NP may be unprofessional and awful, or she may be an innocent victim of the patient’s delusions or ill will–or maybe she’s somewhere in between. From what’s shown here I have no way of knowing, so at this time I’m not signing the petition.

  • kerfluffle

    My search went a little farther than that. I found that Lincy Pandithurai does work as a nurse practitioner for the VA Field: Mental/Behavioral Health. There is also a Lincy Pandithurai named as the director of a consulting firm in Midlands, TX called Divine Covenant Consulting, Inc.

  • I think the time frame on the story does lend some doubt to it. I can’t imagine anyone in a VA hospital doing anything to a single patient for three hours; they’re simply too busy. And why would this patient sit there for three hours and take it? Why not leave? Why not demand to see this person’s superior or another nurse? Doesn’t mean it isn’t true, but it does make me doubt it. I’d certainly like to have more information.

  • anandine

    At the risk of seeming to be a fanboy, I notice the tenor of this thread. A story was told of an evil deed that fit into our narrative of an ignorant, bigoted, evangelical christian abusing a poor gay soldier.

    Some things seemed odd about it (What understaffed boss allows an employee to spend 3 hours on an intake? Why would anybody sit through it?), so readers began searching for evidence and contributing their pieces to the thread.

    This seems to me to show a healthy skepticism and a decent intellectual honesty.

    I wonder if the folks at The Corner would be so skeptical about a story that fit their preconceptions so well and try to prove or disprove it.

    No, I don’t.

  • ringo

    I could see someone who feels depressed enough to seek medical help not having the strength to walk out on someone, especially if this person is in a position of authority. I don’t find that aspect implausible, but other comments have good skeptical points to consider.

  • Michael Heath

    Skepticism regarding the veracity of the claims is warranted; but the claims themselves should obligate local reporters to get the facts. Let’s hope at least a handful do.

  • Hi folks.

    I’m the person who started this petition. Esther is a dear friend of mine and, contrary to some of these suppositions, she is neither delusional nor malevolent. She also has no interest in attacking anyone’s religious beliefs. Quite the contrary, Esther’s own faith is quite central to her life. She was raised in a non-denominational, extremely religious household, and unsurprisingly, has spent years working through the intersection of her deeply held faith and her (inborn!) sexual orientation.

    Ask yourself; if you were a Marine, trained to listen to authority figures…if you were a woman raised in a deeply fundamentalist household who struggled with her own sexual orientation and religion for years…if you were so profoundly depressed that getting out of bed in the morning was almost more effort than you could manage…how easy would it be for you to stand up and walk out?

    I can’t tell you why Mrs. Pandithurai had three hours to spend on Esther. What I can tell you is that VA records should substantiate the time that Esther checked into the mental health clinic and the time that she filled the prescription the NP wrote for her–which she did immediately after leaving the clinic.

    I’m the person that Esther got in touch with after she left this travesty of a practitioner’s office. I was the first person to speak to her after her ordeal, and I’m fairly certain that if I hadn’t recognized based on a text message that something was very wrong and called her, she would have harmed herself. That is how devastating this ordeal was to her. Believe me when I tell you that she was quite thoroughly undone by the experience. And I think it is easy to underestimate the amount of courage that it has taken for her to consent to putting her name out there and subjecting herself to the vitriol that is certain to be thrown in her direction. When you consider that she’s still struggling under the weight of crippling depression–and she STILL HAS YET to receive appropriate mental health care services for it–her courage becomes even more remarkable.

    Please remember: healthy skepticism is one thing; scoffing at abuse and calling a United States Marine Corps Veteran a liar because you would have handled it differently or “that’s a really long time to spend on an intake” is quite another.

    Esther is an honest individual. I believe her word on this–and how devastated she was upon leaving this woman’s office–to stake my own integrity and my credibility as a professional social worker (I will receive my MSW on December 9) on it.

    Thank you for bringing this issue to a wider audience, Mr. Brayton.


    Jessica Gerson

  • shay

    Ms Gerson: no one is calling you or Ms. Garatie a liar. And no one is scoffing.

    But as a former military member with some experience of VA medical centers, there are a number of things in this story that I would prefer to have corroborated.

  • Shay, thanks for your response. Please believe me when I tell you that I dearly wish there was a recording of the entire meeting between Esther and Ms. Pandithurai. Unfortunately (at least in this instance), to the best of my knowledge it is not the practice of the VA to record mental health sessions. With that in mind, what occurred in that room is likely to remain a matter of hearsay.

    I’m curious as to what aspects of the story you would like corroboration on–this is not an attack, it is an honest question. Your concerns are likely to be echoed by others, and if possible I would like to seek out any corroborating information that might be found and add it to the petition and other materials that document what occurred.

    Thanks much,

    Jessica Gerson

  • Thanks Jessica. I don’t think anyone here has called your friend a liar. There are some details I’d like to have clarified. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to do. The hospital may have records of how long the appointment took, but those records are not publicly available due to privacy protections. The two things that stand out to me were the ones I mentioned above. They are legitimate questions, but as I said, I don’t think that means she’s lying. There may be perfectly reasonable explanations for them. I hope an official complaint is filed with the VA so there can be an investigation; those doing the investigating will have access to information that could explain those things and corroborate the story. That’s the importance of the petition and why I linked to it, to help push for a thorough investigation that can settle those questions.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. President Obama was 11 at the time.

    Anyone with the power to order a faked long-form birth certificate as a neonate should have no trouble working his will on a mere APA committee over a decade later.

  • lisablauersouth

    My wife is a therapist, and intakes can take anywhere from 1/2 hour to 8 hrs, so a three hour intake is not terribly unusual, especially for anything to do with suicidality/depression.

    I’ve also taken a friend in to a psych ward on the request of a school nurse after she made an offhand remark about self-harm. She wasn’t really feeling all that bad and was mostly irritated that the nurse reacted so strongly (rightfully so! College is not a place where professionals should poo-poo self harm comments!) and the intake still took almost 2 hours.

    The nurse WILL lose her license if Esther complains–the APA does not put up with that sort of shit. Esther should make a formal complaint, and the APA will deal with it.

  • My wife is a therapist, and intakes can take anywhere from 1/2 hour to 8 hrs, so a three hour intake is not terribly unusual, especially for anything to do with suicidality/depression.

    That’s nonsense.

    The nurse WILL lose her license if Esther complains–the APA does not put up with that sort of shit. Esther should make a formal complaint, and the APA will deal with it.

    Not true.

    The APA (either one–the psychological association or the psychiatric association) doesn’t issue or revoke licenses. The only power they have is to boot you from the association which has exactly zero practical consequence, except they stop sending you the newspaper and flagship journal, and you save on the hefty dues. In any case, they have absolutely no authority of any kind over over a nurse. They’re irrelevant to this situation.

    That authority ordinarily belongs to the state regulatory board of each profession, and there are different boards for each profession. Except, the arrangement is different for health care practitioners working for the federal government. The feds are entitled to set their own professional rules–like they had military pilot program that granted prescription privileges to a few psychologists who retain legal prescription authority for as long as they stay in the military. For the VA, there are national licenses for professions and the board overseeing the license for nurse practitioners would handle the case, if there is a complaint filed.

    Recently there were attempts in a couple of states to revoke the license of a psychologist who had dual state licensure. He had been a military psychologist and participated in the Guantanamo interrogations. Both states concluded that they had no authority to revoke the license of a practitioner who had been operating under the auspices of the US military when he allegedly committed the offenses.

    I don’t know how tough the national board is for nurse practioners, but the state boards in medicine and psychology tend to be disturbingly lenient, not wanting to take away anyone’s ability to make a living. As far as I’m concerned, she should be stripped of whatever licenses she holds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they order remedial education, a fine and a period of supervised professional probation. That’s a more typical penalty. Now if she had sex with a patient or defaulted on her student loans, they would probably yank her license.

  • Matt Penfold

    Dawkins says it even better. Religion is the root of all evil.

    Dawkins does not say that, not least because he does not think religion is the root of all evil.

    True he is made a TV program on religion called the “The Root of All Evil ?”. Note the question mark however, and also the important consideration that Dawkins not only did not choose the title, but did not like it.

  • Tualha

    Hi Jessica,

    Consider this hypothetical situation: Connie Claimer puts up a petition, claiming that PZ Myers sexually harrassed her friend Vickie Victim in his UMM office, and calling for his firing. There are no witnesses and nothing to corroborate the claim, but someone claiming to be Connie puts up various postings on blogs giving more details. Naturally, various groups including the Disco Tute and the AFA are happy to jump on the bandwagon and call for an investigation.

    Do you see the problem? Vickie did not file a formal complaint with UMM. Vickie did not press charges with the police. Vickie did not talk to any professional news organs. All of these actions would involve some element of fact-checking; she would be asked for details, her story would be examined for inconsistencies, PZ would be asked about the allegations and his story would be examined.

    But instead, all that happened is that Connie put up a petition on the web and someone claiming to be the same person made some apparently-corroborating statements on blogs. We can’t confirm what Connie claimed. We can’t confirm that Vickie exists, or is a student of PZ. We can’t even confirm that the person posting on the blogs is the same person who put up the petition. All we have to go on is a lot of bits being transmitted over the net of a million lies.

    Do you see the problem?

    Leaving the hypothetical behind, even if the VA were presented with a paper petition with 10,000 verified signatures, they would quite reasonably ask why Esther didn’t file a formal complaint, and refuse to act without one. That’s the standard method of seeking redress for a grievance. I think there’s a general principle in law that you don’t have grounds to sue if you haven’t exhausted your other avenues of redress.

    Esther should formally complain to the VA. A petition is only appropriate if she does so and the VA doesn’t address her concerns, and legal action doesn’t work, and the facts brought out during those steps appear to corroborate the claims.

    In this case, it’s complaint box, jury box, soap box, in that order.

  • Tualha

    Does anyone know how a household can be simultaneously “extremely religious” and “deeply fundamentalist,” but also “non-denominational”? Are there fundies out there who just read the bible but don’t belong to a church?

  • Tualha

    Pierce @24: High-five! 🙂

  • DaveL

    Does anyone know how a household can be simultaneously “extremely religious” and “deeply fundamentalist,” but also “non-denominational”?

    If I could hazard a guess, I’d say they probably consider their doctrine to be the “no-frills default” of Christian belief, and everything various other denominations add or take away is a deviation from non-denominationalism.

  • jimbenton

    (btw, it’s me, Prup, but FTB has me logged in as just ‘jimbenton.’ To the ‘other’ jim benton — the writer of kid’s books — again, I’m not claiming to be you and will gladly make this clear if some idiot friend of yours points you in this direction.)

    Let ne solidly join the skeptic’s side on this one. If the incident happened — and it may have — it would be horrible. At the same time, reprinting a petition — complete with the names supposedly involved — based on a second-hand, hearsay story coming from a person with admitted mental problems, passed on by someone equally unknown — without doing a minimal amount of checking, is precisely the sort of sloppy work we’d be all over if the story had appeared in WorldNutDaily.

    I spent a few moments just researching the three names in the story. According to ‘’ — and I have no idea how complete or reliable they are — there is a 72-year old woman with the name of the supposed nurse involved, in Texas, there are several Jessica Garsons — but none within a thousand miles of Texas, and no one with the surname “Garatie” in the whole United States — though there are two listings on other sites.

    Ed, as always I admire your honesty in admitting your own skepticism once points were raised, but wouldn’t it have been worth at least seeing if there were any other confirmation before running the story complete with full names? At least use just initials until you have some evidence other than ‘my friend told me that this happened.’

  • Please remember: healthy skepticism is one thing; scoffing at abuse and calling a United States Marine Corps Veteran a liar

    Again, nobody is calling her a liar – personally, I find it easy to believe a homophobic “nurse” would be this horrible. However I don’t know what bearing your friend’s military history has on her honesty I’m not American, so I see your military veterans as just people (and I see my own country’s military veterans as just the same) with the same capacity to lie as anyone else.

    That said, with so little about this online, my reaction wasn’t to think your friend a liar but to consider this a possible new urban legend.

  • jimbenton

    I should mention that I am personally very sensitive to stories like this, because I was almost expelled from college because of a slander — and not an anonymous one. I had called the head of a local anti-pornography group (someone who later served on a Presidential Commission, so not an obscure person) and invited him to appear on my radio show. When he heard I had also invited Dr. Albert Ellis, he began a tirade about not allowing such people air time. I politely suggested that he come on and use the time I offered to refute this supposedly evil position.

    Instead, he called up Grayson Kirk, the head of the entire Columbia University — who probably didn’t even know we had a radio station — and complained that I had insulted him. Had it not been for a Dean who simply believed my story enough to arrange a confrontation on the phone, and had I not gotten him — after some probing — to admit that I had been totally polite, and that he had just wanted to prevent the story from being aired, I might have seen my Columbia time ended even more prematurely than it turned out to be.

    So I am very sensitive to this sort of thing. (And to show you the quality of the person involved, I later found myself living within short walking distance of his church, and visited him, hoping for an apology. He was literally incapable of grasping that I had not come to apologize to him.)

  • jimbenton

    I also, to emphasize the danger, point out it took less than ten seconds to find out the nurse’s address and phone number. Had I wanted to harass her, or worse…

    Again, this is what we complain about when WND or Pam Geller does it.

  • I would see your point if your information were accurate. A complaint was filed with the Patient Advocacy department of the Dallas VA Medical Center the day this happened. In the intervening week and a half, Esther has not heard back from the department despite their promises to contact her expediently to update her on the status of the complaint.

    Esther is currently in the process of filing a complaint with the Texas Board of Nursing as well.

    Like many of us, she doesn’t happen to have money spilling out of her pockets to hire a lawyer, nor does she have any major news organizations on her speed dial. In fact, before the petition was started, multiple letters went out to multiple news organizations encouraging them to take up the story. We received no responses and thus moved on to the petition.

    Actually, you can. My username is a link, because I used my facebook account to log into the blog. If you follow the link to my facebook page, you will find the petition plastered all over it, as well as information dating back to October 12, the day this happens, regarding the incident. Incidentally, my account is ALSO tied to my facebook page; thus proving that I am, in fact, the same person who started the petition.

  • Whoops. Screwed up the quoting on that last post, so I’m going to dispense with it now!

    The second point I made was that it is indeed possible to check whether I’m the same person that started the petition.

    Now, one more response.

    You didn’t find me by looking under the name “Jessica Garson” because my name is “Jessica Gerson.” When corroborating stories, proper name spelling helps. :o) I also don’t live in Texas. I’m a Louisiana resident, the state from which Esther comes originally.

    Furthermore, Esther and her g/f moved to Dallas only six months ago or so. It doesn’t surprise me she wouldn’t show up in If you, however, search for her on the web you’ll find ample evidence that an Esther Garatie exists.

    As far as Ms. Pandithurai goes, I have no comment. I am not personally using her personal information to harass her, nor am I encouraging anyone else to do so. But I don’t believe that the risk that some jerk might make crank phone calls to the abuser is a reason not to pursue justice for the abuse.

  • jimbenton

    Jessica: I may have mistyped your name in the search — but I am more likely to have mistyped it in my comment. (I was rushed at that moment — domestic duties including an insukin shot to our diabetic cat — in fact I may have even seen the LA and read it as IA in my rush. For that — and only that — my apologies.)

    I checked only one site — and mentioned I did not know its reliability. But none of this matters. The point is that you were not even a witness to the event. Had you wanted to seriously pursue this, you might have contacted any of a hundred Texas or local blogs, telling them the story, but asking them to post something that would bring in other people’s testimonies against this woman — perhaps identifying her by name, perhaps just by age and profession.

    If you had one other incident — and certainly if your story is true, rather, if your friend’s story is true, this was hardly an isolated incident — then you had a chance of getting the abuse punished. Right now you have, literally, nothing. One hearsay case that you didn’t witness, that the victim made no public complaint about, and that there was no media coverage of.

    Any person who fired someone based on such an incident, or a petition based on such little evidence should be fired himself (or herself). Had you even gotten one other speson to make a complaint, had your friend pressed iy rather than merely spoken to you and had you carry the ball, it would be different. Right now, you have, in fact, yourself made it impossibke for the woman to be fired unless as it haooens a nukber of other people demonstrate a pattern of behavior.

    But my criticism was never of you, but of Ed, whose journalistic standards should have kept him from running the story in the form he did.

  • jimbenton

    Apologies for my own typing in the last, but to emphasize the point, were I — who has known Ed over the net for five years — to have written to him about what I had personally witnessed, I still would expect him not to use any names I included — other than my own. Refer questions to me, sure, mention the incident hiding the names sure, but take my word to the point of accusing someone on my say-so, I’d hope not.

  • freemage

    Ed: Having heard the story as it’s come out with more details from Jessica, is this the sort of thing that Mickey Weinstein would be interested in? I know most of his cases have featured active-duty soldiers, but I would think a veteran would be just as deserving of a little help from the MRFF.

  • Pteryxx


    – Don’t forget that Esther’s full name is on this story as well, along with her depression and being gay. She’s also at risk of being harassed because she chose to make her complaint public. Arguably, she might be taking a greater risk than Ms. Pandithurai.

    – Whether 3 hours is unusual: Some counselors have a lot of leeway to be flexible when attending an upset patient. On several occasions, I’ve had appointments delayed because my counselor had to spend extra time with another patient; once for as long as an extra hour. I’ve also had particularly sensitive appointments (in the context of post-abuse counseling) given the last timeslot of the day, specifically so our appointment could be open-ended. I don’t know if the VA mental health clinic condones such flexibility, but it’s not unusual when dealing with abuse or PTSD – which may well be factors for a homosexual soldier who served under DADT.

    – Finally, and regardless of the specifics of THIS incident, there’s no call to question ANY patient’s credibility with ignorant comments like “why did she sit there and take it” and “Marines should be tougher than that”. Patients with depression, PTSD or histories of abuse often present as extra-tough and unflappable in some circumstances while being vulnerable in others*. The whole concept of “trigger warnings” acknowledges that some people can’t handle certain topics at certain times. It’s entirely credible that a military veteran would be emotionally vulnerable to homophobic accusations – they’re even a credible threat against STRAIGHT soldiers, for example when used to cover up rape in the military**.

    *See also: terrorism expert Jessica Stern, A memoir of terror

    **See also: Newsweek article on male rape victims in the military, The military’s secret shame

  • Jessica Gerson wrote:

    Like many of us, she doesn’t happen to have money spilling out of her pockets to hire a lawyer, nor does she have any major news organizations on her speed dial. In fact, before the petition was started, multiple letters went out to multiple news organizations encouraging them to take up the story. We received no responses and thus moved on to the petition.

    This is something I may be able to help with. The organization I work for has a news site in Texas. Please email me with some contact information, or send it to me on Facebook, and I will put you or your friend in touch with our reporters in Texas.

  • Pteryxx

    “if you had one other incident” seriously? Then THAT person would have had to make the first public accusation with no corroborating incidents. So by that logic, nobody should ever be first.

    Public attention, via the petition or otherwise, shouldn’t be the sole and direct cause of a person’s firing. It SHOULD put pressure on the Dallas VAMC to take Esther’s filed complaint seriously, investigate the incident, and to make a public response.

  • Kiwi Sauce

    I’m with Pteryxx on this. And jimbenson, your anecdote of what happened to you is irrelevant to this discussion.

    Thank you Jessica for coming here and posting more details over what has occurred post the incident. I hope there is an appropriate outcome.

  • shay

    Actually, Jim’s experience is not irrelevant. Those of us who have been the subject of potentially career-ending accusations look for corroboration in cases like these. My Marine bullshit detector has given me false positives before, but even if there weren’t enough inconsistencies to cause me some concern, I’m still old-fashioned enough to prefer a trial before the hanging.

    That being said — anyone who works in public health or social services has had at least one experience with a licensed healthcare professional who firmly believes that her personal beliefs take precedence over the job she was hired to do. Which is why I’ve written to the Women Veterans’ Program Manager at the Dallas VA Medical Center, requesting an investigation.

  • Kiwi Sauce

    Shay, it is irrelevant in the sense that what happened to Jim has no probability on whether the story here is true. And it sounds like only two people were present during this incident, which will mean one person’s word against another. I’m not expecting any corroborating evidence to occur except in the instance of documentation on the length of the examination.

    I have a good bullshit detector as well, and that includes treating any anecdotes as just that, anecdotes. Which is what I have called Jim out on.

    What you are missing are the examples where a career-limiting behaviour occurred, but the victim never came forward, to counter the ones you have seen where there were false accusations. You seem to be weighting up the false positives without knowing what the false negative rate is.

    I agree with you on the point about waiting on all the evidence to arrive before drawing a conclusion.

  • Shay says: “even if there weren’t enough inconsistencies to cause me some concern, I’m still old-fashioned enough to prefer a trial before the hanging.”

    Hi, Shay,

    I very much appreciate that you’ve taken the initiative to request an investigation into what happened. I am curious, however, and would really like your input on the “inconsistencies” you refer to. I replied to an earlier comment of yours asking (not snidely, an honest question) what kind of corroboration you would be looking for, and unfortunately you did not respond to my question.

    So, again, I respectfully request that you direct my attention to the “inconsistencies” you refer to. Obviously, I am not a neutral party here; I’ve stated already that I fully believe Esther’s story–but despite my own personal take on the issues, I like to think I’m a pretty smart lady, and I fail to see anything whatsoever in Esther’s experiences that doesn’t match up with other parts (and is, hence, inconsistent). Would you please be kind enough to point out to me the inconsistencies that I appear to be missing?

    Incidentally, nobody here is arguing that there shouldn’t be an investigation before Ms. Pandithurai is fired. I expect and believe that there should be one. I chose, however, to stick with stronger language for the petition because I firmly believe that the grievousness of Ms. Pandithurai’s actions warrants termination. She violated both laws and professional ethics. Nobody is expecting the VA to take a look at the petition and say immediately “well, that tears it, I guess we’re firing her.” What the petition DOES have the power to do is display to the VA that people have taken note, the public is watching, and they need to take these accusations very seriously and investigate them thoroughly rather than whitewashing it.


    Jessica Gerson

  • Another brief note to those who doubt Esther’s statement because “nobody else seems to have come forward before.”

    I would point out that Ms. Pandithurai’s attacks on Esther took place not even ONE MONTH after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell went into effect. If you were a gay soldier or veteran in the DADT era and a mental health professional harrassed you in a VA because of your presumed sexual orientation…how loud would you yell about it, given the military’s openly stated (and only recently defunct) position on the fact that homosexuals have no place in the service? I can’t speak for any of you, but I probably would’ve sat down and shut up.

    I would furthermore point to Pteryxx’s statement (and thank you for making it)…if nobody ever came forward first, well, nobody would ever come forward at all.

    I appreciate the desire for proof, but I dislike seeing one of the most honorable people I know crucified on the altar of “she must be lying because nobody ELSE said so.”

    IMHO, the fact that she is (as far as we know) the first to come forward with this abuse doesn’t make her a liar…it just makes her extraordinarily brave.

  • Googling “Pandithurai Dallas va” brought up this:


    Are there other stories out there about NP Pandithurai?

  • Tualha

    Jessica: If you change the petition to call for the VA to investigate the charges, I’ll sign that. I suggest you find out who Esther’s congressperson is, and add that person and both TX senators to the petition recipients; representing Esther’s interests to the US government is part of their jobs. (Yeah, I realize all three of them are probably homophobic assholes, but it’s still part of their jobs, and the voters should know what they did when they were asked.)

  • Hey folks,

    I thought the doubters out there would be interested in this press coverage Esther’s story recently received. It confirms that the VA and the Texas Board of Nursing are both investigating the incident. Esther has also been called back to the VA to make a statement for the investigation (which she did). Furthermore, nobody at the VA has disputed the fact that Pandithurai spent three hours with her…strongly suggesting that their records confirm this fact.



    Jessica Gerson

  • Kiwi Sauce

    Thanks for posting the update Jessica, I was hoping we would hear how things were going.

    I hope for an appropriate and timely outcome.

  • Tualha

    I’m sure the mainstream news will be covering the story any day now. Yeah right. Just like they covered the married lesbian couple who saved 40 kids on Utoya Island.

  • Pteryxx

    I know I’ve got no reason to think it was me… but I did forward this post to the Dallas Voice asking them to look into it. I’m overjoyed to see they came through and now the story’s going viral.

    *snif* Credibility’s a beautiful thing.