Roseburg Veterans Affairs counselor upset by investigation

ROSEBURG — A Veterans Affairs counselor in Roseburg has been idle for close to a year as officials investigate whether she had an intimate relationship with a veteran who attended support groups for those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jamie Carlson, 33, has remained on the payroll during the investigation, collecting her $65,000 annual salary while spending her workday on Facebook and YouTube. Though her work life might sound cushy, Carlson said she'd rather be meeting with patients.

"They have made it intolerable for me," she told the Roseburg News-Review newspaper.

Carlson denies any improper behavior with the veteran, whom she describes as an old friend, and a union representative says the entire case is based on rumor.

Roseburg VA spokeswoman Carrie Boothe said officials will not discuss employee issues with the press.

The case, however, appears to be reaching a conclusion. Carlson said she was given a document July 15 that alleges that she failed to notify the VA about a "dual relationship" with the veteran. Roseburg VA Director Carol Bogedain will make a decision about Carlson's status within 30 days, according to the notice.

Carlson has been employed by Roseburg VA Medical Center for six years and has support from some veterans.

Bud Bessey, a Vietnam War veteran, said Carlson helped him with post-traumatic stress disorder and that his condition has worsened without her.

"I am not getting the care I got when Jamie was there," Bessey said. "I have had to double up on my meds. My home life has been affected. I'm taking twice as many 'nice guy' pills as I'm supposed to."

Bessey, chief of the Roseburg branch of the Fleet Reserve Association, also said he was an advocate for Carlson's friend and helped him qualify for VA care. He said that the man was never Carlson's patient.

"I don't feel very good about it at all," Bessey said. "She's been totally treated wrong and her rights have been violated."

Merrie Jo Rodriguez of Tenmile said her husband, Nick, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was helped by Carlson.

"I can't stress enough she's helped a lot of people," Rodriguez said. "It's stupid to make a person sit there for months and do nothing. ... This is ridiculous. I mean you have a trained professional that needs to be able to do her job.

"My feeling is if the VA has something to charge her with, they should have done it about nine months ago."

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