Lesbian veteran fights discrimination at Dallas VA Medical Center
 

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posted Friday, November 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 44

Lesbian veteran fights discrimination at Dallas VA Medical Center
by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Former Marine lance corporal Esther Garatie, 28, went to the Dallas VA Medical Center on October 12 to 'seek treatment for severe depression and possible post-traumatic stress disorder - including thoughts of suicide.' Garatie, who was wounded and honorably discharged from the Marines, claims that nurse practitioner Lincy Pandithurai told her that the reason she was depressed and contemplating suicide was because she is a Lesbian.

'She sat down and looked at me, and her first question was, 'Are you a Lesbian?' Garatie wrote in a personal statement written one day after the incident and published by the Dallas Voice. 'Her second question to me was, 'Have you asked God into your heart? Have you been saved by Jesus Christ?' This is when I realized that I was no longer a United States veteran in her eyes, I was just a homosexual.'

Garatie decided to fight back. The former Marine has since filed official complaints with the VA Medical Center and the Texas Board of Nursing against the nurse practitioner.

Penny Kerby, a spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center, confirmed that Garatie's complaint is under investigation.

'VA North Texas Health Care System does not tolerate discrimination on any level and takes any allegation of such behavior seriously,' Kerby said in a statement. 'Each employee who interacts with every veteran patient is expected to demonstrate our core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence. This allegation is being investigated and if substantiated, appropriate measures will be taken to address the issue.'

Immediately after the event, Esther sought the advice of her friend Jessica Gerson, a MSW candidate at Tulane University, who launched a campaign on Change.org to support the veteran.

'As soon as I heard from Esther, I knew I had to help,' said Gerson. 'Nurse Pandithurai should be fired from the Dallas VA Medical Center and have her license revoked by the Texas Board of Nursing. This isn't just about supporting Esther - it's about starting a dialogue. Esther's case is a powerful example of abuses that still occur with disturbing regularity to our brave LGBT service men and women.'

'The end of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was a preliminary victory but nowhere near a final one,' Gerson continued. 'We can't just sit by idly and watch our veterans - whether they're Gay or straight - be neglected or mistreated after giving so much to our country.'

Within hours of filing formal complaints and launching the campaign, Jessica had recruited hundreds of supporters. More than 5,000 people have now signed the online petition campaign, most within the last 48 hours.

'What Jessica has accomplished in just a few days is remarkable,' said Change.org organizing manager Mark Anthony Dingbaum. 'Armed with only a computer and a fierce loyalty to her friend, Jessica has already garnered the attention of the Dallas VA Medical Center and the local media. Change.org is about empowering anyone, anywhere, to demand action on the issues that matter to them, and it has been incredible to watch Jessica's campaign in support of her friend take off.'



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