A counselor fired by the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center had sex with a client, violating her profession’s ethical standards, according to the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers.
Jamie Carlson, who denied the allegations during a prolonged VA investigation, has surrendered her license and been fined.
“I enjoyed my job, but things happen and there’s nothing I can do to change it at this point,” Carlson said in an interview Thursday with The News-Review. “It is what it is. Can I change it at this moment? No. I have to keep going day by day. Sometimes people make a stupid choice.”
The VA barred Carlson, 33, from counseling patients between August 2012 to November 2013, when her dismissal was made final. In between, she was idle, though she continued to show up and collect her $65,000 annual salary. Carlson called the investigation a “witch hunt” and accused VA officials of discriminating against her because she’s young, a woman and Pakastani-American.
Many veterans she counseled for post-traumatic stress disorder rallied to her defense as the case dragged on, saying she had earned their trust and helped them.
One of those patients, Bud Bessey of Myrtle Creek, expressed shock and disappointment to hear Carlson had admitted having a sexual relationship with a client and had surrendered her license.
“In all honesty, I don’t know what to say. I thought everything she told me was true. I’m surprised it happened that way,” Bessey said.
Still, Bessey said Carlson is a “true professional” who helped him with his PTSD.
“She did me a lot of good,” he said.
VA officials maintained their silence on the case.
“The VA does not comment on issues involving current or former employees,” spokeswoman Carrie Boothe said in a written statement.
The state board issued a final order accepting the surrender of Carlson’s license March 5.
“I chose to give up my license because it was easier than spending thousands of more dollars on an attorney to take this matter to a hearing,” she said.
The March 5 order forbids Carlson from practicing social work in the state for at least three years. If she applies to have her license restored, she will be subject to supervision for two years.
“Is it the end of my social work career? It is right now. I’m not doing social work right now. I can’t even predict what’s going to happen next month, let alone what will happen three years from now,” she said.
Carlson said she is in Oregon and has a job, but wouldn’t say exactly where she is or what she is doing.
“I still have my two dogs, I still have my truck, and I’m doing my best to recover from this,” she said. “Having everything at the age of 31 and losing everything at the age of 32 is not an easy thing to deal with.”
Carlson admitted she had an intimate relationship with a man who attended 19 group sessions she led at the VA.
She said she and man had been friends since 2005 and that he dropped into the sessions between 2007 and 2011. She said their intimate relationship began in 2011 after the last session he attended.
State ethics rules forbid social workers from entering into a relationship with a client within three years of counseling.
Carlson said the man twice asked her to marry him, but she turned him down.
Carlson said she still plans to pursue an appeal through the federal Merit Systems Protection Board and claims the VA violated her due process and its own policies in handling her case.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The story has been edited to correct a mistake in the print and an earlier online version of the story. The number of violations committed by Carlson was incorrect. She was not sanctioned for allegations she entered into social relationships with five other clients.