Last week, we published the thoughts of a wide variety of U.S. government employees about the prospect of working for a Donald Trump administration. Today, we hear from a VA psychologist who says she is planning to resign rather than work under Trump.
Jordan Soper, a psychologist working for the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Nevada sent us the following explanation of her decision to leave her job when Donald Trump takes office.
My name is Jordan Soper and I am a licensed psychologist at a VA Medical Center in Nevada. Throughout my graduate and postgraduate experiences, I had wonderful opportunities training at numerous VA Medical Centers throughout the country with my specialty in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. I have spent years devoting my training and career to the VA system with the intent of ensuring that I would be a “VA lifer,” dedicating my career to the provision of services to our Veterans. Being raised in a family with a military background and in a 9/11 world brought the needs of service members very much to the forefront of my mind. The needs of Veterans and their families is vast and the VA is the best integrated healthcare system in the entire world, so the path was not a difficult one to choose. Two months ago I started working my first full-time position in the VA as a staff psychologist. I love working with Veterans, they are an inspiration to me and it is an honor to treat them and provide them with a supportive environment to address their significant mental health needs. I have treated Veterans from so many diverse groups—diverse across ethnicity, gender, and culture. Most of my Veterans are survivors of sexual assault and/or combat trauma and they are some of the strongest individuals I have ever encountered.
On my first day of graduate school six years ago I took an oath. On my first day of VA orientation two months ago I took a similar oath. I have vowed to treat all persons ethically and with respect, regardless of their background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, or disability. On June 16, 2015 Donald Trump called individuals immigrating from Mexico rapists. On November 26, 2015 Donald Trump mocked a reporter with a physical disability. On October 7, 2016 a video was released of Donald Trump admitting to the sexual assault of women by grabbing their pussies. On October 3, 2016 Donald Trump called Veterans with PTSD weak. When I hear Donald Trump speak, see his actions, read his words, I am filled with disgust, distain, sadness, anger, and fear. This individual has violated human rights, has assaulted women, and acknowledged his distain towards Veterans in both private and public settings. This individual will soon be in charge of the VA system. This individual speaks the same words heard by my sexual assault survivors while a piece of them dies with each volatile thrust. This individual calls my combat Veterans weak as they fight to manage their lives while plagued by visions of wartime—images that no human should have to endure. This individual hates anyone who is not like him. This individual violates every ethical and moral oath that I have taken in my life. This individual is why I am leaving the VA in January 2017. I no longer feel able to perform the duties that I swore when I took my position in the VA because there is no safety in the VA anymore. There is no safety in the federal system anymore. There is no safety for those who are not like him.
My fear, which based upon who Trump has begun electing to his cabinet appears to be accurate, is that Trump will make efforts to dismantle an already fragile system. To set back the rights of women, Veterans, the LGBTQ community, people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, the lower and middle class, and the entire system appears to be high on his priority list. Not a day goes by when I do not hear Trump’s name, hear the fear he has caused, see the hate that is spreading in his name, and remember that the hate is alive and well. As a woman living in a rape culture, nothing is more disgusting to me than being shown a male, who admits to sexually assaulting women, continue to ascend the ranks while his victims are labeled liars. This is the same rape culture that keeps male and female Veterans quiet, seeking refuge at the only place they feel safe: the VA. Many have mocked and violated those fighting against the toxic Trump administration, calling us whiners, pussies, and bleeding heart liberals. This fight is no longer about politics – it is about people and human rights.
Leaving the VA is one of the hardest decisions of my life, but one that is based in my values and morals. As a woman, a feminist, an atheist, and a human, I am against everything Donald Trump stands for. My morals and ethical obligation to my patients will not permit me to work for such a person. I am fearful of what will happen to my Veterans, those who have given so much of themselves for us all. I will find a way to treat and care for them in other ways, to show them that they are safe, to give them the respect and honor they deserve. After leaving the VA I hope to treat Veterans either in a university setting or in a private practice setting focusing on treating PTSD and adjustment issues that are common in that population. Additionally, there are many ways to serve Veterans aside from just treatment, such as volunteering with different Veteran organizations, bringing awareness through social media, and initiating non-profit projects focusing on Veterans and their families.
Those who bleed for us are not like Donald Trump; they are our neighbors, our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our uncles, our aunts. They are all of us. Diversity is the foundation of this country and it is reflected in every aspect of our military and Veteran populations. They are not weak, they are not rapists, they are not broken, they are not illegals, they are not going to hell, they are not immoral, they are heroes. They fought for our independence, for our ability to stand up and scream no, they died so we could live. I will not dishonor them by staying, I will fight for them like they fought for me.