Kuster: It’s Time for New Leadership in the VA New England Healthcare System
(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee, is publically calling for the removal of Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith as Network Director for the VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1). In discussions with the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, Kuster has expressed her concerns with VISN 1 leadership and on February 5, 2018, Kuster wrote to the Secretary requesting that Dr. Mayo-Smith be removed as head of the VA New England Healthcare System. Kuster outlined her concerns, which stem from growing problems that have developed not only at the Manchester VA Medical Center (VAMC) but also VAMC’s in Boston, MA, Bedford, MA, and Togus, ME. In the fall of 2017, Kuster and Congressman General Jack Bergman (MI-1) convened a field hearing at the NH National Guard Edward Cross Training Complex in Pembroke to assess care issues for veterans at the Manchester VA Medical Center.
“After multiple discussions with New Hampshire veterans, Secretary Shulkin, VA officials, VA whistleblowers and Dr. Mayo-Smith, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for new leadership at the New England VA Healthcare System,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “During the VA Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee hearing I convened in New Hampshire, Dr. Mayo-Smith was unable to provide satisfactory answers to what he knew about the deteriorating care at the Manchester VAMC and what steps he took to remedy those issues. It has become clear that the failures in Manchester were not unique to that facility and that veterans throughout the New England VISN have suffered as a result of inaction by senior VA officials. In my conversations with Dr. Mayo-Smith, I have become increasingly convinced that in order for veterans and the general public to regain confidence in the VA New England Healthcare System, Dr. Mayo-Smith cannot be a part of its future. Secretary Shulkin should take immediate action to remove Dr. Mayo-Smith from his position and launch an investigation into VISN 1 to ensure all bad actors are held accountable.”
“The leadership within the New England VISN has clearly failed New Hampshire veterans,” said Joe Clark, Department Commander for the New Hampshire VFW. “It’s time that Secretary Shulkin take decisive action to right the ship and that requires change at the top of the VISN. Dr. Mayo-Smith has overseen lapses in care for veterans in New Hampshire and at facilities throughout New England. The New Hampshire VFW supports Congresswoman Kuster’s call for Dr. Mayo-Smith’s removal and looks forward to continuing to work with her to improve access to care for veterans in the Granite State.”
“We join our fellow veterans and Congresswoman Kuster in calling on Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith’s removal as New England VISN Director,” said Daniel Yoder, Department Adjutant for the American Legion, Department of New Hampshire. “On countless occasions, New Hampshire veterans have seen failed leadership from VISN 1. In September 2017 we raised our grave concerns of Dr. Mayo-Smith’s leadership at the VISN and on the VISION 2025 directly to Secretary Shulkin. Though he was removed from the Task Force, nothing was done to address our concerns about Mayo-Smith’s leadership at the VISN. We deserve better. The time is now for Secretary Shulkin to act, for the good of Granite State veterans.”
In her letter to Secretary Shulkin, Kuster noted that the VA Accountability Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump last year, empowers the VA to hold senior employees responsible for actions that have led to failures in care for veterans. The legislation, which includes whistleblower protections authored by Kuster, gave the Veterans Affairs Department the authority to fire, demote, or suspend employees for poor performance or misconduct using an expedited process.