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Kuster calls for ouster of VA New England head

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 07. 2018 12:00AM

MANCHESTER — U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, confirmed Tuesday she had called for the removal of Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith from his leadership role in the Veterans Administration health care network for all of New England.

Leaders in the New Hampshire chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion supported this request, along with fellow Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH.

Kuster said she first sought the change in a Feb. 1 letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin.

Mayo-Smith has been network director for the VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1) since 2008.

Whistleblowers critical of conditions in Manchester were disturbed last summer that VA Secretary Shulkin had defended Mayo-Smith’s leadership.

One of their demands to VA leaders was that Mayo-Smith be removed from his post.

They maintain Mayo-Smith refused to act on their complaints about “Third World” conditions at the Manchester VA.

Kuster said she also holds Mayo-Smith accountable for problems at other VA sites in Boston and Bedford, Mass., and in Togus, Maine.

Shulkin had also named Mayo-Smith initially to co-chair a task force charged with charting a course for Manchester’s future. Ultimately, Shulkin agreed to replace Mayo-Smith in that position.

“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,” Kuster said in a statement.

“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.”

Kuster is the lead Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee.

Joseph Clark, department commander for the New Hampshire VFW, said the change would be long overdue.

“The leadership within the New England VISN has clearly failed New Hampshire veterans,” Clark said.

“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.”

Daniel Yoder, department adjutant for The American Legion of New Hampshire said he lodged “grave concerns” to Shulkin directly about Mayo-Smith’s leadership last September.

“The time is now for Secretary Shulkin to act for the good of Granite State veterans,” Yoder said.

Shea-Porter said since Shulkin changed the Manchester VA’s top management, two reports have concluded Mayo-Smith’s failed leadership contributed to problems there.

“Given that these failures occurred under the current leadership, and that the Manchester facility has been neglected by the VISN for far too many years, for the sake of our veterans, I believe that new leadership is needed going forward,” Shea-Porter said.

VA officials in Washington could not be reached for comment on Kuster’s call.

General News Manchester

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