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Veterans Administration head's departure 'welcome news' to Manchester VA whistleblowers

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 08. 2018 11:48AM
Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, seen here at a 2015 veterans forum with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, is stepping down as director of the Veterans Affairs England Healthcare System Network. (UNION LEADER FILE/Mark Bolton)

The longtime New England regional head of Veterans Administration health care is retiring, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced Wednesday.

The departure of Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith as network director of the Boston-based region is welcome news to the whistleblowers at the Manchester VA Medical Center, who have called for his ouster for more than a year.

On Tuesday, U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, both D-NH, requested Mayo-Smith’s resignation along with leaders of the state chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.

Shulkin announced Mayo-Smith’s departure as part of housecleaning at the top of regional management following a scathing report from the VA Inspector General.

Shulkin named retired Brig. Gen. Bryan Gamble of the VA’s Orlando, Fla., medical center to reorganize three regions that include New England and involve 23 hospitals in 12 states.

Shulkin announced the retirement of the medical director in the region serving Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina and reassigned the head of the region that encompasses Baltimore, Md., West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Kuster embraced the approach.

“The Inspector General report released today also makes clear that the issues we’ve seen in New England are not unique, and that reforms are needed throughout VA to address widespread failures in VA oversight,” Kuster said in a statement.

“I look forward to meeting with Brigadier General Gamble to discuss the future of the VA New England Healthcare Network and to ensure that the voices of local veterans and stakeholders are taken into account as recommendations are developed to address the unique needs of veterans in New Hampshire and New England.”

Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton is one of three Republicans seeking the 2nd Congressional District nomination to oppose Kuster’s re-election.

A former Department of Medicine chairman at the Manchester VA, Levenson helped organize the whistleblowers and said Kuster didn’t act decisively enough.

“It is welcome news that Dr. Mayo-Smith has departed the VA; unfortunately when Congresswoman Kuster was made aware of the dangers to veterans that Dr. Mayo-Smith presented, she chose a course of inaction rather than serving her constituents,” Levenson said in a statement.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said Shulkin’s restructuring was overdue.

“Given the persistent issues at the VISN level, I believe it is important to move in a new direction and support the decision to restructure VISN 1 leadership,” Shaheen said referring to Mayo-Smith’s retirement.

“I’ll continue to focus my efforts on helping New Hampshire veterans, and will keep working with Manchester VAMC Director (Alfred) Montoya and the VA New Hampshire Vision Task Force to ensure Granite State veterans have the resources and care that they have earned.”

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