According to the online transparency tool OpentheBooks, there were 7,816 Department of Veterans Affairs employees in Massachusetts in 2017. Remarkably, 2,098 of these, made six-figure incomes. Fifty-one administrators and doctors made more than $300,000 and 364 made more than $200,000. Salaries may be sky high, but there have been many complaints about the quality of care at two VA hospitals in particular.
As the Boston Globe, Lowell Sun, and ABC News have reported, VA Hospitals in Bedford and Northampton have been embattled by recent allegations of unexpected patient deaths, serious employee misconduct, whistleblower intimidation, and unsafe conditions.
In 2017, 35 employees made over $200,000 and 369 made over $100,000 at the Edith Nourse Rodgers Veterans Memorial Hospital in Bedford, while 31 made over $200,000 and 134 made over $100,000 at the Northampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Yet, there have been a litany of scandals at the Bedford VA Hospital as reported in the Sentinel & Enterprise, as well as the uncovering of horrific circumstances surrounding the death of Bill Nutter that were detailed in the Boston Globe.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette’s story on an affidavit from former Northampton VA Hospital Chief of Medicine Dr. Sarah Kemble, who died last winter, detailed charges of management shortcoming and inadequate resources at the facility.
Former Bedford VA Hospital Director Christine Croteau, who was reassigned to Washington, D.C. in 2016 following an ethics investigation, was on the books for $166,460. Other highly paid employees included Dr. Craig Coldwell ($355,000), Chief of Staff Dr. Dan Berlowitz ($273,483), Dr. Jacqueline Spencer ($259,275), and Dr. Carol Lorente ($250,214).
Northampton VA Hospital Director John Collins, who was cited for negligence in Dr. Kemble’s affidavit, made $172,100 last year. Other highly paid employees included Dr. John Hubbard ($319,409), Chief of Staff Dr. Seth Kupferschmid ($260,000), Dr. Mark Casey ($255,409), and Dr. David McGrath ($255,000).
Network director of the VA New England Health Care System Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, who recently stepped down amid criticism about poor management and accountability, made $276,482 in 2017.
While there are bound to be a few bad actors in any environment, the problems in Bedford and Northampton result from systemic failures. Reports confirm that at a minimum, a serious lack of proper oversight and responsibility abounded at the facilities.
Sadly, high salaries for so many VA employees do not correspond to a higher level of care for our honored veterans.