After years of turmoil and consistent complaints to regulators and elected officials - made by SEIU 888 and other unions - newly-elected Governor Maurey Healey’s administration fired Chelsea Soliders’ Home superintendent Eric Johnson this week. The home provides housing and medical care for veterans and is supported by SEIU 888 members.
“The constant stream of major issues in the Chelsea Soldier’s Home - ranging from deplorable treatment of patients to abuse of staff - has gone on for far too long,” said SEIU 888 President Tom McKeever. “This is the right move by the Healey Administration for the veterans who bravely served this country and to the men and women who work tirelessly to provide them care.”
Numerous controversies arose during Johnson’s tenure, which began with his appointment by Secretary of Veterans’ Services Cheryl Poppe in December 2020. The Massachusetts Inspector General - the state’s top watchdog - recently categorized Johnson’s leadership as a “catastrophic failure” in a public letter reported by The Boston Globe.
According to the Globe, “the letter described veterans being found ‘soaked in urine and sitting in feces’ and a toxic work environment in which at least one worker had a ‘reasonable’ belief that managers had ‘targeted [him] for retaliation.’” Reporting also noted that employees “witnessed instances of bullying, sexual harassment, and intimidation.”
“This wasn’t just a toxic work environment. It was a combative, abusive environment in which administrators neglected those whom the Soldiers’ Home was intended to care for – brave servicemembers who needed aid,” said Peter Lanceleve, an SEIU 888 member and LPN at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home. “This decisive action has been sorely needed.”
In addition to ongoing issues in the care of veterans and treatment of staff, the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home faced a number of other scandals in recent years. 31 residents died there of COVID early in the pandemic and an outbreak infected 14 last April. The Boston Globe also reported that the home’s nursing director was paid $87,000 in overtime last year, making her one of the state’s top earners. According to published reports, those payments were approved by Johnson.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with the Healey Administration moving forward and ensuring that both the veterans being served and staff serving them receive the respect they deserve,” added McKeever.