Two administrators fired amid concerns over Hastings Veterans Home

The Minnesota Veterans Home is seen
The Minnesota Veterans Home in Hastings, Minn. is pictured on Monday.
Ben Hovland/Ben Hovland | MPR News

State officials have fired two top Department of Veterans Affairs administrators amid complaints about operations at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Hastings.

In a memo to department staff on Sunday, Commissioner Larry Herke said he was aware of concerns about the Hastings Veterans Home and has “decided to go in a different direction with the home’s leadership.”

He said Deputy Commissioner Doug Hughes and Hastings Veterans Home Administrator Mike Anderson were dismissed as of Saturday.

“We will be moving forward with new leadership at the Hastings Veterans Home, and we are looking forward to continuing to make positive changes in the service of our veterans,” Herke wrote.

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Herke said the department has started a search to fill both positions. In the meantime, he said Craig Smith, a licensed nursing home administrator who has previously served as an interim administrator at state veterans homes, will temporarily lead the Hastings facility.

Brad Lindsay, the department’s deputy commissioner of programs and services, will serve as interim deputy commissioner of health care.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has reported there have been ongoing complaints about a toxic work environment at the Hastings facility, and some workers have raised concerns about safety and medical care.

In an interview with the Pioneer Press over the weekend, Hughes — one of the dismissed officials — said he and Anderson are “scapegoats.” He said workers’ concerns were taken seriously and that employees had rejected some of the changes Anderson tried to implement.

Responding to the news of a change in leadership at the home, DFL state Sen. Erin Murphy of St. Paul, chair of the Senate State and Local Government and Veterans Committee, said in a statement Sunday she was “grateful to see the MDVA acting to address the unacceptable conditions for veterans and their caregivers in Hastings.”

She called the leadership changes “a much needed step. But we have more work to do in order to achieve the high quality of care and the quality of life Minnesotans rightly expect for our veterans.”

She said her committee will hold a hearing at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to hear from Herke and veterans home staff.

The state operates veterans homes in Hastings, Minneapolis, Fergus Falls, Luverne and Silver Bay, and is building three more.