Baker names Poppe secretary of vet services

Had been filling role for 4 months on interim basis

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER appointed Cheryl Lussier Poppe as secretary of veterans’ services on Thursday, four months after she began filling the role on an interim basis after Francisco Urena resigned just before the release of a report on what led to the COVID-19 deaths of 76 veterans at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

“Time and time again, Cheryl has risen to the challenge to serve, and she has become indispensable to our Soldiers’ Homes, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Baker said in a statement. “She is a leader of exceptional talent and unquestionable character and I am confident she will serve our veterans at the highest level, ensuring they receive the support and care they are entitled to.”

Attorney General Maura Healey recently indicted two former top officials at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home — superintendent Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Clinton — on 10 criminal neglect charges each for allegedly combining healthy veterans with symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients in a single unit. Walsh and Clinton face arraignment on November 5.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The Department of Veterans’ Services is tasked with advocating on behalf of all the Commonwealth’s veterans and providing them with support services. The agency offers safety net benefits and mental health resources to eligible veterans. It also noversees the state’s two soldiers’ homes.

In 2014, Poppe was appointed superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea and in 2016 Baker tapped her to serve as interim superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

Poppe retired from the Massachusetts National Guard in the position of colonel after a 30-year career in 2008. She’s been with the Department of Veterans’ Services for the past 12 years.