- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for Audit Highlights Issues Related to Overtime at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home
Boston — In an audit released today of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home (CHE), State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump found that the lack of an effective system for tracking overtime resulted in unapproved overtime being paid to nursing staff members. The audit, which examined July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019, identified $223,136 in incremental overtime paid to nursing personnel that was either unauthorized or unapproved.
Staff can accumulate incremental overtime by clocking in before a shift is scheduled to begin or clocking out after their shift is scheduled to end, or by not clocking out for unpaid meal time. Auditors determined there were 9,804 instances of incremental overtime paid to nursing personnel that CHE was unaware of and did not authorize, and therefore could not substantiate it was essential for veteran care.
The audit also found issues with CHE’s documentation of premium overtime which is work that exceeds 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week and is paid at more than the standard hourly rate. For the 20,664 premium overtime payments totaling $3,320,033 during the audit period, CHE did not document the need for all overtime hours worked or that all members of its nursing staff had received required prior approval for overtime shifts. In addition, CHE could not provide daily staffing schedules for 17 of the 24 months examined by the audit. The staffing schedules that the Home did provide, contained numerous discrepancies in overtime records. The audit notes, these shortcomings may have resulted in CHE incurring unnecessary overtime costs.
“There is no excuse for state agencies’ continuing failures to properly administer employee overtime programs,” said Bump. “Evidently, at the Chelsea Soldiers Home there was no attention paid to when nurses were clocking in and out or supervisor approvals for millions of dollars of premium overtime. It is therefore impossible to tell how much of this compensation was justified by the needs of the patients and how much constitutes pure taxpayer abuse.”
The audit recommended CHE revise its overtime authorization process, ensure that daily staffing schedules and weekly overtime summary forms are completed, and enhance procedures for overtime recordkeeping. In its response, CHE indicated it was taking steps to address these recommendations.
During the audit, CHE paid out $3,320,033 in overtime to 169 nursing and medical personnel, which accounted for 81 percent of total overtime expenses.
Bump’s previous audit of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home found similar issues related to the approval of overtime for medical staff.
CHE operates within the Department of Veterans’ Services, which is part of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). The Soldiers’ Home provides skilled nursing, care for veterans with Alzheimer’s disease, and other long-term care. It is governed by a seven-member board of trustees appointed by the Secretary of EOHHS with the Governor’s approval. Day-to-day operations are administered by a superintendent who is also appointed by the Secretary of EOHHS with the Governor’s approval. During the audit, the Soldiers’ Home served 293 veterans.