Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.

VA New England Healthcare System


VA New England earns 3 VA nurse excellence awards

Photo of Nursing Excellence Recipients

Three VA New England employees received top honors recently from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the annual "Excellence in Nursing and for the Advancement of Nursing" award program. Receiving awards were, left to right: Alfred A. Montoya, Jr., director of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System; Bernadette Y. Jao, DNP, MSN, RN-BC, the associate director of Patient/Nursing Services at the Manchester VA Medical Center in New Hampshire; and Bernard Simoneau, a telehealth clinical technician at the Pittsfield Community Based Outpatient Clinic with the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

BEDFORD, Mass. – VA New England employees received top honors recently from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the annual Excellence in Nursing and for the Advancement of Nursing award program.

Receiving awards for outstanding professional performance in serving Veterans and in benefiting VA’s nursing community were: Alfred A. Montoya, Jr., VA Connecticut Healthcare System medical center director in the director’s category; Bernadette Y. Jao, Manchester VA Medical Center nurse executive in the Nurse Executive category; and Bernard Simoneau, VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System telehealth clinical technician in the Health Care Technology category.


The SECVA awards are given to individuals who have been nominated by their colleagues for outstanding service to Veterans and to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Each year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes VA professionals for quality patient care, innovations, excellence and leadership in advancing nursing and with transforming VA health care,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie. “Our award recipients this year are to be commended for their superlative work in initiating, developing and implementing new practices and policies essential to the delivery of quality health care for those who have served our great nation.  I congratulate them for this high level of distinction in their profession.”

Chosen from individual medical centers, the nominees go through a rigorous review before final selections are made.

“We are so proud of our award recipients,” said Ryan Lilly, VA New England Healthcare System network director. “They exemplify the very best attributes in our workforce. We are collectively dedicated to be the premier, integrated, academic health care system in New England and Mr. Montoya, Dr. Jao, and Mr. Simoneau are leading the way.”

In addition to the VA New England Healthcare recipients, the VA also awarded Krista Behrend, a registered nurse from Madison, Wisconsin; Marie Jean-Baptiste, a registered nurse from Tampa, Fla., and Paul Adams, a licensed practical nurse from Asheville, N.C.

The awards were announced Dec. 4.


Montoya was recognized for his transformational leadership style in building an engaged, inter-professional team model and with creating innovative approaches for improving Veteran care.

Previously the medical center director at Manchester VA Medical Center, Montoya was named the director at VA Connecticut in September.

“Mr. Montoya exhibits the leadership traits of a seasoned executive with a total commitment to providing an outstanding employee and Veteran patient-care experience,” said Lilly. “His team approach where nurses are valued and challenged to face the future of caring for our Veterans is a model across our VA.”


Jao’s efforts in improving nursing, provider and Veteran family satisfaction ratings were noted in her award. Since joining Manchester VA in January 2018, Manchester VA’s Community Living Center received a “5 Star Sail Rating” as best in its category for exceptional long-term care for Veterans.

A doctor of nurse practice, her leadership also resulted in Manchester VA’s Sterile Processing Service receiving the most compliant review of any VA SPS department in the nation. Nursing at Manchester VA was also recognized as having five best practices and achieved zero Joint Commission findings in a 2018 survey.

“Dr. Jao is a visionary and truly collaborative in nature,” said Lilly. “In keeping with Manchester VA’s journey of becoming highly reliable and Dr. Jao’s practice of elevating nursing professionals, Dr. Jao strategically advanced Manchester VA Medical Center’s SPS service chief to serve as a regional expert to assist and guide other SPS departments to achieve similar excellence and safe patient care outcomes.”


Simoneau was recognized for his superlative initiative in providing an exceptional Veteran health care experience. As a telehealth clinical technician, or "TCT," at the Pittsfield, Mass., community-based outpatient clinic, Simoneau developed a process to use tele-auscultation services for Veterans using the ClearSteth digital stethoscope. Thanks to his efforts, VA medical providers can hear the heart or lung sounds of Veterans from a distant location when using telehealth. Simoneau took the time to completely understand the system and then created a competency checklist to benefit other VA colleagues.

“Mr. Simoneau’s actions are aligned with high reliability and safety and support positive outcomes,” said Lilly. “He is recognized for his tenacity in problem solving, and his efforts support our commitment in VA New England in delivering timely and quality health care for our Veterans.”

(Manchester VA Medical Center and VA New England Healthcare System public affairs offices contributed to this article)


Get Updates

Subscribe to Receive
Email Updates