TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey state-run veterans homes were unprepared to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 outbreak and suffered a “systemic inability” to implement care, the U.S. Justice Department said in an investigative report released Thursday.
In a scathing, 43-page report, the Justice Department outlines failures at the homes in Menlo Park and Paramus, citing poor communication and a lack of staff competency that let the virus spread “virtually unchecked throughout the facilities.”
The report found that even after the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department arrived in New Jersey to help in April 2020, the state Military and Veterans Affairs Department failed to implement their recommendations and otherwise reform infection control.
The state reached a $53 million agreement in 2021 to settle claims that it was negligent and contributed to more than 100 deaths at the two VA homes.
More than 200 residents of the homes died during the pandemic. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration came under criticism in April 2020 when it directed veterans homes not to turn away patients who had tested positive, an order that was later rescinded.
A message seeking comment was left with Murphy’s office.