Gottheimer Calls on VA to Fulfill NJ Request for Assistance as 400+ Care Facilities Across the State Face COVID-19 Outbreaks, Staffing Shortages — VA Already Assisting NJ State Veterans Homes

On April 22, 2020, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) requested that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) fulfill the State of New Jersey’s request for additional assistance for all long-term care facilities in dire need throughout the State. They are already helping the three NJ State veterans homes, which have had staffing shortages.

This follows Gottheimer's requests throughout this crisis for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy National Guard and Reserves to assist New Jersey's long-term care facilities, that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deploy U.S. Public Health Service front-line health care workers to New Jersey. Gottheimer also asked for a federal VA investigation and additional measures to protect remaining veteran residents at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, which is managed by the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NJ DMVA).

There are 438 long-term care facilities in New Jersey dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, with a total of 11,608 cases reported in these facilities overall, and with 2,050 deaths.

There are now 680 National Guardsmen currently serving on duty in New Jersey as part of the State’s COVID-19 response, including 45 National Guard medics assisting at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus and 35 at the Veterans Home at Menlo Park.

New Jersey is ranked as having the second largest coronavirus outbreak in the country by total number of cases.

The State of New Jersey recently submitted a request for additional VA assistance for the State’s long-term care facilities through FEMA.

“I urge the VA, in the strongest possible terms, to provide any and all available resources in support of this request. New Jersey desperately needs federal assistance to help disinfect facilities, administer testing, assist with patient care for remaining residents, and perform specific services at these disaster-stricken homes,” Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) wrote in a letter this week to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie. “Our State is relying on the federal government for assistance in dealing with this crisis, and I believe that the VA is uniquely equipped to help. I am grateful for their help with our veterans homes, and I am hopeful they can help others in our long-term care facilities.”

Gottheimer recently called on the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) to assist dozens of other long-term care facilities facing critical shortages in North Jersey, asked FEMA to deploy the National Guard and Reserves, and led a bipartisan group of members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to request that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deploy U.S. Public Health Service front-line health care workers, and provide additional PPE resources from the Strategic National Stockpile.

“I am committed to doing everything I can to leverage federal resources to help protect vulnerable residents and staff members at New Jersey’s long-term care facilities,” Gottheimer continued. “We must do everything we can to save lives, protect public health and safety, and assist our State’s most vulnerable residents.”

Gottheimer noted the ongoing issues in long-term care facilities in the Fifth District, including the heartbreaking situations at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center and at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, which is managed by the NJ DMVA.

At Andover, which is one of the largest homes in the State, at least 91 residents and staff have recently died, 39 of whom were confirmed positive for COVID-19. As of this week, 91 total residents had tested positive for coronavirus, 16 residents were awaiting test results, and 30 residents had been hospitalized.

At the Paramus Veterans Home, managed by NJ DMVA, there have been tragic reports of the deaths of more than 45 veterans. Gottheimer, joined by Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), requested U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie deploy healthcare providers, staff, and resources there to help protect veterans and residents from COVID-19. 

Gottheimer commended the VA’s ongoing support for New Jersey, including opening 20 beds to non-Veterans in New Jersey on April 1 to assist with COVID-19 patients pursuant to another FEMA mission assignment, and providing personnel to assist at the New Jersey Veterans Homes at Paramus and at Menlo Park, with 50 VA nursing personnel already on-site and two-dozen more expected soon.  

A copy of the letter is available HERE, the text of which is provided below.

The Honorable Robert Wilkie
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Wilkie:

I write in strong support for the Governor of New Jersey’s request for additional Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assistance for all long-term care facilities in dire need across New Jersey, especially the State Veterans Homes. I understand that Governor Murphy has submitted this request through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and I urge the VA in the strongest possible terms to provide any and all available resources in support of this request. New Jersey desperately needs federal assistance to help disinfect facilities, administer testing, assist with patient care for remaining residents, and perform specific services at these disasterstricken homes.

As you know, nationwide, more than 7,000 people have died in nursing homes and long-term care facilities due to COVID-19. There are 438 long-term care facilities in New Jersey with COVID-19, a total of 11,608 cases reported in these facilities overall, and a tragic 2,050 deaths. This includes nursing homes like Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Andover, N.J. - - one of the largest homes in the State -- where at least 91 residents and staff have recently died, 39 of whom were confirmed positive for COVID-19. As of this week, 91 total residents had tested positive for coronavirus, 16 residents were awaiting test results, and 30 residents had been hospitalized. That is why I have called on the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) to assist dozens of other long-term care facilities facing critical shortages in North Jersey, asked FEMA to deploy the National Guard and Reserves, and led a bipartisan group of members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to request that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deploy U.S. Public Health Service front-line health care workers, and provide additional PPE resources from the Strategic National Stockpile. There are 680 National Guardsmen currently serving on duty in New Jersey as part of our State’s COVID-19 response, including 45 National Guard medics assisting at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus and 35 at the Veterans Home at Menlo Park.

Congressman Pascrell and I remain deeply concerned about the recent performance of the facility and a departure from its regular health and safety standards. As soon as we received reports about the outbreak of COVID-19, which led to more than eight deaths at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, operated by the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NJ DMVA), I investigated and demanded that the NJ DMVA take immediate measures to protect veterans and correct the failure to keep families informed about the risk to their health. Congressman Bill Pascrell and I wrote to you on April 10th to request that the VA deploy healthcare providers, staff, and resources there to help protect veterans and residents from COVID-19. I appreciate the VA’s ongoing support for our State, including opening 20 beds to non-Veterans in New Jersey on April 1 to assist with COVID19 patients pursuant to another FEMA mission assignment, and providing more than 50 VA nursing personnel already on-site and two-dozen more soon expected at the New Jersey Veterans Homes at Paramus and at Menlo Park.

Our State is relying on the federal government for assistance in dealing with this crisis, and I believe that the VA is uniquely equipped to help. That is why I respectfully request your immediate assistance. I am committed to doing everything I can to leverage federal resources to help protect vulnerable residents and staff members at New Jersey’s long-term care facilities. We must do everything we can to save lives, protect public health and safety, and assist our State’s most vulnerable residents, particularly our veterans who sacrificed so much to protect our democracy.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Josh Gottheimer
MEMBER OF CONGRESS

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