WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9) today lauded reports that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has launched a probe into the dozens of deaths in state veterans and nursing home facilities.
“The tragedies that occurred in New Jersey’s state-run veterans homes are a complete disgrace for our veterans and families, which is why those in charge of the facilities need to be held fully accountable and ensure we are prepared for flu season,” said Rep. Gottheimer. “In April, we demanded that both the State of New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigate the outbreaks that had taken place. Here we are five months later and the families of those who lost their lives are still waiting for answers and accountability. We are, in parallel, actively working on increasing federal oversight of state-run veterans homes going forward. We now need the New Jersey Department of Military and Veteran Affairs to finally take full responsibility for the failure to contain the virus. We have also demanded the resignation of the Paramus Veterans Home’s CEO and asked the State Legislature to fully investigate the failures. The State must come clean to families of our nation’s heroes and the American public.”
“The deaths of so many of our veterans and seniors will long remain one of the greatest tragedies of this pandemic,” said Rep. Pascrell. “It is so painful because many of these losses could have been prevented, if not for the negligence and opaqueness of these facilities and a failed national strategy to take this virus seriously. The explosion of COVID-19 demanded transparency, honesty, cooperation, and competency and the people in charge at Paramus Veterans Home and elsewhere provided none of these. The leaders at Paramus failed and so bear responsibility for many of the dead. Accountability for what happened is a critical ingredient to making sure these crimes do not happen again. All of these families deserve not just answers, but justice, and we are hopeful that this inquiry will give them some of that justice.”
In late April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) inspected the state-run facility, found it not to be in compliance, and stated that all residents and staff were found to be in immediate jeopardy — the most severe level of harm.
Recent public reporting detailed how COVID-19 spread quickly through the facility due to lax infection control procedures, poor decisions, and a lack of proper personnel training.
Reps. Pascrell and Gottheimer led calls for an investigation at the Paramus home since the outset of the coronavirus crisis. At their urging, the federal Veterans Affairs department sent 56 health care workers to support the facility. Infectious disease experts were also sent to Paramus to prevent spread of the virus at their request in April. The two Congressmen visited the home in May and last month participated in a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on coronavirus and veterans homes.