DOJ launches formal civil rights probe into N.J. veterans’ home deaths

TRENTON, N.J. – Citing the Murphy Administration’s lack of cooperation and veterans’ home deaths giving rise to “cause for concern,” the U.S. Department of Justice formally announced a civil right investigation this week into New Jersey’s handling of the situation.

U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpentino referred to the deaths as “understated” in a letter to Governor Murphy, stating that the state may have violated victims’ constitutional rights by “failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic in particular.”

“We encourage the state to cooperate with our investigation, and we can assure you that we will seek to minimize any potential disruption our investigation may cause,” the U.S. Attorney’s letter continued.

New Jersey’s nursing home death rate is the nation’s second worst.

It’s believe 200 residents died between just two of New Jersey’s three state-run veterans’ homes: Paramus and Menlo Park. Governor Murphy quitely sacked the top state veterans officials overseeing the homes on October 16th, months after the death toll rose without action but only one week after the VFW took the rare step of suggesting the Murphy Administration may be engaged in a cover-up.

The Murphy Administration’s most controversial move: a March 2020 directive preventing long-term care facilities from excluding admissions by COVID-19 positivity, a move which directly lead to thousands of deaths statewide as the virus began to sweep through nursing home facilities.

“It is unfortunate that it has come down to this, that the federal government is looking into the state’s troubling incompetency. At least somebody is listening,” said state Senator Joe Pennacchio who has been a leading voice demanding further investigation. “Along with colleagues in the Senate Republican Caucus, I have been saying all along that the Administration’s lack of transparency was troubling and unacceptable. We now know that they were not forthcoming with federal investigators.”

“Governor Murphy directly manages these Veterans homes, where so many of our great New Jersey heroes reside and died. His mismanagement of the Covid crisis is monumental and no more acute than in these homes,” added NJGOP Doug Steinhardt, a possible Murphy challenger in 2021. “As more details emerge about the Governor’s reckless disregard for these patients and staff, it’s clear that he didn’t grasp the complexities of the virus, prioritize our most vulnerable population, appreciate the magnitude of his March 31, 2020 “do not test” order or care about its deadly effect. What’s worse, he’s covering up his failures and scapegoating his subordinates. The NJGOP called for the DOJ to investigate, and they are. New Jersey’s veterans gave so much to our nation, the least Governor Murphy can do is pay them the respect of straight answers. His failure to provide timely, accurate, and transparent information to the DOJ is an insult to our vets and their families and confirms that he lacks the courage and character to lead.”

Time is running short to prevent a second wave.

This week, the Paramus facility confirmed its first new positive case in many weeks.