Justice Department says New Jersey violated Constitution by 'failing' veterans in state-run homes

The facilities saw significant numbers of deaths from 2020 through 2022.

Published: September 7, 2023 1:37pm

Updated: September 7, 2023 1:41pm

The Justice Department on Thursday released the results of a report finding that the state of New Jersey "failed" veterans in two state-run nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The veterans were placed in "serious risk of harm" during the COVID pandemic in the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Homes at Menlo Park and Paramus because facility leadership did not implement safety policies such as asking and handwashing, the Justice Department said in a 43-page report.

The conditions were so abhorrent that they violated the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, officials said, citing how the residents faced "unreasonable harm and risk due to inadequate infection control practices and inadequate medical care." 

For example, before the COVID pandemic, about 100 residents died in each of the veterans homes every year. "In April 2020 alone, 98 Menlo Park residents and 92 Paramus residents died, of all causes," the Justice Department also said.

The heightened death toll continued through 2021 and 2022, with residents' deaths putting the facilities at the 89th percentile or higher among all long-term care facilities in New Jersey.

"These conditions must swiftly be addressed to ensure that our veterans and their families at these facilities receive the care they so richly deserve. We will not stop working until they do," U.S. District Attorney for New Jersey Philip Sellinger said.

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