New Jersey's 21st Legislative District

Senator Tom Kean, Jr.

Senator Tom Kean

Kean Supports VFW’s Call for Independent Investigation of NJ Veterans Home Deaths

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Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in calling for an independent investigation of the nearly 200 deaths that occurred in State-run veterans homes due to COVID-19.

Sen. Tom Kean joined the VFW in calling for an independent investigation of the nearly 200 deaths that occurred in State-run veterans homes due to COVID-19 (Wikimedia Commons)

“It seems clear that a combination of serious policy failures by the Murphy administration coupled with poor oversight and local mismanagement contributed to the massive loss of life in State-run veterans homes,” said Kean (R-21). “Families and residents deserve to know that failures have been identified and fixed and that those responsible have been held accountable.”

Yesterday, the VFW Department of New Jersey called for an independent investigation after the number of confirmed and likely coronavirus deaths at the State-run veterans homes in Paramus and Menlo Park was revised upward by 47 to 190.

“The failure to report these deaths leads to the appearance of a cover up by the Administration,” VFW Commander Brian Wiener said in a written statement. “The lack of transparency and failure to act for five months has eroded any confidence in the Administration’s ability to police itself and the VFW calls on the State Legislature to demand for the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the failures that caused these deaths.”

A recent Wall Street Journal article detailed how the Menlo Park veterans home mismanaged one of the deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country, including allegations that coronavirus deaths may have been misclassified intentionally by the facility’s staff to downplay the extent of the crisis.

Additionally, citing guidance from the Governor’s Office, the published report says administrators of the facility removed personal protective equipment and threatened to discipline staff for “mask insubordination” if they insisted on wearing masks that might limit the spread of the disease.

As dozens of residents died, the facility kept families in the dark about the outbreak and the status of their loved ones, while mixing healthy residents with those who should have been isolated after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or returning from the hospital while still sick.

Kean noted that Senate Republicans have been calling since May for an independent legislative investigation of the thousands of deaths in New Jersey’s long-term care (LTC) facilities, including veterans homes and nursing homes.

“The administration’s story about the massive loss of life in our veterans homes didn’t add up five months ago, and it still doesn’t add up today,” added Kean. “That’s why Senate Republicans have repeatedly called for an investigative legislative committee with subpoena power to be formed, and why I’m joining the VFW’s call for a special prosecutor to be appointed to look into this tragedy. Families deserve answers and to trust they’re getting the full story and the unvarnished truth. That simply hasn’t happened yet.”

Last month, Senate Republicans launched an online petition to enlist the public’s support to convince legislative leaders to allow the special investigative committee to be formed to look into the more than 7,100 coronavirus deaths that have occurred across the state’s various LTC facilities.

In just three weeks, the online petition has been signed more than 2,300 times.

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