Veterans Homes Covid Death Toll: NJ to Pay Nearly $53M in Settlement

Faye Higbee
veterans homes

New Jersey had one of the highest death rates in the country at state run veterans homes during the Covid outbreaks. Claims from 119 families over the deaths were finally settled for the tidy sum of $52,995,000. The veterans homes are still under Federal investigation for potential violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. Each family may receive up to $445,000 in the settlement, depending on binding arbitration.

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Cases settle for a variety of reasons. The families of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 have gone through so much. This settlement will hopefully allow them to move forward without years of protracted and uncertain litigation.

State of New Jersey official

Menlo Park and Paramus veterans homes were among the highest in deaths – more than 200 veterans and family members died during the outbreaks. The Federal investigation is examining whether or not the numbers reported were lower than the actual cases. so many deaths happened that the state called in the National Guard. There were reasons why the virus spread so quickly.

Among the more egregious examples at the veterans homes that came to light were directives to staff not to use masks or gloves in the early days of the pandemic because it “might scare residents.”

Administrators of the facilities were accused of failing to institute proper infection prevention measures as the virus began running rampant — despite clear evidence of just how quickly COVID was spreading.

Lawyers for the families also charged that those in charge waited far too long before isolating confirmed or suspected COVID-19 residents, and that staff members who had tested positive for the virus, or those who had been exposed, were nevertheless still permitted to continue to work, as the veterans facilities struggled with severe shortages of medical staff and nurse aides. And they accused the state of failing to conduct timely tests of staff and residents.

In one of those cases filed on behalf of Rose Dente, it was alleged that the 99-year-old widow of a U.S. Army veteran died due to “gross departures from the standards of nursing care and infection control” at the Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park. The notice cited directives by the facility’s administration not to use masks and gloves, and permitting residents to congregate in common areas even after the administration knew that it had COVID-19 positive residents and staff in the building.

Stars and Stripes

The leadership of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs underwent a shakeup after news of the deaths came to light. Brigadier General Jemal J. Beale was replaced by Dr. Lisa Hou. New laws were enacted to prevent the nursing home industry from allowing such egregious breakdowns. They were also mandated to hire more nurses…which will be difficult since the mandates have forced many healthcare workers out of the career entirely. New Jersey veterans homes are still under investigation.

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Featured screenshot via PennLive

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