Murphy admits state failed NJ’s elderly veterans
Gov. Phil Murphy is finally admitting state-run veteran's homes in New Jersey have been so poorly mismanaged and conditions have become so dangerous for residents that the state must give up operational control.
Murphy has ordered the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to seek an outside contractor to "provide qualified, administrative staff" to take control of New Jersey's veteran's homes.
The governor had little choice but to look for outside help after a scathing state inspectors report detailed incompetence and abuse at the state-run Veterans Memorial Home at Menlo Park.
Inspectors issued a finding of "immediate jeopardy," which means a threat to the lives of residents receiving care at the facility.
The Murphy administration contested those findings but sent in an emergency response team last week to implement changes.
Federal officials, however, viewed the move as too little, too late.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is threatening stiff fines and other penalties, saying the Menlo Park facility is "not in substantial compliance." CMS then cut off federal funding for new admissions to Menlo Park.
How the state handled COVID at New Jersey's three veteran's homes has been the subject of much criticism, dozens of lawsuits and multiple state and federal investigations.
With more than 200 deaths of residents and staff, New Jersey reported among the highest fatality rates in the nation as the pandemic spread.
In a statement, Murphy tried to be the best spin on what is clearly a deplorable situation.
"Improving the care our veterans are receiving in each of the three state-run veteran's homes remains a crucial priority of my administration," Murphy said, "We will harness the expertise and impartiality of an outside vendor to ensure the implementation of thorough, long-lasting reforms in these homes."
Menlo Park will be the first see the outside intervention, with facilities in Paramus and Vineland coming next.
No timetable was given by the governor's office for a vendor to be selected. It is also not clear if the corrective action will be enough for the CMS to reinstate funding for new admissions at Menlo Park.