TRENTON — New Jersey Republicans want lawmakers to investigate the findings of a recent report claiming the state violated residents' constitutional rights at two state-run veterans homes.

In a letter to Democratic legislative leaders, state Sens. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, and Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic, called for a special legislative committee to probe the findings of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report alleging that New Jersey provided "inadequate" care to residents at the Menlo Park and Paramus facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We must do whatever it takes to ensure that no veteran endures the travesty of poor living conditions, inadequate care, and a systematic failure to meet basic needs," they wrote. "Every day that we delay these efforts puts more veterans who reside in these long-term care facilities at risk of uncontrolled, serious, and deadly diseases and infections."

Justice Department investigates NJ veterans homes

The Justice Department's investigation found inadequate infection control practices and inadequate medical care at the homes were "compounded by a lack of effective management and oversight" that has "caused these veterans and their families great harm" and put the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"Such deficiencies expose residents to uncontrolled, serious and deadly infections and have resulted in the veterans’ homes suffering among the highest number of resident deaths of all similarly sized facilities in the region," the report stated.

Murphy reacts to feds' findings

Gov. Phil Murphy called the report's findings a "deeply disturbing reminder that the treatment received by our heroic veterans is unacceptable and, quite frankly, appalling."

Murphy said the state has implemented "numerous processes and procedures" to improve conditions in the two homes, including hiring a private management firm.

"It is clear that we have significantly more work to do and we are open to exploring all options to deliver for our veterans the high level of care they deserve and are entitled to under the law," he said.

Criticism of how Murphy handled COVID

The Murphy administration has been criticized for its management of COVID-19 outbreaks at the veteran homes, which reported one of the highest death rates in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus claimed the lives of more than 200 residents and staff at the veterans homes.

The Murphy administration has paid out more than $70 million to resolve claims of gross negligence and incompetence by veterans home administrators filed by the families of residents who died during the height of the pandemic.

Republican lawmakers said the Justice Department report shows that the issues continue at the two veterans homes and that a bipartisan legislative committee "with subpoena power" is necessary to develop solutions "that will protect veterans and hold those who failed to keep them safe accountable."

"The abhorrent conditions that our veterans were subjected to in these state-run memorial homes should never happen again," they wrote. "We must all do our part as legislators to protect veterans in our state."

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