the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Paramus NJ, GOP Senator Michael Testa today joined Brian Wiener, the state commander of the New Jersey VFW in calling for an investigation into the tragic mishandling of the COVID-19 virus inside the state’s veterans homes.
“Costly mistakes were made, lives were lost unnecessarily, and like the situation that claimed the lives of more than 7,100 vulnerable seniors in our nursing homes, this has been swept under the rug by the Murphy administration,” said Testa (R-1). “Those who served our nation proudly in the military and defended our freedoms across the globe deserve better from their government leaders in the twilight of their lives.”
“Our concerns to the Governor’s Office and Adjutant General fell on deaf ears and over 190 veterans under state care died as a result,” the VFW commander said in a statement yesterday.
The VFW’s reaction followed publication last week of a damning newspaper report that workers at veterans’ homes operated by the State were prohibited from wearing masks. The report revealed emails between Department of Veterans and Military Affairs officials discussing penalties for “mask insubordination,” indicated management at the Menlo Park veterans home in Edison discouraged ambulance crews and outside vendors from using masks, and that the Governor’s office assisted in developing penalties for nurses who defied the no-mask order.
Wiener expressed frustration, saying his organization has been “trying since April to get Murphy’s attention.” In his statement calling for a special prosecutor to investigate deaths at veterans’ facilities, he blamed the Governor for budget cuts to the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and said the administration’s failure to fill vacant seats on the New Jersey Veterans’ Memorial Home Advisory Council affected “the health and wellbeing of veterans.”
“The atrocities exposed by the press may be only the tip of the iceberg,” Testa said. “It’s clear our most vulnerable residents were left defenseless as the rampaging virus spread like wildfire through confined facilities.
“The decisions that impacted veterans’ homes and nursing homes must be scrutinized and evaluated by outside investigators. This is not the time to cover-up flaws in the system, it is time to identify them and make corrections,” Testa continued.
Testa and the Senate Republican Caucus has been pressing since May for a Senate Select Committee to review the state’s handling of the pandemic, especially within veterans and nursing facilities.
On multiple occasions, Testa has voted in support of Republican attempts to have the Senate consider legislation (SR-68) creating a special Senate Committee, the Senate Select Committee on the Executive Branch’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Each time, the Democrat majority blocked the motion.