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State Sen. Michael Testa. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Testa raises alarms over Veterans Affairs staff shakeup

Republican senator renews call for investigations into administration’s long-term care center pandemic response

By Nikita Biryukov, October 20 2020 11:44 am

State Sen. Mike Testa (R-Vineland) raised alarms over a major staffing shift at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Tuesday, saying the resignation of the Adjutant General Jamal Beale and the removal of veterans’ homes administrators signaled issues with the homes’ handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The Murphy administration’s Friday afternoon leadership shakeup confirms our concerns about the ongoing problems at our State-run veterans homes, and beyond,” Testa said. “It’s tantamount to an admission by the administration that it has handled COVID-19 poorly and needlessly caused the deaths of thousands, including nursing home residents, veterans, DOC employees and inmates.”

The New Jersey Globe on Friday first reported Beale’s resignation. Coupled with that news was the administration’s removal of administrators at state veterans’ homes in Paramus and Menlo Park. Most of the residents in those homes contracted the virus, and 143 residents died of the virus in the two facilities.

Murphy declined to discuss the cull during a virus briefing on Monday, citing a sometimes-ignored policy that bars comment on personnel issues.

Testa renewed his call for an investigation into how the administration handled outbreaks in the state’s veterans’ homes and long-term care centers.

“Our most vulnerable populations were unjustly placed in harm’s way,” Testa said. “The leaders of our State-run veterans’ homes and correctional facilities made some tragic decisions, and the Department of Health forced some deadly policies on nursing homes. I will continue my efforts to shed light on this negligence and ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

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