The head of the New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars today sharply criticized Gov. Phil Murphy for failures to protect veterans living in state-run residential facilities and renewed a call for a special prosecutor to probe Covid-related deaths.
“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,” said Brian Wiener, the VFW state commander in a statement highly critical of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.”
Wiener alleged that the VFW had been “trying to get the Governors attention on this matter since April” and said he said that Murphy budget cuts and a failure to fill open seats on the New Jersey Veterans’ Memorial Home Advisory Council impacted “the health and wellbeing of veterans.”
A spokesman for Murphy declined comment.
The VFW pointed to Center for Disease Control guidelines early this year recommending that health care workers wear personal protection equipment when caring for patients suspected of having the deadly virus.
Wiener said that there is “clear evidence from a U.S Department of Health (and Human Services) report and investigative reporting that DMAVA ignored standard infectious disease control measures which may have caused more than 600 veteran home residents and staff to become infected with COVID 19 and led to some of the highest death rates in the world.”
“If it were not for the investigations conducted by reporters and attorneys hired by the deceased veterans’ families, this unacceptable conduct would still be hidden from public view,” Wiener claimed. “While the New Jersey Attorney General continues to drag his feet in an investigation, the Massachusetts Attorney General has criminally charged and indicted two of their veterans’ home administrators back in September.”
The DMAVA commissioner, Gen. Jamel Beale, resigned under pressure in October. At the same time, Murphy ousted the heads of veterans’ homes in Paramus and Edison.
Some legislators, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor.