States with fewer COVID-19 cases receiving VA support, while NJ is denied
Bipartisan NJ House Members ask for justification

GLEN ROCK, NJ - On May 8, 2020, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) led a bipartisan group of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to ask the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) why it denied New Jersey’s request for additional medical personnel needed to combat coronavirus outbreaks in the state’s long-term care facilities, while other states with fewer coronavirus cases received support. 

There are 514 long-term care facilities in New Jersey dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, with more than 24,000 coronavirus cases reported in these facilities overall, and with more than 4,600 deaths.

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“Given these startling numbers, we respectfully request a justification for why New Jersey’s request for VA medical assistance at long-term care facilities was not granted on the merits. If the VA was unable to fulfill the request due to staffing limitations, please also explain why similar requests for support made by other states were apparently not subject to these limitations,” the Members asked in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie. 

According to public reports, the VA has provided up to fifteen teams to assist Florida’s nursing homes through at least May 21st.

New Jersey, a state of almost 9 million residents, is one of the hardest hit states in the nation, with more than 135,000 total positive cases and more than 8,000 deaths. Florida currently has less than a third of New Jersey’s caseload and only a fifth of New Jersey’s death count.

The Members stated, “While we are disappointed that New Jersey’s request was not granted, we remain committed to working with our federal agencies to free up resources and identify potential sources of support for our state’s most vulnerable residents at long-term care facilities.”

The Members continued, “As the state must now look elsewhere for additional support for staffing assistance at other long-term care facilities, we also urge the VA to continue to work with the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to increase and expand staffing to help deal with the worsening situation at the state-run veterans homes, including the disaster-stricken homes in Paramus and Menlo Park.”

The letter is signed by U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Andy Kim (NJ-3), Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), and Jeff Van Drew (NJ-2).

 

A copy of the letter is available HERE, the text of which is provided below.

 

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20420

 

Dear Mr. Secretary:
 

We write regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) decision to deny the request made by the State of New Jersey for additional medical personnel needed to combat the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at our State’s long-term care facilities.  

We are facing a crisis at more than 500 of New Jersey’s long-term care facilities with COVID cases (1). As of writing, New Jersey has 514 long-term care facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19, 24,874 total cases at nursing homes, with a tragic 4,691 reported deaths.

Given these startling numbers, we respectfully request a justification for why New Jersey’s request for VA medical assistance at long-term care facilities was not granted on the merits. If the VA was unable to fulfill the request due to staffing limitations, please also explain why similar requests for support made by other states were apparently not subject to these limitations. According to public reports, the VA has provided up to fifteen teams to assist Florida’s nursing homes through at least May 21 (2). New Jersey, a state of less than 9 million people, is one of the hardest hit states in the nation, with 135,454 total positive cases, and a tragic 8,952 deaths. Florida, a state with more than 21 million people, currently has 39,199 total cases, and 1,669 deaths. 

As the state must now look elsewhere for additional support for staffing assistance at other long-term care facilities, we also urge the VA to continue to work with the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to increase and expand staffing to help deal with the worsening situation at the state-run veterans homes, including the disaster-stricken homes in Paramus and Menlo Park. 

While we are disappointed that New Jersey’s request was not granted, we remain committed to working with our federal agencies to free up resources and identify potential sources of support for our state’s most vulnerable residents at long-term care facilities. Thank you, and we look forward to receiving your prompt reply. 

 

Sincerely,
 

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS