According to a Wall Street Journal investigative report, eight of nine senior managers at state-run veterans nursing homes in New Jersey received COVID-19 hazard pay, even though they were not qualified for the payments. Unfortunately, this is yet another example of greed and corruption carried out by nursing home administrators who placed their personal welfare above both the rank-and-file workers and the nursing home residents they were charged with protecting.
During the pandemic, the federal government allocated stimulus funds for lower-level state employees working in dangerous conditions with COVID-19 patients. Those dollars were intended to compensate staff at state-run veterans nursing homes whose employees spent weeks and months caring for residents afflicted with the Coronavirus. As the funds flowed, however, senior administrators siphoned off money to pay themselves while cutting out low-level employees who bore the brunt of the pandemic.
The Wall Street Journal reports, for example, that three top managers of one New Jersey veterans nursing home received $40,000 in payments they were not entitled to, an average of $13,000 each. In contrast, a licensed practical nurse in the same facility who spent weeks in a deadly COVID-19 isolation unit received $4,500. “I almost lost my life in the Covid unit, and I guess that’s what my life is worth,” said the nurse. The State Attorney General for New Jersey has been investigating the improper payments since last September, emphasizing nursing homes with reported high numbers of COVID-19 deaths. To date, according to the WSJ, no enforcement actions have yet been taken.
Given the complexities of the law, the number of administrators involved, and the relatively few investigators assigned to such cases, it seems likely to us that these incidents will go down in history as yet more examples of unprosecuted greed and corruption committed by nursing home administrators at the expense of employees, residents, and taxpayers. Tens of thousands of elderly nursing home residents needlessly died during the pandemic because the facilities in which they lived cut corners, understaffed, and failed to comply with stringent infection control procedures.
Is there any way to prevent further corruption at Veterans nursing homes?
If any good can come from the devastation caused by the pandemic, perhaps it’s the bright light that was shined on nursing homes for their part in failing to protect our citizens. Last October, New Jersey enacted a new law, blocked for years by nursing home lobbyists, that requires operators to increase the number of aides in each facility, and sets a specific ratio for the number of residents an aide handles. That law requires one CNA per 8 patients during the day shift and one direct care staffer for every 14 residents during the overnight shift.
At several of New Jersey’s Veteran’s homes hard hit by the pandemic, the law arrived too late. Sadly, According to a report issued by the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, nonpartisan Office of Legislative Affairs, the population inside New Jersey veterans homes has declined so much because of the coronavirus deaths that the current staffing now meets the requirements of the new law. Still, better late than never.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting nursing home abuse, elder abuse and wrongful death cases in California. For further information, please contact Wendy York today.