TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Brian Bergen is disappointed that the governor and Democrat legislative leaders unveiled a plan Wednesday to address the ongoing problems at the state’s veterans homes without holding a single public hearing.
“I’m not opposed to the plan, but I’m not convinced either,” said Bergen (R-Morris) an Iraq War veteran. “We rush solutions all the time and declare ‘mission accomplished’ while frequently making things worse. Our veterans deserve a lot better than that after the atrocities at Paramus and Menlo Park.”
Gov. Phil Murphy and Sens. Joe Vitale, Joe Cryan, Joe Lagana, and Patrick Diegnan announced a plan to split New Jersey’s veterans department and create a new permanent post to investigate complaints.
“For years they dragged their feet and, immediately after back to back scathing investigations, they suddenly have a bill five weeks before an election,” observed Bergen. “It’s not inspiring.”
The problem, according to Bergen, is how Trenton handles problems.
“Lawmakers are spoon-fed bills that get a hearing a day or two after their introduced and signed into law a week later,” Bergen said. “There’s really no deliberative process.”
He thinks lawmakers should take their time if they are serious about fixing the problem.
“We shouldn’t just look at one plan. We should compare several plans and pick the best one,” Bergen argued. “That’s what the business world does all the time but unfortunately government doesn’t.”
Bergen claims that the position of veterans advocate in the plan unveiled Wednesday confirms his point.
“If they had a great plan, that position would be like the Maytag repairman,” Bergen said. “It’s almost as if they’re planning to fail and I for one don’t want to see that happen.”
The legislature won’t meet again until Nov. 20.
On Sept. 7, the U.S. Department of Justice released a scathing report detailing inadequate infection control and medical care during the pandemic at Menlo Park and Paramus veterans homes. The investigation found that the state provided and continues to provide “unconstitutionally deficient care” at the facilities.
The State Commission of Investigation released a second report on Tuesday, alleging that officials in charge were unprepared for the huge absenteeism by employees in the early weeks of the pandemic.
“I hope they don’t just rush this through in November and walk away,” concluded Bergen.