TRENTON, N.J. – One of the first pieces of legislation Assemblyman Alex Sauickie sponsored upon joining the General Assembly in 2022 addresses the insufficient oversight at state-run veterans homes as recently detailed in a report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
His bill (A319) would create an independent inspector general who would be responsible for conducting evaluations, inspections and investigations to ensure the safety and care of veterans in the state’s facilities. It has the support of several veterans’ organizations.
“The appalling lack of oversight at our state’s veterans homes is totally unacceptable. Incompetent and unresponsive leaders failed to even see to the most basic needs of veterans in their care. This is why the legislature should immediately consider creating an independent office, as I proposed last year. An inspector general, who is insulated from the Governor’s administration, would serve as a layer of protection for veterans and their families and ensure that they get the answers and quality of care they so deserve,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said.
The report released Thursday concluded that New Jersey violated the constitutional rights of the residents living in the veterans homes at Menlo Park and Paramus by not implementing infection control protocols or providing adequate medical care. Investigators said, “Multilevel leadership failure placed veterans homes residents at serious risk of harm.”
“As a member of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve had the honor of working with service members, military families and veterans’ organizations to create legislation that finds solutions to their concerns. There is no bigger concern than the lives of veterans in these homes right now. I’m calling for the committee to begin hearings on the federal report as soon as possible to discuss the findings and develop additional reforms,” Sauickie said.
Under Sauickie’s bill, the inspector general must have experience as either a prosecutor or investigator, or in the operation of veterans’ facilities, nursing homes, or long-term care facilities. Upon appointment, the inspector general must immediately begin an investigation into the policies and practices that contributed to the deaths of veterans. Findings and recommendations would be made available to the governor, legislature and public.