In response to more than 190 residents losing their lives in New Jersey’s Veterans Memorial Homes during the COVID-19 pandemic – including several new deaths this past month – Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker has introduced a bill to improve information-sharing by requiring additional reporting from the Office of the New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman (NJLTCO) on the quality of life and care in these facilities.
The NJLTCO is an independent advocate for seniors living in long-term care (LTC) residences throughout the state. The office helps address challenges residents may face in LTC facilities while working to bring about legislative change that would advance the rights and improve the well-being of these residents.
The Office of the NJLTCO is currently required to submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature summarizing its activities on behalf of elderly residents in LTC facilities. Under the bill (A-5178), the office would now be required to also submit a report to the oversight board of each veterans facility summarizing its activities related to the care and quality of life in veterans homes.
The office’s annual report would include information about any trends and issues the office has found regarding the system of care and services provided in these facilities. The NJLTCO’s report would further provide any recommendations regarding ways in which the State could resolve complaints and ensure the health, safety and rights of the veterans in these homes.
“If the people charged with ensuring the welfare of our veterans are unaware of issues these long-term care facilities are facing, they won’t be able to fix those issues,” said Assemblywoman Tucker (D-Essex). “That’s exactly why it’s so important for oversight boards to receive a regular report from advocates on the ground who can provide critical insight into our state’s veterans homes. The more information we share with one another regarding the conditions in these facilities, the more likely we will be to have the ability to address problems before they lead to tragic outcomes.”
The Assemblywoman worked with the non-profit Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) on this legislation to make sure it addresses the needs of New Jersey’s veterans.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and awaits further action.