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Feds come down hard on veterans home operated by N.J. with $340K in penalties

The New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home at Menlo Park in Edison (Ed Murray/

The troubled state-operated New Jersey Veterans Home Memorial Home at Menlo Park has been hit with more than $340,000 in federal penalties, following charges of improper care and abuse that put the lives of residents in “immediate jeopardy” and threatened a shutdown of the facility.

Administrators for the 312-bed nursing home in Edison, which cares for military veterans and their spouses, told regulators they planned to appeal the enforcement action.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, detailed the hefty civil penalties in a January letter to Lisa Kranis, who was named as interim CEO at Menlo Park in December by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

CMS publicly disclosed the penalties on Thursday.

The agency’s action came in the wake of a long list of deficiencies and alleged non-compliance with federal quality of care standards, imposing daily assessments that overall totaled $340,285 for its failures in care between August of 2022 to January of this year. Those violations led to a months-long suspension of new admissions by the state Department of Health and a warning that the facility could be terminated from federal assistance programs.

Just this week, state officials indicated that they had turned the corner at Menlo Park, announcing that the facility had improved its infection control strategies, made key personnel changes, and had been permitted to resume admissions on Tuesday, according to Maj. Agneta Murnan, the spokeswoman for Military and Veterans Affairs said. One person moved in, bringing the population to 187 residents at the nursing home, she said.

CMS officials confirmed that revisit surveys by New Jersey had led the state to determine “the facility achieved substantial compliance.”

The state in its announcement, though, made no mention of the proposed federal penalties, despite being informed about the CMS enforcement action in January. Officials at Military and Veterans Affairs said that since any civil monetary penalty would be based on the results of their ongoing appeal, they did not include comments regarding the matter in this week’s compliance update.

One of three veterans homes in the state — which together reported among the highest death rates in the country from the pandemic — Menlo Park came under renewed scrutiny last year after highly critical inspections in August and September in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak began in November 2021 and has infected one-third of the residents and 45% of the workforce.

Those inspections brought to light a series of incidents documenting in some cases shockingly subpar care. In one case, inspectors said a registered nurse who apparently did not know how to remove a Foley catheter — a skill taught in nursing school — simply cut it with a scissor. The resident had to be taken to the emergency room to remove the rest of tube, and then was admitted to a hospital to be treated for a urinary tract infection. Another resident who repeatedly rang a call bell to get his medication was allegedly confronted by an angry nurse and an aide in what was described in the report as an emotionally and physically abusive episode.

The nursing home also reportedly failed to conduct contact tracing to contain what became a massive COVID-19 outbreak, inspectors charged, citing Menlo Park for neglecting to “ensure that staff who were exposed were tested prior to working at the facility,” and not ensuring that federal, state, and infection control guidelines were followed.

That outbreak is still active. A total of 121 residents and 294 employees having been infected, and 15 residents have died since Thanksgiving week of 2021, according to the state Health Department COVID website’s most recent data.

In December, the health department dispatched a group of long-term care professionals known as a “mission critical” team to intervene at Menlo Park, at the request of Brig. Gen. Lisa J. Hou, the Adjutant General of New Jersey and Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Then in January, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration hired Kranis and a new nursing director for Menlo Park as part of the ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the state-run facility.

At Murphy’s request, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs also issued a “request for proposal” to recruit a private-sector company to manage the Menlo Park, as well provide consulting services at the Paramus and Vineland Memorial Veterans Home

federal investigation into the deaths at the veterans facilities is still ongoing, as are two separate state investigations.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has agreed to two out-of-court settlements to pay out $68.8 million to those who lost loved ones in the veterans homes in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, resolving claims without admitting fault that the state’s negligence and incompetence were largely to blame for the deadly outbreak.


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