Veterans and COVID-19
The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, where 32 veterans have reportedly died over the last several weeks, is now at the center of a federal investigation.
The Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced Friday the agencies have launched an investigation to look into whether the facility “violated the rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office said in a statement.
“We will aggressively investigate recent events at the Home and, as needed, require the Commonwealth to adopt reforms to ensure patient safety in the future,” Lelling said in the statement. “My condolences to the families of those veterans who died while in the Home’s care; we will get to the bottom of what happened here.”
Since March 24, dozens of veterans have died at the Soldiers’ Home, including 28 deaths directly linked to COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to The Boston Globe. Sixty-nine other veterans have also tested positive for the virus, as well as at least 68 staff members, including a nursing assistant who is in intensive care, the newspaper reports.
Federal investigators say their probe will be carried out under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which allows the department to investigate potential violations in state-run facilities.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the veterans who passed away,” Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for Civil Rights, said in a statement. “We owe it to the veterans, their families, and the public to investigate the facts, determine what happened, ensure compliance with the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, and protect those veterans who continue to reside at the Soldiers’ Home.”
The investigation comes a day after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced her office is launching an investigation of its own. Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker hired an outside attorney and former federal prosecutor, Mark W. Pearlstein, to helm a separate independent investigation.
Lelling’s office said the federal review will be separate from any state or independent investigative efforts.
Prosecutors said residents of the Soldiers’ Home and families are encouraged to call the Department of Justice at 1-888-221-6023 or contact officials by email at [email protected].
Investigators have also launched a webpage with information about the investigation.