Massachusetts said Thursday it agreed to pay $56 million to resolve allegations that managers at a state nursing home for military veterans acted deliberately during a coronavirus outbreak linked to the deaths of 84 residents early in the pandemic showed indifference.
An independent inquiry had painted a picture of the chaos at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home as the virus began to ripple through it in March 2020, and had sharply criticized leaders for merging veterans from two locked-down dementia units into one and treating the infected or Those infected had been crammed into showing symptoms with those who had no symptoms.
One social worker said it “felt like moving the concentration camp, we were taking these unwitting veterans away to die.” One nurse described it as “total chaos.”
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who accepted the probe’s findings in June 2020, called them “nothing short of heartbreaking.”
In the settlement, which followed months of intense negotiations with the governor’s office, neither state officials nor those who run the home admitted wrongdoing or apologized for the treatment of veterans there, attorneys for the veterans’ families said.
Still, Linda McKee, who lost her father, James Miller, a 96-year-old World War II veteran, said she was glad the state was “finally taking some responsibility for what happened.”
“The memories of how my father was treated in the military home will never be erased from my mind,” Ms McKee said in a statement released by her attorneys, Michael Aleo and Tom Lesser. “It would have been more humane if he had died on Omaha Beach in Normandy than how he died in the Soldiers’ Home.”
Under the agreement, the families of 84 veterans who contracted Covid-19 and died before June 23, 2020 will receive at least $400,000, with an average bounty of $510,000, Mr. Aleo and Mr lesser
Another group of 84 veterans who were infected but survived June 23, 2020 will be paid no less than $10,000, with an average premium of $20,000, the attorneys said, adding that the payments to both groups would not be reduced by legal fees.
Former US Attorney for Massachusetts, Donald K. Stern, will administer the claims fund and render awards based on a review of each claimant’s circumstances.
The settlement came about five months after New Jersey agreed to pay $53 million to the families of 119 veterans living in two state homes devastated by the coronavirus. The families had prepared to file lawsuits accusing the state of gross negligence.
The average payout in the case was estimated at approximately $445,000, as part of an out-of-court settlement believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
The Massachusetts settlement has yet to be approved by a federal judge and funded by the state legislature.
Mr Baker said he would introduce a bill calling for $56 million for the claims fund in the coming weeks. Once the settlement is final, Mr. Aleo and Mr. Lesser said, the families who filed a class action lawsuit in July 2020 against four managers of the home and the Secretary of State for Veterans Services will drop their case.
Mr Lesser called the resolution “fair and just” and said it would prevent protracted litigation.
“The Covid-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was a terrible tragedy,” Mr Baker said in a statement on Thursday. “While we know nothing can bring back those lost, we hope this settlement brings a sense of closure to veterans’ families.”
The independent investigation, led by former federal prosecutor Mark W. Pearlstein, was particularly critical of the decision to force veterans into a department — a move one staffer called “the most insane thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.” have seen.”
One social worker recalled hearing the head nurse say, “Something to the point that this room will be dead by Sunday, so we’ll have more space here.” Another social worker described how he looked like a supervisor showed a room and said, “This whole room will be dead by tomorrow.”
The report listed other errors, including the rotation of staff between stations, which accelerated the spread of the virus.
It said decisions by the facility’s superintendent, Bennett Walsh, were “completely perplexing from an infection control perspective” and inconsistent with the home’s mission to treat veterans with “honor and dignity.”
Mr Walsh’s supervisor, Francisco Urena, resigned as Secretary of State for Veterans Services pending the report, telling WCVB, a local television station: “I am very sorry. I tried my best.”
In November, a judge dismissed the negligence charges against Mr Walsh, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel with no prior nursing home experience, and the home’s former medical director, Dr. David Clinton, back. The Attorney General’s Office has appealed the decision.