July 29, 2021
Grassley Questions DOJ Decision Not to Open Civil Rights Investigation of COVID Nursing Home Scandals
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is asking the Justice Department to reconsider its decision not to pursue a civil rights investigation into the COVID-19 responses of government-run nursing homes in several states.
“The Civil Rights Division seems more focused on opposing common-sense voter integrity provisions than protecting the elderly. In fact, the Civil Rights Division was willing to pull out all the stops to file one such lawsuit in Georgia days before the Supreme Court issued a ruling squarely affirming two related Arizona voting provisions, but it seems to lack the resources to protect the most frail and vulnerable in states like New York.” Grassley wrote.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division holds the jurisdiction and discretion to investigate conduct in public nursing homes. The decision to forgo a broader civil rights investigation on behalf of these seniors and their families stands out as negligent, especially in light of other related, ongoing federal investigations. The department notified Grassley of its decision in a letter last Friday. With new variants surging in communities across the country, the department’s decision not to investigate sends the wrong message to those who make public health decisions impacting caregivers and residents in the nation’s nursing homes.
In March, Grassley pushed for an investigation into the mishandling of COVID-19 in nursing homes and potential violations of patients’ civil rights across four states, and in February joined Judiciary Committee colleagues in seeking an investigation into whether state officials complied with requirements for participating in certain federal programs. Grassley also warned the Biden administration about the potential disruptions of across-the-board firings of U.S. Attorneys to public corruption cases related the mishandling of COVID-19 patients in state nursing homes.
Full text of Grassley’s letter to the Attorney General can be found HERE.
Additionally, the Government Accountability Office has also recently initiated work at Grassley’s request on an examination of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s “Care Compare” (previously known as “Nursing Home Compare”) nursing home ratings system. This ratings system, which is posted on the agency’s website, is designed to be a tool to help families find quality, highly-rated nursing homes, but testimony at Finance Committee hearings convened by Grassley unveiled issues with its implementation. The agency updated and retitled the program last year, and an analysis of these changes will be critical moving forward, as Americans seek out quality long-term care facilities for seniors after so many perished during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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