U.S. Attorney Lelling Launches Third Investigation of Soldiers’ Home Where at Least 25 Died

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. (State House News Service.)

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether the state-run Holyoke Soldiers Home failed to provide the veterans who live there adequate care—both during the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than a dozen and generally.

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announced Friday that his office and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division have opened an investigation into the Holyoke facility “to examine whether the Soldiers’ Home violated the rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic.”

At least 25 veterans who lived at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home died in recent weeks amid an outbreak of the coronavirus. It’s unclear exactly how many of the deaths are attributable to COVID-19—the Baker administration did not respond to requests for updated numbers on Wednesday or Thursday.

“It would be difficult to overstate our obligation to the health and well-being of elderly and disabled military veterans and, by extension, to their families. The federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act specifically protects the rights of those confined in state facilities like the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” Lelling said. “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. 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.”

Lelling’s inquiry is at least the third to look into the Soldiers’ Home. Gov. Charlie Baker tapped former first assistant U.S. attorney Mark Pearlstein to find out how the situation at the home deteriorated and Attorney General Maura Healey announced last week her office had opened an investigation of its own.

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