HOLYOKE, MASS. (WHDH) - A federal investigation has been launched into the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to examine whether the facility violated the rights of veterans by failing to provide them medical care generally and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division opened the investigation after 32 residents recently died, including 28 who tested positive for the coronavirus. In total, 69 residents and 68 staff members have contracted the virus as of 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,” U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling 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. 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.”

Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, added, “Our hearts go out to the families of the veterans who passed away. 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.”

Residents of Soldiers’ Home and families are encouraged to contact the Justice Department by phone at 1-888-221-6023 or by email at USAMA.victimassistance@usdoj.gov.

This investigation is separate from any state or independent investigation.

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