Ongoing problems with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) long waits for disability benefits send the message that the federal government doesn’t care about veterans, supporters say: it’s time for the minister to step down.
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Talk to Mercedes Stephenson west block On Sunday, activists – as well as former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who served as veteran affairs minister under Stephen Harper – said they felt veterans increasingly disillusioned.
“Many of them said they didn’t feel valued, didn’t feel important,” said Debbie Lowther, co-founder and CEO of VETS Canada, a charity that helps veterans in crisis. .
“These are the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country, so I think we owe them more than they provide.”
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Bruce Monkur, founder of the Afghanistan Veterans Association, was even more blunt.
“The current government has failed to solve the problems or even frankly, and the ‘triple D’ policy – delay, deny, die – is alive and well,” he said.
Latest Information The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman released Tuesday revealed that veterans are waiting an average of 43 weeks for decisions on disability claims, much longer than the standard of 16 weeks set by the VAC.
The Trudeau government has repeatedly pledged to meet this standard and reduce the backlog of case managers, who veterans and supporters say are overwhelmed.
The union representing these case managers and hundreds of other VAC employees is now calling on Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence Macaulay to step down or be fired for his repeated refusal to meet with members to discuss their concerns. To assert.
These include a $ 570 million contract the department recently awarded to an outside company to provide rehabilitation services to veterans, as well as the department’s continued reliance on hundreds of temporary employees to fill the backlog. it is included.
Macaulay’s office says the minister has met several times with Veterans Affairs employees, the union and its senior management. they did not become available west block for an interview.
“The bar was not very high with[McAuley’s]predecessors, and it doesn’t seem able to do so, “said Moncur, co-chair of VAC’s Service Excellence Advisory Group, adding that the minister should step down” 100 percent. “
O’Toole also agreed that it was time for Macaulay to retire.
“This (dossier) still needs a very capable, very practical and action-oriented minister,” he said. “Mr. Macaulay is not like that, so he has to step in or leave.
O’Toole said he took some responsibility in the department’s current position as a former veterans minister, adding that he would have to “move much faster” to increase mental health support for military veterans.
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But he argued that the Trudeau government also needs itself and that these services should be prioritized.
The veterans’ mental health issue emerged on August 16, when Granthshala News first reported that a VAC employee had discussed death medical care with a veteran, a question that prompted the department to renew. the investigations. And the ongoing struggle has brought support to veterans seeking support.
Sources told Granthshala News that an unreleased duty officer from the VAC called Medical Aid in Dying, or MAID, was in conversation with the war veteran, who was discussing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. .
Granthshala News is not identifying the veteran for privacy reasons, but spoke directly to the person, who claims the duty officer repeatedly mentioned MAID, even though the veteran attempted to stop the duty officer. request
The veteran said he felt the pressure as a result.
The WMA discussion officer still works in the department, but no longer negotiates directly with veterans, officials confirmed.
Earlier this month, McAuley first appeared before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs of the House of Commons to discuss the appeal. Yet he repeatedly ignored his deputy Paul Ledwell’s questions about the investigation and apologized for the incident only after the committee came under pressure from lawmakers.
Ledwell then said that the investigation into the discussion, which continued two months after it began, found that the duty officer’s behavior was an isolated incident. Yet he also noted that most service calls are not logged, adding that the finding was based on a review of employee records.
O’Toole said he found Macaulay’s testimony at the hearing “horrible” and that the department needed to make sure such discussions never happen again.
“We shouldn’t have MAIDs for people with treatable mental health conditions, especially (because) when a veteran feels they are a burden to their family and can’t access support, they are vulnerable,” they said.
The department says it is still undergoing training for all VAC employees interacting with veterans not to discuss MAID during service calls.
Together with VETS Canada, Lothar said better training for VAC employees in general would be the first step in improving their relationship with the department and veterans.
“About 80 percent of the referrals we get are from Veterans Affairs case managers, and some of them are very good and know what they’re talking about,” he said.
“And then there are those who are simply amazed by their own benefits. they don’t understand them …