All posts tagged Department of Veterans Affairs ombudsman

Feds love veterans for photo ops, but not so much as ‘a budget line’

Sean Bruyea

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed his admiration for America.  Explosive scandals in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the rapid response provide a powerful teachable moment for the PM and the “hero” of Canada’s own veteran scandals, Minister Julian Fantino.

Although longstanding, wait times for healthcare from the U.S. VA exploded over the past two months. VA medical doctor turned whistleblower Dr. Sam Foote came forward with allegations that certain VA medical facilities were “cooking the books” resulting in much longer than reported wait times and at least 40 veteran deaths. The scandal quickly widened. The powerful oversight body, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), sent investigators to 69 of the 152 hospitals and approximately 800 outpatient clinics managed by the US VA.

Washington is not waiting. Under Secretary of the VA, Robert Petzel, quickly resigned. The American Legion played a key role in having Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resign shortly thereafter also calling for criminal investigations. The FBI initiated those investigations last week. Other veterans groups have widely condemned the VA, organizing public demonstrations and speaking to the media.

Meanwhile, an otherwise deadlocked Capitol Hill rapidly pushed through numerous pieces of potent bipartisan legislation.… Read the rest

Veterans bang heads against Parliamentary, bureaucratic wall

Veterans on Remembrance Day, 2013, from The Hill Times

Sean Bruyea

The hue and cry from veterans and their families has not dimmed but grown stronger since 2005 when Parliament passed the legislation we now know as the ‘New Veterans Charter’ or NVC. Will Parliament take up veterans’ torch and finally make bureaucracy work for veterans? As the unaddressed recommendations accumulate, will the NVC become increasingly unfit to provide adequate shelter for our veterans and their families in the coming years?

Last week, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs wrapped up hearings on the NVC. We must remember that elected Members of the House of Commons have never debated nor given serious independent and binding consideration of the dramatic changes that the NVC made to the relationship between Canada and those who were and are prepared to lay down their lives in her service.

In good faith, far too many accepted the shoddy construction of the NVC because government promised to keep the renovations going. Near stagnant ‘incrementalism,’ a dirty word in the first 50 years of veterans’ benefits in Canada, has become the sad new social contract between Canada and, our veterans and their families.

Veterans Affairs Canada made pretenses to the glory of Canada’s post World War II veterans’ benefits.… Read the rest

New Veterans Affairs minister: same old crisis of insensitivity

Sean Bruyea

Veterans aren’t happy and recently-appointed Veterans Affair Minister Julian Fantino is only fanning the fire with the usual parroting of bureaucratic misinformation. How do veterans and other Canadians hold a minister and his bureaucracy accountable for spreading half-truths and misleading claims?

The first step to accountability is to uncover the truth.

The situation in the veteran community is so dire that Fantino wrote an op-ed for the National Post and also sent it out on the internet addressed to “Dear Veteran.” His open letter claims there is a “tangle of misinformation regarding how Canada treats” its veterans. His first assertion is that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.”

The truth is Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) provides programs to a mere 17 per cent of Canada’s serving and retired military members. It would be impossible for Fantino to know whether the remaining 83 per cent of veterans are indeed having their needs met since no effort is made by his department to track the “needs” of this population.

The primary focus of the minister’s op-ed is the legislation for Canadian Forces members and veterans known as the “New Veterans Charter.” He rightly points out that Parliament was unanimous in endorsing “wholesale change to veterans’ support and services” for post-World War II Canadian Forces veterans.… Read the rest