All posts tagged veterans’ benefits

Big gap between Liberal rhetoric and action on veterans issues

By Sean Bruyea

Veterans and Canadians better stop holding their breath. Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr is way behind schedule and doesn’t have the oomph to fulfill his mandate letter. Ultimately, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government will be charged and condemned for this bungling of veterans’ issues.

When broken down, Minister Hehr’s mandate letter listed 23 or so priority promises. Of those, one year into the mandate, only two have been fully implemented and another partially.

Injured veterans are in the process of receiving income-loss payments increased from 75 to 90 per cent of military salary. Also, the annual cap at two per cent has been removed, allowing the annual income to keep pace with the consumer price index. As for the partially fulfilled promises: the first of nine Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) district offices has opened with a lengthy timetable for the remaining eight.

There is little excuse for delay for most other promises. It costs little to “end the time limit for surviving spouses to apply for vocational rehabilitation and assistance services.” Some cost more but are straightforward such as “increase the veteran survivor’s pension from 50 to 70 per cent.” Considering just more than 53,000 “survivors” currently collect pensions and approximately 3,000 sadly pass away each year, time is of the essence.… Read the rest

Hiring veterans not a priority for O’Toole

by Sean Bruyea
   For the first time in eight decades, issues affecting Canada’s military veterans issues are featured prominently in an election.
   With so much at stake, why would government yet again mess up another issue with veterans: priority hiring into the federal public service? Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, in another installment of government hype on the treatment of veterans, provided this statement during the July 2015 changes to priority hire veterans: “The Government of Canada is keeping its commitment to help military veterans thrive while making the transition to civilian life.”
   Prior to these changes, only medically-released members could have one chance to be priority hired. Serving members weren’t allowed to access internal competitions, representing 88 per cent of public service job openings. Changes now allow Canadian Forces members to access internal competitions but with no priority placement. Non-medically released veterans can have priority accessing only external jobs, representing the remaining 12 per cent of competitions. After World War II, all overseas veterans received preference in all competitions, the injured having the highest preference, no time limits, and multiple attempts.
   Time will tell if priority-hiring amendments are working, but are the minister, his department, and the rest of the civil service helping veterans “thrive”?… Read the rest

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