Canada Woos Veterans with New Sops: To Hire 100 Managers To Speed Up Services For Ex-Soldiers

By @diplomatist10 on
A man takes a picture of a flower placed on a name at the 9/11 Memorial in New York November 10, 2014. The 9/11 Memorial is holding a Salute to Service, a five day tribute to veterans for Veterans Day.
IN PHOTO: A man takes a picture of a flower placed on a name at the 9/11 Memorial in New York November 10, 2014. The 9/11 Memorial is holding a Salute to Service, a five day tribute to veterans for Veterans Day. Reuters/Brendan McDermid

In a bid to woo the veterans and their supporters Canada’s Conservative government has unleashed a charm offensive. The latest sop in that series is the plan to recruit 100 case managers to hasten the delivery of benefits to the ex-soldiers. Many observers see political compulsion behind the sops as the Federal elections are barely six months away.

Erin O'Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced in Ottawa that Veterans ministry will be taking immediate action to improve the service to veterans and their families. Dubbed as “service excellence plan,” the new plan will boost veterans' access to case managers. "The Government of Canada is committed to service excellence for Veterans and their families and to understanding and meeting their needs. We are refreshing and boosting resources so Veterans Affairs Canada has the support it needs to provide such excellence. This rebuilding comes at a time when Veterans need it most,” the minister said.

Under the new plan, the VAC will deliver on its service excellence commitment by reducing caseloads to an average of 30 Veterans for each VAC case manager and the new case managers will provide improved one-on-one service. The VAC frontline employees will also be suitably deployed in locations where they are needed the most.

By increasing staff strength, it is hoped that the workloads will be balanced and case managers will be able to pay more time and attention to the individual needs of veterans. The minister also announced that VAC would continue to work with the Department of National Defence to access medical records as quickly as possible so that the waiting time for veterans to process the disability benefit applications can be cut.  

Retirement Benefit

The recently announced New Retirement Income Security Benefit also offers relief to vets who are moderately injured. For all categories of injured soldiers, there will be continued assistance in the form of a monthly income support payment beginning at age 65. The Family Caregiver Relief Benefit will provide eligible Veterans with a tax-free, annual grant of CA$7,238 [$7,598] so that their informal caregivers will have flexibility or relief when they need it.

Hit By Staff Cut      

Meanwhile, Globe and Mail reports that senior Veterans Affairs managers had been warning of a crisis since 2009 as the department does not have the capacity to meet the needs of its clients, because the federal government had been slashing the staff levels and was lapsing millions of dollars for veterans’ services.

A recent report on departmental risk stated bluntly that there is not enough staff to meet the country’s obligations to retiring members of the Canadian Forces. Ironically, the new promise to increase the workforce comes after the department trimmed 900 jobs so far, with the biggest cuts done on the disabilities awards branch. The new hiring move also comes after the scathing criticism by the federal Auditor-General in his report, which said many vets have been waiting months and years to access mental-health disability benefits.

It may be recalled that frustration has been brewing among the veterans and a bunch of Afghan veterans were even planning a lawsuit against the Federal government, though Harper's government has defused it temporarily. Else, it could have become a PR disaster for the image of Conservatives.  

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