Ginette Petitpas Taylor has taken over management of Veterans Affairs Canada simply because the division is about to overlook one other deadline for resolving the backlog of incapacity profit claims.
Final December, her predecessor, P.E.I. MP Lawrence MacAulay, pledged to deliver the backlog of veteran incapacity profit purposes below management by this summer season, making certain 80 per cent of veteran purposes obtain a choice inside 16 weeks.
The division’s web site says its purpose was to deliver the backlog beneath 5,000 by the spring or summer season of 2023.
However because the summer season of 2023 involves an in depth, the division’s newest figures present that, as of June 30, solely 61 per cent of purposes are receiving a choice inside 16 weeks. There are presently 5,547 purposes which have waited longer than this.
Injured veterans have complained for years in regards to the prolonged wait occasions. Many are entitled to income-replacement advantages as a result of their bodily or psychological accidents make work inconceivable.
Petitpas Taylor, who changed MacAulay as minister of veterans affairs after a cupboard shuffle this summer season, stated the backlog can be introduced below management by the top of the 12 months.
However in an interview throughout final week’s cupboard retreat in Charlottetown, Petitpas Taylor appeared both unaware or undaunted by the earlier commitments.
“We’re actually on monitor in ensuring that we’re going to meet these targets,” Petitpas Taylor informed SaltWire.
When requested in regards to the dedication from MacAulay to satisfy the targets this summer season, Petitpas Taylor stated she was “very assured” the backlog targets can be met this 12 months.
“I actually suppose that throughout the very close to future that you will see these targets being hit,” she stated.
The backlog has shrunk considerably since its 2019 peak of 23,000 purposes. However Veterans Affairs Canada has struggled to resolve the longstanding situation. After hiring lots of of momentary employees, a Might 2022 auditor common’s report discovered veterans had been ready a median of 39 weeks for selections on their claims.
Petitpas Taylor dedicated to making sure wait occasions don’t return to the pre-2020 peak.
She pointed to progress in lowering longer wait occasions for fairness in search of teams, resembling ladies, minorities and francophones.
Brian Forbes, chairman of the Nationwide Council of Veterans Associations (NCVA) in Canada, stated he’s hopeful Petitpas Taylor can deliver a “breath of contemporary air” to her new position.
He stated the official backlog statistics masks a rising tally of purposes deemed incomplete.
“There’s a complete query as to when does a declare really turn into initiated for the aim of their requirements,” Forbes stated.
“Now we have many claims the place we’ve got to attend months and months to get additional medical stories or additional proof of service relationship. They usually do not depend.”
As of June 30, 2023, the variety of incomplete purposes for incapacity advantages stood at 16,406 – 27 per cent larger than a 12 months in the past.
Staffing in query
Since 2018, Veterans Affairs Canada has employed over 500 momentary workers to resolve the backlog. It stays unclear if these time period hires shall be saved on.
Treasury Board President Anita Anand has requested all cupboard ministers to discover a whole of $15 billion in financial savings from their departments by October.
When requested if this might imply job cuts at Veterans Affairs Canada, Petitpas Taylor stated the financial savings may come within the type of efficiencies.
“The efficiencies, I assume I will say, which can be going to be discovered throughout the division won’t be having a direct affect on our veterans,” she stated.
Petitpas Taylor didn’t make clear whether or not the momentary employees shall be retained after March 2024.
Virginia Vaillancourt, president of the Union of Veterans Affairs Staff, says the division wants a plan to retain the employees it already has. Vaillancourt believes the federal authorities must allocate extra everlasting funding for employees introduced on since 2018.
“Our veterans should not momentary, so I do not perceive why the federal government of Canada won’t put in everlasting funding,” Vaillancourt stated.
Vaillacourt stated a senior division official has informed her a funding stream, often known as service excellence, won’t be renewed.
“If in reality the funding doesn’t get renewed, that is a lack of 50 case managers, 25 veteran service brokers and eight veterans service staff managers,” Vaillacourt stated.
Forbes stated the main focus of VAC on momentary employees sends an “ominous message” to the veteran group.
“In a single breath, they’re saying we’ll add momentary employees. Within the subsequent breath the federal government’s saying you are going to have to search out three per cent in your finances to chop again,” Forbes stated.
Not briefed on ‘golddigger clause’
Forbes hopes Petitpas Taylor will comply with by way of with a longstanding pledge to repeal a division coverage that deems spouses of veterans who married after 60 to be ineligible for a survivor’s profit.
The coverage, referred to by critics because the “golddigger clause,” was deemed to be “chauvinistic” by a current report by the all-party standing committee on veterans Affairs.
The Trudeau Liberals promised to get rid of the clause of their election 2015 platform.
SaltWire requested Petitpas Taylor if she would repeal the clause.
“That’s not a kind of recordsdata that I have been briefed on as of but,” she informed SaltWire.
Rachel Blaney, Veterans Affairs Canada critic for the NDP, stated this was “extraordinarily disappointing.”
“It signifies that largely aged ladies who cared for veterans, in some instances (for) as much as 30 years, are left impoverished as a result of they bought married at 60,” Blaney stated.
In 2019, the federal authorities put aside $150 million over 5 years to supply spouses of seniors, who had been deemed ineligible for the survivors profit, with monetary help.
Years later, little has been executed with this fund.
“It is sat there for 4 years. They have not carried out it,” Forbes stated.
Blaney stated she usually hears from ladies of their 80s and 90s who proceed to be denied these advantages.
“I believe that is shameful, I believe that is one thing that they need to take severely,” Blaney stated.