Veterans ready to lose hundreds of staff hired to deal with claim backlogs

Ottawa-Canada veterans extend contracts by the Liberal Party government for about one-third of temporary workers hired to deal with the unprocessed portion of disability claims from sick and injured former soldiers. Say you agree.

Despite the fact that the department still has nearly 34,000 unprocessed applications on the desk, the number officially warns is more extra work after the end of the current contract in March. If no one is retained, it will only increase by a few thousand.

Veterans Minister Lawrence McCaulejye told Parliamentary Commission last week that the government had left the door open to extend contracts for more temporary workers to curb unprocessed portion.

Veterans have quietly asked the Liberal Party for approval to start extending the contract last spring, but McCawley has to wait for new investment until the next federal budget is announced in the spring. Stated.

Officials told the minister last May that the department has already lost some of the 560 temporary workers hired to handle the unprocessed portion, leaving an early decision to extend the contract in another job. Warned that it would help.

“We can’t show what’s in the budget because the budget isn’t right,” McCawley, who appeared on the Veterans Commission of the House of Commons.

“But in reality, it’s very clear that we’re asking for additional funding to ensure that we continue on the same trajectory we’re on to reduce the backlog. rice field.”

The untreated portion has emerged as one of the leading causes of frustration, anger and suffering in the Canadian veterans community, for sick and injured people to receive financial or medical assistance for injuries. You have to wait months, often years.

Canadian Press, which first reported the existence of the backlog in 2017, detailed in last year’s series the additional stress and difficulties veterans are experiencing while waiting for claims to be processed.

The Liberal Government has made a one-time $ 20 million cash injection in 2018 to speed up the processing of disability benefit applications and give veterans timely access to benefits and services. We hired ten temporary workers.

However, the investment did not decline as the number of incoming applications continued to exceed the department’s resources. The backlog increased from 29,000 applications in December 2017 to 49,000 applications in March 2020.

After liberals added another $ 192 million in June 2020, continued to hire temporary staff in 2018, added hundreds, and added a total of 560 additional employees, some Improvements have begun to be reported.

MacAulay spokesman Cameron McNeill reported last week that more than 25,000 veterans received about 34,000 outstanding claims from more than 25,000 veterans, about 15,000 less than at peak times.

MacAulay advertised it as progress, but veterans responded to a recent question from conservative critic Frank Caputo, and the average veteran still had to wait more than 40 weeks for their claims to be processed. I admitted that I had to.

Veterans officials also said that even what the government said was at risk of reversing progress, as only 168 of the 560 temporary workers whose contracts were extended after the end of March. I am.

Numbers provided to Caputo show officials predict that the number of unprocessed files will drop to about 26,600 by the end of March, but 36,500 by the end of the year unless the Liberal Party government approves more staff. Will return to.

“Given more resources, it will certainly be possible to deal with those numbers and reduce their backlog,” Veterans Deputy Minister Paul Redwell told members of the Commission this week. rice field.

But he added, “We don’t have a resource confirmation yet, and that’s only possible through the budgeting process.”

This means that the department cannot know how many temporary staff it will retain until mid-March at the earliest. That is, even though liberals have been repeatedly warned for over a year, they will need their employees.

Eve Gillows, Parliamentary Budget Officer in September 2020, said the government would take most of these temporary workers beyond the current contract, which is scheduled to end in March 2022, in order to properly dispose of the unprocessed portion. Reported that it needed to be maintained.

Giroud also said that the government will add $ 159 million to the budget to hire 400 additional employees in addition to those already contracted to cover the entire backlog by the end of 2021. He said he was able to eliminate it. The Liberal Party ignored this recommendation.

Veterans Affairs warned MacAulay in May last year that additional staff was still needed, and in a document obtained through access to information, temporary staff were hired and trained in January 2021 after months of recruitment and training. He said he just got up and went live.

These officials talked not only about the importance of retaining temporary staff, but also about the importance of the government deciding on such extensions early rather than later.

“If Spike staff expansion is delayed, there is an increased risk of losing these highly skilled and trained employees,” reads the report. “So far, we have lost 38 employees and 27 are important decision makers.”

MacAulay acknowledged when attending the committee: There is work to be done to make sure they are ready to serve veterans and Canadian veterans. “

In an interview, NDP veterans critic Rachel Blaney said thousands of veterans were waiting while the government was dithering.

“PBO says:” If you do this and then do this, you could catch up completely within a year, “she said.

“We believe our veterans deserve it, and it’s absolutely scary that those who serve our country, who are dealing with serious trauma in some cases, have to deal with this (” Back log).”

Along Lee Berthiaume

Canadian press