Veterans affairs minister stands firm on record in face of anger, call to resign

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay has stood firm in the face of the Liberal government’s anger and frustration over continued delays, backlogs and staffing shortages and calls for him to resign.

In an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, Macaulay said that after years of complaints and criticism, Ottawa is making progress on multiple fronts to provide better and faster support for veterans.

That includes hiring hundreds of temporary workers in recent years and signing a new $570 million contract with an outside organization to provide rehabilitation services to sick and injured veterans across the country.

“Our Veterans Affairs is where it should be,” Macaulay said. “We want to continue to make sure it stays where it should be and serves veterans in an appropriate way.”

Yet many veterans remain deeply dismayed by VA Canada’s continued delays, backlogs and staffing shortages, which advocates say has added pain and stress to thousands of veterans already battling injuries and illnesses.

The rehabilitation service contract also angered the union representing Veterans Affairs employees, which called for Macaulay to resign.

Macaulay, who will represent the government at a Memorial Day ceremony in Ottawa on Friday, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will fly to Cambodia for an international summit, has said he has no intention of resigning.

“My job is to do my job well,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to do and keep doing.”

The Liberal government has been criticized for years for not delivering on its promises to sick and injured veterans. This includes its failure to bring back lifetime disability pensions awarded to WWII and North Korea, but not Afghanistan.

More recently, veterans and others have complained about continued delays in processing disability claims, a chronic lack of case managers for those in need of extra help and insufficient support for families and caregivers.

Macaulay has previously acknowledged that the government needs to do more to ensure veterans receive appropriate and timely support for illness and injury while in uniform, a point he reiterated this week.

However, he cited several figures at the same time as evidence that the situation was improving. These include reducing wait times for certain types of disability claims and hiring hundreds of additional ⁠—mostly temporary⁠—staff members at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I hope they don’t question progress,” he said. “You are fully aware that some substantial progress has been made.”

Macaulay also blamed external factors for some of the department’s ongoing problems, including a surge in disability benefit claims and massive layoffs under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government about a decade ago.

Meanwhile, he has defended his contract with the Veterans Rehabilitation Services Partner in Canada, which took effect this month, despite backlash and alarms from the Veterans Affairs Employees’ Union.

The government says the contract will help overworked case managers while ensuring veterans have access to a national network of 9,000 psychologists, physical therapists, social workers and other help.

The Liberals pledged in 2015 that the caseload for common case managers would be no more than 25 veterans, as many struggle with 40 or more after the Conservatives cut jobs.

Considering there are now dozens of case managers on sick and stress leave, the average today is still closer to 35, with some still over 40 or 50, according to UVAE.

“In terms of the contract itself, (the company) serves 14,000 veterans,” Macaulay said. “They have about 9,000 medical specialists across the country to provide them with the services they need. I don’t think it’s very responsible to cancel that contract.”

However, UVAE claims the contract will have the opposite effect, as it adds another layer of bureaucracy that veterans will have to contend with, while significantly changing the role of the case manager.

The union also slammed the department’s continued reliance on temporary workers to solve problems. The issue was also raised by Auditor General Karen Hogan, who called for a long-term staffing and funding plan at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The fight between UVAE and Macaulay culminated last month when unions wrote to Trudeau asking him to replace Macaulay as union members lost confidence in the minister.

At the same time, others have questioned Macaulay’s influence at cabinet meetings and the Liberal government’s interest in veterans because they have failed to address many of the department’s long-standing problems.

“Whenever MacAulay speaks, it always says the same thing: ‘We think this is the most important thing and we’re going to do what we can,'” Brian Forbes, executive director of War Amps and chairman of the National Veterans Council ) said the association, representing 60 organizations.

“In our humble opinion, all of that is not enough. You have to make systemic changes.”

Asked about the resignation call and his own record, Macaulay cited more about the billions spent on veterans since the Liberals came to power and the recent purchase of land in France to save Juno Beach from development The data.

“People can assess whether I am the right minister,” he said. “I will continue to do the best job I know to make sure we serve our veterans.”

Lee Berthiaume, Canadian Press

like us Facebook and follow us Twitter.

Federal Political Veterans Affairs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *