Problems identified by the Watchdog Office since 2017 include long wait times for veterans to find out if they qualify for disability benefits and assistance. These waits were particularly long for the women and Francophones who were injured in uniform.
Jardine also called attention in June to what she said was the unfair treatment of family members of veterans, who are unable to access mental health services unless it is an integral part of the plan. treatment of the veteran.
“When a veteran or a military member serves, or even a member of the RCMP, their families have served as well and that has an impact on their mental health,” she said. “Family mental health, some of these stories are heartbreaking. “
The office of Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said the government had accepted many of the watchdog’s recommendations, including its request in June that Veterans Affairs Canada fund peer support programs for victims of dementia. military sexual misconduct.
“We also implemented recommendations that improved mental health supports for veterans and their families, improved compensation for ill and injured veterans, and launched a veteran ID card.” spokesman Cameron McNeill said in an email.
“We will continue to work with the Ombud and his office to improve the services and support we provide to our Veterans and their families, including further reducing processing times for Veterans, which is a priority.” absolute that she and the minister share. “
Jardine, who is the first woman to hold the post and who changes the title from ombudsperson’s office to ombud, is not the first to express frustration at what she sees as the government’s nonchalant response to concerns from the office.
Jardine’s predecessor Craig Dalton stepped down in May 2020 after just 18 months on the job.
Still, a report released by Jardine late last month said recent years have seen this trend increase as fewer and fewer recommendations are implemented.
The government implemented only six of the 26 still relevant recommendations made between April 2017 and March 2021.
These 26 recommendations aimed to provide mental health support to family members as well as more equitable access to financial assistance and compensation for all veterans with disabilities, and to ensure that veterans do not don’t wait months and years for help.
The report says these wait times accounted for 43% of all complaints received by the office, making it the number one issue raised by veterans. This is despite the fact that the government has hired hundreds of temporary workers to process a backlog of over 40,000 applications.
(The annual report did not include the government’s decision to implement peer support for sexual misconduct, which will be covered in next year’s iteration.)
Jardine, who previously told The Canadian Press that she endured the same long and frustrating wait for her own request, during which she was unable to access physiotherapy for injuries sustained while in uniform, said the problem remains a major concern for her.
“It all depends on getting that decision on your disability claim so you can get well, so you can get back into your civilian life and move on to a new job,” she said. “It’s a struggle for many veterans and my hearts go out to them and their families. “
The Canadian Press in a series last month described some of the challenges facing veterans today, including the backlog of applications that has left many waiting for federal aid.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 5, 2021.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press