60 senior VA managers were paid $360K in bonuses for making the cuts, spun by Harper in the House last Wednesday as "taking resources out of backroom administration and putting them into services".
"How are these backroom cuts", asked Solomon, "when some people might call them front line services?"
O'Toole didn't answer the question directly, you'll be shocked to hear, instead opting for various bizarre defences like this one at the 5:17 mark:
"The Veterans Independence Program was notoriously cumbersome. I think all MPs heard about the bills for snow removal, lawn maintenance, house cleaning. We're pre-approving now and so some of these changes have led to less paperwork."
What's he on about? More troops have taken their own lives since than were killed in action in Afghanistan and he's going on about lawn maintenance and paperwork.
But ok, let's go with that.
The Veterans Independence Program awards eligible veterans with health needs money to pay for housekeeping, grounds maintenance, personal care and other services.
In April 2012, over two and a half years ago, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney announced veterans would no longer have to pay for the services upfront and then submit individual receipts for services to the federal government for reimbursement. Instead they would receive the payments upfront.
"It's all about cutting red tape," said Blaney.
Sounds good. But here's what Major Mark Campbell, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2008 and is one of six vets taking the government to court in BC, had to say about the changes to that very VIP program four days prior to O'Toole's remarks [10:00 mark]:
"What the government says on the one hand with the spin and denials, and what I see on the other hand as a recipient, a client of Veterans Affairs, are two very different things. And this is the problem - there is a fundamental disconnect between what the government is saying and what we veterans, especially the new veterans under the new Veterans Charter, are actually experiencing on the ground.
I mean we're seeing reductions in the Veterans Independence Program for lawn care and house care under the new grant program. They didn't bother to tell us that under the new needs matrix by and large results in about a 50% reduction in the previous benefit. There's things like that go on left, right, and centre and it boggles the mind what you experience dealing with an insurance company called Veterans Affairs."
Jesus, O'Toole, even the responses you give to avoid answering questions are crap. Veterans Affairs underspent its budget by $133 million in 2013-14 and your bunch are dicking veterans around about things like house and lawn care and then bs-ing about it?
Major Mark Campbell, as Boris has already pointed out, is a powerful advocate for the Equitas-backed court case. If you're curious about what it's like for new veterans to deal with "an insurance company like Veterans Affairs" when their injuries exceed the allowed financial payout limits, here ya go ... Also an excellent summation of the whole debacle.
Update : Erin O'Toole responds in comments