Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Erin O'Toole and "an insurance company like Veterans Affairs"

Evan Solomon spent much of Power and Politics two days ago trying to get Con MP and ParlSec Erin O-Toole to respond to recently revealed records showing nearly 900 job positions eliminated across Veterans Affairs with the biggest cuts going to the Disability Awards branch. 

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 agoVeterans 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


Boris said...

What's missing from the picture right now is the ideological background and the awareness of the grand strategy behind the Con fuckery. In their hamfisted way, our Harperkin are still trying to throttle the welfare state, labour, or anything that doesn't effectively lead us towards fascist state. The veterans problem is just one front in a wider Con war against most Canadians and what Canada is, was, a once desired to be. However, I think acknowledging the totality of that and labelling as such is beyond the capacity of most people just now because of what it actually implies for how we treat this government.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Alison, you rock! Bravo.

Unknown said...

Absolutely unbelievable this hero has to sue the con-fucks after dying almost three time once under attack and twice during treatment. Un-fucking believable Harper has the balls to wear military battle fatigues hides in closets at the sound of gunfire and treats men like Major Mark Campbell like worn out garbage...

Mark you have my support!

Harper you are a slimy coward grow-up will you.

MyPetGloat said...

A vote for Harper is a vote to toss double amputee war vets in the trash.

That's the benchmark folks.

thwap said...

I thought the idiot was talking about saving money on lawn care for the grounds of public buildings used by the Veterans Affairs.

Why in the name of fuck do they think there's some reason to cut-back on shoveling the snow or cutting the grass for veterans who are too disabled to do it themselves?????

I know right-wingers don't trust people, everyone's a scam-artist to them, ... but surely disabled CF veterans can be trusted to not be scamming us for their lawn care and snow shoveling.


Erin O'Toole said...

Allison, you should probably try and look into things a little before slamming changes or people. The VIP program is an example of how the department was bogging down vets and their families with paperwork and a simple change (asked for by families) could meet the goals of the program and remove piles of unnecessary work. Watching a political panel giving short coverage of an issue will often cause more confusion on an important subject. Read my blog on this very problem.
Thanks, Erin O'Toole

Alison said...

Erin O'Toole : Thank you for your response and link to your your blog where you lament:
"the narrowing all decisions down to political positions for partisan gain at the expense of rational discussion of public policy and that this process is actually assisted or exacerbated by the media environment that often appears to prefer bare-knuckled political panels over deeper examination of an issue."


You also include your 30 minute November speech on Veterans Affairs in the HoC, giving you a more complete and uninterrupted venue for your views on the new VA charter. About that speech ...

Mr. O'Toole, you are 41 years old. Can you not see how spending over a third of that 30 minutes defending your government's position based on how much better things are now for veterans than they were post-WWII and back in the 1950's completely misses the point of your responsibility while in government for the past eight years?

VA returned some $1-billion dollars of VA money to the federal treasury, while laying off VA workers and spending millions on VA advertising and promoting tweets.
Yesterday you told Tom Clark on Global News that this is necessary because new vets aren't applying for the benefits they are eligible for - hence, I suppose, also the reason behind sending back that $1B.
Suggestion : email. You could also give new vets the info on their retirement with a later follow-up.
This would go some considerable distance towards addressing the accusations of partisanship leveled at your government for - to give one example - spending $88,194 promoting tweets on Remembrance Day as compared to $15,500 on tweets advertising services to veterans.

I realize this is not your file and that you personally declined to politicize Remembrance Day.

Thank you for your time.

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