Sean Bruyea – Fantino: Not tough enough for Veterans Affairs

Fantino: Not tough enough for Veterans Affairs

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, pictured at a Parliamentary committee in May, has been under fire in recent weeks.

Minister Julian Fantino is the flypaper to which incompetent management and controversy persistently buzz around and stick. It is not clear why Prime Minister Stephen Harper keeps appointing this individual to various Cabinet positions. What is abundantly clear: Julian Fantino is not capable of effectively managing the quagmire at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

When he was appointed minister, there were ambivalent reactions from the veterans’ community. Some mistakenly believed that an MP who wore a uniform in four different police departments would somehow understand living with lifelong injuries due to military service. Others knew of his career record in failing upwards. His tenure at VAC has highlighted a professional repertoire of disturbing tactics.

In 2004, media noted his “chilling legacy” as Toronto’s police chief during which “Julian Fantino’s arrogance and aggression unravelled [the] city’s social weave.”  His “thin-skinned” and “vindictive” nature back then erupted ten years later to national attention.While cameras rolled, Fantino contemptuously brushed off frail, aging and desperate veterans who waited almost two hours for the minister on a cold January day. By means of an insincere apology, Fantino accused the veterans of being “union dupes.”  Fleeing on camera from the wife of a disabled veteran four months later only confirmed his disdain for dialogue with those in need.

As head of the OPP, Fantino oversaw an operation which not only abandoned business and homeowners in Caledonia when their houses were illegally occupied, but some who dared peacefully protest were arrested. Although Fantino met with the illegal occupiers, he refused to meet with homeless residents.

This is all too familiar in 2014. In the week following Remembrance Day, Fantino held a secretive meeting far from veteran and media prying eyes on the military base in Quebec City. The agenda of the meeting: programs affecting younger disabled veterans and their families. Excluded from that meeting: younger stakeholders who represented disabled veterans and their families. Those included: veterans with an average age close to Fantino’s, i.e., in their 70s, some representing organizations that have been publicly sycophantic to government during the ongoing veteran scandals.

Fantino’s long-running autocratic streak has made veterans’ issues a national spectacle.  But even during his election campaigns, Fantino rarely if ever entered into any public debates. His only comment was to ironically label Liberal tactics, “…the Hitler theory. You tell a lie often enough you hope that some people will believe it.”

Since his appointment as minister in 2013, Fantino has led VAC on the misinformation march. The most persistent distortion: his government’s claim of $5-billion more for veterans since 2006, omitting that $1.1-billion was handed back to Treasury Board. When confronted, Fantino prevaricated that the money didn’t go away, it is “recycled” back into programs. Tell that to the more than 20,000 veterans and family members who lost eight regional Veterans Affairs offices to save as little as $3.8-million annually.

Fantino has been the most recent ministerial champion for the cutbacks underway at VAC for the past three years, the largest proportional cutbacks of any federal department. He professes that 600 generic Service Canada centres, which offer nothing more than blank forms for veterans to fill out, will somehow replace hundreds of highly specialized VAC front-line workers slashed throughout Canada. He and his party inundate local, regional and national newspapers with template rhetorical letters justifying the cutbacks. Media outlets, veterans and the opposition have been viciously assailed for questioning the wisdom of the cuts while public cries from veterans grow. Meanwhile, his department has surreptitiously begun advertising to replace some of those cutback positions.

Fantino’s suffocation of debate on veterans’ issues with fierce partisan attacks is a continuation of his antics on CIDA’s website to bash opposition parties when he was Minister of International Development. What puzzles many is that Bev Oda, his immediate predecessor, resigned after revelations of a $16 glass of orange juice and a swanky stay at the Savoy on the taxpayer’s dime. Surely someone in the PMO must notice Fantino is sucking back “Harper government” political capital faster than an intergalactic kegger of black holes.

It’s not that Julian Fantino will likely never comprehend the financial struggles of injured veterans with his more than $118,000 in current annual pensions plus $242,000 as a Cabinet minister. It is not that he compared Rob Ford’s intoxicated antics to veterans suffering PTSD. It is not that he confiscated cellphones from veterans at the War Museum while he made a surprise announcement to appeal a court ruling of disabled veterans suing government.

It is also not that he made VAC foot the bill for him to fly to meet the pope in Italy with his wife. Or that six months later he hastily returned to his birthplace, escaping both the scathing Auditor General’s report and the controversy over his announcement of $200 million for mental health spread over 50 years, not the five or six with which he misled Canadians. It is not that his response to these controversies was the fanciful claim that the department focuses upon “better outcomes” when the AG report specifically chastised the department for failing to measure meaningful outcomes.

It is that Julian Fantino is not tough enough for the job of minister of Veterans Affairs. He is not strong enough to listen to those in need. He lacks the resilience to speak respectfully one on one. And he clearly doesn’t understand the emergency facing our veterans.

Fantino is a bully and bullies are cowards. They fear seeing others eye to eye. They prefer to condescend, intimidate and squash the defenseless who dare question.

Veterans spend careers in uniform being bullied into not exercising their freedom of expression. When they do speak up, it is because something is desperately wrong. They need to believe that whatever is broken is due to an oversight. To respond to their public appeals with misinformation, disdain, humiliation and hiding ravages their trust in government, their sacrifice for government and ultimately trust in themselves.

Fantino has broken trust with veterans and Canadians in a most heinous manner. For that his career-long incompetence must finally come to an end before it harms any more of Canada’s most humble and most vulnerable: our disabled veterans and their families.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and a frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

The article was originally published in Esprit de Corps magazine.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Sorry state of (veterans’) affairs

Sorry state of (veterans’) affairs

http://lethbridgeherald.com/commentary/letters-to-the-editor/2014/12/16/sorry-state-of-veterans-affairs/

By Letter to the Editor on December 16, 2014.

MP Jim Hillyer, (Herald, Dec 5), through his Edmonton colleague Laurie Hawn attempted to “clarify [the] issue of veterans’ funding.” Hawn and Hillyer, apparently believe the line fed to them by the spin doctors in the PMO that the “outcry over lapsed funds at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is based on deliberate misinformation by the Opposition and abetted by some lazy media without independent fact-checking or research.” They then go on to explain that the reason funds are “lapsed” is because there has not been sufficient demand for them.

In my [CM] experience as a business person, when my projections fall significantly short, as is what has happened with the “lapsed” funds, it’s important to explore and understand the cause. Perhaps it might have something to do with the closure of nine Veterans Affairs offices around the country and the layoff of hundreds of staff. To quote Auditor General Michael Ferguson, “Veterans Affairs is not adequately facilitating timely access to mental health services” (http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/att__e_39979.html). Thus, applications may not be completed on time, or may be held up in processing; both would result in funding being returned instead of going to the Veterans.

Hawn and Hillyer say “demand is less than forecast” and use that as the explanation for money not being spent, but, if the government makes it almost impossible to access a service, demand will of course be lowered. Closing veterans offices, making vets apply online (tough to do for those without technology access or comfort working online, and with a need for help that has them applying for the benefit in the first place) means, yes, there’s money left over.

Rather than blaming the NDP and the media for the government’s failure to deliver services and funding to VA, it would be more productive to listen to the Veterans and the Auditor General. If all was well, there would not be an outcry from Veterans across Canada, who are so disgusted with how the government is treating them they have launched a class action lawsuit. Veteran Major Mark Campbell, who lost both legs in Afghanistan, and previously suffered other injuries including PTSD has been denied benefits and a pension. Major Campbell’s comment, “I come home and I find that, honestly, the biggest battle I’ve ever faced in my entire life is here at home against my very own government”, certainly gives us another perspective than the all-is-well mantra from Hillyer.

Cheryl Meheden

NDP Candidate, Lethbridge

and Mark Sandilands

President, Lethbridge Federal NDP Riding Association

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Public inquiry needed into Veterans Affairs

Public inquiry needed into Veterans Affairs

http://www.guelphmercury.com/opinion-story/5206930-public-inquiry-needed-into-veterans-affairs/

Guelph Mercury

Veterans Affairs of Canada Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino have been in the news quite frequently lately, as more and more stories emerge about the shabby treatment some veterans have received.

The recent news that Veterans Affairs sent an unused $1.13 billion back to the federal treasury is troubling, particularly when some veterans are being shortchanged on benefits. To make things even worse, senior Veterans Affairs bureaucrats received, on average, $5,000 bonuses. This is scandalous.

Taxpayers’ money is going to these overpaid bureaucrats, and they receive bonuses to shortchange deserving veterans. Taxpayers should be outraged.

There is a term used for this callous treatment of veterans. It’s known as the “3D” treatment: deny, deflect, delay.

When our brave men and women came home from Afghanistan they didn’t have to fight the enemy there anymore, but if they came home broken physically or mentally they had to fight our government for benefits. How fair is that?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other cabinet ministers keep saying publicly, during photo-ops, that they support our veterans, and that there are many programs in place to help them, when the opposite is true. The “3D” treatment is alive and well folks.

I don’t know if Guelph MP Frank Valeriote, the Liberals’ veterans affairs critic, will agree with me, but I believe a public inquiry must be called.

I also want our government to keep our troops home if we can’t afford to look after them when they come home broken.

Jacques De Winter

Guelph

Posted in News | Leave a comment

VAC Main Estimates 2014-15 is 3,577 million. Net Decrease of 1.7% (60.9 million)

Veterans Affairs 2014-14 Estimates_Page_4Veterans Affairs 2014-14 Estimates_Page_3Veterans Affairs 2014-14 Estimates_Page_2Veterans Affairs 2014-14 Estimates_Page_1

 

http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/me-bpd/20142015/me-bpdtb-eng.asp

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Veterans Affairs underspent maintenance of grave markers, analysis shows

Veterans Affairs underspent maintenance of grave markers, analysis shows

The Canadian Press

Published Wednesday, Dec. 03 2014, 4:49 PM EST

Last updated Wednesday, Dec. 03 2014, 4:49 PM EST

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/veterans-affairs-underspent-maintenance-of-grave-markers-analysis-shows/article21925909/

A government analysis shows Veterans Affairs underspent by more than $2.6-million on maintaining grave markers for Canada’s war dead last year, at cemeteries like the ones in Italy visited last week by Julian Fantino.

The review of the memorial and cemetery maintenance program shows just 2,500 of 7,000 grave markers were properly maintained last year.

Fantino, the veterans affairs minister, is under fire for attending Second World War commemorations in Italy while controversy raged in Ottawa about his department’s treatment of veterans seeking mental health benefits.

The analysis shows the government earmarked more than $18.5-million in fiscal 2013-14 to help preserve the memory of Canadians who died serving their country.

Instead, the department spent less than $16-million, with just eight people doing the preservation work – far short of the 41 full-time employees originally projected for the program.

The analysis also says foreign service providers completed maintenance work on 80 per cent of Canada’s overseas memorials, shy of their 85 per cent target.

In the House of Commons today, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize to veterans.

For his part, Fantino brushed aside questions about the cemetery maintenance, instead touting his government’s recent achievements in providing services to military veterans.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Ministerial staff grew from 3 to 12 at Veterans Affairs since 2006

Ministerial staff grew from 3 to 12 at Veterans Affairs since 2006

By Laura Stone Politics Reporter  Global News

http://globalnews.ca/news/1717526/ministerial-staff-grew-from-3-to-12-at-veterans-affairs-since-2006/

OTTAWA – The number of political staffers working for the Veterans Affairs minister has quadrupled since 2006 – the year the Conservatives took power.

In 2006, there were three staff members working for the minister – two in Ottawa and one in Thompson, Man., newly released documents show.

This year, there are 12 – all in Ottawa.

The number of ministerial staff has fluctuated over the years. But save for the significant dip in 2006, it has steadily increased.

Since 2004, the average number of staffers working for the minister has grown by more than 70 per cent, from seven to 12.

The number has remained steady since 2010, at 11 or 12 employees.

In the Liberal governments of 2004 and 2005, there were seven and eight ministerial staff members, respectively.

While the minister’s office once employed people in five other communities across Canada, since 2010, they’ve all worked in the National Capital Region.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Stephen Harper must accept responsibility for the poor treatment of veterans, says veteran

Stephen Harper must accept responsibility for the poor treatment of veterans, says veteran

David Pugliese More from David Pugliese
Published on: December 13, 2014Last Updated: December 13, 2014 10:09 PM EST

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/stephen-harper-must-accept-responsibility-for-the-poor-treatment-of-veterans-says-veteran

By Dennis Manuge

Defence Watch Guest Writer

Dear Prime Minister Harper

Subject: Call for VAC Minister Fantino’s Resignation

The time is long overdue for you to ask for, and accept, VAC minister Fantino’s resignation and for you to accept responsibility for the systemic failures with in the Canadian Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada; specifically, the treatment of injured and ill service men and women and veterans who have become disabled during their service.

This last slap in the face to our veterans community, and the over one billion dollars that has been rolled over from the VAC budget, truly illustrates your government’s commitment to seeing off disabled service men and women.

A very small portion of that amount of money, your numbers said $200 million, could have been easily used and marked for those of us disabled veterans who have been given a paltry retroactivity settlement under the New Veterans Charter’s (NVC) Earnings Loss Benefit (ELB) program.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/veterans-affairs-ends-clawback-of-benefits-for-2-500-families-1.1144334

“Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney announced Wednesday that effective immediately, veterans will no longer have the amount of their earnings loss benefit and their Canadian Forces Income Support benefit reduced because they’re also receiving a disability pension.

Blaney told reporters that the government is going “even farther than what the court required,” saying the Harper government had “no obligation” to make today’s move but it is committed to “harmonizing” its system and ending deductions for complementary programs.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-veterans-face-new-feud-over-compensation-for-pension-clawbacks/article16473084/

“Former veterans minister Steven Blaney also ended the practice for programs in his department, but his successor has yet to open discussions about compensation for what was deducted prior to the decision.”

Guess what your government’s and Fantino’s decision was?

VAC has decided in all of its generosity and wisdom to give us, approximately 2000 disabled veterans and our families, roughly “one tenth”, in my case, of what we are owed retroactively.

Your government went back from October 2012 to only May 2012 in your calculations, a paltry 4 months in actual compensation, rather than go back to the beginning of this program in 2006.

In comparison, my case, Manuge vs Her Majesty the Queen, Federal Court Justice Barnes, stated in his decision, ref : http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fc-cf/decisions/en/item/60778/index.do

“[63]           It seems to me that to ask these questions is to answer them. Giving effect to the SISIP offset of Pension Act disability benefits wholly deprives disabled veterans of an important financial award intended to compensate for disabling injuries suffered in the service of Canadians.  The SISIP offset effectively defeats the Parliamentary intent that is inherent in thePension Act which is to provide modest financial solace to disabled CF members for their non-financial losses.  The approach adopted by the Defendant does not lead to a fair or sensible commercial result and defeats the reasonable expectation of CF members.  CF members looking at the SISIP Policy and, in particular Article 24, would expect that they were obtaining a meaningful and not illusory LTD benefit payable over and above their Pension Act disability entitlement for the loss of personal amenities.  This view is enhanced by the fact that disabled CF members who continue with their active service are entitled to be paid and to keep theirPension Act disability benefits and by the fact that they lose their right of action against the Crown to pursue claims to damages (including income losses) if a Pension Act benefit is payable: see Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, RSC 1985, c C-50, s 9.  The practical consequence of the claimed offset is to substantially reduce or to extinguish the LTD coverage promised to members of the Class by the SISIP Policy with particularly harsh effect on the most seriously disabled CF members who have been released from active service.  That is an outcome that could not reasonably have been intended and I reject it unreservedly.”

Read the paragraph again and simply substitute ELB for SISIP!

The ELB offset is 100% exactly the same. In my class action legal case, the judge ordered retroactivity going back to 1976 for approximately 8500 disabled veteran class members. Your government, in a calculated and premeditated attempt at saving money on our backs, has once again singled out a disadvantaged group of Canadian heroes, 2000 strong and you are treating us differently than the SISIP Class Members and newly disabled veterans, whom will never have to experience an offset of their pain and suffering disability payments.

I believe under the Charter of Human rights, all disabled people, and people, should be treated the same….

Clearly you, successive VAC ministers’, Canadian Forces CDS’ and your upper echelon senior bureaucrats could care less about making a comparatively small financial gesture – given the spillage left over each fiscal year – to truly level and equal the playing field, for all disabled veterans and their families.

Fantino has been missing in action, brutal in personality when dealing person to person with veterans and families, and now you seem to be hiding him and not even letting him speak.

In comes General Walt Natynczyk…to help!

I think not….He is a former CDS that never said a word in support to ending the SISIP Clawback, but told me by phone that he answered to his boss at the time, former Defence Minister Pete MacKay.

Nothing!

He did retire on a General’s pension and has become the head civil servant\bureaucrat at the Canadian Space Agency, and now is the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs…how much do you think he earns? It might appear as you were holding on to some very lucrative positions for him.

As the Equitas Legal Challenge in BC ramps up in challenge of the NVC Lump Sum disability Payments and based on my own six year legal battle, one thing is clear. Your conservative government would rather spend tax payer’s money fighting disabled veterans in the courts of the land, than doing what is simply the right thing; especially when you already have the financial resources available, but choose to roll the money over from year to year.

It’s time to clean things up, come clean, blow it up at VAC from top down and start fresh with new leadership to rebuild the trust.

It’s time for Fantino to go!

Corporal (Ret) Dennis Manuge

Representative Plaintiff, Manuge Vs Her Majesty The Queen (SISIP Clawback Class Action)

Disabled Veteran of CF

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Vétérans: la section des indemnités la plus touchée par les compressions

Vétérans: la section des indemnités la plus touchée par les compressions

Publié le 07 décembre 2014 à 14h41 | Mis à jour le 07 décembre 2014 à 15h19

Murray Brewster
La Presse Canadienne
OTTAWA

http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/politique/201412/07/01-4826028-veterans-la-section-des-indemnites-la-plus-touchee-par-les-compressions.php

La section des indemnités et des pensions du ministère des Anciens combattants, qui a récemment été critiquée pour avoir trop tardé à répondre aux prestations d’anciens soldats, a été la plus touchée par les compressions de 2009 à 2013, selon un rapport des dépenses du gouvernement fédéral.

Presque 897 postes ont été éliminés au ministère, dont 33 % provenaient de la branche qui administre ces services.

Les sections de la santé et de la réhabilitation ont aussi été affectées par les restrictions budgétaires, puisqu’un total de 372 postes y ont été abolis.

Celle des commémorations, qui célèbre les guerres auxquelles le Canada a participé et qui entretient les monuments funéraires, a aussi vu ses effectifs réduits de plus de 17 %.

À titre de comparaison, les postes abolis dans les services internes, ce que le gouvernement appelle «l’infrastructure administrative» du ministère, ne représentent que 10 % du nombre total- soit 71 postes supprimés.

La section des indemnités et des pensions s’est pourtant retrouvée avec un surplus budgétaire de 121 millions de dollars pour l’exercice budgétaire 2013-2014, qu’elle avait dû renvoyer au Conseil du Trésor. Le gouvernement Harper a d’ailleurs été critiqué par le Vérificateur général pour avoir trop tardé sur les prestations des anciens soldats liés à leur santé mentale.

«Nous avons pris des ressources dans l’infrastructure administrative, dans la bureaucratie, pour le remettre dans les services […] Il n’y a jamais autant eu de bénéfices, de ressources et de points de services», a plaidé le premier ministre Stephen Harper, à la période des questions mercredi.

Les représentants du gouvernement conservateur ont encore martelé vendredi dernier que les coupes n’avaient pas été imposées au détriment des anciens combattants. Tous les ministères doivent faire un effort pour atteindre le déficit budgétaire, ont-il ajouté.

«Nous ne nous excuserons pas d’avoir réduit la bureaucratie au ministère des Anciens combattants […] Nous avons récemment annoncé huit nouvelles cliniques de santé mentale pour les vétérans canadiens. Alors que le NPD défend les syndicats avec les libéraux, nous défendons les vétérans canadiens», a souligné le secrétaire parlementaire du ministère, Parm Gill.

Le porte-parole libéral Frank Valeriote estime qu’il y a un lien direct entre les réductions d’effectifs, les inquiétudes soulevées par le Vérificateur général et les 1,13 milliard de dollars qui n’ont pas été dépensés par le ministère depuis 2006.

On ne peut pas dépenser de l’argent si on n’a personne pour l’administrer, a-t-il expliqué, accusant le gouvernement d’induire les Canadiens en erreur lorsqu’il dit couper dans l’infrastructure administrative.

«Le premier ministre, mercredi, a parlé des coupes dans l’administration, mais elles étaient mineures en réalité. Alors ne nous méprenons pas et soyons clairs: il a menti», a lancé le député libéral.

Le syndicat des employés des Anciens combattants a confirmé les chiffres du ministère, précisant que les délais possibles dans les indemnités allaient inévitablement avoir des effets sur les autres services.

Le président du syndicat a d’ailleurs demandé au gouvernement d’embaucher un arbitre indépendant qui évaluera les effets des compressions sur les services aux vétérans.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

REHAB PROGRAM – POLICIES

REHAB PROGRAM – POLICIES

In light of many Vet’s who have been told they are close of being kicked of the Rehab Program, I have listed a few procedures on REHAB.

The most important one for those being kicked off Rehab is Rehabilitation Program Plan, Section: Duration of a Rehabilitation Program Plan, Suspension of Rehabilitation and Vocational Assistance Services and Cancellation of Rehabilitation Program Plan.

BLOG INDEX: CAF & VAC Benefits and Services

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/VACDND_Services-Benefits/?page_id=2

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Mulcair tells Fantino to do the honourable thing ‘for once in his life’ and resign

Mulcair tells Fantino to do the honourable thing ‘for once in his life’ and resign

Jake Edmiston | December 11, 2014 | Last Updated: Dec 11 6:24 PM ET
More from Jake Edmiston

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/12/11/mulcair-tells-fantino-to-do-the-honourable-thing-for-once-in-his-life-and-resign/

In its strongest terms yet, the opposition demanded the ouster of Veteran Affairs Minster Julian Fantino — with NDP leader Tom Mulcair calling on him to “finally, for once in his life, do the honourable thing and resign.”

Mulcair’s choice of phrase was a particularly loaded one, considering Mr. Fantino’s decades-long career as a police officer and a five-year stint as the Toronto Police chief.

“This person has caused the harm,” Mr. Mulcair shouted during question period. “And he says it’s somebody else’s fault? No, Mr. Speaker, he’s responsible.

“What is he waiting for?”

Mr. Fantino has been dogged by calls for his walking papers in recent weeks — stemming, in part, from an Auditor General’s report on his department. But with the House of Commons winding down ahead of a holiday recess, the NDP seemed determined to land a death blow.

“The minister of veterans affairs is living on another planet,” NDP deputy critic for veterans affairs Sylvain Chicoine said. “It’s more than time for the Prime Minister to give a great gift to veterans and fire this minister.”

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper not in the House Thursday, Mr. Fantino responded directly to calls for his sacking — leaning on his list of “programs and services” available to veterans and noting pro-veteran initiatives the opposition voted against.

“We take no lessons from a party [the NDP] that speaks one thing and does another,” Mr. Fantino said.

After question period, the Prime Minister’s office backed Mr. Fantino. Asked if Mr. Harper had confidence in the minister, PMO spokesman Carl Vallée replied: “Of course he does.”

Posted in News | Leave a comment