Rachel Blaney says her new role as the NDP’s Critic for Veterans Affairs has been fulfilling and disheartening since receiving the appointment last month.
The North Island-Powell River MP is concerned about Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC) treatment of past Canadian Forces members. Since being elected MP in 2015, she has met numerous vets who feel their problems are not being taken seriously. For instance, she said a simplified VAC form to access supports and treatment options could lead to delays in treatment and awards, and even mis-diagnoses.
“When the process happened (to streamline the form), they worked with their service excellence advisory but not with the mental health advisory,” said Blaney, who also serves as Critic for Seniors’ Issues, and Vice-Chair of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee.
“Right now we’re seeing a lot of setting standards for services, and they’re not even getting close to meeting them.”
The Liberal government’s new pension-for-life (PFL) option for veterans came into effect April 1. It includes Pain and Suffering Compensation (PSC), Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation (APSC), and Income Replacement Benefit (IRB). Blaney’s office is working with someone who had the PSC aspect added to his pension, but says his cheque wound up being smaller.
“It’s (PFL) still not the commitment they made during the campaign,” Blaney said. “We’re watching how it unfolds. We hope that it helps but it doesn’t look like it’s going to fill those gaps that are much needed to be filled.”
Blaney is also distressed by the number of vets who have been moved from caseworker to caseworker.
“We’re working hard with the minister’s office to try and improve that,” she said, noting the level of burnout among VAC caseworkers. “This is a commitment to the people who serve us. I feel for veterans, and I hear it when they call me from across the country how exhausted they are that they’re still fighting this fight.”