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Veterans affairs case managers near ‘breaking point’, union warns

OTTAWA – The head of the union representing Canada Veterans case managers is warning her members are nearing a “breaking point” due to excessive workload and lack of support from superior.

However, Virginia Vaillancourt of the Veterans Affairs Officers’ Union is also skeptical of the government’s promises to tackle the problem after what she describes as six years of “Band-Aid” solutions under the Liberal Party.

“The government needs to put their money where and fix the situation,” Vaillancourt said in an interview. “They talked about it for six years, and they did nothing, in my opinion, except put temporary Band-Aids on it.”

Vaillancourt’s comments come days after a former Veterans Canada case manager told The Canadian Press that veterans with disabilities are at risk when overwhelmed case managers try to Sort dozens of records before burning and leaving.

Lucy Hirayama’s decision to continue follows a series of stories about some of the most pressing challenges facing veterans today, including a large number of Armed Forces veterans with unique needs. complexity is assigned to those who manage individual records.

Case managers help veterans with complex needs develop a plan to successfully re-enter civilian life after leaving the military for medical reasons. They are responsible for coordinating the various medical and financial resources needed for that transition.

Recognizing their importance, the Liberal government promised in the 2015 federal election to reduce the number of veterans assigned to individual case managers to an average of 25 to 1, after the number topped 40 to 1 under the Conservative Party.

However, the Department of Veterans Affairs said the average case manager across Canada has 33 veterans assigned to them, while the union representing case managers said a survey of Their members during the summer show that the majority have more than 35 profiles and some have over 50.

Vaillancourt attributes this disparity to the way the department keeps track of case managers on long-term or sick leave, said other case managers end up uploading even though records about Technical side remains with absent staff.

“So that’s why the numbers aren’t accurate… because they don’t keep accurate records,” she said, adding that the department declined to say how many managers there are. Their profile is currently on sick leave after losing their job.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Lawrence MacAulay said the government will deliver on its recent election campaign promise to hire more case managers and other staff for the department, but he has yet to provide further details.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs says its budget allows for 476 case managers – and those positions have 426 permanent and 50 temporary employees. When asked about meeting the 25 to 1 ratio, they said they are working to reduce the administrative burden on case managers.

If the government is serious about supporting veterans, Vaillancourt said it will bring in temporary case managers as well as more than 560 other contract workers hired to help deal with existing disability claims. deposited in the fixed payroll of the department.

Funding for these temporary workers is set to expire in March, and although the department has said some will be kept, it has not said how many or when they know their jobs are safe.

“If they’re hiring more case managers, why are they letting existing temps get hired in March 2022 when they’re already trained and up to speed?” Vailancourt asked. “They should send letters to renew or make them permanent.”

Meanwhile, a planning document presented in the House of Commons earlier this year showed the overall workforce at Veterans Affairs is expected to shrink from about 3,600 this year to 2,900 next year. coming if the employee is temporarily leaving.

The department’s internal service budget, which covers salaries and other operating expenses, is similarly set to drop to $80 million next year from $100 million in 2019-20 as the financial Temporary support for those employees expires.

Those declines have all occurred although the government is expected to continue to increase the number of sick and injured veterans coming for medical and financial assistance over the next several years, many of whom Some of them will also require a case manager.

Since Hirayama came in to share her experience at the Veterans Affairs Division, Vaillancourt said she’s heard from other case managers still working in the department who have praised the decision. her own and in particular about many of the same concerns.

“It’s right across the country,” Vaillancourt said. “It’s not just a correspondence office or a corresponding area. It’s all areas of difficulty and frustration. …None of them want to see another veteran fall through. cracks.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 16, 2021.

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