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VAC in the News

blackberet17

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I can share what I've heard from friends at the coal face. They are seeing progress, but it's a hard slog. When you fall behind in a hockey game, it's not easy to claw your way back into it when the other team keeps scoring.

As for data, in terms of intake, there has been a marked increased in applications, close to 25% from 2016-17 to 2017-18. Even with the increase in applications, the Department is completing more than half of those applications in the 16 week service standard.

It's not the 100% solution, but with how complex some of these applications can be, plus delays in getting service docs, medical reports, etc....
 

The Bread Guy

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Fishbone Jones said:
Perhaps it's just me. I have a sense of foreboding coming from that last paragraph. It sounds like this may be a sticking point when it comes to the budget and they are laying the ground work for a decision that might be unpopular.
What'll be interesting is if the government announces some "new" or "improved" initiative, say, a few days before the PBO's report coming out on the 21st, trying to head off the worst from the PBO report.
 

TCM621

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Brihard said:
Offhand (eg anecdote vs data), what are you guys seeing internally with regards to backlogs and processing times? It has seemed to be slowly trending in the right direction from what I'm piecing together- though with a long way yet to go. What's it look like at the coal face?

I am getting the exact opposite impression. Based on what I see with my own claims, here, in the news and from talking to Vac and the OVO, it is taking longer and longer to finish a claim. That said, I can talk to two different people at VAC and get two completely different answers.  Hell, sometimes I get two different answers in the same email, so who knows. Hopefully the PBO report will shine a light on this.
 

catalyst

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Brihard said:
Offhand (eg anecdote vs data), what are you guys seeing internally with regards to backlogs and processing times? It has seemed to be slowly trending in the right direction from what I'm piecing together- though with a long way yet to go. What's it look like at the coal face?

I am seeing things go faster - certainly mental health.

 

Rifleman62

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https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/03/07/nearly-40000-canadian-veterans-waiting-for-disability-benefits-as-backlog-keeps-growing.html

Nearly 40,000 Canadian veterans waiting for disability benefits as backlog keeps growing
- CP - 7 Mar 19

OTTAWA—Despite repeated promises to fix the mess, the number of veterans waiting to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits has continued to grow, and there are fears the turmoil will only worsen in the coming weeks. New figures from Veterans Affairs Canada show nearly 40,000 veterans were waiting at the end of November to hear whether their applications for financial assistance would be approved — 11,000 more than the previous year.

And more than one-third of the total had been in the queue longer than 16 weeks, which was also an increase and a sign that veterans are waiting ever longer to find out whether they are entitled to assistance. That is despite the Trudeau government’s having moved to hire more front line staff and committing $42 million over two years in last year’s budget to clear up the backlog, which has been a source of concern for years. Revelations about the growing size of the backlog have prompted fresh shock and concern among veterans’ advocates who say long delays add stress and frustration to veterans already suffering from physical and psychological injuries.

And there are fears that the situation will only get worse as Veterans Affairs begins to roll out a new pension plan for disabled veterans next month, which will see staff using a new computer system to process a new package of benefits. “I’m surprised it’s grown that much,” said Jim Lowther, president of VETS Canada, which supports homeless veterans in communities across the country, adding when it comes to the new pension plan: “No one really knows how it going to unfold.” The government is blaming the explosion in waiting files on a 60-per-cent increase in the number of new applications over the past year that came with the introduction of several new benefits, resulting in demand outstripping the department’s ability to keep up.( If you introduce new benefits that require application processing/approval, don't you anticipate higher demand on resources?)

At the same time, Veterans Affairs Canada’s head of operations, Michel Doiron, said in an interview Thursday that the department has taken time to put the new money to use. “Staffing somebody in the public service is not done overnight, and here you’re looking at nurses and you’re looking at doctors,” he said. “So it takes some time to get there ... I’m not seeing the benefit of the surge up until probably now.”

As for the new pension system, Doiron acknowledged the uncertainties of implementing a new government computer system, particularly when many federal public servants are still suffering under the buggy Phoenix pay system, and that “April will be a difficult month.” But the new system has been well-tested, contingency plans are ready to ensure veterans aren’t unduly affected and the change isn’t nearly as complex as those demanded by Phoenix, he said. It also incorporates new technology that should speed processing of applications.

Many advocates as well as the union representing Veterans Affairs workers have long demanded the government hire more staff for the department, which was hit with deep cuts and layoffs under the Stephen Harper government. “With all of these changes, we feel that there is not enough staff,” said Virginia Vaillancourt, national president of the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees, who said some staff have been under the gun to work overtime in recent months. (Only in recent months?) “There are huge concerns not only for our veterans but also for our employees with this whole aspect of doing more with less.” (VAC received "more front line staff and committing $42 million over two years in last year’s budget to clear up the backlog", so how is this doing more with less, granted there were more applications?)

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s spokesman Alex Wellstead admitted in a statement that more needs to be done without offering specifics. “Over the last three years we have improved the benefits and services for veterans and their families,” he said. “But we know we need to continue to improve in how we deliver those services.”

Doiron played down the importance of more staff, but didn’t rule it out, saying officials are first looking at whether the combination of surge-funding, innovations such as artificial intelligence in processing applications for aid, and other measures will address the problem. “I actually think the surge funding will help me get over this initial hump and we’re doing that analysis now to say with all this innovative stuff we’re bringing in, do we actually have the right number of people at the end of the surge funding?” he said. “And we’ve advised central agencies that we may, and I stress may, that we may come back with an ask.”


Same info, different take:

https://www.thepostmillennial.com/waitlist-for-disabled-veterans-benefits-balloons-to-almost-40000-under-trudeau/

Waitlist for disabled veterans benefits balloons to almost 40,000 under Trudeau
- 7 Mar 19

Almost 40,000 veterans were waiting at the end of November to find out whether their application for financial assistance would go through, according to Veterans Affairs Canada. That represents an increase of roughly 11,000 when compared to last year, and a new wait time more than 16 weeks. The original cause for much of this comes from the cuts made under the Harper government, but now three years into the Trudeau regime it seems the Liberal government has utterly failed on their promise to fix the growing mess.

This will likely continue to harm the current government’s relationship with the veteran community, something that is already under great strain. For example, the government currently faces a proposed class-action suit filed in federal court Friday the 25th, which states “the federal government knowingly short-changed hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans and RCMP members about $165 million in benefits.”

That lawsuit follows a calculation error the Liberal Jean Chrétien government made in 2002, which was caught in 2010. More than anything though, the continued game of musical chairs being played with the Minister of Veterans Affairs position cannot be helping the organization when it comes to moving forward.

What do you think about this story? Join the conversation by commenting below!

 

Rifleman62

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« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2018, 08:59:54 »
I sent an email to the journalist who wrote this to ask him to dig into who are the principals in the company are and connected to who. It's the cynic in me.

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/02/13/ottawa-picks-private-firm-over-charity-to-help-vets-find-work.html

Ottawa picks private firm over charity to help vets find work - BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH - 13 Feb 18
Charity winds down job hunting services for veterans after Ottawa gives the job to a private company — at a cost of $10 million.

I guess The Star didn't bother.

« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2018, 20:42:48 »

I gave the Journalists some links incl the one below and he said he would look into it.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/monica-kendel-ma-pcc-rrp-41babb1a/

Expand "Show More" and look at "Interests". Fits the PM's profile.


https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/vets-job-placement-contract-1.5053335

Conservatives question politics behind veterans job placement contract - 13 Mar 19
      Losing bidders in vets contract competition included a company that already had been performing the service

Two of the three companies that competed for a federal contract to deliver job placement services for Canada's veterans were disqualified for "not having sufficient experience" — even though one of them was doing the work already for Veterans Affairs, CBC News has learned. The $10.4-million contract ended up going to an Oshawa, Ont.-based company, Agilec, which in its previous iteration had done a lot of work for the Ontario government under then-premier Dalton McGuinty.

CBC News has obtained a series of documents through access to information legislation and conducted a number of background interviews with current and former government officials to answer questions about how the tender went to a relatively unknown company with no national profile and no offices outside of Ontario. For over a year, officials at Agilec have refused repeated interview requests and directed all inquiries from CBC News to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Conservative MP and ex-veterans minister Erin O'Toole said he's had his own trouble getting information from and arranging a meeting with officials from the company, which is based in a riding adjacent to his own. He said there has been something "puzzling" about the contract since the beginning and asks whether there was political interference in the contract process. "I'd like that question to be answered," O'Toole said in an interview with CBC News. "I would like to see an examination of why the responses by the [competing] companies were rejected. I think the government needs to provide some clarity on what happened here."

Running into roadblocks


When the contract was awarded, O'Toole said he'd never heard of Agilec, even though he's well-connected with the Durham Region business community. When he couldn't get information about the company, he said, he showed up unannounced on their doorstep several weeks ago. "On a few occasions, I tried to to speak to them about their service offering and their background," O'Toole told CBC News. "I've run into roadblocks many times." Part of the reason O'Toole and others in the veterans community had never heard of Agilec is that, up until four years ago, the employment firm was operating regionally as Northern Lights Vocational Services or Northern Lights Canada. It was rebranded weeks after the 2015 federal election and held a series of contracts with the Ontario government. Provincial public accounts records show the company received at least $14.3 million in two separate contracts from two different departments in its last year operating as Northern Lights Canada.

The veterans department gave Agilec two thumbs up, saying it has dealt with a higher than expected number of veterans seeking job placement. "Agilec was, and continues to be, prepared to provide services to these clients," Alex Wellstead, a spokesman for Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay, said in an email. As of mid-January, more than 300 veterans had gone through the system out of the 1,250 that have been approved. Wellstead said the company has not had "any issues providing services to veterans and their spouses." What was not addressed in the government's email response was the question about the sort of qualifications and experience the company had in the first place.

The two companies that lost the federal bid were the non-profit charity Canada Company and Maxsys Staffing and Consulting, which is headquartered in Montreal. Unlike Agilec, both losing bidders operate national networks of offices. Sources with knowledge of the file, who were granted anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the procurement process, said the federal government didn't examine the costing proposals from either Canada Company or Maxsys before rejecting their bids.

Long track records

Canada Company had been working for Veterans Affairs over several years, helping to match retiring soldiers, sailors and aircrew with jobs in the private sector. The federal government appeared to be solidly behind the charity and invested $1.1 million in the group's online MetPathfinder system one year before the contract went to Agilec. That investment was lost when MetPathfinder was shut down in April last year. Maxsys has been around since 1993. It has a long track record of providing permanent and temporary employees to the public and private sectors. It also delivers consulting services.

At first, Public Services and Procurement Canada would not comment on the tender evaluations, but after repeated questions, a department spokesman confirmed the bids were rejected and suggested there were good reasons. "Both of the unsuccessful companies failed to demonstrate that they met all requirements of the solicitation," Pierre-Alain Bujold said in a recent, written response to CBC News.

"The bid from one of these companies failed on the program knowledge and service delivery component. The other company didn't describe their experience in sufficient detail. That company was provided the opportunity to clarify, but they still did not demonstrate that they met necessary requirements." Bujold did not name either of the companies or provide more specifics.

By the standards of federal procurement, this bidding process proceeded at lightning speed. The tender was issued in September 2017 and a winner was declared three months later, in December of the same year. But the federal government did not publicly announce which company had won until February of 2018, two months after the competition closed.

The tender stated that the winning bidder must have employment counsellors experienced in working with military veterans. Officials with Agilec refused to answer questions about the qualifications of their staff, but the company's online recruiting ad says counsellors should have only a "minimum 12 months experience" in the field and a bachelor's degree.

O'Toole said that's troubling because dealing with veterans is a specialized skill. Many studies have shown that a smooth transition from uniform to civilian life is necessary to prevent some of the most vexing social problems in the veterans community, including suicide and homelessness. "This is the most important thing that the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs together do," he said. "If you screw up, or make mistakes, or have gaps that people fall into … that person can have a failed transition. So this is an important contract. It is critical."



 

Rifleman62

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standingdown said:
Maybe Gerald Butts will be my employment counselor. I can replace Justin. I'm more qualified.

I have a DVD of a CT and another DVD of an MRI of my brain.

I bid that I can replace Justin. I'm more qualified.
 

Rifleman62

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Info on My VAC Account this morning.

Upcoming changes for April 1


Pension for Life
Pension for Life comes into effect on April 1 2019. It is a combination of benefits that provide recognition, income support and stability to members and Veterans who experience a service related illness or injury. This new suite of benefits will empower Veterans and CAF members living with a service-related injury and/or illness to determine the form of compensation that works best for them and their families. Find out more.

• The first day to apply for the new programs is April 1, 2019

• The last day to apply in My VAC Account for programs that are changing or ending is March 30, 2019.

My VAC Account
To prepare for the new Pension for Life programs, we will be performing system updates to My VAC Account starting Wednesday, March 27.

• March 27, 3 am to 9am ET - My VAC Account will be unavailable

• March 27, 9 am to March 30 - My VAC Account will have limited service

• March 31 - My VAC Account will be unavailable.

During the limited service period (March 27 -30), you can:

• Apply for programs Note: Guided web forms (including any saved drafts of applications) will not available during this period. To apply, you will need to download an application, then upload it once complete.

• View your last 15 messages received from VAC Note: you will not be able to send or receive messages

• View the last 15 letters and forms received from VAC

• View your personal information

All other features will not be available during this period.

If you have any saved draft applications, they will not be accessible during the limited service and outage period (March 27– March 31). If it is for a program that is ending or changing on April 1, your saved application will not be accessible after March 26. Find out more.

Disability Award applications in process

If you have already submitted a Disability Award application and would prefer monthly payments instead of a lump sum award, we can hold your application until April 1, 2019 so it is processed under the Pain and Suffering Compensation. Please contact us if this is your preference.

If you have submitted your application through My VAC Account, we will put your application on hold and the ‘Track your application’ status for that claim will show as withdrawn or suspended. In this case, the status will direct you to contact the Department, however you do not need to contact us. On April 1, 2019, your status tracking will resume accordingly.
 

TCM621

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Rifleman62 said:
Disability Award applications in process
If you have already submitted a Disability Award application and would prefer monthly payments instead of a lump sum award, we can hold your application until April 1, 2019 so it is processed under the Pain and Suffering Compensation. Please contact us if this is your preference.

If you have submitted your application through My VAC Account, we will put your application on hold and the ‘Track your application’ status for that claim will show as withdrawn or suspended. In this case, the status will direct you to contact the Department, however you do not need to contact us. On April 1, 2019, your status tracking will resume accordingly.
.

Yes please hold my claim up for even longer. The conspiracy theorist in my want to believe that this was the plan in the first place, hold on to application until 1 Apr to get people to accept monthly payment.
 

Teager

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Tcm621 said:
Yes please hold my claim up for even longer. The conspiracy theorist in my want to believe that this was the plan in the first place, hold on to application until 1 Apr to get people to accept monthly payment.

Except they can still opt for a lump sum. There was a lot of people wanting the monthly and not wanting a lump sum so it's just an added option for people.
 

meni0n

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I got a claim sitting at step 1 since December. I guess it's the same thing as "Suspended"
 

Fishbone Jones

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They say they are going to give us to the 30th to file under the old plan. But they're going to start playing with the computers on the 27th.

I'm going to suggest, if anyone is planning on filing, using the online MyVac before the 30th, that you do it by the 25th at the latest. Otherwise you might be licking an envelope.
 

Fishbone Jones

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meni0n said:
I got a claim sitting at step 1 since December. I guess it's the same thing as "Suspended"

Nope. My last one took about a year, but it eventually got done. I just did a bone scan and I'm shot through with osteoarthritis. I can apply for each joint individually or use their 5 locations and over injury claim. I have ten locations to file for back, neck and major joints. I expect once filed, either way, I won't see anything on it for a very long time. I'm fortunate I'm not strapped and can wait.
 

kalobis

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So, I reached out to VAC to let them know I wanted my current application (which was made in May 18) to be adjudicated as a monthly benefit under the old system as opposed to a lump sum under the new system. They said sure, but your SSSD moves to 1 Apr and you have to start the process again. My interpretation is that they want to subtly 'encourage' vets to take the lump sum because it is cheaper and easier for them to administer. I don't really mind the wait because I am not in financial hardship but that means an extra ~6 months without treatment, benefits, etc.

Am I reading this wrong?
 

TCM621

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kalobis said:
So, I reached out to VAC to let them know I wanted my current application (which was made in May 18) to be adjudicated as a monthly benefit under the old system as opposed to a lump sum under the new system. They said sure, but your SSSD moves to 1 Apr and you have to start the process again. My interpretation is that they want to subtly 'encourage' vets to take the lump sum because it is cheaper and easier for them to administer. I don't really mind the wait because I am not in financial hardship but that means an extra ~6 months without treatment, benefits, etc.

Am I reading this wrong?

I don't understand your post. So you want a monthly payment but under the old system? So basically you want the lump sum spread out over a set amount of time rather than a monthly sum for life. This would give you less money than if you took the new PFL monthly payment. I can understand wanting monthly payments vs lump sum but you are basically asking for the worst of both worlds.
 

kalobis

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It isn’t the worst, it’s the best of both worlds. Is it not?

I’m in my 30’s, so if they give me 20% under the old system that would be $800 a month for the next 50-ish years which is more than the new system or a lump sum for 20% which is only $72k ish.

Or am I way off?
 

brihard

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kalobis said:
It isn’t the worst, it’s the best of both worlds. Is it not?

I’m in my 30’s, so if they give me 20% under the old system that would be $800 a month for the next 50-ish years which is more than the new system or a lump sum for 20% which is only $72k ish.

Or am I way off?

Oh man. By 'old system' you're referring to the Pension Act, I think. Yeah, no, that's not in play at all. Nobody applying after 2006 has had access to that.

If you're applying now and you want a monthly payment, it's very much in your interest to choose the new 'pension for life' option versus the 2006-2019 New Veterans Charter disability award. But you wont be seeing $800 a month unless your disability assessment is up around 75% or so.
 

Kokanee

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Yeah, I'm around 55% between a few claims and I've been told to expect $450-$500/month, also in my mid 30's.
 
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