The Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees feels that Veterans Affairs Canada’s new private care provider does not have a pool of professionals sufficient to meet demand. UVAE translation of Un syndicat dénonce des retards dans l’offre de soins de réadaptation aux vétérans

Gabrielle Drumond

The Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees denounces the slowness of the processing of the files of veterans who need rehabilitation services.

The union blames the delays on bad management by Partners in Canadian Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Services, external provider responsible for offering specialized care.

“There are veterans with physical and mental health needs […] who have not received care for over a year now.”

Simon Renaud, spokesperson for the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees

According to Simon Renaud, spokesperson for the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees and Eastern Quebec Local President, wait times for access to care can be from four months to one year.

Wait times for access to care may reach one year for some veterans, said Simon Renaud, spokesperson for the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees and Eastern Quebec Local President.

This situation is due to several factors, he said.

“The logistics [of the process of transition to the new provider] was inadequate, and employees of the new provider were not and still are not trained to deal with some things”, added Simon Renaud.

For the union, the new private care provider chosen by Veterans Affairs Canada does not have a large enough pool of professionals to meet demand.

One of the weaknesses is that the provider should have had a pool of psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other professionals capable of offering care rapidly to veterans and their families when they began to deliver the project but they started from scratch, added Simon Renaud.

Departmental employees must wait for the new provider to process requests before following up with veterans, added the union.

According to former Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAuley, transition to the new private contractor was supposed to alleviate the workload of case managers within the Department. (Archival photo)

In June 2021, Partners in Canadian Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Services signed a $570 million contract with the federal government for the provision of care to veterans.

The provider is the result of a partnership between two companies, WCG International and Lifemark Health Group, a subsidiary of Loblaws.

The Department of Veterans Affairs always underlined that the transition to a private contractor was to alleviate the workload of case managers working for the Department and allow veterans to access a national network of care providers. Over 12,000 veterans throughout Canada applied for care under the rehabilitation program, according to the Department.

A reasonable wait time, says Ottawa

In a statement sent to Radio-Canada, the Department of Veterans Affairs stated that case processing times are reasonable and that the wait to receive care depends on the complexity of the case.

“Veterans continue to receive timely services and support”, reads the message sent by email.

The Department stressed that 85% of the files have already been transferred to the new contractor, which represents about 10,500 recipients.

The transition started last year.

As for the catalog of specialist professionals, the Department stresses that the contractor has a national network of over 12,000 professionals working in the rehabilitation field.

“The provider actively recruits according to a progressive strategy supporting its commitment to offer high quality services. Health professionals are very much in demand throughout the country in many institutions and fields”, added the Department.

In late July, Ginette Petitpas-Taylor became Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. (Archival photo)

More dialogue

Simon Renaud is asking new Minister of Veterans Affairs Ginette Petitpas-Taylor for better communications with the members of the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees.

“It is essential to sit down soon and often with the union in order to put in place solutions considering the concerns and demands of both the Department’s case managers and the people who work for the new provider”, he added.

The union leader claims that case managers who are members of his organization were not consulted during the development or implementation of the project.

The Department, on the other hand, claims that case managers were consulted.

“The consultations were carried out through an online platform, the Advisory Group on Mental Health and in-person meetings. […] We can and will continue to hold consultations and provide information based on the feedback that we receive”, added the Department.