Seamus O’Regan – here is an example of how screwed up your Veterans Affairs department really is

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Seamus O’Regan – here is an example of how screwed up your Veterans Affairs department really is

Post by Spider on Fri 13 Oct 2017, 3:04 pm

Seamus O’Regan – here is an example of how screwed up your Veterans Affairs department really is

October 13, 2017

It was interesting to watch the recent news conference in which Canadian Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada staff unveiled a joint suicide prevention strategy.

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan was eager and positive about his department and how it can help those with PTSD and other mental issues.

VAC Deputy Minister Walter Natynczyk took the microphone and gave an exuberant speech about how veterans, dealing with mental illness issues, should drop in to any VAC office to call the 1-800 number to get the service they need.

If only it were that easy.

One veterans suggested I ignore Natynczyk’s “out of touch speech” and instead read retired Col. John Conrad’s book, “Among the Walking Wounded – Soldiers, Survival, and PTSD.”

The book is a devastating expose of the failures of the Canadian Forces and VAC to take care of the country’s military personnel. It is told in the first person by Conrad, as he tries to deal with his own post-traumatic stress disorder and the combat deaths and later suicides of some of his fellow Afghan war veterans.

O’Regan should try reading this book. If he did, there might not be any more annual bonuses for Natynczyk and the rest of his management team.

Conrad describes one particular conversation that could be taken right out of a Monty Python skit or similar comedy routine if it were not so disheartening.

He describes in brutal detail such a fundamental issue as trying to call Veterans Affairs.

It is not a simple case of picking up the phone and calling a staff member, even your own case worker.

Direct calls with VAC staff are not permitted, Conrad points out.

Instead to reach someone in the organization a veteran has to go through a 1-800 number. And then leave a message.

In the book Conrad describes a conversation he had with a VAC staff member who had been helping him.

“Can I give you a call tomorrow on this,” Conrad asked the woman.

“Sure. That would be great, Mr. Conrad.”

What’s your number?, Conrad asked.

“Just call the one-eight-hundred switchboard; they will patch you through. If I am not in, they will leave me a message and I will call you back.”

Conrad then pointed out that since he would be in meetings throughout the next day he would only be available at certain times. The phone call was important to him.

“Wouldn’t it be easier for both of us if I just had your office number?” he asked the VAC official. “I could call you at 10:15 sharp.”

The response?

“Well….umm, no. We cannot give those out.”

“I won’t paste it up on the subway,” Conrad replied. “You can trust me, I am a Canadian soldier.”

“Just call the switchboard, sir,” the VAC official said, ending the phone call.

No, I am not making this up. It’s on page 209 of the book.

On another page Conrad describes how he was waiting for weeks for a decision to see if VAC would cover a medical purchase for him. He received a call from a VAC member to tell him a decision has been made on whether that had been approved or not….but then the VAC official refused to tell him what the decision was. VAC policy is that this type of simple information can’t be communicated over the phone.

Why didn’t VAC just send Conrad a fax or an emailed scan of the decision? Not VAC policy.

A week or so later Conrad got the decision by mail. His request had been denied.

“Among the Walking Wounded – Soldiers, Survival, and PTSD” has page after page of this and other bureaucratic pettiness that so corrodes the morale and well-being of those who are dealing with mental illness.

After reading the book I phoned Conrad. He confirmed that the types of things he has described continue to happen at VAC. That is further supported by the numerous emails I receive from VAC clients about the problems they are dealing with on a regular basis.

In his book, Conrad warns that there is “a bureaucratic rot at the top of that department that consistently escapes scrutiny.”

CF Coordinator

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Join date : 2017-10-08

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