Veterans Affairs’ case managers near ‘breaking point,’ union warns
Case managers help veterans with complex needs develop plans for their successful re-entry into civilian life after leaving the military for medical reasons.
OTTAWA — The head of the union representing Veterans Affairs Canada case managers is warning her members are near their “breaking point” thanks to an excessive amount of work and lack of support from higher ups.
Yet Virginia Vaillancourt of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees is also skeptical of the government’s promises to address the problem after what she describes as six years of “Band-Aid” solutions under the Liberals.
“The government needs to put their money where their mouth is and fix the situation,” Vaillancourt said in an interview. “They’ve been talking about it for six years, and they’ve done nothing, in my opinion, except to put temporary Band-Aids on it.”
Vaillancourt’s comments come days after a former Veterans Affairs Canada case manager told The Canadian Press that disabled veterans are being put at risk as overwhelmed case managers try to juggle dozens of files before burning out and leaving.
Lucy Hirayama’s decision to come forward followed a series of stories that looked at some of the most pressing challenges facing veterans today, including the large number of former Armed Forces members with complex needs assigned to individual case managers.
Case managers help veterans with complex needs develop plans for their successful re-entry into civilian life after leaving the military for medical reasons. They are responsible for co-ordinating the different 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 Conservatives.
Yet Veterans Affairs says the average case manager across Canada has 33 veterans assigned to them, while the union which represents case managers says a survey of its members over the summer found the majority had more than 35 files and some had over 50.
Vaillancourt attributes the discrepancy to the way the department tracks the caseloads of case managers who go on extended or sick leave, saying other case managers end up picking up the load even though the files technically remain with the absent staff member.
“So that’s why the numbers aren’t accurate … because they’re not keeping accurate records,” she said, adding the department has refused to say how many of its case managers are currently on sick leave after burning out.