Questions about how much of $200 million vets cash will be spent right away

The Harper government was on the defensive again Friday over reports that the latest cash injection for mental-health services for veterans could take 50 years to be portioned out.

OTTAWA — The Harper government was on the defensive again Friday over reports that the latest cash injection for mental-health services for veterans could take 50 years to be portioned out.

Conservative MP Parm Gill, the parliamentary secretary to the veterans affairs minister, deflected questions about the numbers, but noted the government’s plans to build a major operational stress injury clinic in Halifax and open other satellite offices across the country.

Last Sunday, the Harper government announced it would put up to $200 million into improved mental health care for veterans in a series of initiatives that stretch out over five, possibly six years.

But a Globe and Mail report today says only $19 million of that would be so-called up-front cash, with the rest being used to help top up the Veterans Affairs budget over the next 50 years.

The Conservatives got into similar trouble a few years ago when they announced $2 billion in improvements to the new veterans charter, but were later forced to admit much of the cash was for future budgets.

New Democrat Alexandre Boulerice says making a political announcement with big dollar figures that stretch out over half a century disrespects former soldiers who are in need of immediate help.

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