Tory changes to home-care program hit veterans

Already under fire for the closure of eight regional Veterans Affairs offices, the Conservative government is now facing a fresh barrage of criticism for changes to a national home-care program for former soldiers.

OTTAWA — Already under fire for the closure of eight regional Veterans Affairs offices, the Conservative government is now facing a fresh barrage of criticism for changes to a national home-care program for former soldiers.

One of Canada’s largest providers of housecleaning services to veterans says an overhaul of the Veterans Independence Program two years ago has actually made it more difficult for retired members of the military to manage services such as housekeeping and yard work.

“My company had provided cleaning services to many veterans under the (program) up until this change, however, we now service approximately 50 per cent of the veterans we did before this change,” said Kevin Hipkins of Molly Maid International.

“We know that many of these veterans are not getting the services they need because of the difficulty in managing the new process, while others are using the money to help pay for their living expenses.”

Hipkins and a counterpart at competitor Merry Maid have complained to both current Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and his predecessor, Steven Blaney, but to no avail.

The Conservatives say changes to the Veterans Independence Program in 2012 stripped away the administrative burden on ex-soldiers by giving them two up-front payments per year, rather than requiring them to submit receipts for specific services and then wait for reimbursement.

But it hasn’t quite worked out that way, Hipkins said.

“There’s only one place that veterans probably will buy the service right now, and that’s through the underground economy: people that don’t give receipts, that don’t carry insurance,” he said.

“It puts these individuals at risk.”

A Veterans Affairs review of the program a year before it was changed found it generally worked well, even if there was still some room for improvement.

The review also found other payment methods, including the current grant model, might not be as efficient.

“There do not appear to be alternative design and delivery approaches that would be more efficient and still provide value for money,” the review says, “however within the existing program design and delivery approach, efficiency gains could be realized.”

Still, the review found that 97 per cent of veterans were reimbursed within 10 business days. Giving veterans grants was not considered as effective as having them submit receipts for reimbursement.

“Advance pay, which is considered a quasi-grant approach, was determined to be less cost-effective and less efficient in delivering (the program) than the reimbursement method,” the review says.

Fantino’s office did not respond to questions. Instead, a spokeswoman for the department emailed a brief statement.

“Recipients have the discretion to decide how the funding will be used to best meet their individual needs,” wrote Janice Summerby.

“Recipients continue to have the right to use a service provider of their choice; thus, there is no requirement for them to remain with their existing service provider.”

Veterans Affairs Canada can provide veterans with a list of recognized service providers in their geographical area, she added.

Access to benefits and other services is at the heart of another ongoing spat between veterans and the Harper government over the recent closure of eight regional Veterans Affairs offices.

Veterans and their supporters say they’ll have a harder time getting the help they need, while the Conservatives counter that moving more services online and to Service Canada outlets will actually make them more widely available.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Attendees of the Downtown Red Deer Market, which runs every Wednesday during the summer on Little Gaetz Avenue, have complained about the lack of public washrooms. (Photo contributed by Red Deer Downtown Business Association)
Portable washrooms to be set up in downtown Red Deer this summer

More data is needed before the city invests in a permanent structure

A survey of 3,083 Red Deer residents was done by an online platform on behalf of the City of Red Deer, generating about 11,607 comments.. (File photo)
Red Deerians speak out about COVID-19 concerns in survey

More than 3,000 city residents were surveyed

A Calgary energy company's request for a tax break was turned down by Lacombe County. About $31,000 was owed by a company that went bankrupt and Silverleaf Resources Inc. bought some of their assets.
(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe County turns down oil company’s tax break request

Silverleaf Resources Inc. hoped for break on $31,000 in back taxes

RCMP recovered hundreds of stolen items, including Bibles and historical items stolen from the Bowden Pioneer Museum.
(Photo from RCMP)
Museum artifacts among hundreds of stolen items recovered by RCMP in central Alberta

Second World War and other historical and religious items recovered

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly (44) reach for the rebound from Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson (30) during second-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 1, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman watches his solo home run during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros Monday, March 1, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

In-game video returning to baseball for 2021

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) clears the puck in front of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) as Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40) looks for the rebound during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Monday March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Three first-period goals pace Vancouver Canucks to 4-0 victory over Winnipeg Jets

Rugby training gear is shown during a Torotno Wolfpack during a practice at Lamport Stadium in Toronto. Bradford, Featherstone, Leigh, London,  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Plans announced to create a grassroots Canadian rugby league co-op

Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) and centre Chris Tierney (71) get sandwiched between Flames defencemen Rasmus Andersson (4) and Juuso Valimaki (6) during second-period NHL action in Ottawa on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Batherson scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 5-1 win over Calgary Flames

Skiers may be safe from COVID-19, but not those working to keep slopes open: experts

Skiers may be safe from COVID-19, but not those working to keep slopes open: experts

Armas likes what he sees in Toronto FC camp but there are still issues to resolve

Armas likes what he sees in Toronto FC camp but there are still issues to resolve

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver on February 5, 2020. The Canadian women's hockey team opened a camp Monday in Halifax, which is co-hosting the upcoming world championship. Hockey Canada invited 35 players to participate in the seven-day camp closed to the public and media at Scotiabank Centre. The women are training under restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a limit of 25 players on the ice at one time. "They will continue to follow strict COVID-19 testing as per team health and safety protocols that have been detailed and approved by Nova Scotia Public Health," Hockey Canada said Monday in a statement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian women’s hockey team preparing for possible May world championship

Canadian women’s hockey team preparing for possible May world championship

Most Read