A committee that is supposed to advise the Veterans Affairs minister on mental health issues was kept in the dark about changes to an important disability questionnaire meant to document post-traumatic stress disorder claims by former soldiers.
Members of Canada’s military parade through downtown Calgary, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008. A controversial new form for making PTSD benefit claims was never reviewed by a committee that advises the veterans minister on mental health issues. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)
“There were no emails, no teleconferences to discuss this. It came out of nowhere,” said Bedard.
“Our job is to advise them on any changes to do with mental health and veterans. Our job is to provide input to make sure whatever they’re doing is thorough.”
Some mental health professionals who treat soldiers and police officers with PTSD worry the newly streamlined form will lead to delays in treatment and disability awards.
Veterans Affairs has a long history of demanding precise information before approving claims. It’s feared the new, more generalized form will trigger unnecessary requests for clarification from veterans who are already fragile.
‘In hindsight …’
The veterans minister’s mental health advisory committee includes both physicians and veterans.
Michel Doiron, assistant deputy minister of service delivery at Veterans Affairs, confirmed the panel was not consulted about the changes and was vague when asked why it was left out of the loop.
The reality is the form that we did put out was based on comments from doctors and a lot of complaints we had from health professionals when we do town halls, or when we go to medical associations,” Doiron said.
“They come back and tell us our forms are too long, too complicated, we’re asking too much information. Doctors, you know, they’re busy and filling out a lot of forms and long forms is not always very positive for them.”
The department has no intention of engaging veterans in back-and-forth information requests because the new “form provides us all the information we need” and the department trusts the medical diagnoses, Doiron said.
Critics say that remains to be seen.