The Veterans Affairs department says some veterans are exaggerating their injuries to continue receiving financial benefits from the government and to avoid joining the work force.
The explosive allegation is contained in a recent internal report on a Veterans Affairs rehabilitation program designed to help injured ex-soldiers transition to civilian life, which found thousands of veterans are staying in the program much longer than anticipated — or not finishing it at all.
The claim is sure to spark fresh anger among veterans groups and opposition critics who have previously complained about an insurance company attitude when it comes to Veterans Affairs Canada’s treatment of veterans.
But Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s office, asked about the report, said this week the government will continue to support injured veterans as long as they require assistance.
“Our government makes no apologies for ensuring that veterans receive urgent rehabilitation care when they need it, and that they receive this support for as long as they and their medical practitioner deem appropriate,” Fantino spokeswoman Ashlee Smith said in an email.
NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer was critical of the department’s emphasis on potential abuse.
“In my experience, the vast majority of veterans don’t want to be sick. They would love to be working full time. I think they’re trying to shift the blame for the problems they have in their own program.”
Nearly 1,000 injured veterans enrolled in the rehabilitation program when it was created in 2006, according to the report. Demand was expected to drop off over the following years, but more than 5,800 vets were enrolled in the rehab program in March 2013, and 9,100 are expected by 2018.
In a background briefing with the Citizen this week, a Veterans Affairs official attributed the growth to pent-up demand among veterans who had served after the Korean War. But the report also shows that veterans, once they are in the program, aren’t leaving.