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Ombudsman's report gives government an F!

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Author Topic: Ombudsman's report gives government an F!  (Read 506 times)
Kenneth H. Young
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« on: May 07, 2009, 10:02:11 am »

OTTAWA - The verbal skirmishing between veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran and Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson continued Wednesday as the advocate appeared before a Senate subcommittee.

Kenneth Brown/Telegraph-Journal
Veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that the Department of Veterans Affairs is blocking his efforts to help homeless veterans.
Stogan, a retired colonel, told the standing subcommittee on National Security and Defence that the Department of Veterans Affairs is blocking his efforts to help homeless veterans across Canada.

Stogran also told the committee he has several concerns he would like to have addressed next week when the committee meets with the veterans affairs minister.

The biggest concern is the lack of access to department information to which he believes he should have full access, such as legal documents, so he can help veterans, he said.

He also expressed concern about the small number of people in his office, employment security for his workers and the "carving out" of turf by Thompson as far as "delegating his responsibilities."

Stogran told the committee he believes the department's deputy minister has too much power.

Last week, the ombudsman expressed dismay at the number of homeless veterans in Canada.

He told the committee that Veterans Affairs' lack of street-level initiatives to help homeless vets is the biggest problem that he sees.

"As an ombudsman I'm going to call it as I see it," he said after his committee appearance. "I've worked really hard over the last year to gain fair and open access to the department and, if they have information that would support me in my endeavour, I'm looking forward to it.

"I feel I have to give myself a failing grade as ombudsman," Stogran said, adding he feels he is partly to blame for any lack of co-operation between his office and the department.

Stogran he is concerned about, not just with existing veterans and war casualties, but also future veterans and whether the Canadian government has any safety nets in place for them.

"Can we say if you do become an operational stress casualty, we'll catch you?" he said, referring to families who now have sons and daughters in Afghanistan and those young Canadians who will want to fight for their country some day.

Stogran was appointed by Thompson, the MP for New Brunswick Southwest, as the country's first veterans affairs ombudsman in October 2007. The 2007 federal budget allocated $20-million a year to create the ombudsman's office for former armed forces personnel.

Since his appointment, Stogran has been travelling from coast to coast visiting homeless shelters and last week he said facilities from Calgary to Charlottetown have all served veterans.

Thompson recently said his ombudsman should "give his head a shake" because he failed to bring the names of homeless veterans to his office.

When asked by the committee how many names he has given to the department to date, Stogran said he has given them two.

Thompson said Wednesday that Stogran told him last week that is wasn't his job to forward him names of homeless veterans.

"His job is to identify problems within the veterans community and then to report them to the minister," he said. "But also there's an obligation to report those (names) to the men and women that can make a difference that day.

"Wouldn't he have the common sense to phone Veterans Affairs and say there's a number of homeless veterans - come down here. He doesn't have to provide the names, but let us know they're on the ground in Ottawa or Toronto or Montreal?"

Thompson said it is about having open and honest relationships between the ombudsman and himself and his staff.

However, there are specific reasons why information would be withheld from the ombudsman's office, the minister said.

"I've said, 'there's no reason why you can't have that document, in my opinion; unless there's some kind of a legal or security reason why you can't have the document, you'll have the document,' " he said.

"That's the kind of relationship we have."

Stogran said he could do his job better with access to all the department's information and more resources, but he respects the department and what they do for veterans.

The minister said homelessness is a result of other problems, including mental illness or drug and alcohol addictions.

Thompson denied Stogran's allegations the department isn't doing anything to help the former military personnel.

He said the Conservatives budgeted for veterans assistance three years ago, saying his department has doubled the number of operational stress injury clinics in the country and provided several peer support programs as well.

New Brunswick Senator Joseph Day said he's confident the situation can be resolved.

When you create something new like this, you never know how it's going to work and it's clear they have some growing pains," he said.

"They've got a very good man in the position. As long as he has the money to meet his mandate, he'll do a good job."


my response (comment) to the above story was.

The way that the Veterans have been neglected over the years would leave this reader very surprised and disappointed if the ombudsman wasn't stirring up some controversy. Mr. Stogran' s job after all is to find and try to correct the failings of both Ottawa and the Greg Thompson's VAC and I for one didn't expect his comments or suggestions to be welcomed with open arms by either of the two.

Too many military debouches like Gagetown Toxic Chemicals, Sheffield chemical experimentations and the use of Canadian Military to clean up Chalk River's nuclear accidents without any protection may be just the tip of the iceberg that a military ombudsman will have to tackle in the performance of his (by the government) thankless job.

I hope that Mr. Stogran is secure in the knowledge that Veterans support him and if Ottawa doesn't replace him for being too good at his job, veterans may live long enough to see some improvements in their treatment from VAC.
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