The news that 57 of the top brass at Veterans Affairs Canada raked in nearly $700,000 in extra pay awarded in bonuses and for getting results in 2011, elicits a two-word response: What results?
The results the department has achieved in the past few years have been less than stellar, and certainly not worth an approximate breakdown of $12,200 extra per manager.
Veterans have made public a litany of complaints about the department, including shabby treatment and privacy breaches. No wonder Gulf War veteran Sean Bruyea describes the bonus situation as "way out of whack with reality."
After Bruyea claimed in 2010 that the department had misused his personal data and harassed his family in an effort to discredit his advocacy, federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said that the department had broken the law. A lawsuit was eventually settled out of court, and the department apologized, but Bruyea says every one of the civil servants in his lawsuit received bonuses.
This kind of work in the private sector would more likely result in someone being shown the door, rather than being handed a fat cheque for a job well done.
In February of this year, veterans ombudsman Guy Parent found that many veterans were also unable to appeal the department's denial of benefits because no reason was given for their claims being rejected. Without a reason given, an appeal can't go forward.
Parent also found that the language used to communicate with the veterans was convoluted and confusing, and that veterans may have been wrongly assessed but were left without an avenue of appeal because the letters they received "did not reveal where the department's decision was flawed."
One has to wonder what the managers of Veterans Affairs need to do in order to get passed over for bonuses, if the above incidences aren't enough to make a dent in their annual windfall envelopes.
The bonuses are decided upon jointly by Treasury Board and senior managers at Veterans Affairs - and the latter's involvement is pretty bad optics.
Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney needs to take charge of this mess by calling those senior managers on the carpet and instituting some guidelines by which real results are measured before bonuses are handed around.
Sadly, the impression left by all of this is of a department more interested in perpetuating and enriching itself than in helping those who risked their lives for this country and came home to an uncaring bureaucracy whose priorities have been lost. Blaney has some serious work ahead of him to correct that perception.