It’s an evil thing to do

It seems that moving Seamus O’Reagan out of the Veterans Affairs portfolio didn’t come soon enough.

Murray Brewster, writing for CBC News, reports that, “A key psychological questionnaire for veterans about post-traumatic stress disorder was quietly rewritten late last year by Veterans Affairs Canada, CBC News has learned — a move experts say will make it harder for suffering veterans to qualify for disability benefits … [and he explains that] … The form, which is filled out by doctors treating veterans with PTSD, was revised in December by Veterans Affairs Canada. The changes came as a shock to many psychologists and advocates who help former soldiers, sailors and aircrew with mental illnesses navigate the complex benefits system … [and] … The Liberal government’s new pension-for-life option for veterans came into effect on Monday — but the net effect of the changes to the questionnaire could be that fewer people qualify for PTSD benefits, and for the lifetime pension offered to veterans suffering from PTSD.

While a Veterans Affairs bureaucrats says that “the questionnaire was stripped down to improve the efficiency of forms processing “while ensuring that our veterans are better cared for and that veterans in need get access to their treatments faster,” a physician who helps veterans cope with the symptoms of PTSD says that “he has been “vibrating” with frustration since discovering the new form.” Reactions by physicians suggest that “The effect on veterans could be devastating. It could lead to longer waits for treatment as the department demands more information from people who are already fragile … [and] … It could even lead to more soldiers killing themselves.

Why would the bean counters do that?

The answer is, most likely, money. It is easy, and relatively cheap to deal with a lost limb, and even simpler to deal with a lost life. There are agreed actuarial tables and so on . that say $n for a forearm, $3n for a leg and so on. But PTSD can be hard to quantify and it may (often does, I suspect) grow worse with time and there are few guideposts about appropriate treatment and compensation.

The changes were made, Murray Brewster explains “in December, when the questionnaire — which used to be 16 pages in length — was cut back to eight pages … [and] … Specific questions about PTSD and references to its symptoms — such as nightmares, flashbacks and emotional ‘numbing’ — have been dropped … [so that] … What remain are more general questions about what the form refers to as “delusions, hallucinations, depersonalization, homicidal thoughts” and even “homicidal attempts” … [but the physician quoted above said that] … he’s never checked off any of those symptoms for his military patients — particularly the one about homicide attempts, as he said that’s not a common symptom of PTSD.

Barry Westholm, a retired sergeant major (the real tough guys in the Army) “who has helped injured members find the necessary forms and get them to doctors, said the vague, irrelevant questions on the revised form will give Veterans Affairs more latitude to question and deny claims.

“It’s an evil thing to do,” said Westholm … [adding that] … the new form risks “piling on … pressures on somebody that’s fragile to begin with … [and, he said] … “This particular document seems to me a sinister thing to do. It’ll bring a person down and bring them down deeper to the point where they might just give up and commit suicide.”

It is indeed “an evil thing to do” but it seems about par for the Trudeau course.

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