NewsAlert: Confusion, delays plague veterans seeking benefits, auditor finds

OTTAWA – The federal auditor general says some of Canada’s battle-scarred veterans are waiting up to eight months before finding out whether they are eligible for mental health disability benefits.

And for a handful of those ex-soldiers, the cumbersome application process is only the beginning of a battle for recognition and care that can rage on for years.

Michael Ferguson’s fall report takes Veterans Affairs Canada — and to a lesser extent, National Defence — to task for saddling psychologically battered veterans with a dizzying array of paperwork, and for making them wait an unnecessarily long time for help.

The report also targets the federal government’s Nutrition North subsidy program, which doesn’t ensure that consumers are getting relief from the high cost of healthy food in the North and is even subsidizing products like ice cream and processed cheese spread.

It says Library and Archives Canada is not collecting all the material it should be from federal agencies, and has a backlog of 98,000 boxes of unprocessed records — almost one-quarter of them military files, some dating to 1890.

And it says Canadians are unable to properly assess the effectiveness of $13.9 billion in loans Canada and Ontario provided to Chrysler and GM’s Canadian subsidiaries in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, because there was never any comprehensive reporting to Parliament.