Almost all of the more than 3,000 employees of Veterans Affairs have removed their names from a public on-line directory, with the department claiming that front-line staff have to be protected from the veterans they are supposed to serve.
The issue surfaced in June when a Veterans Affairs Canada staff member questioned why of the 3,767 department contact names on the federal government electronic directory only 95 were visible to the public, according to Access to Information documents.
Veterans Affairs official Ricardo Angel, an information technology advisor with the department, responded that hiding the names and contract information was done on purpose as “we decided to err on the side of caution, as hundreds of case managers are not to be listed publicly.”
Crystal Garrett-Baird, the department’s director of privacy and information management, said the “real issue is the case managers and VSAs” referring to veterans service agents and those public servants who are supposed to help former military personnel get the care and benefits they require. “My understanding is that their work contact is not to be made publicly available unless they decide to share with a client,” she wrote in a June 16, 2018 email. “This ensures that calls are routed through (a central call network) and the safety of field staff is considered.”
But veteran advocate Sean Bruyea said the documents he obtained through the Access to Information law are further proof of how out of touch the department is with the people they are supposed to serve. “I think it’s part of a really dysfunctional culture at Veterans Affairs,” said Bruyea, an outspoken critic of VAC. “They view veterans are dangerous and angry and they want to hide from the very clients they claim to serve.”