05/15/2015 15:23 EDT | Updated 05/15/2016 01:12 EDT

Tories say dearth of data on vets led to $1.1-billion lapse, despite report

OTTAWA - Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole recently defended his department's $1.13-billion spending lapse by saying it's tough to track service dollars when so many elderly veterans are passing away.In fact, the department produces a detailed report very three months that tracks not only the number of veterans, but their disabilities by category; how many are expected to pass away; their age, gender, and ailments; and what is spent on individual programs and services.O'Toole told the all-party veterans committee this week that the government doesn't "know what actually goes out the door until the public accounts come in" the following year.Veterans Affairs sources say the report was a public document until 2008, when the Harper government decided to make it for internal use only.A spokesman for O'Toole, Martin Magnan, acknowledged the department carries out a comprehensive "client and expenditure" forecast, but does not have a listing of all living veterans.The government took a political hammering last fall over the issue of lapsed funds as both opposition parties accused the Conservatives of using the unspent funds as a backdoor way of trying to balance the budget.