Activity Report – Spring 2012

Ottawa - April 4, 2012

With the start of springtime and a new fiscal year, I would like to take the time to update you on some of the activities of the Office.

As you all know, last Thursday, the Government released details of the federal budget. There had been much discussion and speculation about how the budget and the anticipated cuts would affect our Veterans. On Thursday, we learned that Veterans Affairs Canada would be subject to an overall budget reduction of 1.1%. Minister Blaney has issued several public reassurances that programs and services will not be affected, so the Office will be watching very closely over the coming weeks and months as senior managers of the Department determine where and how they will bring about these reductions. It is imperative not only that programs themselves not be affected, but that these reductions not negatively impact the delivery of these programs. We will be vigilantly monitoring to ensure that the Department has the right technologies and systems in place to provide first-rate service to Veterans and to ensure that the right expertise and experience is retained.

On another budget-related note, you may have some questions about the impact of the increase to the eligibility age for the Old Age Security pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67. The government has publicly committed to ensuring that federal programs, including programs provided by Veterans Affairs Canada that currently provide income support benefits until age 65, are realigned to ensure that there is no gap. I will be asking the Department to keep the Office informed as these programs are amended.

In late February, the Office released a report entitled Veterans' Right to Know Reasons for Decisions: A Matter of Procedural Fairness. This report examined the adequacy of information provided by Veterans Affairs Canada in their decision letters to Veterans who apply for disability pensions or disability awards. Shortly afterward, the Minister announced measures to improve information provided to Veterans in the Department’s decision letters, based on the recommendations of the report. This report is only the first of a series of reports that will be published over the course of the year on issues of procedural fairness. We are in the process of finalizing a report that examines procedural fairness concerning Veteran's rights to fully know what is being reviewed in the disability benefit application process.

As a companion piece to the Reasons for Decisions report, we submitted a report to the Minister on March 29 on the findings of the analysis of judgments issued by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal on applications for judicial review of decisions made by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. The Minister has up to 60 days (May 28, 2012) to release this report, entitled Veterans’ Right to Fair Adjudication.

We have reprioritized our workload in order to support our focus on fairness throughout the adjudication process but we continue to work on a number of other issues of importance to Veterans, including mental health, long-term care, the Veterans Independence Program and the New Veterans Charter. We are also closely following the Department’s work to reduce red tape and improve front-line delivery of programs and services.

On top of all of the activities I’ve just mentioned, I have spent much time over the past months personally meeting with serving members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP, Veterans and their representatives in various locations across the country, as part of my outreach activities. Keep checking this site, as I’ll provide a full update on these meetings and events in my next blog.

Guy

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