Veterans Need Clear Information and Transparent Communications

Ottawa, Ontario – August 13, 2014

Last week the media following Veterans’ issues focused attention on a chart released by Veterans Affairs Canada via social media on July 31. The chart shows the maximum benefits by rank of supports available to seriously injured Veterans. While it is always good for information to be clearly presented, as it is in the chart, it was criticized for only showing the maximum amounts for various benefits, which the majority of ill or injured Veterans do not receive.

To me, it appears that the ‘intent’ of the chart does not meet the ‘need’ of the target audience. Showing the maximum support possible along with the average support that ill and injured Veterans actually receive would be far more helpful and relevant to Veterans and their families, Veterans’ organizations and Canadians than publishing only the maximum amounts received by few.

This lack of clarity of information and transparency in communications is brought home to me and my team every time the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman opens a new case. Last year, we opened almost 2,000.  Complaints covered a wide variety of issues, but most had one root cause: inadequate clear information and transparent communications.

American syndicated columnist Sydney Harris wrote:

“The two words “information” and “communication” are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”

Veterans Affairs Canada has made efforts over the past few months to provide more information to Veterans. It has revamped its website, launched mobile phone applications, and improved briefings at Canadian Armed Forces Second Career Assistance Network sessions. But the key questions that need to be asked are: Is the information clear enough and is it sufficient? – and – Is the communication with Veterans and their families transparent enough and is it getting through to them?

It is evident to me that there is much to be done. For Veterans and their families, there is a lack of understanding of Veterans’ support programs and the type of information necessary to process applications. This calls for clear information and transparent communications from Veterans Affairs Canada in easily understandable language.

We have to do things differently than we have in the past; we have to get through to Veterans and their families.

If we don’t, the amount of disinformation about Veterans’ programs on the Internet, in the media and sometimes within the Veterans’ community itself will continue unabated. This I find to be most unfortunate because it only adds to the frustration for Veterans and their families that already exists and takes the focus off the substantive changes that need to made to the New Veterans Charter.

There are deficiencies in current Veterans’ programming which need to be addressed. Over the past year I have written frequently about the necessity of making substantial improvements to the New Veterans Charter. It is also essential that better ways of improving Veterans’ understanding of the available programs and how to access them are found. This would help the transition of ill or injured Veterans from military to civilian life

In the coming weeks, I intend to do some “myth busting” to help create better understanding of the existing support for Veterans and their families. I will be writing a series of blogs in which I will try to provide facts about some New Veterans Charter programs and benefits that may not be well understood by Veterans and their families.

Stay tuned.

Guy

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Comments

Murray said:

I always look forward to reading your comments Mr. Ombudsman...There seems to be a lot of good intentions, however getting down to brass tacks and giving injured Veterans something to hold on to appears to be a thing of the past. For example the Director General signed approval for the Minister of Veteran Affairs to pay approximately four months and a bit of retro active earnings loss to those affected by the Claw Back and not covered by SISIP claw back. It would be great if this information came through your office as it would help those affected by it to have some more in depth understanding along with some perhaps reasoning as to why it was only four months of retro. It seems that Veterans age 65 and above are holding their breath to find out if they will be able to support themselves and their partners or will they be cut from Earnings loss and be forced to live in poverty... All the clarification of policy is great... but for those suffering today don't you think a little help to understand why Veterans have not rec the retro funds from the Earning Loss that has already been approved...if the Minister has not released them why not.... are they waiting for a photo op? Perhaps it is time to stop and get things caught up before those ambitious ideas and promises of hope for those seriously injured become nothing but sand blowing in the wind.

August 13, 2014 6:55 PM