Myth Busting - Why the New Veterans Charter Came Into Effect

Ottawa, ON - January 19, 2015

“The New Veterans Charter was implemented without consultation and only for cost-cutting reasons.”

Q: True or False?

A: False

Support for Canada’s injured and ill Veterans has struck a chord with many Canadians. Hardly a day goes by without someone commenting in the media about problems with how Veterans are supported under the New Veterans Charter (NVC).

Critics of the NVC criticize its deficiencies, while supporters point out the lack of understanding about the benefits and services available to injured and ill Veterans and their families. Sometimes the facts fall victim to emotion, misunderstanding and misinformation. Such is often the case in the discussion of why the NVC replaced the Pension Act in 2006 as the system for Veterans’ benefits and services.

Some have claimed that the NVC came into effect because the Government wanted to cut the cost of supporting Veterans. Those who agree believe that because the payment of a disability pension for life under the Pension Act was too expensive, bureaucrats devised a new way of compensating Veterans for an injury or illness related to service – the one-time lump sum disability award. While cost containment was a consideration, it was not the only reason the NVC came into effect.

What is not always understood or acknowledged is that the Pension Act did not meet the needs of many injured and ill Veterans. For many Veterans eligible for a disability pension, the amount of the pension was not sufficient to provide the basic necessities of living. Veterans who were unable to work and were not eligible for other benefits such as the Canada Pension Plan disability pension, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) pension or the Canadian Forces SISIP Long-Term Disability plan income replacement benefit faced significant financial challenges. For Veterans who were able to work, the Pension Act could not help them with retraining or the transition to a civilian job.

How the NVC came to be

The March 2004 Veterans Affairs Canada – Canadian Forces Advisory Council discussion paper Honouring Canada’s Commitment: Opportunity with Security for Canadian Forces Veterans and Their Families in the 21st Century provides insight into why the NVC was implemented. The Advisory Council conducted extensive fact-finding research with regard to the support of injured and ill CAF members and Veterans. It also visited a number of CAF bases and heard from senior commanders, officers and non-commissioned members, Veterans and their families. The conclusion from this extensive research and outreach was that VAC did not have the tools to provide the type of assistance required by a growing number of injured and ill Veterans and families. A new approach was needed.

The 1998 joint federal, provincial and territorial report, In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues, appears to have influenced some of the Advisory Council’s thinking on how to better support injured and ill Veterans. It advocated for better access to educational and training opportunities to improve the participation of persons with disabilities in the economic and social mainstream. As well, the report proposed new approaches for dealing with persons with disabilities, such as independence versus dependence, active measures to promote employment versus passive income support, among others. With these ideas in mind, it became clear to the Advisory Council that bringing the existing benefits under the Pension Act in line with these new approaches would require a major reform of the Veterans’ benefit system. This was apparent to VAC also. In September 2003, it stood up a departmental Services and Program Modernization Task Force to develop a suite of programs and services to facilitate the successful transition of CAF members and families to civilian life.

In March 2004, the Advisory Council published its “...Opportunity with Security...” paper, the culmination of almost four years of research and consultation on the support of CAF members, Veterans and their families. The paper proposed a comprehensive overhaul of Veterans benefits and services, including improved transition and retraining support, enhanced civilian employment opportunities for disabled members, and the thorough overhaul of the way CAF members and Veterans were compensated for injury. The NVC was the result. It came into effect in 2006 and adopted many of the principles and recommendations proposed by the Advisory Council.

The NVC – a work in progress

To state that implementing the NVC was only about cutting costs fails to recognize the significant amount of research and thought that went into its development. While some criticize the NVC, in many ways it offers better support to Veterans and their families than does the Pension Act. That said, better support does not necessarily mean sufficient support.

Many reports have been published since 2006 that make it clear that the NVC has major deficiencies that need to be addressed. I have written often about the changes required to the NVC – here are the top five priorities:

  • Improved financial security after age 65
  • Better access to allowances for those with the greatest need
  • Income support equity for Veterans who served as reservists
  • Better support to families
  • Improved income support during rehabilitation and transition

The bottom line is that neither the NVC nor the Pension Act is perfect. Our focus going forward must be on addressing the deficiencies within the Charter so that injured and ill Veterans and their families receive the help they need to successfully transition to a new life.

In its response to the 2014 Report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, the Government indicated that it is well aware of these deficiencies. Action is needed now!

Guy Parent

Veterans Ombudsman

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Comments

Scott said:

Thank you Guy it has been a long time coming ..you and your staff have worked your hardest and without your diligence none of this would have happened...it is going to take awhile for things to happen but at least it is happening. Thank all of you for your work.

March 17, 2015 3:42 PM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Thank you very much for your kind words, they are greatly appreciated. As I mentioned in the blog above, this is truely the result of a collective effort so thank you to all those who were engaged or involved in one way or another.

March 17, 2015 4:52 PM

OldSilverback said:

I think that more light should be shed on HOW the NVC came into effect rather than WHY. This bill was passed through both houses in one day- I think the only other bill to be done like that was the declaration of War in 1939. The bill and changes were not reviewed properly at any level and folks took the government at its word that changes and improvements would be made. I took command of a unit in 2006 and was never briefed on any changes to the benefits from VAC. Now we have flawed legislation and a reluctant government who will not move quickly even after they agreed to implement the 14 recommendations from the review committee. They need to act now and stop studying the problem.

March 11, 2015 1:28 PM

Zara said:

Thank you so much Mr. Parent, We need your supports in these five priorities Please after age 65 and this is so important that we need to have the same support,

February 19, 2015 9:02 PM

unsatisfied vetran said:

How is it , two vets with same amount of time and same trade and done the same job be treated so different through VAC ????

January 29, 2015 4:35 PM

LM said:

Guy, Thank you for putting this out. I believe it will help in our fight against those who believe that we should just dump the NVC and go back to the Pension Act. This is an excellent document; however I would have adding a couple of important items. When creating the New Veterans Charter, Veterans Affairs also went out to our allies to find out what they did for their Veterans. This really helped in the process. Secondly, it was understood prior to the passing of this bill, that there were problems in the legislation that had to be addressed. The government promised that they would address the shortcoming and setup the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group to investigate what enhancements were needed. Members of this committee, used to call it the “Gap meeting” as we were there to fill in the gaps to the legislation that had been approved. As an aside, I remember the final meeting with the Senate Committee (of Finance) I believe, to discuss the bill prior to their approval. Harold Leduc was on the Video feed, many from Veteran’s organizations etc. all present. There were some heated discussion and at the conclusion, Senator Day promised all in attendance that the senate would be keeping an eye on the process to ensure that the problems brought up at the meeting would be looked into for the betterment of veterans. The Senate then approved the bill. Regrettably of course, we are still waiting for the promised changes.

January 23, 2015 10:26 AM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Thank you LM for your comments and insights!

January 23, 2015 12:19 PM

Anonymous said:

I'm aware the intent of the charter is to fill gaps in care for the veterans who were lacking. Most concerns I've seen or experienced myself result from the seemingly indifferent or random access to the published benefits. The department needs to remedy it's severe adjudication and administration/ communication issues.

January 23, 2015 2:46 AM