Office of the Veterans Ombudsman Priorities
Ottawa, ON - January 19, 2016
It is a new year and a new government. It is time to set our sights and aim at targets that will bring improvements to the way our Veterans and their families are treated.
I have briefed the Hon. Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence on the priorities and ongoing work of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (OVO). Many Veterans’ organizations and advocates saw him in action at the Veterans Summit, where we had an opportunity to witness his enthusiasm and willingness to move forward on Veterans’ issues. His support of me is appreciated, and although we may disagree on some points in the future, I look forward to advising him on achieving his mandate goals.
Last week I briefed Minister Hehr’s Parliamentary Secretary, Karen McCrimmon, M.P. (Kanata-Carleton). As many of you know, she is a Veteran herself. In coming weeks, I will be briefing many other parliamentarians, Veterans’ groups and advocates, Veterans and their families and media about the priorities of the OVO and on Veterans’ issues, in general. The substance of those briefings is what I want to share with you today.
Key issues that need to be addressed in the short term:
1. Changes to the Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA):
- How PIA is currently administered results in Veterans not being compensated fairly and being financially disadvantaged. Changes are needed to the criteria used to determine the grade levels of PIA to provide better financial security for life for those who need it the most.
- The OVO’s 2014 study showed that 91 percent of recipients received the lowest PIA grade. It also confirmed that Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) was determining grade levels based on disability and not the economic impact associated with the loss of a military career progression. Subsequent research indicates that this number has increased to 92 percent.
- This is a policy change that could be implemented very quickly with immediate positive results for the most financially vulnerable Veterans.
2. Improving support to families:
- Families are often the foundation for a Veteran’s successful transition to civilian life.
- In many cases, families are sacrificing their opportunities to care for their loved ones. When family members become the primary caregivers for severely impaired Veterans, they need to be compensated directly.
- The Government needs to support Veterans’ families with benefits that include counseling, training and financial compensation.
3. Lifetime financial security and fair compensation for pain and suffering:
- Lifetime financial security or economic compensation for the loss of a military career progression addresses loss of earnings (e.g. PIA, Earnings Loss Benefit). Non-economic compensation addresses pain and suffering for the physical and emotional stress caused by an illness or injury.
- Many lump both together, but we need to have solutions in place to ensure lifetime financial security for Veterans before resolving compensation for pain and suffering. Otherwise, it leads to confusion and it can skew the analysis of adequate pain and suffering compensation, potentially shortchanging Veterans.
- In relation to economic benefits, the OVO is monitoring and assessing those introduced by the previous government in 2015. We are measuring results against the fairness principles of adequacy, sufficiency, and accessibility. Where gaps remain, recommendations will be made.
- At the same time, we are ramping up our assessment of the pain and suffering aspects of benefits under the New Veterans Charter to ensure that ill and injured Veterans receive fair compensation.
- Transition is a vital issue for all Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) releasing members, including those medically releasing.
- We are conducting a study to determine the factors that best contribute to a successful integration into civilian life, and will be looking for veterans who have transitioned successfully. So, stay tuned for more information! We need your help!
- We are also continuing our work with the National Defence and CAF Ombudsman on the Joint Transition Project and will update you regularly on our findings.
5. Veterans’ right to know
- Veterans have a right to know what information is used to make a disability decision in their cases; how decisions are arrived at; and, what impact those decisions will have on their cases.
- To move this forward, I will continue my engagement with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and VAC on my follow-up report on procedural fairness that was released on December 1, 2015.
Finally, our Annual Report is with the Minister’s office and his intention is to table it in Parliament in February 2016.
So 2016 here we come!!!
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