My View of the VAC Stakeholder Summit – and what needs to be done to improve the system for Veterans

Ottawa, ON - October 13, 2016

Last week, I participated in the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) Stakeholder Summit in Gatineau, Quebec. It had broad engagement from Veterans’ organizations and advocates from across the country. I was particularly impressed by the situational analysis and recommendations presented by the Ministerial Advisory Groups on Policy, Service Excellence, Mental Health, Families, Care and Support, and Commemoration as well as status updates from the leaders in the room.

As General Vance emphasized, we need to put as much effort, structure and support in place for serving members and their families at the time of release as we did at the time of recruitment. We also need to recognize that this is not a “one-size-fits-all affair” – particularly for the approximately 1,500 members who are medically released each year.

If you are told to leave the military because you can no longer meet the occupational requirements of the job – known as ‘universality of service’ – then the government has an obligation to ensure that you are supported and are able to transition to civilian life successfully.

The first thing that ought to be done is to make sure that the CF Pension of all releasing members is waiting for them when they take off their uniform for good. For many, this is the main contributor to financial security post-release.

Over the last two years, my team and the DND/CF Ombudsman’s team have worked together to fix the system. In our project summary “Joint Transition Project - Closing the Seam”, we map the transition process and highlight to government the top three things that need to be done now to make a difference: applying once for all VAC benefits and having a navigator help members through the process; reducing wait times for the Canadian Forces pension; eliminating duplication and overlap between the different programming offered by DND and VAC.

VAC also needs to improve how it delivers services to Veterans and their families. I recently submitted a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs with suggestions on how VAC can modernize its service delivery and make it more Veteran-centric. I support change that would improve wait times for benefits, and I believe that there are other ways to improve the backlog.

I urge Parliamentarians to use all of their political will to reduce program complexity for Veterans. This would go a long way to improving service delivery so that Veterans get the services and benefits they need.

I and members of my team remain committed to ensuring fairness for ill and injured Veterans so that they obtain the care, support and compensation they need. While it is recognized that there are challenges, what is needed is constructive discussion and a focus on the end game. Now is the time to get it done. 

That was also the broad consensus that I found amongst Summit participants and I am pleased that DND and VAC are working diligently together towards the desired outcome of successful transition. I will continue to monitor progress in this area and push for change.

Guy Parent
Veterans Ombudsman

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Comments

Pierre Allard said:

Publishing the minutes of the various Ministerial Advisory groups is an excellent initiative

November 5, 2016 11:31 AM

Charles Kuntz said:

I need to find out how to redress a decision made by the board. I received the report back and there is information that isn't true in the report like They Called my old general practitioner an Orthopedic specialist! he is not an Orthopedic Specialist. And its the opinion of "the board" that my old family doctor is right. Do they even read these things before they send them to a Veteran! I want to scream!!!!!!! I want to let this organization know what is going on.......

October 19, 2016 3:17 PM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Mr. Kuntz, you should contact us either using our online complaint form or via our 1-877. This way we can find out more about your case and see how we could be of assistance.

October 20, 2016 2:00 PM

Wes Davidson said:

I have not seen anything new information here. Reports are great but if VAC or GOC doesn't follow the recommendations then the reports are nothing more than words in paper. Why no mention of pensions anywhere?

October 15, 2016 2:39 PM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Good observation Mr. Davidson. Over the course of the two-day summit, pensions were mentioned briefly but with the caveat that various ideas  are being considered at the moment. Rest assured that pensions are a key item in the mandate letter, and my Office will continue to monitor the government's progress in this area. 

October 18, 2016 9:46 AM

John Ely said:

Sir...who are these "Stakeholders"? How does a person who never served in the military, join the Legion, become a member of the Executive Committee and then have the ability to speak on my behalf? This simply is unfair and needs to be addressed. Additionally, the lump sum payments awarded to Veterans since the NVC have been reported to be approximately 40% lower than those awards which would be made by a civilian insurance company. What is being done to rectify the situation? Thank you.

October 15, 2016 3:34 AM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Thank you for your comment Mr. Ely. Please note that the RCL is but one of the many Veterans organizations and advocacy groups invited by the Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs to take part in consultation meetings and Summits.

As for the portion of your comment that refers to the awards made by civilian insurance companies to provide both economic and non-economic compensation in the event of a death or injury, I'd like to invite you to have a look at the last report I published on Fair Compensation to Veterans and their Survivors for Pain and Suffering in
which I am urging for more to be done for non-economic compensation
http://www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/eng/reports/reports-reviews/fair-compensation-veterans-pain-suffering

October 18, 2016 9:50 AM

Ron M Weeks said:

2012 I waited 8 months for any decision on my pension. Reservist are treated with poor service from support bases. When we mentioned this to commands, staff papers are created, never actually actioned. Leadership is not willing to make decisions I would gladly sit on a panel for Reserve actions.

October 14, 2016 7:26 AM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Thank you for your comment Mr. Weeks. We will keep you offer in mind.

October 17, 2016 11:27 AM

Martin said:

I'm trying to figure out where the transparency is. I see nothing new to report in this speech. Mike Blais has stated that the Policy Advisory Group has shied away from the sacred obligation which entails the Life Time Disabilitry Pension that was discussed in the PM's mandate letter to the MVA. The PM discussed and promised the re-establishment of the Life Time Disability Pension and as such, there is only one disability pension to return to. Where is the transparency on this matter. Veterans are literally dying to know before they find out. This is the elephant in the room and Veterans need to know what's is happening on this front.

October 13, 2016 2:42 PM