Bill C-55 and the Importance of the Review Clause

Ottawa — 30 March 2011

On March 24, 2011, Bill C-55, the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act, received Royal Assent.

Slightly more than 30,000 Veterans receive benefits and services under the New Veterans Charter, and as this number continues to increase, so does the obligation of the Government of Canada to ensure that the Charter meets their needs both now and in the future.

I supported Bill C-55 because it will affect the lives of the most seriously disabled Veterans and begin the important process of making the Charter a truly “living” document. There are those who believe that the bill should have included more comprehensive amendments, and I respect this point of view. As for the idea that we should throw out the Charter and begin anew, the number and nature of complaints received by the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman since 2007, does not suggest that we need to start over. I am of the view that Bill C-55 is a step in the right direction and that we should continue to fix what needs fixing and build on what works. The problem as I see it is that it has taken too long to get started.

When I shared my thoughts with members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, I concluded my remarks by saying that waiting another five years to bring about further improvements to the New Veterans Charter would be unacceptable; a view echoed by all Veterans organizations and Veterans.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs proposed the inclusion of a review clause to Bill C-55, which seems to have gone unnoticed by many. It reads as follows:

20.1 Within two years after the day on which this section comes into force, a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the Act must be undertaken by any committees of the Senate and of the House of Commons that are designated or established by the Senate and the House of Commons for that purpose.

The inclusion of this clause is extremely important because it guarantees, by law, that the New Veterans Charter will be reviewed within the next two years. This will be an opportunity to bring forward additional improvements on behalf of Veterans and their families.

The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman will closely follow the implementation of the changes resulting from the adoption of Bill C-55, and will monitor the number of Veterans who are benefiting from these changes.

We will also encourage the Department to be very proactive in explaining the eligibility criteria for the Permanent Impairment Allowance and the new monthly supplement to Veterans and their families. Because of inaccurate information in the media and on various Web sites, I would hate for a Veteran with a disability assessed at less than 98% to not apply because he or she thought they did not meet the eligibility criteria. While a disability assessment of 98-100% is required to access the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance available under the Pension Act, there is no such requirement to access the Charter’s Permanent Impairment Allowance and the new supplement.

The Office will also continue to seek improvements to regulations, particularly when it is felt that they create barriers that unfairly prevent Veterans from accessing new or improved benefits. On that front, I welcome the improvement to the Earnings Loss Benefit, but I feel strongly that part-time Reservists should be treated on the same level as Regular Force members. As explained in my speaking notes for my appearance in front of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, the concept of unlimited liability applies equally to Reservists and members of the Regular Force, so why treat injured part-time Reservists differently?  I have chosen One Veteran as the theme that will guide my efforts during the course of my mandate for precisely situations such as this one. It is much more than a philosophical position, it has to do with fairness.

Guy Parent

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Comments

norm said:

I was discharged from the CAF in 1980 but didnt apply for disability untill 2011. I fall under the new veterans charter and was classed as disabeled and am now on the rehab program receiving lost wages at a level of $1283 a month well under the new $40,000 a year level. I have contacted VA and havnt been able to find out when I will actually receive the raise. I have been told by my case worker I am eligable for the new raise but havnt been able to find any information when I will receive it. My wife is disabled and has been disqualified for provincial benefits and since we have had to pay for her prescriptions. Every day that goes by we are getting closer to not being able to make ends meet. Do you have any idea when we may see the results of the new bill c55 re the new lost wages rate of $40,000 yr thank you

November 19, 2011 3:28 AM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Please call the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman at 1-877-330-4343 (toll free number) to discuss your case.

November 22, 2011 3:15 PM

Jim said:

I was released (pushed out due to medical issues)in October 1987. I am gratefull that after so many years of working in the occupation I was trained in while serving in the reg. force, that I am now in a program for retraining.My only problem (other than the slow process)is the amount that I recieve from the Earnings LOSS (benefit ?) .I have read page after page about the NVC and nowhere does anybody give a date as to when the changes will take effect. 75% of a salary from 1987, with the pension clawback amounts to peanuts!

October 6, 2011 9:40 AM

Reg said:

When is or will it ever be one day that the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter will be add together for our %. What I am trying to say is: I have 95% on the Pension Act and 4% on the New Veterans Charter for a total of 99%. The eligibility criteria for Exceptional Incapacity Allowance(EIA) under the Pension Act is 98% pension or higher. But they do not see me as 99% and be award the EIA because there is 4% on the New Veteran Charter, so is there something coming up to calculate as 99% instead of 95% so I will be able to aply for the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance. I am so tired of fighting with VAC, I hope they will come with something one day and that all Vets will stop fighting with them... I am sure that I am not the only one in this situations and it will be nice to have clarification on this matter Please, Thank You...

July 9, 2011 1:52 PM

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

When the New Veterans Charter was implemented in 2006, it resulted in some unforeseen gaps between the New Veterans Charter and the Pension Act. As a result, and for the reasons that you describe, a number of severely injured Veterans found themselves ineligible for either the new Permanent Impairment Allowance under the New Veterans Charter or the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance under the Pension Act .

Bill C-55, which received royal assent on March 24, 2011, corrected the eligibility barriers between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter. Prior to Bill C-55, any assessments or awards granted under the New Veterans Charter were not considered when determining eligibility for an exceptional incapacity allowance. With the changes provided for in Bill C-55, a member or Veteran will be considered eligible for an Exceptional Incapacity Allowance under the Pension Act if he or she is receiving a pension and disability award, and if the total disability assessment under both of the Acts is equal to, or greater than, 98%. The new measures are expected to take effect early this fall, when the regulatory approval process has been completed.

We encourage you to get in touch with Veterans Affairs Canada 1-866-522-2122 to discuss your situation in the context of these changes. Don't hesitate to contact the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman at 1-877-330-4343 if you are not getting answers to your questions.

July 13, 2011 10:33 AM

Anonymous said:

When do the actual benefits come into effect, and who will tell those eligible how to apply?

April 14, 2011 6:11 PM

The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman replied:

A number of regulatory amendments are required and they must proceed through the normal regulatory process. This includes publishing the regulatory changes in the Canada Gazette and permitting a 30-day period for public comment. Veterans Affairs Canada expects the changes to take effect this fall pending completion of this process.

Veterans Affairs Canada is developing a communications package to support Bill-C-55 implementation, and the Service Delivery Branch will be notifying eligible recipients, where applicable.

June 2, 2011 2:31 PM

Scott said:

It has been a long haul for everyone involved in getting a stronger foundation so that Vets now and in the future have something they can be proud of. I have been a disabled Reserve member for 43 years. I have had my right to equal treatment taken away taken away. Under the old pension there was no discrimination. A disabled member in Regular Forces and a member in the Reserves got the same treatment. A 35% disability was the same for both Reserve and Regular Forces. We had access to 100% funding for education for both ourselves and our children. There was a time when DVA through CMHC guaranteed the disabled Vet a low interest rate for a mortgage. Well somewhere down the line it seems that the rights to equal access of both treatment and funds has been taken from me. Part of me does not mind that some rights have been taken if it means in the long run that the new young Vets will get better treatment. I am a firm believer that a system is only as good as the way it treats it lowest and most discriminated Member. To that we all fall short. I think that the change will come when all members stop asking what is in it for me and asks what is in it for all members of the Canadian Forces. I am not sure what the new Ombudsman will do for us or with us, however I am oreoared to give a little room to see what happens. With respect to the two year re-visit of the charter, my fear is how many of us will die knowing that we were never treated equally by DVA and even our membership in that two year period. I work hard as an advocate but I still find it interesting that know one has asked my opinion. The new charter is what it is a room for improvement. Murray Scott

April 4, 2011 2:13 PM

Graham Godlien said:

Instead of constantly being scrutinized and improved with regulatory changes now a review will be held every two years with possible implimentation of changes a year following (3+ years). What IQ is required to consider that an improvement?

April 1, 2011 3:36 PM