Vanguard Magazine

Oct/Nov 2014

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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Page 21 of 47

V VETERANS 22 OCTOBER/nOVEMBER 2014 aDVancIng tHe new Veterans cHarter Before Parliament rose for its summer recess, the House of Commons Standing Commit- tee on Veterans aff airs issued a report on the new Veterans Charter called Moving Forward. a few weeks earlier, the Standing Committee on national defence delivered its report on Caring for Canada's Ill and Injured Military Personnel while the Veterans aff airs subcommittee of the Standing Senate Committee on national Security and defence concluded its hearings with a report, The Transition to Civilian Life of Veterans. Guy Parent, the Veterans Ombudsman, spoke with Vanguard about some of the recommendations. Q You began calling for a comprehen- sive review of the New Veterans Charter (NVC) over two years and urging for a better "vision" for veterans. Do these reports address most of your concerns? In some way, shape or form they do. They have taken into consideration our reports and most of the testimony they have heard supporting them. In fact, a lot of people were very blunt and had little more to say other than, "we support the ombudsman's recommendations." However, there are still a lot of people who don't understand the NVC and it is hard to comment on it unless you do. Even now, after all of this work, many still think veterans only get a lump sum pay- ment. Changes were made fairly quickly to the Charter because of the requirements at the time, but as a result the government overlooked a number of things that should have been put into the Act, like the Bill of Rights for veterans, like the Earnings Loss Benefi t that now fi nishes at age 65. The intent was to do something for veterans and I commend parliamentarians of the day, but the Charter was then supposed to be a living document and instead it has been on life support for fi ve years. Q You did express concerns about two House of Commons Veterans Aff airs Committee recommendations on the earnings loss benefi t and the long-term disability program. We provide pretty open recommenda- tions and sometimes if you leave too much room, your intention gets misinterpreted. On the ELB, they made it a lot more com- plicated then we had recommended. We just said raise it from 75 percent to 85-90 percent of net income. They have recom- mended a complex process with a $70,000 ceiling, some taxable, some not. We have engaged with the department and the minister's offi ce to offer assistance to for- mulate a response in line with our recom- mendations. Q The committee urged Veterans Af- fairs to "establish a more rigorous case manager training program." How much of this is a resource challenge for the department, or are there other factors? It is more a communications problem. The case managers who deal with veter- ans have to know what changes are being made, what is expected of them, and very often by the time details of a new policy reach the frontline, VAC is already trying to change something else in the depart- ment and they never get caught up. We have had experiences where procedures were changed and the people in the fi eld didn't know about it. We look for three pillars: adequacy – are the programs adequate to meet the needs of veterans and their families – suffi ciency of resources – both in money and people, and we know there is some diffi culty in person- nel resources – and accessibility of programs. If those are at their maximum, then it is fair. That is what we are working on. When you ask about resources, yes, it would be easier for those people to do their job if their com- munication internally was better. Q Your report called for the Veterans Bill of Rights to be included in the NVC, and the House committee has endorsed that. What would such a Bill mean? It's a document signed by the Prime Minis- ter that has no legal standing but it is a cov- enant. Our recommendation is that there should be a stated obligation somewhere by the government that they owe a debt to veterans and they will look after them. It exists right now in the Pension Act and the Veterans Allowance Act but it's not in the Charter. This is a recommendation that doesn't cost anything but is such a power- ful message to the people of Canada. Q Is the transition from active service and the role of the veteran's family suf- fi ciently recognized in these reports? aDVancIng cHarter

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