Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

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Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by teentitan on Sat 07 Dec 2013, 12:28

Ottawa - December 4, 2013

Good Morning, Mr. Chair and Committee Members.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to address this most important review of the New Veterans Charter.

May I first introduce to you members of my team:

Mr Gary Walbourne, Executive Director of Operations and Deputy Ombudsman, and Colonel (retired) Denys Guérin, our lead on the New Veterans Charter Review.

As I mentioned in my address the House Committee last week, I would again like to thank the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, for having agreed to my recommendation for a comprehensive review of the New Veterans Charter, with special focus placed on the most seriously disabled, support for families and the delivery of programs by Veterans Affairs Canada.

In one week much has happened that shows the necessity of completing this comprehensive review and implementing meaningful solutions as quickly as possible.

The men and women who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces willingly accept the risks to their health and life that are inherent to military service. If they are injured or become ill and can no longer serve in uniform, the Government of Canada has a recognized obligation to help them rebuild their lives and restore, to the greatest extent possible, their health, financial independence, and quality of personal and family life.

What Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans struggle with is why when they are giving their all, the Government’s obligation falls short of meeting their needs. Recent events have tragically shown that for some the uncertainty of their futures was such that they perceived there was no hope.

We need to ensure that each member of the Canadian Armed Forces is fully aware that no matter what type of injury or illness they sustain in service of Canada, they will be financially secure throughout the remainder of their lives.

We also need to strengthen the transition process so that we create more opportunities and better opportunities through world class vocational training and partnerships with industry.

This will create hope and focus Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans on their future, rather than clinging to the past.

Finally, we need to fortify families so they are better informed and compensated for the critical behind the scenes support they provide to our men and women in uniform. Not only is this essential to the individual, it is also a matter of national security as it affects the success of Canada to recruit and retain members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

This obligation, on the part of the Government of Canada to its Veterans, is stated clearly in the preamble to such legislation as the Pension Act the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act and the War Veterans Allowance Act

Each states that the acts shall be liberally construed and interpreted so that the recognized obligation to those who have served their country so well and to their dependants may be fulfilled. I fully support the recent calls from Veterans’ advocates and organizations to include this recognized obligation in the New Veterans Charter, as in past Veterans’ legislation.

Since April of this year, I have published a series of reviews and reports to serve as a common factual reference to guide discussion, but more importantly, to channel action on specific New Veterans Charter program areas that need improvement. I have put forward evidence-based facts, analysis and recommendations on how to address shortcomings in the three program areas that are of most concern to Veterans.

These are:

First, financial instability and decreased standard of living;
Second, a vocational rehabilitation program that is overly rigid in its focus on existing education, skills and experience, which constrains education upgrade and employment options; and
Third, difficult family environment situations due to insufficient family support.
My office has analyzed the more than 200 recommendations for improvements to the New Veterans Charter proposed by various expert advisory, House of Commons and Senate committees since 2006, including many of the 160 recommendations mentioned by Minister Fantino. We also held exhaustive stakeholder consultations.

Many recommendations that deal with the three key transition areas – financial support, vocational rehabilitation and family support – have not been implemented and are continuing to affect Veterans and their families, as can be seen with the spate of lawsuits against the government and the growing unrest in the Veterans community.

Mr Chair, I respectfully submit that most of the analysis and review of New Veterans Charter deficiencies has been done. The path to improving the New Veterans Charter is clear. However, impeding that path is a worrisome trend. If we focus on issues on the periphery rather than on more critical core issues, we will only treat the symptoms and not address the root causes, which have far more significance in the day-to-day lives of our Veterans.

My report on improving the New Veterans Charter, and the actuarial analysis that supports it, can serve as a baseline for how this living charter is reviewed by the Committee. The report’s analysis of benefits and programs pinpoint exactly where the current suite of New Veterans Charter benefits are failing some Veterans today, and will continue to fail more tomorrow unless changes are made quickly.

Let me be blunt. All of us know where the gaps are in the programs. We don’t need to study this to death. If we focus on fixing the fundamental gaps in the New Veterans Charter, many of the other complaints will disappear as we will have dealt with the root cause and not with the symptoms.

If we only fixed the following five items, think how different our conversation would be in a year from now:

First, the insufficiency of the economic financial support provided after the age of 65 to totally and permanently incapacitated Veterans;
Second, the drop in income for Veterans who are transitioning from a military to a civilian career because the Earnings Loss Benefit only pays 75 percent of pre-release salary;
Third, access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance and the Permanent Impairment Allowance Supplement continues to be a problem for many severely impaired Veterans;
Fourth, the unfair practice of providing a reduced Earnings Loss Benefit to part-time reservists who suffer an injury or illness related to service;
And the fifth financial shortcoming is the non-economic benefit designed to compensate for pain and suffering – the disability award. This benefit is supposed to have kept pace with civilian court awards for pain and suffering, but it has not.
Too often the debate that swirls around Veterans’ issues centres on the question: “Am I better off under the Pension Act or under the New Veterans Charter?”

The reality is that we have two very different benefit schemes operating in parallel.

My view is that we need to accept the fact that Veterans are supported under two different benefit schemes and that we are not going to rewrite the past.

Mr Chair, I believe that we must focus on addressing the challenges faced by Veterans and their families today and tomorrow.

So much of the rhetoric is on what has been done. Let’s focus on what needs to be done.

If we do not deal with these challenges now, we will have to deal with the human cost later. And if we study history, we know that more improvements will be required in the future because as the nature of conflict changes, so too do the needs of men and women in uniform.

This is why I am recommending that a regular two-year review of the New Veterans Charter be enshrined in the legislation so that it continues to adapt to the evolving needs of serving men and women, Veterans and their families and that it continues also to live up to the Government's affirmation that it is a living charter.

Let me remind you as I reminded the House committee last week. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. When Canada entered that war, it was not well prepared to deal with the thousands of returning casualties and with the ensuing demobilization.

Today, Canada is much better prepared to care for and support its ill and injured Veterans and their families.

However, as recent events have shown, better is not synonymous with sufficient and there is still work to do to ensure that this generation and future generations of Veterans receive the care and support they need.

The year that we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and the year that we end operations in Afghanistan, should also be heralded as the year that we fix the problems with Veterans benefits and built a solid foundation of care and support for years to come. We need to visibly show our commitment to our men and women in uniform now so that they can have hope for a better future.

Mr. Chair and Committee Members, we built on the past to get to the present. Let us now build on the present to get to the future. All the tools are in place to do it now without undue delay. Our Veterans and their families deserve no less.

Thank you.

http://www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/media-presse/post-eng.cfm?SP=8
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teentitan
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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Dec 2013, 13:41

grrrrrr

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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by Guest on Sat 07 Dec 2013, 13:55

yup great stuff great work and I do appreciate his hard work. however im disappointed in what is , at least in my opinion . the biggest issue. ive here'd the obligation point loud and clear and even the leigion has said it (good for them). I also here the call for an increase in the buyout to judicial levels something ive here'd the legion state before THIS FALLS SHORT!!!!!

END THE BUYOUT NOW!!!!!

always question authority

propat

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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by bigrex on Sat 07 Dec 2013, 17:42

I agree Propat, that no mention of returning to monthly pension irked me. Even if they do increase the lump sums to match that of civil cases, the average payout will only go from 40 thousand to around 45 thousand, to compensate for life long disabilities, and it will still fall far short of what would have been paid under the PA. Especially when considering that most moderate, and even some severely, disabled Veterans are not approved for the extra financial supports offered by the NVC, so that once their lump sum money runs out, they will be left destitute.

But what got me even angrier, was when a Tory MP started saying that every soldier is entitled to a pension after 2 years, as if they should be able to support themselves without any increases to NVC amounts. But what he did not say, until prompted, was that in order to get that money, they had to wait until the age of 60, or serve 10 years to be eligible for an immediate annuity if medically released. Even if a CF member did get an immediate annuity if injured after just 2 years, their CF pension would only be at 4%, or $164/month before taxes. How can they expect anyone to survive of that kind of money. Even with my 15 year pension, if that was all I had to live off of, my annual income would fall around $20000 UNDER the Canadian version of the poverty line, for a family of four living in a medium sized city. In fact my before tax amount still falls below the after tax LICO (Low Income Cut-off), by $12000. the Tories also said that if Veterans were to invest the disability award wisely, they would not need further financial assistance, but Guy shot that one down, by stating that the disability award is for pain and suffering, and should not have to be relied on to pay bills and such.
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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by Guest on Sun 08 Dec 2013, 09:43

well said bigrex I would like to add to the investment point. I have a few investments and did the math on this some time ago. you would need a return of aprox 12%-15% depending on the size of the buyout for investments to work effectively not to mention having to structure this into a monthly reinvestment of one 12th of the amount (just finished setting one of these up for a friend). the smaller 12th part brings you a smaller return on investment. the safe investments out there are only paying from 1-3% and none of even the riskiest are paying the 12-15%. if there is a safe investment out there paying the 12-15% PLEAS LET ME KNOW!!!

always question authority

propat

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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by teentitan on Sun 08 Dec 2013, 12:07

One thing you have to remember about the Veteran's Ombudsman...their mandate is about commenting on legislated acts only.

So his hands are tied and he can only comment on improving what exists. The OVO is not an independent body like a true Ombudsman is.

I've always thought of the OVO as the 'moral' compass for VAC. If this is what VAC does the OVO says then you missed the following 'moral' points.

Everyone wants to go back to monthly PA for our severly injured. Ain't going to happen! Period end of discussion on that topic. So Guy is trying to get the best out of the NVC as he can.

He has proven beyond proof with the actuarial's and his report that these two documents are VAC's blueprint to fix it. Guy knew before he released these reports in October that VAC was going to ignore it as much as possible. VAC proved it by releasing a comment on the reports 4 days before the OVO released their statements.

Then Fantino stands up in the House and asks the committee to discover and report what Canada's oblibation is for these injured vets. This made the Committee go backwards in time and rehash what we already know...the GoC back in the day passed a flawed bill.

This comment by Guy is equivalent to "shyte or get off the pot!"
Mr Chair, I believe that we must focus on addressing the challenges faced by Veterans and their families today and tomorrow.

So much of the rhetoric is on what has been done. Let’s focus on what needs to be done.

The info to fix the NVC is infront of the Standing Committee. The numbers in the actuarial don't lie. The need for a review every 2 years is important. The bump to 90% from 75% is a good start for financial security for the severly injured.

So this veteran agrees with our Ombudsman. It's time for the Standing Committee to "shyte or get off the pot!!!!"
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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by Guest on Sun 08 Dec 2013, 12:57

Agreed, Teen, I for one doubt the pension act will be brought back along with the monthly pensions. Everyone can see the writing on the wall any improvements are welcomed and this ombudsman seems like he's got it together and stands up for the veterans but id also believe the ombudsman realizes what's achievable and what's fantasy, so he seems to be tackling what is achievable

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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by bigrex on Sun 08 Dec 2013, 14:56

I agree that the return to a life long monthly pension isn't going to happen under this government, unless ordered by the courts, but that does not mean that the OVO, cannot suggest that this is the best form of compensation for the non economic losses, or that this is what he has been hearing from the Veteran community. But by not at least mentioning it, it allows MP's and those following this, to wrongly believe that Veterans are happy with the lump sum method, just not the amounts awarded. after all, disability compensation is only one aspect of the legislation, so they wouldn't have to return to the PA altogether, just change how the pain and suffering awards are paid out under the NVC.
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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by Guest on Sun 08 Dec 2013, 16:46

EXACTLY bigrex a monthly NVC pension that mirrors the PA can be done easily and can be easily suggested as an improvement to the pain and suffering payment. will this government do it. no. nor will they even consider any of the other suggestions but a new government may and so may the current lawsuit.

END THE BUYOUT NOW!!!

propat

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Re: Appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Post by Rifleman on Mon 09 Dec 2013, 14:45

END THE BUYOUT NOW

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