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Report on the April Veterans Ombudsman Advisory Group Meeting

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Report on the April Veterans Ombudsman Advisory Group Meeting

Post by Teentitan on Fri 25 May 2012, 12:06

This meeting of the Advisory Group [ OAG ], formerly the Advisory Committee, started with
briefings by the Veterans Ombudsman [VO] and members of the Office of Veterans Ombudsman
[OVO] on the ongoing investigations and reviews. The briefings fuelled active discussion.
VAC Budget and Staff Cuts:
During the meeting the VO and Chief of Staff were briefed by the VAC DM on the federal
budgetís impact on VAC. Essentially, there will be no cuts to current benefits or programmes.
However, it is expected that about three hundred VAC employees will be cut over the next three
years. These staff cuts are additional to the five hundred staff cuts recommended by the 2010
Coulter Report and will lead to VAC restructuring and decentralizing. The VO funding and staff
remain intact.
The VO Operating Environment:
The VO operates in a large complex bureaucratic structure. A structure that has its own rules,
environment, and characteristics and it is constantly evolving in unpredictable ways. This structure
is not always open to the VO conducting investigations into its workings or its failings. However,
professional work by the VO is paying off as increasingly the fact-based reports he issues are hard to
refute and even more difficult to ignore. Witness events recently on the VRAB Report issued by the
Who is the enemy?
Veterans often ask this question. No simple answer is available. Perhaps it is VAC, but one should
not discount Treasury Board, National Defence, or Health Canada or a combination thereof. I
suggest the answer lays with understanding that whenever public money and/or benefits are
available for distribution an accounting system is set up. A system which grows constantly
becoming increasingly complex so that eventually it reaches the optimum bureaucratic level of
satisfaction. That is when more money is spent managing the system than is spent providing benefit
to those the system is meant to serve.
SISIP versus NVC:
For years we have known about the serious interface problems with DNDís Service Income
Security Insurance Plan [SISIP] and VACís New Veterans Charter [NVC]. Yet the problems remain
unresolved despite repeated attempts by the veteransí associations and various advocates to trigger
Government action. Hopefully the recent Federal Court of Canada findings on the SISIP-NVC class
action case will lead to the resolution of these interface problems to the betterment of veterans and
in the process improve the NVC.
NVC Review:
The NVC is supposedly a Living Document. The VO has undertaken an independent review of the
NVC. Findings of the review and recommendations will be evidence based using case studies to
identify the problems, where, and why more changes are necessary to the NVC, and the cost of
implementation. The VOís report will go to the Minister and then to Parliament, where the House
Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs is working on its own review.

Opportunities are available for us to provide input into the VO review. If you have concerns with the
NVC now is the time for you to help. Help by preparing reports and sending them to our VO. Base
your comments on facts alone. The VO needs hard cold facts to justify the need for change in the
Breaches of Privacy:
Regretfully as we know some veteranís personal files in VAC have been breached and the
information gained improperly then used inappropriately. The VOís Terms of Reference do not
permit him to investigate breaches of privacy. A Government of Canada Privacy Commissioner
exists for this purpose. Tight controls now apply across the Government and more to the point within
VAC itself. VAC is working hard to forestall new breaches. The Minister has directed staff to follow
privacy regulations precisely. However, the reality is that to do their jobís on our behalf VAC staff
must open personal files. Given the number of legitimate requirements to open files the reality is
that eventually a privacy problem will occur. That being said there is a vast difference between an
act of omission, or a mistake, and an act of commission when applied to opening personal files.
Visits of VO:
The VO besides routinely briefing Parliamentary Committees and other groups is visiting veterans
across the country. He visited Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Northern Ontario during
the winter, Vancouver in March, and Saskatchewan in April. More visits are coming. Track his
movement on his web site so that you can attend his briefings and bull pit sessions when he is in
your area.
Active Service:
The status of an individualís service is an old issue and lacks clarity. Here is the question I posed to
the OVO staff. Since the CF have been on active service through Order in Councils dating back to
1973, similar to the Order in Councils from 1945 and earlier, then there should be an all-inclusive
definition of veteran with equal access to veteransí benefits.
The OVO legal advisor identified forty major files on this old and complex topic. In an initial review
of the documents, it was determined that the following applies to both veterans and serving
1. The Canadian Forces have been effectively on active service since the passing of Order in Council
[OIC] 1950-4365 and subsequent amendments.
2. The OIC P.C.1950-4365 was revoked on 20 November 1973 and was replaced on the same day
with OIC P.C. 1973-3641 to meet Canadaís obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty. Continuing
active service status for CF members.
3. An OIC issued April 6, 1989 placed both the regular and reserve force on active service.
4. The CF have been on active service for NATO duties since 1973. The continuation of issuing of
OICs is done by the Governor in Council when a significant number of CF personnel participate in a
special mission. *

* BP-303E Parliament, The National Defence Act, and the Decision to Participate, Michael
Rossignol Political and Social Affairs Division August 1992.
The above material is based on the National Defence Act R.s.c., 1985, c. N-5 which does not include
a Definition of Active Service in the Act, however, Section 31[1] state:
31. [1] The Governor in Council may place the Canadian Forces or any component, unit or other
element thereof or any officer or noncommissioned member thereof on active service anywhere in or
beyond Canada at any time when it appears advisable to do so.
The Act then goes on expanding the conditions and circumstance and those interested can look up
the applicable parts of the NDA and review it in more detail.
Beside the question of active service is another layer of questions related to the possible benefitís CF
veterans from various campaigns after the Korean War may be entitled to.
It is my understanding, and I emphasize my understanding, that the Government can decide as
circumstances warrant changing the status of CF members relative to their service status. The
Government also has traditionally decided what veteranís benefits are available. After WWII, for
example, different levels of benefits were provided to veterans based on their individual service. If a
veteran served only in Canada, there was a benefit package. If the veteran had service in the United
Kingdom, another level of benefits applied. If the veteran had experienced combat then more and
other benefits were available.
I appreciate that the above may not satisfy everyone. However, in the interest of keeping this report
short I feel we now have a reasonable answer to the question of active service and its possible impact
on benefits. Hopefully the above addresses veteransí concerns on entitlements to benefits. Whether
their active service entitles them to other forms of recognition, for example, the Canadian Voluntary
Service Medal is another matter.
The VO and his staff are doing good work. They are making solid progress. Increasingly their work
is recognized. Facts from quality investigations drive change. Remember our VO does not have a
bag of fairy dust to sprinkle over problems and solve them. Problems that have existed for years and
continue to trouble veterans require hard work to resolve. Check out the VOís web site and if you
have facts that you think can help him and us all then contribute.
Joseph Gollner
Patron CPVA
CSAT Member

Number of posts : 3314
Location : ontario
Registration date : 2008-09-19

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