The Veterans Ombudsman’s introductary message to his Parliamentary report follows below:
One Veteran, A MATTER OF FAIRNESS
Today, there is a clear expectation among Veterans, their families, and Veterans organizations that programs and services available to them will be updated over the next few years to meet both current and future needs. In recognition of their service and sacrifices, former members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP expect a high standard of service from the Government of Canada and demand to be treated with respect.
Parliamentarians, and all Canadians, also firmly believe that Canada has the obligation to provide the very best support to the men and women who put their lives at risk defending our country and the values that we hold dear. This resolve to do right by Veterans is encouraging but must be translated into action.
In keeping with the Veterans Bill of Rights, I am committed to ensuring the fair treatment of Veterans, serving members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP, as well as all other clients of Veterans Affairs Canada. Although the Government of Canada’s definition of a Veteran for recognition purposes applies to men and women who completed their basic training and were honourably released from the Canadian Forces, I also consider former members of the RCMP to be Veterans.
Fairness is both a value and a measurable outcome. As an outcome, I measure fairness in terms of adequacy (Are the right programs and services in place to meet the needs?), suffi ciency (Are the right programs and services sufficiently resourced?), and accessibility (Are eligibility criteria creating unfair barriers, and can the benefits and services provided by Veterans Affairs Canada be accessed quickly and easily?).
In regard to eligibility criteria, I share the conviction of all Veterans organizations that access to benefits and services should be based on needs. The One Veteran theme that I have chosen to guide my interventions encapsulates that conviction: those with similar illnesses or injuries should have access to the same benefits, regardless of the nature of their service and where and when they served.
I believe that if parliamentarians considered the needs of ill and injured Veterans and still-serving members through a lens of fairness when making decisions about budget allocation, deficit reduction initiatives, and legislative amendments governing the provision of benefits and services, they could bring about meaningful change.
Likewise, senior officials of Veterans Affairs Canada could greatly improve access to benefits and services by simplifying policies, procedures, and processes, and by devolving decision-making to the lowest level possible.
On March 24, 2011, Bill C-55, the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act, received final approval with a clause that guarantees a parliamentary review of the provisions of the New Veterans Charter. In addition, Veterans Affairs Canada is moving forward on its five-year transformation agenda. Both exercises provide opportunities to focus attention on the fair treatment of Veterans. There is much at stake here and my Office will participate actively on both fronts.
By virtue of my dual role as Veterans Ombudsman and special advisor to the Minister, and as the only federally mandated voice for Veterans, I am uniquely positioned to raise concerns about policies and processes that create difficulties for Veterans and other clients of Veterans Affairs Canada and to recommend improvements. In my discussions with the Minister, I can provide a Veteran’s perspective on issues that are brought to his attention by the Department and apprise him of developments that he might not otherwise hear about. I believe that by providing evidence-based advice to the Minister, he will be more effective in discussions about the fair treatment of Veterans with his Cabinet colleagues, other fellow parliamentarians, and senior officials of the Department.
Over the past four months, I have invested considerable time building relationships with senior officials of Veterans Affairs Canada, and I will continue to do so to ensure that my Office is in a position to intervene when we see unfairness in the system and to ensure that the needs of Veterans are considered throughout the decision-making process. Informing parliamentarians about the needs of ill and injured Veterans and still-serving members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP will also remain a priority.
Reaching out to the Veterans community to explain my role and the services available through my Office and encouraging dialogue on issues of concern are extremely important to me. I have met with officials of many Veterans organizations, and I look forward to many more encounters with the men and women that I represent and on whose behalf I provide advice to the Minister of Veterans Affairs.
Fiscal year 2010–2011 was a transition year for the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the contributions of my predecessor, Colonel (Retired) Patrick Stogran. As Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, he faced the challenge of building the Office from the ground up, while at the same time responding to requests for assistance from Veterans. As Colonel Stogran’s former Director of Research and nvestigations, I witnessed first-hand his firmness of purpose and his determination to affect change on behalf of Veterans, particularly the most vulnerable as demonstrated by his efforts to bring attention to the needs of homeless Veterans and Veterans suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). I would like to express my gratitude to Colonel Stogran for all that he has done to bring Veterans’ issues to the forefront.
It is now incumbent on me to keep up the momentum with the support of a team of professionals as dedicated as I am to the fair treatment of Veterans, still-serving members, and their families.
There is much at stake here. I believe that it was George Washington who said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
Ultimately, it could be argued that taking care of our ill and injured former and current members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP is a matter of national security.Guy Parent Veterans Ombudsman
In Guy Parent’s report, Canadian Press has announced: Severely disabled vets kept in the dark about additional benefits: Ombudsman
OTTAWA – Some of the country’s most severely injured soldiers were not told by Veterans Affairs Canada about all of the benefits and allowances they were eligible for under federal law.
That is one of the findings of Canada’s Veteran’s Ombudsman in his annual report, which was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
Guy Parent’s office discovered that half of the country’s 1,800 veterans assessed with a 98 per cent disability were never informed they were eligible for other federal payments outside of the veterans system.
In each of the cases, the most severely injured were entitled to an allowance for “exceptional incapacity” under the Pension Act.
Federal bureaucrats were forced by Parent to notify the hundreds of soldiers who’d been left out.
A spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs Minister Stephen Blaney did not address each of the individual criticisms in Parent’s report, but suggested the department was on top of the issues.
Content Provided By Canadian Press.