This morning I received a situation report from Mike Blais outlining how the Canadian Veterans Advocacy is working to rectify the disconnect between disabled Veterans and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB). It follows. BONNIE
FYI – We hope veterans will print this report for their friends who are not on line. The CVA is actively seeking input about veterans experiences with the VRAB, pro and con, with an intent to identify unsatisfactory trends and some references to assist those who are currently going through the review, appeal, reconsideration and compassionate process. The CVA always attempt to impart a Human Quotient to our disabled veterans plight as such, we encourage you to tell us how this experience affected you (and your family if applicable) emotionally.
I would encourage you to use the following questions as a guideline. Did you feel that you/your family, were accorded the level of respect you deserved? Did you feel confident in the process? If successful, did the award meet your expectations? Do you feel justice was served, that your nation fulfilled its sacred obligation to you. Were you left angry, frustrated, depressed, abandoned or cheated at the conclusion? Or were you pleased, happy, satisfied? Were you intimidated by setting or tone of the adjudicators during the review or appeal process? Or not? Did this experience have any adverse affects on your health, or the health of your spouse/family?
Rest assured, the CVA will continue our campaign until a state of credibility and trust exists between the VRAB and the disabled veterans they have been mandated to judge. Hopefully, this meeting is the first step to attain this goal. MIKE
Canadian Veterans Advocacy (CVA) and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB)
Introductory Meeting, 25 January 2012
The Canadian Veterans Advocacy’s (CVA) executives met with ranking members of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) on the 25th of January, 2012 in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The VRAB was represented by Mr. John Larlee, Chairman, Ms Dale Sharkey, Director General and Ms Danielle Gauthier, Head of Communications. The CVA was represented by Mr. Joseph Burke CD, Director, Mr. John Clark, Client Services, and Michael L. Blais CD, President. The meeting was proposed by the VRAB last October prior to the 2011 National Day of Protest in November; however due to prior CVA commitments, the meeting was deferred until now. The meeting lasted two hours, too short for comprehensive discussions, yet long enough to establish a formal relationship and agree to meet in the future for more detailed discussions. Time, date and place TBA.
First, I offer our gratitude to the many veterans and/or their wives who responded to our request prior to the meeting for feedback about experiences with the VRAB. Comments published on the CVA Facebook Group had been reviewed by the VRAB executive prior to the meeting and they were acknowledged – your voice was indeed heard!
I also want to thank veterans’ advocate Sean Bruyea for the opportunity to participate in his Hill Times article on the VRAB, “Just One More Reason for a Commission of Inquiry into Veterans’ Issues,” and the effective manner in which he identified major issues of contention. The timing was fortuitous and we are grateful (To access the full version of the article please visit Sean’s website: http://www.seanbruyea.com/
One of the primary concerns raised during the meeting was the level of distrust for the VRAB held by a large segment of the veterans’ community. To address this issue effectively, we were hoping that the Ombudsman’s Report would be released in time to provide an unbiased foundation for meaningful dialogue concerning the requirements needed to ensure veterans have confidence that their cases will be judged fairly. The VRAB executive is aware of this level of distrust and they appear to be willing to address the issue – this was one of the reasons the CVA accepted the meeting.
But there must be transparency. There must be an acknowledgement by the VRAB executive that there are serious issues that have eroded veterans’ confidence in the VRAB’s appeal, review, and reconsideration process. Most importantly, the VRAB must recognize the need for appropriate safeguards to ensure these inadequacies are truly redressed to veterans’ satisfaction.
Noteworthy items briefly discussed were the composition of the VRAB, veterans’ representation on the board and the manner in which candidates are currently selected. Prior to 2004, the government simply appointed members at will regardless of their qualifications. Since then, a selection process has been implemented. A copy of the criteria will be posted at the CVA information portal/document repository with the hope that veterans who are interested in becoming a board member and who fulfill the restrictive pre-requisites may have an opportunity to apply and successfully complete the vetting process.
Unfortunately, the prerequisites preclude a vast majority of veterans who have little, if any, experience in a quasi-judicial field or in administrative tribunals. The Canadian Veterans Advocacy feels that it is vital that more veterans are appointed to the board. The inclusion of a veteran on each tribunal would ensure a modicum of confidence to the applicant. A veteran on the tribunal would also contribute their real-life knowledge of military operations to assist non-military members who simply cannot comprehend the rigors of war. Conflict of interest protocols were also discussed, i.e., what happens if a board member is called to adjudicate a case of someone with whom he served and the potential for bias, pro or con, that this creates.
The key issue of transparency was addressed by both representatives. The VRAB has responded by pledging to post a variety of cases on their website in the near future as a reference. What assistance this will truly provide is questionable. Unlike court, administrative tribunals are not bound by case law or precedence. Several other items were briefly touched on but as there was no time to discuss, I will reserve comment on these issues until after the next meeting.
Documentation provided to the CVA by the VRAB will be posted at the CVA document repository. If you have any questions regarding this Situation Report or the VRAB documentation, please do not hesitate to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strategic Assessment – Although we have gained a greater understanding of the VRAB operational mandate through our initial respectful, yet frank, discussions there are still many issues to be addressed in greater detail. Once the Ombudsman’s investigation into the VRAB has been published, we can establish a solid platform to support future dialogue.
Summary – A formal relationship has been established between the CVA and the VRAB, the concerns identified by CVA membership have been communicated, and a formal platform for continued dialogue has been founded. All CVA meeting objectives were successfully achieved.
Pro Patria Semper Fidelis
Michael L Blais CD
Founder/President, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ont, Cda.
L2E 7K6 // 905-357-3306 // Cell 905-359-9247