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Brief at the Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder Summit

Feb 16, 2016

Veterans Affairs Canada hosted a stakeholder summit at the Canadian War Museum on 14 April 2015. General (Retd) Walter Natynczyk, Deputy Minister VAC welcomed all participants. Hon. Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs provided the keynote address. During the morning sessions, agenda items included an update on the Government’s actions to date on the ACVA report ‘The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward’; Veteran-Centric Communications, Approach to Stakeholder Engagement and Veterans 20/20: VAC Strategic Plan.

The participants who represented 29 Veteran and advocacy groups were divided into two break-out groups for the afternoon. Each organization was invited to speak for five minutes on next steps. The following is the Legion’s presentation from the Dominion President, Tom Eagles.

14 April 2015
Good afternoon and thank you for the invitation to appear here at the VAC Summit and say a few words to members of the Veteran Community. For those that do not know me, I am Tom Eagles, the Dominion President of The Royal Canadian Legion.
The Royal Canadian Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization. We are a democratic, non-partisan, member based organization with 300,000 members in more than 1400 Branches across Canada. As the largest Veterans and community support organization in Canada, the Legion advocates on behalf of Veterans, including serving military and RCMP members, and their families, and provides essential supports within communities across Canada.
ACVA Recommendations:
The Legion is pleased that the current government has addressed two of the three major concerns the Legion and the Veterans Consultation Assembly have impressed upon the federal government to act upon for the past few years. They are:
  • Reservists: “That all Veterans with service-related disabilities, and their families, be entitled to the same benefits and support as part of their rehabilitation program, whether they are former members of the Reserve Force or of the Regular Force.” (ACVA Report);
  • Changes to Permanent Impairment Allowance and Adoption of Family Care Relief Benefit Program
The third major concern expressed by the Legion and the Veterans Consultation Assembly relates to the ACVA recommendation that VAC undertake a comprehensive review of the amount of the disability award to more adequately reflect awards in civil liability cases for personal injuries, implement a transparent and clear process for determining its value, and improve support for financial counselling throughout the process.
When will this ACVA recommendation be explored?
We will also continue to monitor the remaining ACVA recommendations closely to ensure the government’s commitments meet expectations and we will continue to urge the government to take action on the remaining recommendations now. They include but are not limited to:
  • Accessibility of Veterans to the Veterans Independence Program based on need, regardless of their having established disability entitlement or low income status;
  • The published VAC turn-around-time for disability claims is 16 weeks; we are very concerned that the turn-around-time for many claims is adjudicated is actually in excess of 16 weeks. This is unacceptable; and
  • The Legion remains concerned with the problems affecting Veterans and their dependents, especially in connection with claims for disability awards, survivor benefits and the ACVA Report recommendations.
It has been the Legion’s position that the Government must honour its moral and solemn obligation to Veterans and their families and ensure the NVC is truly the living document it was promised to be.
Again we ask: when will the remaining ACVA recommendations be addressed and when will all the new benefits become policy?
Thank you, again, for this opportunity to express our views and to state that we welcome the VAC Department’s new Veteran-centric approach to service – which as many of you know has been the hallmark of the Royal Canadian Legion since 1926! It behooves the government to adopt this approach since it is government that commits the members of the military in the first place.
Finally, allow me to add that we have learned that some MP brochures that are being circulated that seem to suggest that Veterans issues are being used for political partisan purposes. We trust that this is the exception and not the rule!