2021/2022 Legislative Program

Since the adoption of NCVA's 2020‑21 Legislative Program last fall, the recent federal election has produced a "déjà vu all over again" result for the country.

Insofar as the veterans' community is concerned, Lawrence MacAulay has been retained by the Federal Government in the veterans' portfolio within Cabinet, and Anita Anand has been appointed the new Minister of National Defence.

Most importantly, there continue to be significant concerns with respect to veterans' legislation, regulation and policy, necessitating further action by the Government and Veterans Affairs Canada to rectify the ongoing inequity and injustice impacting disabled veterans and their families.

In the current Parliamentary context, it has been our experience over the years that a minority government can often create an environment which is more conducive to achieving legislative reform. In this political scenario, it is somewhat predictable that Opposition parties will have more positive influence on the Government and on Parliamentary Committees, as a form of compromise is frequently needed to enact requisite legislative change.

Our NCVA Legislative Program 2021‑22 sets out the essential components of our agenda as we address the new Parliament, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the Department of National Defence.

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Brian Forbes, Chairman, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada

Brian Forbes, Chairman, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada

VAC Backlog/Wait Time Crisis

Several seniors sit in a row in a doctor's office waiting room.

The overriding concern in the veterans' community today remains the ongoing crisis as to the intolerable backlog and wait times confronting veterans in making applications for disability pensions and health care benefits. The National Council of Veteran Associations (NCVA) has consistently argued that systemic change is absolutely essential. It is self‑evident that the departmental measures to increase staffing and digital resources will not be sufficient on their own to resolve this deplorable state of affairs as underlined by the Parliamentary Budget Officer's (PBO's) report of September 2020. Indeed, it is fully expected that the backlog will only be exacerbated as increased numbers of Canadian Armed Forces members are medically released following the conclusion of the pandemic.

From NCVA's perspective, it is incumbent upon the new Liberal Government, in concert with the official Opposition parties, to enunciate bold and creative measures to accelerate the establishment of fast‑tracking protocols/automatic entitlement for outstanding veterans' claims in order to alleviate this backlog and wait time dilemma which has only been compounded by the COVID‑19 crisis.

The following represents the crux of NCVA's position in relation to this ongoing administrative crisis:

  • The department should adopt the position that veterans' claims be considered at face value and be based on the reasonable evidence provided by the veteran and his or her family, with the proviso that individual files could be monitored over time and "spot audits" carried out to address any potential abuses. The clear reality that medical reports usually required by VAC to support these applications continue to be extremely difficult to obtain at this time must be recognized in assessing this present dilemma.
  • Even though medical offices and therapists' clinics are starting to re‑open, these individual health professionals are simply overwhelmed with their own backlog and rescheduling delayed appointments. The preparation of medical reports to support veterans' claims is not a priority at this time for these beleaguered physicians and therapists.
  • Unless creative steps are taken, the adjudicative delays and turnaround time dilemmas will not be relieved in the short term, given the reality of the significant challenge in obtaining these medical/therapist reports to substantiate individual veterans' applications.
  • There is a general consensus among major veteran stakeholders that this administrative/adjudicative measure leading to a form of fast‑tracking/automatic entitlement deserves immediate attention.
  • It has been the longstanding view of NCVA that this type of automatic entitlement approach should have been implemented by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) years ago in regard to seriously disabled veterans. This desired policy change would achieve the objective of expediting these specific claims so as to circumvent governmental "red tape" and in recognition of the fact that nearly all of these cases are ultimately granted entitlement in the end, often following many months of adjudicative delay. It is our considered position that now is clearly the time to extend this thinking to all veterans' claims.
  • It is noteworthy that a number of mandate letters received by the Minister of Veterans Affairs from the Prime Minister contained a specific direction that VAC should implement a form of automatic entitlement with respect to common disabilities suffered by Canadian veterans.
  • It is also extremely significant that many financial assistance programs rolled out over the last 20 months by federal/provincial governments are premised on the philosophy of "pay now and verify later." In regard to a number of financial initiatives, the earlier need for medical reports to substantiate entitlement to these programs has been waived by the Government, given the impracticality of accessing any input from the medical profession in Canada through these troubled times.
  • It is to be noted that the initial reaction of the department to this proposed form of fast‑tracking/automatic entitlement was that this approach could be implemented for benefits that are paid on a monthly basis; however, given the fact in relation to disability awards that the majority of veterans are still opting for lump sums, this would represent a concern for the department.
  • In addressing this concern, it was our recommendation that, as an interim step in granting this form of automatic entitlement, the disability award could be paid as a monthly allowance with a preliminary assessment in the first instance. Ultimately, the department would have the ability to fully assess the extent of the veteran's disability in order to determine the veteran's final assessment, at which point the veteran could choose to convert his or her monthly allowance to a lump sum award with the appropriate financial adjustment to consider the monthly amounts already paid.
  • The great advantage in this recommendation is that the veteran's entitlement would be established early on and the veteran's concerns surrounding financial security and access to health care and treatment benefits would be addressed in this manner.
  • The old adage that "desperate times call for bold and creative measures" is particularly apt in this situation.

A. VAC Policy Statement – June 2020

The department issued a policy statement in June 2020 in response to this serious concern entitled "Timely disability benefits decisions: Strategic direction for improving wait times." This communication piece had been a significant priority for some time, not only for NCVA but also the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA) and many other stakeholder groups.

In NCVA's judgment, this policy document represented a statement of good intentions for the mid‑ to long‑term objectives cited in the material, but failed to effectively remedy the ongoing backlog crisis which has only been intensified by the COVID‑19 challenge.

Although it is somewhat encouraging that the VAC policy statement has adopted a number of our proposals including the prospective employment of automatic entitlement for common disabilities, the utilization of presumptions for certain consequential disabilities, and the lessening of the requirement for medical referrals in specific cases, the department's report unfortunately concluded that this will take considerable time to implement.

Furthermore, the departmental policy statement placed significant weight on the fact that an approximate $90 million had been approved in 2020 by the Government for VAC in a supplementary budget estimate to retain new employees to deal with the ongoing backlog. However, this newly acquired departmental staff continues to face a steep learning curve and was not actually operational until January 2021.

It is also noteworthy that the PBO completed an evaluation of the VAC backlog through a financial analysis report issued on September 21, 2020, titled "Disability Benefit Processing at Veterans Affairs Canada". The PBO concluded that, without further fundamental systemic change together with further significant increases in government funding to augment VAC staffing resources, the department would not substantially impact turnaround times for veterans' claims for years into the future, given the current pace of adjudication.

The department presented a formal briefing of their policy position on June 30, 2020, to various Ministerial Advisory Groups. As part of the ongoing dialogue surrounding this presentation, NCVA took the strong position that the department needs to accelerate their plan of action through an adoption of the above‑cited fast‑tracking protocols/automatic entitlement approach for all outstanding veterans' applications.

Given the unattainability of medical reports from various health care providers, the following fundamental question still requires an immediate answer:

What level of evidence is the department prepared to accept to approve current claims in the backlog?

Clearly, individual veterans and/or their advocates who are preparing disability applications must be cognizant of the department's position in relation to this important subject as to the sufficiency of evidence required for VAC approval.

In our judgment, the "approve and verify" philosophy we have espoused is a crucial ingredient to the solution in this context.

Rather surprisingly, as part and parcel of our discussions over the last two years, VAC has indicated through the briefing process that, ostensibly, "higher government authority" is required to implement this form of creative initiative.

With all due respect, we are somewhat mystified by this prerequisite for government authority, as it has been readily apparent that VAC has determined the overall question of sufficiency of evidence for many decades in adjudicating veterans' applications. In this context, the impact of the benefit of the doubt/presumptive provisions of veterans' legislation have been in place for many years. This unique set of adjudicative principles gives the department great latitude to reach a constructive resolution in relation to policy amendments to address the present crisis regarding wait times.

In summary, the VAC policy statement contained a number of positive steps to alleviate the backlog and unacceptable wait times relevant to veterans' disability claims. However, the scope and pace of these initiatives require a higher priority from the Government in order to establish a more immediate resolution for veterans and their families, often facing severe financial insecurity, particularly during this COVID‑19 crisis.

B. Report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs – December 2020

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs issued its highly material report "Clearing the Jam: Addressing the Backlog of Disability Benefit Claims at Veterans Affairs Canada" on Friday, December 11, 2020, following many months of study and stakeholder input.

NCVA presented our submission to the Committee in November 2020 as part and parcel of its deliberations.

The Standing Committee findings identify quite clearly the present crisis in VAC adjudication and call for urgent and dramatic change in departmental protocols. Most importantly from our perspective, the report endorses our position that a form of automatic entitlement/pre‑approval, together with fast‑track protocols, need to be adopted by the department to address the required systemic change.

We would suggest that the Standing Committee's report reflects a comprehensive canvassing of a number of the salient issues surrounding the backlog/wait time problem. With respect to the adjudicative initiatives we have focused on, the following represents the major recommendations made by the Standing Committee in its report to Parliament:

  • Recommendation 13: That Veterans Affairs Canada continue to automatically approve applications for medical conditions presumptively attributed to service in the Canadian Armed Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, table to the Committee its list of such medical conditions, and continue to expand it through research in Canada and in allied countries
  • Recommendation 14: That Veterans Affairs Canada conduct a study on women‑specific medical conditions related to service in the Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and, when applicable, add them to the list of medical conditions presumptively connected to military service
  • Recommendation 15: That the Minister of Veterans Affairs amend the Veterans Well‑being Regulations to allow for the automatic pre‑approval of disability benefit claims, and that Veterans Affairs Canada implement a pilot project to identify the risks and advantages of such automatic pre‑approval of claims
  • Recommendation 16: That Veterans Affairs Canada conduct an in‑depth review of the Veterans Emergency Fund in the context of its use to support veterans waiting in the backlog and report back to the committee with their findings
  • Conclusion: Adopting these measures would exhibit good faith in dealing with the existing backlog and uphold the fundamental principle that has guided all Canadian veterans' compensation programs since World War I: the benefit of the doubt. Committee members want to reaffirm this principle and reassure veterans and their families that their well‑being is the sole and unique purpose of Veterans Affairs Canada.

In response to these compelling recommendations, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lawrence MacAulay, earlier this year provided a formal reply to the Committee setting out what constitutes, in our respectful judgment, a further statement of good intentions from the department's perspective in relation to increasing staffing, technological advances et al. We remain convinced that a more innovative approach is required to truly address this enduring backlog and wait time crisis in VAC.

In this context, senior officials of the department still maintain that they are ostensibly in the process of seeking legislative/regulatory authority to implement appropriate adjudicative changes required in accord with the Standing Committee conclusions and our longstanding proposals. It is our reading of the current situation that the department has hopefully recognized that there is sound rationale for incorporating the necessary adjudicative protocol amendments as the fundamental means of alleviating this unacceptable backlog/turnaround time conundrum. NCVA will continue to press the department to expedite the implementation of the necessary changes outlined by the Standing Committee report.

C. 2021 Federal Budget

Insofar as the 2021 federal budget, brought down by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on April 19, it is noteworthy that the Government has recognized that:

"… [v]eterans are three to four times as likely to suffer from depressive or anxiety disorders, and over 15 times more likely to experience post‑traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), than the general population. Veterans are entitled to financial support for mental health care through the Treatment Benefit Program but they can wait up to two years to receive mental health care while waiting for their disability benefit application to be confirmed.…

"Budget 2021 proposes to provide $140 million over five years starting in 2021‑22, and $6 million ongoing, to Veterans Affairs Canada for a program that would cover the mental health care costs of veterans with PTSD, depressive, or anxiety disorders while their disability benefit application is being processed."

Although this budgetary proposal does not fully adopt our favoured concept of automatic entitlement/preapproval, it does provide a significant step forward in recognizing that treatment benefits should be granted immediately and not be dependent on the disability application process, which can indeed take up to two years. Thus, this provision is hopefully a springboard to expanding this principle so that veterans are not left in a precarious situation for many months or even years before health care/treatment benefits are available to them. The Government, through the budget, has determined that mental health care (PTSD, depressive or anxiety disorders) should be given priority at this time. It will be our continuing position that this approach should be applied to all physical disabilities so that veterans in serious need of health care or treatment benefits should be granted the same sense of priority.

Although this stop‑gap initiative has the potential to trigger much‑needed treatment benefits for those veterans suffering urgent mental health issues, it still begs the larger question as to whether VAC is prepared in relation to the overall adjudication of disability benefits to fully operationalize the requisite systemic measures needed to ameliorate the pervasive administrative and bureaucratic delays currently confronting Canadian veterans and their families.

Indeed, we were dismayed to learn that this sound budgetary proposal will not actually be implemented until April 2022 due to the deleterious impact of the "machinery of government." NCVA takes the strong position that the implementation of this program should be expedited to meet the need that was intended and clearly articulated in Budget 2021. Any inordinate delay in the implementation of the treatment benefit initiative will effectively defeat the fundamental purpose of the budgetary provision. NCVA would submit that there must be another solution to this unacceptable delay in the implementation process – veterans suffering from a mental health condition should not be waiting many more months to access much‑needed treatment benefits. They need it now.

We also believe that the Government could go further in this context. It is to be noted that over 95 percent of PTSD claims are approved by the department. Therefore, automatic entitlement just makes good administrative sense and would accelerate the necessary treatment benefits for the disabled veteran so as to obviate any further triggering of the bureaucracy of government.

As we have said all along with respect to the backlog/wait times crisis, veterans deserve nothing less during these challenging times where financial and health concerns have been intensified by COVID‑19!

D. Transitional Provisions/Complexity of Legislation

It is not without significance that, due to the complexity and confusion surrounding a number of new benefits which have been promulgated over the last couple of years, the VAC adjudicative process has been further backlogged, resulting in many veterans being unable to access these new benefits and, as significantly, struggling to understand the criteria for application. In effect, the Government has created a legislative "monster" insofar as the nature and scope of the benefit grid which currently exists within VAC is concerned. With the introduction of the new Pension for Life provision, statutory eligibility and policy guidelines have been dramatically complicated to the point where both the applicant veteran and the corresponding VAC adjudicator are confronted with many legalistic and interpretative obstacles with respect to achieving speedy decision‑making and satisfactory entitlement results.

Although the department has initiated significant policy revisions to provide for an early intervention well in advance of the ultimate medical release of the disabled veteran, there remains much more work to be done to ensure that this transitional process is improved. It is extremely noteworthy that, in the past four years, both the Veterans Ombudsman and the Department of National Defence (DND) Ombudsman have made substantive proposals to the Minister and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in relation to improving the transitional protocols in this context.

Quite clearly, one of the most significant priorities with reference to this transitional phase is to ensure that disabled veterans are fully apprised of benefits and entitlements, rehabilitation options and job alternatives well before their medical discharge from the Canadian Armed Forces.

In this regard, it remains the strong opinion of NCVA that VAC should be able to identify those benefits a veteran is entitled to and implement these benefits on the veteran's behalf. In general terms, the utilization of a knowledgeable case manager, together with administrative aids such as an enhanced "My VAC" account at an early point in the transitional process, should expedite this procedure, as opposed to the current protocol where a veteran is often asked to describe his or her needs and the precise benefits that the veteran is seeking. It has been our recommendation that the case manager must be in a position in nearly all cases to identify these benefits and entitlements to the individual veteran under the various VAC programs, and that this should occur in collaborative partnership with DND prior to the discharge of the disabled veteran in question. With particular reference to seriously disabled veterans, the onus should be removed from the veteran and the VAC administrative function should be fine‑tuned and more proactive in establishing entitlements for such veterans.

VAC Backlog/Wait Time Crisis Recommendations

Recommendation

NCVA strongly recommends that VAC recognize that fundamental systemic change is required and that the department needs to accelerate the adoption of fast‑tracking protocols/automatic entitlement for outstanding veterans' claims in order to alleviate the backlog and wait times which have only been compounded by the COVID‑19 crisis.

Recommendation

That NCVA continue to pursue the utilization of presumptions in the VAC adjudicative system as outlined for many years in NCVA's Legislative Program. The adoption of evidentiary presumptions to deal with common disabilities and consequential claims will create administrative efficiencies and have a significant impact on turnaround times for veterans' claims currently in the backlog.

Recommendation

NCVA supports the adoption of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs report dated December 11, 2020, titled "Clearing the Jam: Addressing the Backlog of Disability Benefit Claims at Veterans Affairs Canada," which accepted the majority of NCVA's recommendations in alleviating the backlog/wait times crisis.

Recommendation

NCVA strongly recommends that the Government highly prioritize the implementation of the proposals contained in Budget 2021, insofar as the immediate granting of treatment benefits prior to the formal adjudication of the veteran's disability claim.

Recommendation

NCVA recommends that VAC provide substantial financial funding to bolster the Veterans Emergency Fund to increase the maximum benefits per claim and to prioritize these applications during these challenging times. VAC should consider the utilization of the Veterans Emergency Fund as a stopgap measure for veterans awaiting disability pension claim decisions which have been inordinately held up by the current backlog conundrum.

Recommendation

NCVA proposes that VAC simplify veterans' legislation and regulations so as to provide a more "user friendly" process and, in so doing, eliminate the complexities and legalistic provisions currently confronting veterans in making disability/health care claims.

Recommendation

NCVA takes the position that, to ease the transition from DND to VAC, disabled veterans should be fully apprised of benefits and entitlements, rehabilitation options and job alternatives, well before their medical discharge from the Canadian Armed Forces.

The "Elephant in the Room" in VAC Remains

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Veterans remain vitally interested in the positions to be adopted by the new Liberal Government and the Opposition parties in this minority Parliament to remedy the longstanding injustice and inequity impacting Canada's disabled veterans and their families.

NCVA continues to take the position that there is much to do in improving veterans' legislation so as to address the financial and wellness requirements of Canada's veterans' community. This is particularly so with respect to the Pension for Life (PFL) provisions originally announced in December 2017 and formally implemented on April 1, 2019.

It is self‑evident that the greater majority of disabled veterans are not materially impacted by the PFL legislation in that the new benefits under these legislative and regulatory amendments have limited applicability – indeed, some seriously disabled veterans are actually worse off.

In our considered opinion, this PFL policy fails to satisfy the Prime Minister's initial commitment in 2015, in response to the Equitas lawsuit, to address the inadequacies and deficiencies in the New Veterans Charter and continues to ignore the "elephant in the room" which has overshadowed this entire discussion.

As stated in our many submissions to VAC and Parliament, the Government has not met veterans' expectations with regard to the fundamental mandated commitment to "re‑establish lifelong pensions" under the Charter so as to ensure that a comparable level of financial security is provided to all disabled veterans and their families over their life course. This financial disparity between the Pension Act and New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act compensation was fully validated by the Parliamentary Budget Office's report issued on February 21, 2019, which clearly underlined this longstanding discrimination.

In this regard, it is essential to recognize that VAC has been substantially impacted by government budgetary constraints in implementing the PFL and related benefits, producing half‑measures and inadequate benefit components to overall veterans' legislation.

Various Canadian currency bills are spread out and a person holding a magnifying glass is inspecting one of them.

Notwithstanding the Prime Minister's protestations as to the ability of his Government to finance appropriate veterans' benefits and programs, one has to ask the fundamental question: What has happened to the millions of dollars saved by VAC with the passing of tens of thousands of traditional veterans and early peacekeepers over recent years?

In this context, in relation to the basic issue as to the "affordability" of veterans' programs, the Government has failed to acknowledge the impact on the overall VAC budget of the fact that the greater majority of traditional disabled veterans have passed on over the past several years, resulting in significant savings in VAC's budgetary funding requirements. With the continuing loss of this significant cohort of the veteran population, VAC is no longer required to pay pensions, allowances, health care benefits, treatment benefits, long‑term care benefits, VIP et al. for all of these disabled veterans.

In all fairness, it must be stated that, under the Harper Government's regime, the veterans' community was shoddily treated vis‑à‑vis budgetary expenditures for veterans' benefits and programs – numerous VAC district offices were closed, front line staffing to assist veterans was dramatically reduced, and budgetary constraints led to a lack of appropriate action to enact necessary reforms to veterans' programs and entitlements. What remains to be seen is whether the new Conservative Leader, Erin O'Toole, will now stand up and be counted during the next Parliament to reverse these years of neglect and injustice. Although NCVA does not take partisan positions, in our judgment, we should be encouraged by Mr. O'Toole's substantive election campaign commitments in relation to veterans. In addition, it is of interest that the NDP and the PPC have laid out strong campaign promises to address the need for a "one veteran – one standard" approach to veterans' pension and wellness programs.

Given the results of the 2021 federal election campaign and the establishment of a minority government, in our judgment a genuine opportunity still exists for a commitment to substantially improve the legislation so as to eliminate the blatant discrimination suffered by disabled veterans since the enactment of the New Veterans Charter in 2006.

In this context, it should be recognized that the Standing Committees of Parliament, including the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Standing Committee on National Defence, are not totally controlled by the Government in the present minority scenario. It is not without significance that the majority of the members of such Standing Committees are represented by members of the Opposition parties who have greater input in relation to the agenda, the calling of witnesses, and the substance of ultimate reports. In our experience, this form of minority government has led to a far better opportunity for significant legislative amendments in the veterans' field as a consequence of the need for all parties to reach compromise solutions in addressing outstanding issues. This premise is supported by the significant reports that have been produced by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs over the last two years which will hopefully lead to legislative reform on a number of outstanding concerns.

NCVA and veterans at large will be closely monitoring all federal leaders to determine which party is prepared to make a substantial commitment to addressing the shortfalls and inequities which continue to exist in veterans' legislation. In this regard, it must be remembered that there are almost 700,000 veterans in Canada today and, when family, friends and supporters are considered, this number of potential voters is not without significance – particularly following an election year which has resulted in a minority government where, historically, a new election will in all probability ensue within the next 12 to 24 months.

If the "one veteran – one standard" philosophy advocated by VAC has any meaning, this glaring disparity between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act benefits for disabled veterans requires that the new Liberal Government and the Opposition parties seize the moment and satisfy the financial needs of Canadian veterans and their dependants. In so doing, Parliament would finally be recognizing that the longstanding social covenant between the Canadian people and the veterans' community demands nothing less.

The "Elephant in the Room" in VAC Remains Recommendations

Recommendation

NCVA takes the position that VAC, working together with relevant Ministerial Advisory Groups and other veteran stakeholders, should think "outside the box" by jointly striving over time to create a comprehensive program model that would essentially treat all veterans with parallel disabilities in the same manner as to the application of benefits and wellness policies – thereby resulting in the elimination of artificial cut‑off dates that arbitrarily distinguish veterans based on whether they were injured before or after 2006.

Recommendation

NCVA adopts the position that much more is required to improve the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act and that the Government needs to fully implement the Ministerial Policy Advisory Group recommendations presented to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Summit in October 2016 (together with the report to the Minister of January 14, 2020) with particular emphasis on:

  1. Resolving the significant disparity between the financial compensation available under the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act;
  2. Ensuring that no veteran under the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act would receive less compensation than a veteran under the Pension Act with the same disability or incapacity in accordance with the "one veteran – one standard" principle;
  3. Utilizing a combination of the best provisions from the Pension Act and the best provisions from the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act, producing a form of lifetime pension in a much more realistic manner in order to secure the financial security for those veterans who need this form of monetary support through their lifetime; and
  4. Addressing the ongoing layering of legislation and incremental changes over the years, ostensibly without consistent objectives and clearly defined outcomes, which has created a complex grid of eligibility criteria, differences in eligibility for benefits depending on when and where served, and inconsistency between policy intent and outcomes and expectations.

A. Pension for Life

With specific reference to the provisions of the legislation which became effective April 1, 2019, the statutory and regulatory amendments ostensibly reflect the Government's attempt to create a form of "pension for life" which includes the following three elements:

  1. A disabled veteran has the option to receive the present lump sum disability award in the form of a new Pain and Suffering Compensation (PSC) benefit representing a payment in the maximum amount of $1,150 per month (in 2021, $1,183) for life. For those veterans in receipt of PSC, retroactive assessment would potentially apply to produce a reduced monthly payment for life for such veterans. In effect, VAC has simply converted the amount of the lump sum disability award into a form of a lifetime annuity as an option for those disabled veterans who are eligible.
  2. A new Additional Pain and Suffering (APSC) benefit has essentially replaced the Career Impact Allowance (Permanent Impairment Allowance) under the New Veterans Charter, with similar grade levels and monthly payments which reflect a non‑taxable non‑economic benefit but is limited in its application to those veterans suffering a "permanent and severe impairment which is creating a barrier to re‑establishment in life after service."
  3. A new, consolidated Income Replacement Benefit (IRB), which is taxable, combines four pre‑existing benefits (Earnings Loss Benefit, Extended Earnings Loss Benefit, Supplementary Retirement Benefit, and Retirement Income Security Benefit) with a proviso that the IRB will be increased by one per cent every year until the veteran reaches what would have been 20 years of service or age 60. It is not without financial significance that the former Career Impact Allowance and Career Impact Allowance Supplement have been eliminated from the Income Replacement Benefit package as identified by the aforementioned Parliamentary Budget Office report in February 2019.

It is readily apparent that significant amendments to the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act are required so as to address the proverbial "elephant in the room" in that the PFL legislation fails to satisfy the priority concerns of the veterans' community in relation to:

  1. Resolving the significant disparity between the financial compensation paid to disabled veterans under the Pension Act (PA) and the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act (NVC/VWA); and
  2. Ensuring that no veteran under the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act receives less compensation than the veteran under the Pension Act with the same disability or incapacity in accordance with the "one veteran – one standard" principle.

It is totally unacceptable that we continue to have veterans' legislation in Canada which provides a significantly higher level of compensation to a veteran who is injured prior to 2006 (date of enactment of the New Veterans Charter) when compared to a veteran who is injured post‑2006. If applied to the Afghanistan conflict, this discrimination results in veterans of the same war having totally different pension benefits.

During the course of discussions following Budget 2017 leading up to the Minister's announcement, there was considerable concern in the veterans' community, which proved to be well founded, that the Government would simply establish an option wherein the lump sum payment (PSC) would be apportioned or reworked over the life of the veteran for the purposes of creating a lifelong pension. NCVA and other veteran stakeholders, together with the Ministerial Policy Advisory Group (MPAG), strongly criticized this proposition as being totally inadequate and not providing the lifetime financial security which was envisaged by the veterans' community.

It is fair to say that the reasonable expectation of veteran stakeholders was that some form of substantive benefit stream needed to be established which would address the financial disparity between the benefits received under the Pension Act and the NVC/VWA for all individually disabled veterans.

It has been NCVA's consistent recommendation to the Minister and to the department that VAC should adopt the major conclusions of the MPAG Report formally presented to the Veterans Summit in Ottawa in October 2016 (and directly to the Minister in January 2020) together with the recommendations contained in the NCVA Legislative Program. Both of these reports proposed that the combination of the best provisions of the Pension Act and the best provisions of the New Veterans Charter would produce a form of lifetime pension in a much more realistic manner in order to secure the financial security for those veterans who need this form of monetary support through their lifetime.

We would refer to recent NCVA op ed papers published over the last year and our analysis contained in the Financial Comparison section later in this report, which addresses in considerable detail the fundamental deficiencies and flaws contained in the VAC position and outlines a series of proposals as to what can be done to improve the PFL concept.

We strongly encourage the Government to seriously consider the implementation of the following major recommendation of the MPAG as a first step to addressing this problem of the "elephant in the room:"

"[T]he enhancement of the Earnings Loss Benefit/Career Impact Allowance as a single stream of income for life, the addition of Exceptional Incapacity Allowance, Attendance Allowance and a new monthly family benefit for life in accordance with the Pension Act will ensure all veterans receive the care and support they deserve when they need it and through their lifetime."

In specific terms, we would also suggest that the following steps would dramatically enhance the legislative provisions and amended regulations relevant to the present PFL proposition and go a long way to satisfying the "one veteran – one standard" approach ostensibly followed by VAC as a basic principle of administration:

  1. Liberalize the eligibility criteria in the legislation and regulatory amendments for the new Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation benefit so that more disabled veterans actually qualify for this benefit – currently, only veterans suffering from a severe and permanent impairment will be eligible. It bears repeating that the greater majority of disabled veterans simply will not qualify for this new component of the proposed lifelong pension.

    It is noteworthy that the new regulations with respect to the Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation benefit largely replicate the eligibility prerequisites of the Permanent Impairment Allowance/Career Impact Allowance. These PIA/CIA provisions have produced restrictive and arbitrary results over the years since their inception and were further complicated with the formula established by VAC in 2017 in relation to the interpretation of the CIA grades through the employment of the "Diminished Earnings Capacity" test. Although the APSC has moved away from the evaluation of Diminished Earnings Capacity to an analysis of the extent to which a permanently impaired veteran is confronting barriers on his or her return to civilian society, the legislative test remains onerous and unavailable to a greater majority of disabled veterans. A more generous and readily understood approach is required in the amended regulations for the APSC benefit so as to generate a more inclusive class of disabled veterans. It has been the longstanding position of NCVA that the traditional PIA/CIA regulations and policy guideline requirements reflect a "blunt instrument" as opposed to a "precise tool" in evaluating the overall impact that an injury may have on a disabled veteran.

    In NCVA's 2018 Legislative Program, we argued that the veteran's disability award (PSC) initially granted should be a major determinant in evaluating CIA (APSC) qualifications. The ostensible new criteria employed by VAC as set out in the regulatory amendments for APSC qualification represent, in our judgment, a more restrictive approach when compared to the PSC evaluation.

    In effect, it is the position of NCVA that this employment of the Disability Award (PSC) percentage would produce a more straightforward and easier‑understood solution to this ongoing issue of APSC (CIA) eligibility. The following would reflect this form of evaluation criteria for APSC (CIA):

    Veteran Disability Award (PSC) APSC (CIA) Grade
    78% or over 1
    48% ‑ 78% 2

    Alternatively, the DA (PSC) percentage could be applied in a more precise manner by using the percentile against the maximum APSC (CIA) compensation available – for example, if a veteran is in receipt of a DA (PSC) of 65% the veteran would receive 65% of the maximum APSC (CIA) allowance. For the purposes of potentially replacing the current Grade 3 assessment, it is our recommendation that the DA (PSC) percentile could be similarly applied; i.e., if a veteran is in receipt of a DA (PSC) of 25%, the veteran would receive 25% of the maximum APSC (CIA) allowance. Note that this quantification of career impact has been utilized under the Pension Act for almost one hundred years in assessing the loss of earning capacity of a disabled veteran for lifetime pension purposes.

    The adoption of this type of approach would have the added advantage of enhancing the PFL so as to incorporate more disabled veterans and address the fundamental parity question in relation to Pension Act benefits.

    With reference to the regulatory amendments emanating from the new PFL provision, we would also express concern that the regulatory prerequisite for the APSC benefit with regard to the disability of amputation remains arbitrarily defined, both as to eligibility and designated grade level.

    It is to be noted that amputation at or above the knee or at or above the elbow is retained as a fundamental requirement for qualification in relation to a single‑limb amputee; however, our years of experience with The War Amputations of Canada make clear that the loss of a limb at any level represents a "severe and permanent impairment" for the veteran amputee. The current arbitrary distinction is not justified and should be amended.

  2. Create a new family benefit to parallel the Pension Act provision in relation to spousal and child allowances to recognize the impact of the veteran's disability on his or her family.
  3. Incorporate the special allowances under the Pension Act, i.e., Exceptional Incapacity Allowance and Attendance Allowance, into the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act to help address the financial disparity between the two statutory regimes.

    In over 40 years of working with The War Amps of Canada, we have literally handled hundreds of special allowance claims and were specifically involved in the formulation of the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance and Attendance Allowance guidelines and grade profiles from the outset. We would indicate that these two special allowances, EIA and AA, represent an integral portion of the compensation available to war amputees and other seriously disabled veterans governed by the Pension Act.

    It is of further interest in our judgment that the grade levels for these allowances tend to increase over the life of the veterans as the "ravages of age" are confronted – indeed, non‑pensioned conditions such as the onset of a heart, cancer or diabetic condition, for example, are part and parcel of the EIA/AA adjudication uniquely carried out under the Pension Act policies in this context.

    A caregiver pushing an elderly person in a wheelchair.

    As a sidebar, it is interesting that VAC refers to the new Caregiver Recognition Benefit of $1,000 a month as an indication of the Government's attempt to address the needs of families of disabled veterans. What continues to mystify the veterans' community is why the Government has chosen to "reinvent the wheel" in this area when addressing this need for attendance/caregiving under the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act. For many decades, Attendance Allowance (with its five grade levels) has been an effective vehicle in this regard, providing a substantially higher level of compensation and more generous eligibility criteria to satisfy this requirement. In this context, it is noteworthy that the spouses or families of seriously disabled veterans often have to give up significant employment opportunities to fulfill the caregiving needs of the disabled veteran – $1,000 a month is simply not sufficient recognition of this income loss. VAC should return to the AA provision and pay such benefit to the caregiver directly if so desired.

    We would strongly suggest that VAC pursue the incorporation of the EIA/AA special allowances into the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act with appropriate legislative/regulatory amendments so as to address these deficiencies in the PFL.

  4. Establish a newly‑structured Career Impact Allowance which would reflect the following standard of compensation: "What would the veteran have earned in his or her military career had the veteran not been injured?" This form of progressive income model, which has been recommended by the MPAG and the Veterans Ombudsman's Office, would be unique to the NVC/VWA, and would bolster the potential lifetime compensation of a disabled veteran as to his or her projected lost career earnings as opposed to the nominal one per cent increase provided in the proposed legislation.

As a general observation in relation to the new legislation and the regulatory amendments with regard to the evaluation of the calculation surrounding the new Income Replacement Benefit, we would suggest the following concerns are material:

We would strongly suggest that the department consider the impact of these factors relative to the new Income Replacement Benefit so as to ensure this one percent increase has substantive and meaningful impact for disabled veterans who require such income replacement for life. In addition, we would submit that VAC should ultimately adopt the above‑mentioned progressive income model for a newly structured form of CIA in accord with the approach utilized by the Canadian courts as to "future loss of income."

In summary, it is fundamental to understand that it was truly the expectation of the disabled veteran community that the "re‑establishment" of a PFL option would not just attempt to address the concerns of the small minority of disabled veterans but would include a recognition of all disabled veterans who require financial security in coping with their levels of incapacity.

As a final observation, VAC consistently talks of the significance that the Government attaches to the wellness, rehabilitation and education programs under the NVC/VWA. As we have stated on a number of occasions, we commend VAC for its efforts to improve these important policies. NCVA recognizes the value and importance of wellness and rehabilitation programs; however, we take the position that financial security remains a fundamental necessity to the successful implementation of any wellness or rehabilitation strategy. It is readily apparent that this is not a choice between wellness and financial compensation as advanced by the Minister and the Prime Minister, but a combined requirement to any optimal re‑establishment approach to medically released veterans.

Ideally, we would like to believe that VAC, working together with relevant Ministerial Advisory Groups and other veteran stakeholders, could create a comprehensive program model that would essentially treat all veterans with parallel disabilities in the same manner as to the application of benefits and wellness policies.

In our judgment, the adoption of this innovative policy objective would have the added advantage of signaling to the veterans' community that VAC is prepared to take progressive steps to tackle legislative reform beyond the current PFL provision so as to address this fundamental core issue of concern to Canada's veterans.

Pension for Life Recommendations

Recommendation

In addition to the aforementioned fundamental proposals as to the overriding guiding principles for legislative reform, the following recommendations represent specific statutory and policy amendments in furtherance of this objective:

  1. Liberalize the eligibility criteria in the legislation and regulatory amendments for the new Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation benefit so that more disabled veterans actually qualify for this benefit. Currently only veterans suffering from a severe and permanent impairment will be eligible. It bears repeating that the greater majority of disabled veterans simply will not qualify for this new component of the proposed lifelong pension.
  2. The Veterans Disability Award (PSC) initially granted to the veteran should be a major determinant in evaluating APSC (CIA) qualifications. It is the position of NCVA that this employment of the PSC percentage would produce a more straightforward and easier understood solution to this ongoing issue of APSC (CIA) eligibility.
  3. Create a new family benefit for all veterans in receipt of PSC to parallel the Pension Act provisions in relation to spousal and child allowances to recognize the impact of the veteran's disability on his or her family.
  4. Incorporate the special allowances under the Pension Act, i.e., Exceptional Incapacity Allowance and Attendance Allowance, into the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act to help address the financial disparity between the two statutory regimes.
  5. Finetune the concept of Attendance Allowance, payable to informal caregivers, by adopting the amount paid under the Attendant Care benefit employed by DND so as to better recognize and compensate the significant effort and economic loss to support injured veterans. Moreover, VAC must ensure access reflects consideration for the effects of mental health injuries.
  6. Lower the eligibility criteria for Exceptional Incapacity Allowance to cover those veterans under 98 percent disabled and who are confronting extraordinary incapacities as a result of their service‑related disabilities.
  7. Improve the eligibility criteria for the Critical Injury benefit to include mental health injuries and evolving injuries.
  8. Extend eligibility of the death benefit to the families of all deceased veterans.
  9. In relation to the regulatory amendments emanating from the new legislation, NCVA expresses concern that the prerequisite for the APSC benefit with regard to the disability of amputation remains arbitrarily defined both as to eligibility and designated grade level. It is to be noted that amputation at or above the elbow, or at or above the knee is retained as a fundamental requirement for qualification in relation to a single limb amputee – the loss of a limb at any level represents a severe and permanent impairment for a veteran amputee. The current arbitrary distinction is not justified and should be amended.

Recommendation

NCVA continues to support the contention that the seriously disabled veteran should be given the highest priority in the implementation of the Government's plan of action for legislative reform in regard to the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act and other related legislative provisions.

Recommendation

NCVA endorses the position that the Federal Government's failure to fully implement a plan of action on reforming the New Veterans Charter so as to rectify the unacceptable financial disparity between the Pension Act and the NVC/VWA violates the social covenant owed to Canadian veterans and their families.

Recommendation

That NCVA require that DND and VAC employ all necessary financial, professional and personnel resources to identify, care and compensate veterans' suffering from post‑traumatic stress disorder and that it is recognized that this insidious disability must be continually monitored to ensure the well being of such veterans.

N.B.: DND/VAC released a comprehensive report in 2018 entitled "Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy" which established a comprehensive set of protocols to address this entire question of PTSD and suicide. The veterans' community will continue to monitor this policy very closely to determine how effective these proposals will be in addressing what many in the veterans' community have described as a significant crisis.

B. Financial Comparison: Pension Act/New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act

As a fundamental tenet of our current Legislative Program, NCVA will continue to pursue the substantive recommendations delineated in this report with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and senior VAC officials to address the discrimination and inequity (the "elephant in the room") that exists with respect to the financial compensation available to disabled veterans and their families under the traditional Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act.

Let us now actually compare the present pension benefit regimes and then take a look at what VAC legislation would provide to veterans and their families if the aforementioned NCVA proposals were adopted by the Government.

For 100 percent pensioners (at maximum rate of compensation):

Pension Act (2021)

Benefit (maximum per month) Veteran plus spouse and two children Veteran plus spouse Single veteran
Disability Pension $4,336.00 $3,675.00 $2,940.00
Exceptional Incapacity Allowance 1,556.00 1,556.00 1,556.00
Attendance Allowance 1,945.00 1,945.00 1,945.00
Total $7,837.00 $7,176.00 $6,441.00

New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act (2021)

Benefit (maximum per month) Veteran plus spouse and two children Veteran plus spouse Single veteran
Pain and Suffering Compensation $1,183.00 $1,183.00 $1,183.00
Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation 1,543.00 1,543.00 1,543.00
Caregiver Recognition Benefit 1,053.00 1,053.00 1,053.00
Total $3,779.00 $3,779.00 $3,779.00

New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act (2021) (in the event NCVA proposals are adopted)

Benefit (maximum per month) Veteran plus spouse and two children Veteran plus spouse Single veteran
Pain and Suffering Compensation $1,183.00 $1,183.00 $1,183.00
Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation 1,543.00 1,543.00 1,543.00
Family benefit (PA) 1,396.00 735.00 0.00
Exceptional Incapacity Allowance (PA) 1,556.00 1,556.00 1,556.00
Attendance Allowance (PA) 1,945.00 1,945.00 1,945.00
Total $7,623.00 $6,962.00 $6,227.00

It is of even greater significance to recognize the impact of the Pension for Life policy which became effective on April 1, 2019, on those disabled veterans who might be considered moderately disabled as the disparity in financial compensation between the statutory regimes is even more dramatic.

Let us take the illustration of a veteran with a 35 percent disability assessment:

It is important to be cognizant of the fact that, once such a veteran earns 66‑2/3 percent of his or her pre‑release military income, the veteran is no longer eligible for the SISIP LTD or the VAC IRB and, due to the fact that the veteran's disability does not equate to a "severe and permanent impairment," the veteran does not qualify for the new Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation benefit.

Therefore, the comparability evaluation for 35 percent pensioners would be as follows under the alternative pension schemes:

Pension Act (2021)

Benefit (35 percent per month) Veteran plus spouse and two children Veteran plus spouse Single veteran
Disability Pension $1,517.00 $1,286.00 $1,029.00

New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act (2021)

Benefit (35 percent per month) Veteran plus spouse and two children Veteran plus spouse Single veteran
Pain and Suffering Compensation $414.00 $414.00 $414.00

We would underline that this analysis demonstrates the extremely significant financial disparity which results for this type of moderately disabled veteran. It is also essential to recognize that over 80 percent of disabled veterans under the NVC/VWA will fall into this category of compensation. Unfortunately, the perpetuation of the inequitable treatment of these two distinct classes of veteran pensioner is self‑evident and remains unacceptable to the overall veterans' community.

Finally, let us consider the impact on this analysis in the event the NCVA proposals were to be implemented as part and parcel of an improved NVC/VWA:

New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act (2021) (in the event NCVA proposals are adopted)

Benefit (35 percent per month) Veteran plus spouse and two children Veteran plus spouse Single veteran
Pain and Suffering Compensation $414.00 $414.00 $414.00
Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation 540.00 540.00 540.00
Family benefit (PA) 488.00 257.00 0.00
Total $1,442.00 $1,211.00 $954.00

In summary, this combination of augmented benefits proposed by NCVA would go a long way to removing the discrimination that currently exists between the PA and the NVC/VWA and would represent a substantial advancement in the reform of veterans' legislation, concluding in a "one veteran – one standard" approach for Canada's disabled veteran population.

In addition, should VAC implement NCVA's recommendations (as supported by the OVO and MPAG) with respect to a newly structured CIA, the IRB would be substantially enhanced by incorporating this progressive future loss of income standard as to "What would the veteran have earned in his or her military career had the veteran not been injured?"

It is noteworthy that the current IRB essentially provides 90 percent of the former military wage of the veteran, together with a limited one percent increment dependent on the veteran's years of service, resulting in an inadequate recognition of the real loss of income experienced by the disabled veteran as a consequence of his or her shortened military career.

The new conceptual philosophy of this future loss of income approach parallels the longstanding jurisprudence found in the Canadian courts in this context and is far more reflective of the actual financial diminishment suffered by the disabled veteran (and his or her family). This would represent a major step forward for VAC in establishing a more equitable compensation/pension/wellness model.

As a final observation, it is noteworthy that the Prime Minister, various Ministers of the Department and senior governmental officials of VAC, in their public pronouncements from time to time, have emphasized that additional benefits and services are uniquely available under the NVC/VWA with respect to income replacement, rehabilitation, and wellness programs.

NCVA fully recognizes the value and importance of these programs, and we commend VAC for its efforts to improve the Department's wellness and educational policies. However, it should be noted that a number of programs dealing with essentially parallel income replacement and rehabilitation policies already exist under the PA regime by means of services and benefits administered by the Department of National Defence (DND) through their SISIP LTD insurance policy and Vocational Rehabilitation (VOC‑REHAB) Programs.

The one unique element of NVC/VWA with respect to income replacement which is comparably beneficial for a very small number of seriously disabled veterans is triggered where such a disabled veteran is designated as having qualified for "Diminished Earnings Capacity" status (which requires that a veteran is unemployable for life as a consequence of his or her pensioned disabilities).

In these circumstances, such a veteran will receive additional funds post‑65 for life that are not available under the Pension Act/SISIP LTD program where such income replacement ends at age 65. This is most significant where the veteran has been medically released relatively early in his or her career.

It is noteworthy in this scenario that less than six percent of all disabled veterans qualify for the Diminished Earnings Capacity. Thus, 94 percent of veterans are not eligible for this post‑65 benefit under the NVC/VWA.

It is not without significance in this evaluation that, at the time of the enactment of the New Veterans Charter in 2006, VAC committed to eliminating SISIP LTD and VOC‑REHAB programs and creating a new universal gold standard in regard to income replacement and wellness policies which would be applicable to all disabled veterans in Canada. The reality is that the SISIP LTD and VOC‑REHAB insurance policy has been and continues today to be "the first responder" for the greater majority of disabled veterans who have been medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces in relation to both the PA and the NVC/VWA.

As a fundamental conclusion to our position, we would like to think that the Government could be convinced that, rather than choosing one statutory regime over the other, a combination of the best parts of the PA and the best parts of the NVC/VWA would provide a better compensation/wellness model for all disabled veterans in Canada.

Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces

NCVA is concerned with the ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). These issues go to the core of the institution, impacting trust in leadership, morale, and operational effectiveness. Consequently, there is a requirement for immediate, comprehensive, and enduring change to support all serving and former members of the CAF.

Purpose

The purpose of this position paper is to provide a high‑level overview of the history of sexual misconduct in the CAF, including a summary of the findings of the key investigations and recommendations, and the recent response to address this unacceptable and abhorrent behaviour. This evaluation will conclude with NCVA's recommendations to effect immediate and enduring change.

Background

What is sexual misconduct?

According to the CAF, sexual misconduct includes a broad range of harmful activity and unacceptable behaviour and is defined in Defence Administrative Orders and Directives (DAOD) 9005‑1 Sexual Misconduct 1 as:

Conduct of a sexual nature that causes or could cause harm to others, and that the person knew or ought reasonably to have known could cause harm, including:

  • actions or words that devalue others on the basis of their sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression;
  • jokes of a sexual nature, sexual remarks, advances of a sexual nature or verbal abuse of a sexual nature in the workplace;
  • harassment of a sexual nature, including initiation rites of a sexual nature;
  • viewing, accessing, distributing or displaying sexually explicit material in the workplace; and
  • any Criminal Code offence of a sexual nature, including:
    • section 162 (voyeurism, i.e. surreptitiously observing or recording a person in a place where the person exposes or could expose his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts or could be engaged in explicit sexual activity, or distributing such a recording);
    • section 162.1 (publication, etc., of an intimate image without consent, i.e. publishing, distributing, transmitting, selling or making available an intimate image of another person without their consent, such as a visual recording in which the person depicted is nude, exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity); and
    • section 271 (sexual assault, i.e. engaging in any kind of sexual activity with another person without their consent).

What is the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the CAF?

A Statistics Canada survey 2 published in 2018 highlights the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the CAF. In the 12 months preceding the survey it is documented that:

  • Approximately 900 members of the Regular Force and 600 members of the Primary Reserve reported that they had experienced sexual assault in the military workplace or at the hands of a military member, Department of National Defence civilian or contractor.
  • Approximately 8,400 Regular Force and 4,560 Primary Reserve serving members reported that they had personally experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour or discrimination in the past 12 months.

The same survey states that, while sexual misconduct affects men, women and LGBTQ2 members, it is a gendered issue, as women in the Regular Force are about four times more likely than men to be victims of sexual assault.

Wooden human-shaped figures of varying skin tones are placed on a surface, with one painted in a rainbow design.

CAF‑DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Settlement

In 2016, seven former members of the CAF initiated a class‑action lawsuit against the Government of Canada alleging sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation in connection with their military service and/or employment with the DND and/or Staff of the Non‑Public Funds. In 2019, the Federal Court approved it and signed off on a $900 million class‑action settlement. As of October 4, 2021, the Administrator has received over 10,000 claims and the claims period does not close until November 24, 2021. 3 While this is an important step of recognition and accountability by the Government of the institutional and systemic harm caused by the failure to acknowledge and address the issue of sexual misconduct in the DND and CAF, it does not address the ongoing leadership, cultural and trust issues related to sexual misconduct.

Veterans Affairs Canada Policy Change Related to Disability Claims from Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

In 2019, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) updated several disability benefit policies to clarify and improve the adjudication approach for disability benefit claims related to MST. 4 Specifically, the policy change acknowledged that, in certain cases, an individual may not report an incident or event and, therefore, the incident or event may not be captured in personnel records including the Service Health Records. Therefore, VAC has taken the position that the lack of documented, objective evidence to show that military duties or factors caused or contributed to an injury or disease is not to be considered as evidence that the Applicant's statement is not true. The Applicant's statement is now considered key evidence and should be considered credible and reliable, as it is a sworn statement. The policy change also acknowledged that incidents do not have to occur on a military base to be service‑related and a claim for MST will not be denied solely on the basis that it did not happen on CAF property or at an official military event. 5

As this is a recent policy change, NCVA will monitor the impact of these improvements to ensure that those CAF members and veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma receive the benefits and services they deserve and need.

Sexual Misconduct in the CAF – 30 Years of Investigations, Reports, Recommendations and Response

Today, the CAF is at an inflection point in terms of leadership, professional conduct and culture.

Sexual misconduct within the CAF is a well‑known systemic issue 6 that continues to be reported by current and former CAF members, and the steps taken to address sexual misconduct have not been successful despite many efforts to effect culture change and gender integration. This issue of sexual misconduct is not about just "a few bad apples." It is about why this behaviour continues to occur in the institution. What are the networks, policies and processes that enable a culture of sexualized behaviour?

The allegations of sexual misconduct have been ongoing for over 30 years, beginning in the mid‑1980s with integration of women into the CAF, and can be characterized in three recent periods.

The first time that the issue of sexual misconduct in the CAF was a prominent national headline and also identified as a significant issue in the CAF that needed to be addressed was in 1998. 7 The May 25, 1998, cover of Maclean's magazine featured a story titled "Rape in the Military" and a photograph of a CAF member in uniform. 8 The article recounts how a CAF member was raped after one month into her Naval training and, when she reported it, she was charged for being in a male barracks after hours. The article also included similar accounts from 12 other women. The article highlighted that:

Most of the incidents (described in the article) took place in the 1990s, after the military began its program of fully integrating women into the armed forces. And many of them reveal a systematic mishandling of sexual assault cases: investigations were perfunctory, the victims were not believed and often they – not the perpetrators – were punished by senior officers who either looked the other way or actively tried to impede investigations. And in the opinion of many of the women victims, the abuse they suffered is as shocking as the Somalia scandal, when members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment tortured and killed a Somali teenager in 1993.

The CAF responded to Maclean's stating that there would be zero tolerance for this conduct and that "new initiatives including anti‑harassment programs, a new military investigative unit and a grievance board that operates outside the chain of command would be established to solve the problem."

The second period was 16 years later in 2014 when two magazine articles appeared. The first article by L'actualité appeared on April 24, 2014, titled: "Crimes sexuels: le cancer qui ronge l'armée canadienne." 9 The article's shocking headline also stated that:

Chaque jour, cinq personnes sont agressées sexuellement dans les Forces canadiennes. Femmes. Hommes. Cadets. Soldats. Techniciens. Pilotes. Marins. Ingénieurs. Militaires du rang ou officiers étoilés. Aucun métier, aucun grade, aucune base au pays n'y échappent.

Two weeks later, on May 16, 2014, another Maclean's magazine article, titled "Our Military's Disgrace, From 2014: An investigation uncovers the sexual violence plaguing our soldiers – and a military hierarchy with its own justice system, and its own rules," 10 revealed more of the same and resulted in a resurgence of reports of allegations of sexual misconduct in the CAF. The article reported that:

According to statistics obtained through Canada's Access to Information Act, military police have received between 134 and 201 complaints of sexual assaults every year since 2000. That's an average of 178 per year. Most specialists agree that hundreds of other cases are not reported. Statistics Canada estimates that only one in 10 cases of sexual assault is reported to authorities. That means a total of 1,780 sexual assaults per year in the Canadian Forces. Or, five per day.

These 2014 allegations led the CAF to commission an independent review of its procedures and programs related to sexual harassment and assault. The resulting 2015 report, "External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces," 11 by former Supreme Court Justice the Honourable Marie Deschamps found that there is an underlying sexualized culture in the CAF that is hostile to women and LGBTQ2 members, and conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Specific findings included:

  • Frequent use of swear words and degrading expressions referencing women's bodies, sexual jokes, innuendos, unwelcome touching
  • Sexual assault including "dubious" relationships between lower rank women and higher rank men and date rape
  • The use of sex to enforce power relationships
  • Members became accustomed to the sexualized culture as they moved up the ranks and both men and women appeared to be desensitized to this sexualized culture
  • A broadly held perception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command condone or are willing to turn a blind eye to incidents
A yellow envelope stamped with the word confidential in red ink.

The report also found an under‑reporting of incidents of sexual misconduct for fear of negative repercussions related to career progression, being stigmatized as weak or retaliation by peers or supervisors, and a strong perception that the complaint process lacks confidentiality.

The report made four recommendations to confront the issue of sexual misconduct:

  1. Institutional cultural reform is required to address not only the more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault, but also low‑level sexual harassment, such as the use of sexualized and demeaning language, which contributes to an environment that is hostile to women and LGBTQ2 members.
  2. Leadership commitment at the senior level is essential to developing programs that result in meaningful impact, as well as to convey a clear message to all CAF members that inappropriate sexual conduct will not be tolerated, and to rebuild trust between CAF members and senior leadership.
  3. Improving the integration of women in senior leadership positions is key to cultural reform. The report stated that there is a link between the existence of a hostile organizational culture that is disrespectful and demeaning to women, and the poor integration of women into the organization.
  4. To re‑establish trust and confidence, establish an independent centre for accountability for sexual assault and harassment outside of the CAF with the responsibility for receiving reports of inappropriate sexual conduct, as well as prevention, coordination and monitoring of training, victim support, monitoring of accountability, and research, and to act as a central authority for the collection of data.

In response to these recommendations, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) at the time launched Operation HONOUR and established the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC), an organization that while independent from the CAF was still part of the DND – not quite as envisioned by the recommendation in the Deschamps Report. The mission of Operation HONOUR was to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within the CAF. 12

The CAF Director General of Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DGMPRA) conducted a qualitative study in 2017‑2018 for the Directorate Professional Military Conduct – Operation HONOUR. 13

The DGMPRA study revealed that the Operation HONOUR initiatives, established to address sexual misconduct in the CAF, were inadequate. The negative culture continued to persist, service members were still fearful of reprisal when they came forward to report sexual misconduct to their superiors, and there was a lack of respectful and sensitive interaction. The study also found that there was still a lack of accessibility to health and mental health care supports.

Soldiers salute while standing in lines.

The third period began this year, in February 2021, with reported allegations of inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct by a former CDS, the current CDS and the Chief of Military Personnel. This resulted in more allegations of sexual misconduct from serving and former CAF members being reported by the media. Subsequently, these allegations led to the launch of two Parliamentary Committee studies:

  • The Standing Committee on the Status of Women. The goal of this study was to make recommendations to the Government to accelerate culture change and support the elimination of sexual misconduct in the CAF so that all members benefit from a working environment that is safe and inclusive.
  • The Standing Committee on National Defence initiated a study of sexual misconduct in the CAF; however, a final report has yet to be released.

The June 2021 Report from the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, "Eliminating Sexual Misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces," 14 found that, despite having some positive effects, Operation HONOUR did not achieve its goals. The report concluded that, while Operation HONOUR "got the conversation going" about sexual misconduct and helped improve resources and education on the issue within the CAF, it did not focus on the right targets to effect positive cultural change in the CAF.

Similar to the 2015 Deschamps Report, the 2021 report found that the CAF is hierarchical, male‑dominated, based on patriarchal gender norms and highly sexualized, and stated these factors create a toxic work environment where incidents of sexual misconduct occur and go unchecked. The report stated that changing the culture in the CAF and creating a safe, inclusive, and respectful working environment is urgent.

The report made 21 recommendations, which focused on two main issues:

  1. The need to create a safe and inclusive workplace in the CAF, including the urgency of changing the culture within the CAF.
  2. The imperative to address reports of sexual misconduct in the CAF, in particular with respect to improving the reporting and investigation of sexual misconduct incidents and to providing trauma‑informed support services to survivors in the CAF.

Notably, the report recommended that the Government:

  • Create a fully independent Office of the Inspector General of the CAF and DND.
  • Fully implement all recommendations of the 2015 Deschamps Report.
  • Offer trauma‑informed support programs and services for survivors of sexual misconduct, including physical and mental health programs and services, and identify possible gaps in service or in funding, with the goal of offering trauma‑informed, gender and diversity‑sensitive and survivor‑centric services for all survivors of sexual misconduct in the CAF, including ensuring that specialized mental health services and peer‑support for sexual trauma survivors are available.

Similarly, the June 2021 National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman Position Paper, "Independent civilian oversight: The defence community serves no less – A Position Paper," 15 also affirmed the need for immediate culture change and the establishment of independent oversight of the DND and CAF. In the position paper, the Ombudsman stated that, while there is an urgent need to address culture change, there is also a need for independent civilian oversight, and highlighted the six studies since 1995 that have stated the need for an independent oversight body.

On June 1, 2021, the Third Independent Review of the National Defence Act (NDA), by former Supreme Court Justice the Honourable Morris J. Fish, was tabled in Parliament. The review included a chapter specifically on sexual misconduct in the CAF and how allegations are handled within the military justice system. 16 The review found that, despite efforts to address the problem:

Sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) remains persistent, preoccupying and widespread – despite the CAF's repeated attempts to address the problem and to curb its prevalence. It has had a traumatic impact on the lives and careers of victims, a corrosive effect on discipline and morale and a marked tendency to undermine public confidence in the CAF's institutional capacity to solve the problem internally.

Justice Fish also acknowledged the findings of the Deschamps Report and affirmed that the "the nature, extent and human cost of sexual misconduct in the CAF remain as debilitating, as rampant and as destructive in 2021 as they were in 2015."

The review made four key recommendations to address sexual misconduct in the CAF:

  1. Eliminate the victim's duty to report sexual misconduct to the chain of command as it impacts victim's autonomy and risks exposure to reprisals, ostracization and pressure to withdraw the complaint.
  2. Conduct an independent review of the relationship between the SMRC, CAF and DND to ensure that the SMRC is fully independent from both.
  3. Provide free and independent legal advice to victims of sexual misconduct.
  4. Implement the Declaration of Victims Rights provided for in Bill C‑77, ensuring that victims investigated or prosecuted under the NDA will be entitled to substantially the same protections as the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights affords.

Sexual Misconduct in the CAF – Government Response to the Recent Allegations

Amid the flurry of the most recent allegations of sexual misconduct, both the Government and the CAF have responded with several significant initiatives to restore trust, to effect institutional culture change and to address the issue of sexual misconduct and harmful behaviour in the CAF.

Cancellation of Operation HONOUR

The Acting CDS cancelled Operation HONOUR on March 24, 2021, amid the allegations of sexual misconduct at the top levels of leaderships in the CAF and facing criticism by serving and former CAF members of its ineffectiveness. 17 Further, in a May 25, 2021, interview with the CBC, the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Jody Thomas, said that Operation HONOUR "lost its way" because the "government" failed to properly implement recommendations from the 2015 Deschamps Report. 18 In her comments Thomas said that the Deschamps Report was treated like a checklist and confirmed the "government" did not "truly" implement it.

Budget 2021

While the April 19, 2021, budget announcement provides promise that the Government is going to improve programs and services for CAF members and veterans who experienced sexual misconduct, it is also important that the initiatives meet their needs and that they have equitable access. The specific programs include:

Budget 2021 proposes to provide $236.2 million over five years, starting in 2021‑22, and $33.5 million per year ongoing to the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada, including $158.5 million over 5 years and $29.9 million per year ongoing funded from existing resources to expand their work to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender‑based violence in the military and support survivors. Specifically:

  • Enhance internal support services to victims, including access to free, independent legal advice and enabling military members to access services without making a formal complaint.
  • Expand an existing contribution program to support community‑based sexual assault service providers outside major urban military centres, and increase the reach of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre that serves the Canadian Armed Forces to additional locations across Canada.
  • Pilot online and in‑person peer support groups for Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans who experienced sexual misconduct during their service. These will be tailored to military experience.
  • Conduct research to inform targeted training and response frameworks, and engage external experts to support education and training to prevent sexual violence.
  • Implement new external oversight mechanisms to bring greater independence to the processes of reporting and adjudicating sexual misconduct within the military.
  • Undertake other initiatives to enhance institutional capacity to address harassment and violence, including enhancing the military justice system to better respond to allegations of misconduct and support survivors. 19

Government Launch of Another Independent Review

On April 29, 2021, the Government appointed the Honourable Louise Arbour, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to conduct an "Independent External Comprehensive Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the DND and the CAF." 20 The aim of the review is to:

  • Shed light on the causes for the continued presence of harassment and sexual misconduct despite efforts to eradicate it.
  • Identify barriers to reporting inappropriate behaviour and to assess the adequacy of the response when reports are made.
  • Assess the recruitment, training, performance evaluation, posting, and promotion systems in the CAF as well as the military justice system's policies, procedures, and practice to respond to such allegations.
  • Make recommendations on preventing and eradicating harassment and sexual misconduct.

CDS Initiating Directive on Professional Conduct and Culture

On April 30, 2021, the CDS and Deputy Minister promulgated an "Initiating Directive" to address the issue of sexual misconduct, culture change and core values of the CAF. 21 The Directive states that:

We must recognize and accept that aspects of our culture are not fit for purpose for defence and security in the 21st Century, nor do they reflect the core values of the Canadian society we serve and which rightly holds us to a higher standard. Recent allegations of senior leader misconduct have shone a light on the reality that the desired culture change has not been achieved and is still urgently needed.

Key to this Directive was the creation of a Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture 22 to lead cultural transformation and develop a framework that will:

  • Realign policies, programs and responsibilities that address misconduct across DND and the CAF.
  • Improve the ways systemic misconduct is reported, tracked and addressed, both within and outside of the chain of command.
  • Give greater agency and support to those who have experienced misconduct and those affected by it.
  • Examine the ways systemic misconduct affects and is affected by intersectionality, reprisals, member satisfaction, and retention.

While these announcements and initiatives signal the Government's and the CAF's willingness and intent to address the issue of sexual misconduct and harmful behaviour, it is questionable whether another study is required and whether it is intended to include an independent oversight and accountability mechanism to ensure that effective and enduring change will finally occur.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Despite almost 30 years since the full integration of women and LGBTQ2 members in the CAF, incidents of sexual misconduct and harmful behaviour continue and the steps taken to address the problems have not been effective. In a recent CBC interview the Acting CDS, General Eyre, confirmed that the CAF has "failed as an institution to properly address sexual misconduct and called it an existential issue that threatens to make the CAF irrelevant in society and not able to defend the country if it's not fixed." 23

All of the investigations, reports and recommendations made over the last 30 years point to four consistent issues that need to be addressed:

  • The urgency of cultural transformation to address the "underlying sexualized culture in the CAF that is hostile to women and LGBTQ2 members"
  • Reporting incidents without fear of reprisal, independent of the chain of command and in a safe and confidential environment
  • The requirement for independent investigations, accountability and oversight
  • The lack of trauma‑informed support programs for CAF members and veterans who have experienced sexual misconduct

Therefore, it is time to stop the investigations, reports and meetings discussing the same problems and effect meaningful change now. The continued allegations of sexual misconduct and harmful behaviour in the CAF highlight the need for immediate, comprehensive and enduring change.

Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces Recommendations

NCVA's recommendations to address the long‑standing issue of sexual misconduct and harmful behaviour in the CAF, as supported by the many studies and recommendations over the last 30 years, are as follows:

Recommendation

There must be immediate meaningful and comprehensive cultural transformation in the DND and CAF to restore trust in the leadership. The men and women who serve our country deserve to work in an environment that is free from all forms of harmful behaviour.

Recommendation

There is a requirement for an external and independent reporting and investigation system outside the chain of command. This system must offer a reporting mechanism for incidents of sexual misconduct without reprisal, fear or isolation.

Recommendation

There must be accountability for the actions of those who engage in this abhorrent and unacceptable behaviour.

Recommendation

There must be resources and support for all victims of sexual assault including CAF members and veterans.

Recommendation

Lastly, to effect and ensure meaningful change and oversight, the Government must establish a fully independent Office of the Inspector General of the DND and the CAF reporting to Parliament.

If the Government and the CAF do not take immediate action on these recommendations, we are failing the men and women who served and continue to serve this country.

We would express our appreciation to Captain (RCN) (Ret'd) Andrea Siew, former president of the Canadian Military Intelligence Association (a member‑organization of NCVA), for her outstanding contribution to this critically important position paper which represents a high priority concern of NCVA's Legislative Program.

Veterans Legislation and Policies

A. Benefits to Support Families/Veteran Caregivers

A man using a wheelchair pushes himself beside a walking woman and young girl.

NCVA remains concerned that the Government has not sufficiently addressed the plight of families, particularly in circumstances where a member of a family, often a spouse, is required to act in the role of a caregiver to a disabled veteran.

As a matter of background, the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit (FCRB) introduced in 2015 proved to be clearly inadequate and certainly required further re‑evaluation, as it failed to comprehensively provide realistic financial support for the families of seriously disabled veterans where significant needs of attendance must be provided by a caregiver who often has had to leave his or her employment to do so.

It is noteworthy that the Caregiver Recognition Benefit (CRB) replaced the existing Family Caregiver Relief Benefit as of April 1, 2018, and provides a slightly more generous non‑taxable $1,000 a month benefit payable directly to caregivers to ostensibly recognize and honour their vital role. NCVA has raised obvious questions as to why the quantum of the Attendance Allowance or Attendant Care Benefit was not utilized as opposed to the rather meagre $12,000 a year. In addition, we have questioned the fact that this new CRB still requires that rather stringent eligibility criteria be satisfied in order for veterans' caregivers to gain entitlement to this benefit.

As underlined earlier in our report, it is readily apparent that VAC need not "reinvent the wheel" with regard to such caregiver allowances as:

  1. DND through its "Attendant Care Benefit" program has provided reimbursement to seriously disabled veterans of Afghanistan for payments made to an attendant to look after the Canadian Armed Forces member on a full‑time basis. This benefit is paid to the CAF member at a daily rate of $100 ($3,000 a month – $36,000 a year). This benefit also implicitly represents a recognition that the financial costs of attendants far exceed the need to address respite. More importantly, a serious concern remains in the context of the veteran's transition from DND to VAC as the financial assistance to such families will dramatically drop from the DND program to the VAC FCRB; and
  2. Alternatively, the Attendance Allowance, founded under the Pension Act, which has been in place for many decades and is a far more generous provision when compared to the FCRB/CRB, produces in excess of $23,000 a year of non‑taxable benefits to those veterans in significant need of attendance.

In addition, we have particularly emphasized with Ministerial officials the concern that there should be more flexibility attached to this new Caregiver Recognition Benefit as, clearly, "one size does not fit all." It is not without significance in this area that the grading levels available under the Attendance Allowance provisions of the Pension Act give the department a certain degree of discretion and flexibility as to the attendance needs of individual veterans. There are numerous examples where substantial distinctions exist as to the need for attendance encountered by seriously disabled veterans.

In our experience with the Service Bureau of The War Amps of Canada, we have literally handled thousands of special allowance claims and were specifically involved in the formulation of the Attendance Allowance guidelines and grade profiles from the outset. We would indicate that AA represents an integral portion of the compensation available to war amputees and other seriously disabled veterans governed by the Pension Act.

It is of further interest, in our judgment, that the grade levels for AA tend to increase over the life of the veterans as the "ravages of age" are confronted – indeed, non‑pensioned conditions such as the onset of a heart, cancer or diabetic condition, for example, are part and parcel of the AA adjudication uniquely carried out by VAC under the Pension Act policies in this context.

It is also of significance that NCVA and the MPAG are proposing a new Family Benefit for all veterans in receipt of PSC based on the level of disability assessment which would provide further support to families and address, to a certain extent, the cost of the veteran's disability to his or her spouse and/or dependant children. The amount of this benefit would parallel the payments which have been made under the Pension Act for many years as part of the pension received by a disabled veteran who has a spouse and/or dependant children. Once again, the resultant impact of balancing benefits in this manner under both statutory regimes would be particularly responsive to the current shortcoming in the NVC/VWA insofar as financial assistance to families of disabled veterans is concerned.

Report of the Veterans Ombudsman (OVO)

An older man sits beside a woman, who is holding his hand supportively.

It is to be noted in this context that the Veterans Ombudsman's Office conducted a study last year on veteran caregivers entitled "Spouses Supporting Transition" (dated September 21, 2020 – https://ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/en/node/279 and https://ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/en/publications/reports-reviews/spouses-supporting-transition-literature-review). This comprehensive OVO report examines a number of highly respected government and academic studies assessing the experiences of caregivers in relation to their support of their veteran spouses to transition from military to civilian life.

The peer review literature contained in the OVO evaluation makes a series of material findings with respect to this veteran caregiver role:

Report of Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA)

The Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs released its report on veteran caregivers entitled "Caregivers: Taking Care of Those who Care for Veterans" on June 15, 2021, and forwarded the report to the House of Commons for Parliament's consideration.

It is noteworthy that the Standing Committee report provides a comprehensive review of all family and caregiver benefits presently found in Canadian veterans' legislation and delineates at considerable length the serious deficiencies and shortcomings which currently exist in VAC programs and benefits in this context.

In NCVA's judgment, the Committee recommendations represent a potential major step forward to remedying the insufficient and inequitable treatment of veteran caregivers by VAC since the passing of the New Veterans Charter.

We are also pleased to advise that our NCVA recommendations have been fully adopted by the Committee in relation to replacing the highly inadequate Caregiver Recognition Benefit through the incorporation of the Attendance Allowance eligibility rules (Pension Act) and the more generous DND Attendant Care Benefit financial provisions, together with the expansion of caregiver benefits to better recognize mental health concerns.

Following are the recommendations from the ACVA report:

Framework Recommendation

That the Government of Canada work to ensure that spouses and dependent children of veterans who would be eligible to VAC's rehabilitation program, can access other VAC programs, including financial support and mental health services, in their own right, and with an individual client number.

Recommendation 1

That Veterans Affairs Canada publicly promote its Mental Health Assistance Service so that veterans, their family members and other caregivers have a better awareness and understanding of the services available.

Recommendation 2

That the Caregiver Recognition Benefit be changed as follows:

Recommendation 3

That the services offered as part of the Veterans Independence Program be transferred to the veteran's spouse and maintained as a grandfathered right after the veteran's death.

Recommendation 4

That Veterans Affairs Canada automatically reimburse professional mental health expenses for the spouse and dependant children of veterans eligible for a rehabilitation plan for mental health concerns, up to $3,000 per person, and that the department's approval be required only when a claim is submitted that exceeds this amount.

Recommendation 5

That Veterans Affairs Canada ensure that every departmental client, whether or not they are case‑managed, have a dedicated employee responsible for their file, be given direct access by phone or email to that employee, and that a group be given responsibility for answering questions from family members and other caregivers who would not be VAC clients.

Recommendation 6

That the Veterans Well‑being Act be amended to include an obligation to dependent children of living veterans, and that applications to programs created to that effect may be submitted by any parent of the child.

Report of Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA) continued

The full report can be found at https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/ACVA/report-7/.

Our NCVA submission was made to the Committee on March 26, 2021, as part and parcel of its deliberations.

A woman wearing glasses and a dark suit smiles.

Nishika Jardine, Veterans Ombudsperson

It is also to be noted that the major recommendation from the OVO, more particularly from the new Ombudsperson Nishika Jardine, has been highlighted in the Standing Committee report vis‑à‑vis the important principle that caregivers should have an independent right to benefits and well‑being provisions rather than the derivative rights which have existed in veterans' legislation for many years. This shortcoming in veterans' legislation has prejudiced the rights of veteran caregivers for many years and, quite appropriately, is underlined by the Standing Committee as a high‑priority recommendation. NCVA clearly stands behind the OVO proposal as part and parcel of our position on improving the overall access to VAC programs and benefits for Canadian caregivers.

Insofar as next steps, we will want to ensure that VAC enacts the requisite statutory, regulatory and policy amendments to capture the essence of the Standing Committee recommendations.

In our considered opinion, these measures proposed by the Standing Committee, once implemented by Government, will have a potentially significant impact on alleviating the "plight of veteran caregivers" which the department has failed to appropriately recognize since the enactment of the New Veterans Charter in 2006, and the subsequent extension to the Veterans Well‑being Act.

In conclusion, NCVA takes the position that the plight of veteran caregivers in Canada requires immediate government attention. In our respectful submission, VAC should follow a "one veteran – one standard" approach by adopting a comprehensive program model for all veteran caregivers, thereby resulting in the elimination of artificial cut‑off dates that arbitrarily distinguish veterans and their caregivers based on whether the veteran was injured before or after 2006.

Report of Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA) Recommendation

VAC should:

  1. Incorporate into the NVC/VWA the eligibility standards of the Attendance Allowance provisions under the Pension Act, together with the amount of allowance described in the Attendant Care Benefit (DND) for caregivers of disabled veterans. This will address the need for financial support of family caregivers of disabled veterans and, at the same time, help to rectify the financial disparity between the two statutory regimes.
  2. Fine‑tune the concept of Attendance Allowance payable to informal caregivers to recognize and compensate the significant effort and economic loss to support injured veterans and ensure access reflects consideration for the effects of mental health injuries.
  3. Create a new family benefit for all veterans in receipt of Pain and Suffering Compensation to parallel the Pension Act provisions in relation to spousal and child allowances to recognize the impact of the veteran's disability on his or her family.

B. Career Impact Allowance

Notwithstanding the fact that VAC has converted the former Career Impact Allowance provision into the Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation benefit, as delineated earlier in our report, it remains the position of NCVA, in concert with the Policy Advisory Group, that the department should revisit the concept of CIA and address the future loss of income suffered by a disabled veteran on the basis of the following fundamental question – "What would the disabled veteran have earned in his or her projected military career if the veteran had not been injured?"

It will be recalled that it is the position of the Policy Advisory Group, as endorsed by the longstanding view of NCVA, that, once this benchmark for CIA is established, a newly structured benefit be developed as delineated in various reports emanating from the OVO over recent years and as proposed by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group in 2009. The evaluation of the Veterans Ombudsman demonstrates the relative predictability of the elevation of a CAF member through his or her military career in recognizing the specific ranks the member would have achieved had the member not been injured.

It is also of considerable import that the Canadian Civil Courts over the last number of decades have evaluated the plight of severely injured plaintiffs by consistently applying the concept of future loss of income in assessing monetary damages. In a similar fashion to the proposals emanating from our Policy Advisory Group on Career Impact Allowance, the courts consider the probable career earnings of an injured plaintiff from the perspective of future loss of income or, alternatively, future loss of earnings capacity as part and parcel of the damage award granted to plaintiffs in the Canadian judicial system.

It is of interest that, in the context of VAC, the department has a distinct advantage over the courts, as the judicial system only has "one bite at the apple" at the time of the court hearing or settlement. VAC, on the other hand, is able to monitor the income position of a disabled veteran throughout his or her life to determine the differential between the benchmark established by the CIA concept and the actual income received by the veteran. Query: why should an injured Canadian veteran receive less than an injured plaintiff with reference to "future loss of income"? We have, in effect, paralleled the Disability Award under the NVC/VWA with general damage awards in the Canadian courts – why not replicate the philosophy of the future loss of income concept as well?

D. Career Impact Allowance Recommendation

Establish a newly structured Career Impact Allowance which would reflect the following standard of compensation: "What would the veteran have earned in his or her military career had the veteran not been injured?" This form of progressive income model, which has been recommended by the MPAG and the OVO, would be unique to the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act and would bolster the potential lifetime compensation of the disabled veteran as to his or her projected lost career earnings, as opposed to the nominal one percent increase provided in the proposed legislation.

  1. NCVA encourages VAC to revisit the MPAG proposition of consolidating the Income Replacement Benefit and a newly structured CIA to provide a single stream of income for life which would include the "projected career earnings" approach.
  2. Access to the new structured CIA benefit should be available through the lifetime of the veteran, providing a financial safety net that includes application to pre‑ and post‑release income scenarios.

C. New Veterans Education and Training Benefit

A woman uses a laptop while sitting at a desk filled with textbooks.

It was the considered opinion of former Deputy Minister Walt Natynczyk that this program represented a landmark proposal which substantially enhances the Education and Training Benefit for all eligible veterans. The Deputy Minister suggested at the time of the formal announcement that it was based on the United States G.I. Bill in relation to extending educational benefits beyond disabled veterans so as to include all released veterans who qualify under this new program.

The benefit is available for 10 years going forward following the release of the veteran and is retroactive to April 1, 2006. Unfortunately, veterans released from the CAF prior to 2006 do not qualify for this benefit which, in our judgment, reflects a rather arbitrary cut‑off date and conceivably is a government decision founded on budgetary constraints.

This program was initiated on April 1, 2018, for all veterans honourably released on or after April 1, 2006 – veterans with six years of eligible service will be entitled to up to $40,000 of benefits, while veterans with twelve years of eligible service will be entitled to up to $80,000 of benefits. The Minister/Deputy Minister emphasized that the benefit would provide more money for veterans to go to college, university or technical school after they complete their service.

There is little question that this newly expanded educational benefit is potentially beneficial to a much larger segment of the veterans' community. One caveat is that the "devil is often in the details" and questions of eligibility criteria have to be examined closely. In addition, it is necessary to continually evaluate whether the rather restrictive policy in the past regarding educational programs for disabled veterans has been addressed and if more liberal access in general will be achieved by this initiative.

It is also important to understand that a released veteran wishing to take advantage of the educational benefit often needs to be covered through some form of income replacement program to address the potential diminishment in income received for the maximum four‑year period, i.e., the SISIP LTD program or the VAC IRB program should accompany this educational benefit particularly for disabled veterans who might qualify though this REHAB/Education Program.

For those veterans who find education is not their solution, the department has indicated that there would be further monies available under this program for career development courses in the neighbourhood of $5,000 per veteran.

E. New Veterans Education and Training Benefit Recommendation

NCVA proposes that VAC eliminate the limitation as to the applicability of the new Veterans Education and Training Benefit so as to make this particular benefit available to all veterans and not just those who have served since April 1, 2006.

D. Partial Disabilities

In early 2018, VAC created a new policy with reference to partial entitlement flowing from veterans' legislation, i.e., disabilities arising in part out of military service or consequential disabilities arising in part from a primary disability.

The VAC policy amendment established a principle that any partial entitlement award would either be granted at four‑fifths or five‑fifths. In the past, fractional entitlements in this context were granted in fifths – one‑fifth, two‑fifths, three‑fifths et al. The backgrounder information given to the MPAG from VAC indicated that these fractional entitlements were often appealed one‑fifth at a time, clogging up the entire VAC adjudicative system. It was felt that it would be prudent to simply eliminate the one‑fifth, two‑fifths and three‑fifths entitlements and grant a four‑fifths for any partial entitlement award.

This is clearly a beneficial policy insofar as a substantive increase in pension to be received by a veteran, but we felt it was important to raise a number of questions following the introduction of this amendment which still remain of concern as to the administration of this policy amendment:

  1. Will these fractional entitlements be granted retroactively to all veterans who have received a one‑fifth, two‑fifths or three‑fifths entitlement in the past? It was established by VAC that this will not be done automatically but will only be triggered by individual veterans initiating a review of their files by the department in order to achieve a potential increase in their fractional entitlement. NCVA strongly recommends that VAC grant automatic entitlement to those veterans currently in receipt of consequential or partial entitlement rulings at one‑fifth/two‑fifths/three‑fifths to a four‑fifths level of assessment. This will also alleviate the significant backlog of the numerous appeals with respect to fractional awards that are currently in the VAC adjudicative system.
  2. Will there eventually be any limitation period as to how far back this form of increased fractional entitlement will be granted, given the magnitude of appeals that have been generated by this new policy?
  3. Will the standard of assessment be more stringent when it is recognized that the partial entitlement award will be granted at a minimum of four‑fifths? In the past, one‑fifth awards were occasionally granted on the basis of giving the veteran applicant the benefit of the doubt – will this relative generosity be altered in the new policy guideline adjudication?

F. Partial Disabilities Recommendation

NCVA strongly recommends that VAC grant automatic entitlement to those veterans currently in receipt of consequential or partial entitlement rulings at one‑fifth/two‑fifths/three‑fifths to a four‑fifths level of assessment. In so doing, the department will address a significant amount of the backlog in relation to the numerous appeals that are currently in the department system re: fractional awards.

E. SISIP LTD/VOC‑REHAB Programs

NCVA continues to have a fundamental concern as to whether SISIP LTD for service‑related disabilities should be continued at all or whether it should be eliminated due to the multiple standards which exist not only with the SISIP LTD program but also the SISIP VOC‑REHAB program.

One of the priority recommendations of NCVA, the MPAG, the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, numerous veteran consultation groups, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and the OVO for many years has been to suggest that the insurance culture needs to be removed from the compensation made available to veterans and their families. The compensation of veterans and their dependants should not be a function of the insurance industry whose mandate, in many situations, is to minimize exposure of the insurer's policy when applied to injured or disabled individuals.

As a matter of background, a fundamental commitment made by the Government at the time of the enactment of the New Veterans Charter was the recognition that the SISIP LTD program should be eliminated and fully replaced by a liberalized income replacement loss benefit administered by VAC. The constraints placed on the NVC/VWA by the restrictive provisions of the SISIP LTD program and the SISIP VOC‑REHAB program are felt in the present context and should be removed as soon as possible. This government commitment made by the Minister and Deputy Minister of the day was part and parcel of the understanding between the veteran stakeholder community and VAC in consideration of the immediate passage of the Charter by Parliament in 2006.

It is to be noted that the "wellness program" strongly advocated by VAC and, more particularly, by former Deputy Minister Natynczyk, is clearly impacted by the fact that the greater majority of medically released CAF members fall under the administration of the SISIP VOC‑REHAB program. In effect, VAC does not have the capacity to control and operate this portion of the VOC‑REHAB program and is left with little accountability as to the impact that the SISIP program will have on veterans in regard to this essential element of the NVC/VWA.

With reference to the question of service‑ and non‑service‑related disabilities, it has been the experience of the veterans' community that this entire question of whether a member of the Canadian Forces is to be considered "on duty" for the purposes of pensionability either under the Pension Act or the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well‑being Act has been a longstanding grievance. The regulations in this area would be far clearer and more equitable if the Government/department agreed to adopt the "insurance principle" in this context so that all members of the military would be considered "on duty" at all times and thus eligible for various financial benefits such as the PSC and Income Replacement programs once they put on a uniform. This would clear up the potential interpretive issues which are raised in the regulations to the NVC/VWA and would address the confusion and ambiguity which often results when individual hypothetical cases reflect "gray areas" or areas of dispute. The resultant effect of this recognition would also further the objective of eliminating the SISIP LTD program even for non‑service‑related disabilities which, of course, was its original and exclusive mandate in the 1970s when it was first created.

F. Partial Disabilities Recommendation

NCVA continues to take the long‑held position that SISIP LTD/VOC‑REHAB should be eliminated, placing all SISIP LTD and VOC‑REHAB under VAC for all service attributable and non‑service attributable medical releases with no premiums – one program/one service delivery model.

F. Post‑65 Benefits

It is to be noted that the new legislative amendments emanating from Budget 2018 (which consolidate a number of income replacement provisions into one benefit, the Income Replacement Benefit) unfortunately still retain the inadequacies of the Retirement Income Security Benefit, which was enacted earlier by the former Conservative Government in its attempt to address the post‑65 financial security for seriously disabled veterans and their families.

As aforementioned, the new post‑65 benefit provides a limited numbers of disabled veterans (less than 6 percent) with 70 percent of the IRB, should the veteran be deemed as suffering a "diminished earnings capacity" as defined under the regulatory provisions of the new Act, less certain potentially significant deductions prescribed by these policy provisions.

In our view, to apply a 70 percent formula to the post‑65 period for a permanently incapacitated veteran based on a public/private sector pension model is not appropriate when it is recognized that the plight of such a seriously disabled veteran post‑65 remains unchanged and his or her financial costs continue to be essentially the same.

During the course of initial discussions surrounding the enactment of these post‑65 provisions, strong arguments were made by NCVA and various veteran stakeholder groups that the full Earnings Loss Benefit/Income Replacement Benefit should be continued for life, particularly given the fact that the principal recipients of this post‑65 "pension" will be totally incapacitated veterans.

It is interesting to note that the MPAG recommendations address this specific issue by establishing that a single stream of ELB/CIA payments should be continued for life, as is the case for similar Pension Act benefits, and that the diminishment found in the RISB or post‑65 benefit be eliminated – as it is self‑evident that these provisions are far too complex and impact negatively on many seriously disabled veterans and, particularly, surviving spouses.

In addition, the Policy Advisory Group financial compensation model provided that, in the event ELB/CIA is indeed continued for life without deduction, surviving spouses should be entitled to 70 percent of this amount which would equate to the proposed levels of the new CFSA survivor benefit committed to under an earlier Minister's mandate letter. Although the resultant net effect will not provide as much financial support as the MPAG is recommending, we would confirm that the department has at least implemented a parallel provision in this context providing a survivor benefit of 70 percent for the new consolidated IRB post‑65 benefit under the legislation flowing from the new PFL.

H. Post‑65 Benefits Recommendation

NCVA proposes that VAC should establish that the Income Replacement Benefit (former Earnings Loss Benefit) be continued for life without deduction and that the post‑65 diminishment be eliminated as the financial plight of the eligible seriously disabled veteran at age 65 remains unchanged.

Long‑Term Care/Intermediary Care

A. Admission to Long‑Term Care Facilities

One of the major recent developments with respect to long‑term care has been the initiation of a policy by VAC to widen the scope of eligibility to so‑called traditional veterans' beds in historical veterans' hospitals to modern day veterans. With specific reference to individual hospitals such as Sunnybrook in Toronto, the department has taken steps to exercise this operational discretion where vacant beds have resulted from the passing of traditional veterans and the demand from the modern‑day veteran community exists.

In addition, as many of you will be aware, there have been a number of high‑profile cases in the last number of years which have been described in national media articles with reference to specific veterans attempting to gain admission to long‑term care facilities in various provinces across the country. It is of interest that VAC has ostensibly developed a flexible position in this context, so as to provide access to traditional veterans' facilities on the basis of designating certain priority access beds as community beds (preferred veterans beds) for the purposes of VAC policy guidelines. This development of a form of freedom of choice for veterans attempting to gain admission to long‑term care facilities should be encouraged on an ongoing basis.

B. Ste‑Anne's Hospital

NCVA is pleased to confirm that the class action lawsuit initiated in 2018 by Wolf Solkin, then‑95‑year‑old resident at Ste‑Anne's Hospital in Montreal, has been settled. The class action pleadings took the position that there have been significant violations in the 2016 transfer agreement between the Federal Government (VAC) and the Province of Quebec as to the quality and standard of care at the hospital, together with a failure to satisfy the bilingual language requirements.

As you will recall, we have strongly supported this claim from the outset, as set out in our Legislative Program for the last three years. It has been our recommendation in this context that VAC expedite the resolution of this legal dispute and address the shortfalls emanating from these transfer agreement violations at Ste‑Anne's by providing appropriate funding to address the significant breaches in this contractual arrangement.

Indeed, one of our major proposals with respect to the long‑term care situation at Ste‑Anne's was as follows:

Ste‑Anne's Veterans Hospital

That NCVA continue to express the concerns of our member organizations to the Minister and the Deputy Minister with reference to the administration of Ste‑Anne's Hospital. NCVA intends to hold ongoing discussions with the Minister's office to protect the interests of veterans affected by this transfer and ensure that the provisions found in the transfer agreement established to support the commitments made in relation to priority beds for veterans, language rights, and the standard of care be strictly enforced and funded by the Federal Government as promised.

We did carry out numerous discussions with senior officials at the department and, more particularly, with Michel Doiron (the former Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery Branch) wherein we learned in confidence that settlement negotiations were being carried out and that it was the intention of the Federal Government to consummate an equitable resolution to this longstanding grievance by the residents of Ste‑Anne's Hospital.

The class action initiated by the indomitable Mr. Solkin is a true legacy to this gentleman, a World War II veteran who only learned of the settlement a few days before his passing on February 3, 2021.

At this stage of development, we have learned that the notice of settlement pertaining to the class action contains the follow substantive principles:

  • It is recognized that the Federal Government and the Province of Quebec failed to maintain the level of care and service that veterans received from Ste‑Anne's Hospital before it was transferred to a provincial health and social services centre.
  • Members of the class who will be entitled to share in the settlement proceeds include any and all individuals who are or were veterans of the Second World War or the Korean War, and who resided at Ste‑Anne's Hospital at any time as of April 1, 2016, or thereafter, as well as their heirs, successors and assigns.
  • The settlement was reached in consideration of the payment of a global, final and definite amount of $19,008,045.
  • Each member of the class will be entitled to a share of the settlement proceeds which shall correspond to the number of days they spent at Ste‑Anne's Hospital between April 1, 2016, and October 30, 2020, multiplied by a fixed and definite amount to be determined once all statements of claim will have been duly received and processed.
  • As an integral part of the settlement agreement, it is understood that the terms and provisions of the original transfer agreement between the Federal Government and the Province of Quebec must be satisfied, and necessary changes implemented to meet the required standards entrenched in the agreement.
  • The settlement approval hearing before the Quebec Superior Court has been consummated and the terms and provisions of the settlement sanctioned by the Court.

This is indeed good news supporting the validity of the claim and the need for significant change to satisfy the key elements of the transfer agreement as originally contemplated by the parties and ensuring that the standards of care in existence prior to the transfer are replicated.

Wolf Solkin's legacy will be forever remembered by the residents of Ste‑Anne's as an indefatigable advocate of veterans' rights, even at the later stages of his life.

C. Intermediary Costs

As emphasized over the course of the last number of NCVA meetings, it is self‑evident that VAC, through VIP, has the authority to cover specific costs and expenditures while a qualified veteran resides in his or her home. In addition, once such a veteran pensioner has reached the stage where a long‑term care facility is required, the Veteran Health Care Regulations establish financial support at this time in the health care process.

As we have consistently argued with departmental officials for many years, what has been missing has been the financial assistance for the middle ground or intermediary level of institutionalization where many of our members currently find themselves, i.e., seniors' residences and assisted living facilities.

We have had a number of intensive meetings with departmental officials over the last three years in an attempt to close this gap, and we remain encouraged that attempts are continuing to be made by the Government to address this longstanding concern.

D. Veterans Ombudsman's Report

As previously advised, we continue to work closely with the OVO in this context. It is of significant interest that the Ombudsman's office has adopted our position and has issued a number of reports with regard to long‑term care/intermediary care which fully recognize the shortcomings that currently exist in the VAC Health Care Regulations concerning this particular gap in financial coverage. This will add further ammunition and support to our ongoing initiative to ensure that these inequities are eliminated.

In this regard, it is noteworthy that the Veterans Ombudsman released an excellent report in 2018 entitled "Continuum of Care: A Journey from Home to Long Term Care" which contains a comprehensive analysis of the current VAC long‑term care and health care policies. The report further provides a series of recommendations which are consistent and in line with NCVA's longstanding position on this important subject. We will continue to collaborate with the OVO in pursing the implementation of these mutually desired recommendations.

In summary, the Veterans Ombudsman's proposals are as follows:

  1. Follow‑up contact with Veterans Independence Program recipients should be made on at least an annual basis and more frequently for those at higher risk (with in‑home assessments when necessary) to ensure timely and accurate identification of changing needs as veterans age.
  2. Eliminate the inconsistency in Veterans Independence Program eligibility for housekeeping and grounds maintenance for survivors and spouses so that they may all have access to the services they need, regardless of what the veteran received or did not receive prior to their death or involuntary separation.
  3. Adjust the eligibility criteria of the Caregiver Recognition Benefit to provide easier access to compensation for caregivers when service‑related conditions inhibit a veteran's ability to perform instrumental activities of daily living and childcare.
  4. Introduce additional financial support that can be used to subsidize assisted living options for veterans whose needs do not require long‑term care, but who cannot stay in their own homes.
  5. Merge the Veterans Independence Program and Long‑Term Care program into one "Continuum of Care" program such that access is determined once, and criteria are transparent, understandable, and based on the physical and mental health needs of the veteran.
  6. Reduce the complexity of 28 different eligibility groups, currently using service type, such that access to continuum of care support is based on the physical and mental health needs of veterans.
  7. Develop and publicly communicate a strategy to ensure that the continuum of care needs of all veterans is being met within the current context of the Canadian health care system.

Long‑Term Care/Intermediary Care Recommendations

Recommendation

That NCVA ensure that VAC adopts a flexible policy to provide veterans with a freedom of choice between a community bed and a priority access bed for purposes of admission to long‑term care facilities without distinction between traditional and modern‑day veterans.

Recommendation

That NCVA urge VAC to increase the number of Preferred Admission beds in order to address the demands of modern‑day veterans and, in so doing, eliminate the current wait list for these beds across the country.

Recommendation

In conjunction with the settlement arrived at between the residents of Ste‑Anne's Hospital, the Federal Government and the Provincial Government, NCVA calls on Veterans Affairs Canada, in accordance with the terms and provisions of the settlement documentation, to protect the interests of veterans affected by the transfer. The governments must also ensure that the provisions found in the transfer agreement established to support the commitments made in relation to priority beds for veterans, language rights and the standard of care are strictly enforced, and that enhanced funding is put in place by the Federal Government to satisfy this class action settlement.

Recommendation

That NCVA continue to collaborate with VAC to ensure that the adult residential care needs of the veteran are addressed through the expansion of the current VIP program and long‑term care policy of the department so as to provide financial assistance in this area of institutionalized care.

Recommendation

That NCVA continue to work with the OVO in drawing to the attention of the Liberal Government the inequity that has resulted in the gap that currently exists in the VAC health care regulations concerning financial coverage for adult residential care.

VIP for Life for Surviving Spouses

An elderly woman reading an informational booklet.

It remains a priority issue of NCVA to underline the need to expand the eligibility of VIP to include, at a minimum, those surviving spouses of seriously disabled veterans whose veteran spouses did not apply for VIP prior to their death. Our position continues to be that in many cases the veteran was unable or reluctant to apply for VIP in the years prior to his or her passing. It is our strong argument that a presumption could be established that, in the event the seriously disabled veteran had applied or was able to apply for VIP, he or she would have received the benefit given his or her significant incapacity. It is submitted that the department would have great difficulty in refuting the logic of our argument and we remain hopeful that this particular presumption will be of great value to our surviving spouses in achieving VIP benefits.

As a matter of historic development, it will be recalled that the federal budget of 2008 partially expanded the current regulations for the continuation of VIP for life for surviving spouses, provided the surviving spouse is either in receipt of the Guaranteed Income Supplement or has entitlement to the Disability Tax Credit under the Income Tax Act. It remains our position that this partial expansion is far too restrictive and that the required criteria should be replaced by a form of automatic entitlement with respect to surviving spouses of seriously disabled veterans.

VIP for Life for Surviving Spouses Recommendations

Recommendation

That NCVA continue to pressure the Minister and departmental officials to review the present policy on the continuation of VIP for Life for surviving spouses with a view to providing this benefit to, at a minimum, all surviving spouses of seriously disabled veterans who are not eligible because the veteran never applied for the benefits.

Recommendation

That the Minister of Veterans Affairs alter the Government's current position so that:

  1. The needs of the surviving spouse should determine the benefit required (housekeeping or groundskeeping) instead of the present practice of basing the decisions on the specific VIP benefit the veteran was receiving prior to his or her death; and
  2. Section 16 and Section 16.1 of regulations be amended so as to eliminate the absurd anomaly whereby a surviving spouse who fails to qualify for VIP based on their spouse's VIP status cannot utilize their GIS or DTC eligibility for the purposes of their own VIP entitlement.

Last Post Fund/Veterans Burial Regulations

Last Post Fund logo.

It remains NCVA's position that it is necessary for VAC to recognize that a seriously disabled veteran should be entitled, as a "Matter of Right," to receive funeral and burial benefits pursuant to the Veterans Burial Regulations.

As we have often stated, it is puzzling indeed that, during the lives of seriously disabled veterans, the department has recognized the cumulative and synergistic impact of both their pensioned and non‑pensioned conditions, approving many health care and treatment benefits on their behalf but, in death, ignores the relationship between these conditions.

In this context, it is inconceivable in our submission that the impact of the seriously disabled veteran's pensioned and non‑pensioned disabilities did not play a part in his or her ultimate demise. In this overall analysis, the principle of presumption should be fully applicable to this area of VAC adjudication.

With the odd exception, however, recent developments in this area insofar as the treatment of seriously disabled veterans continue to be extremely encouraging.

Although it remains unusual, we were deeply disturbed this year to learn of the rejection of a Hong Kong veteran's claim for Last Post funding. As many of you will be aware, The War Amps of Canada has acted for the Hong Kong Veterans Association and all of its members for many decades – rarely have we been required to appeal a claim for Last Post funding under the Veterans Burial Regulations as VAC has long recognized the beneficial entitlement of this unique group of Canadian veterans.

We must say that we continue to be appalled that another appeal has proven necessary, given the history of the Canadian Hong Kong veterans and the horrific experience they suffered as POWs of the Japanese in World War II for some 44 months – the devastating story of the abuse, torture, starvation and gross violations of human rights has long led us to the irrefutable conclusion that the family of a Hong Kong veteran should automatically receive Last Post funding as a Matter of Right.

In our submission, no family of a Hong Kong veteran who suffered the physical, mental and psychological trauma of life in Japanese POW camps in World War II should be required to demonstrate the interrelationship of this experience on the ultimate demise of the veteran – surely it is self‑evident.

There is no doubt, in our considered opinion, that the death of a Hong Kong veteran is at least in part a consequence of his World War II experience and the multiple pensioned conditions that such a veteran has endured his entire life.

It remains our hope that this particular case reflects an aberration with regard to Last Post funding claims, and we would advise that we have achieved success in the greater majority of Hong Kong veteran claims with regard to Last Post funding. However, it is clear that we must be vigilant in this context and thus we have continued to mount a comprehensive campaign to provide an "education" to the department and ensure that all adjudicators are properly informed as to the tragic history of Canada's Hong Kong veterans.

Last Post Fund/Veterans Burial Regulations Recommendation

That NCVA continue to pressure the Minister of Veterans Affairs to ensure that, at a very minimum, seriously disabled veterans entitled to a disability pension at 78 percent or more (SDVs) qualify, as a matter of right, under the Veterans Burial Regulations/Last Post Fund.

Marriage After 60 and Public Service Pensions

An older couple sit on a bench outside and laugh.

Over the last number of years, we have discussed at considerable length the ongoing concern vis‑à‑vis CAF retirees and the infamous "marriage after 60" clawback provision. This continues to be a very important issue within the NCVA Legislative Program in view of the fact that more and more CAF retirees are living longer and many are marrying for the second time.

As it stands, the CAF retirees contribute to the Canadian Forces Superannuation account throughout their entire career and one of the important benefits is a 50 percent Survivor's Benefit, except in those cases where the CAF retiree marries after age 60.

It is again noteworthy that the Liberal 2015 election platform specifically indicated that it was the intention to "…eliminate the marriage after 60 clawback clause so that surviving spouses of veterans receive appropriate pension and health benefits." Unfortunately, the 2019 federal budget contained a rather nebulous provision which was ostensibly proposed to address this longstanding concern.

The budget provided:

"To better support veterans who married over the age of 60 and their spouses, Budget 2019 announces a new Veterans Survivors Fund committing $150 million over five years starting in 2019‑20 to VAC. With these funds, the Government will work with the community to identify impacted survivors, process their claims, and ensure survivors have the financial support they need. The Government will announce additional details on this measure in the coming months."

It is revealing that our continuing enquiries to the department still have resulted in the rather shocking conclusion that no one in VAC was aware of the substance of any legislative provision that actually would apply to this new policy. Our further communication with Ministerial officials has been to little avail, save and except that we were advised that a new policy was under consideration. The mystery continues as to why the Government did not simply eliminate the marriage after 60 clawback disqualifying provision in the CFS as opposed to establishing a brand‑new policy with little or no substantive detail.

In addition, other concerns and inequities resulting from the operation of the CFSA have been identified and deserve our attention:

  1. In relation to the new administration of CFSA benefits by Public Works and Government Services Canada, it has become readily apparent that significant delays are occurring in the delivery of veterans' survivor benefits. This is totally unacceptable at a time when surviving spouses require a sense of financial security upon the passing of a veteran spouse.
  2. As discussed at previous Annual General Meetings, the Public Service Superannuation Act does not currently account for prior military service that has been transferred to the plan when determining the age at which a plan member can begin to draw an unreduced pension. As a result, some veterans employed in the Public Service will have to wait five years longer to receive a pension when compared to non‑veteran employees with the same period of pensionable service with the Federal Government. It is noteworthy that an exception is already made in the law to avoid a similar situation facing RCMP civilian members and it is essential that NCVA advocate a similar change for military veterans.

In reality, when transitioning from the CAF to the Public Service, veterans with at least two years of service have the option to transfer their service from the CFSA to the PSSA, thus consolidating their pensionable service with the Federal Government under the PSSA.

As part of the Jobs and Growth Act (2012), the PSSA was amended to divide plan members into two groups: those who joined the plan before January 1, 2013, (Group I) and those who joined on or after that date (Group II). Members of Group I are entitled to an unreduced pension at age 60, or at age 55 with at least 30 years of service, while members of Group II must wait until age 65, or age 60 with at least 30 years of service.

At the time of this change, no provision was made to include in Group I CAF veterans who transferred pre‑2013 military service to the PSSA. As a result, all CAF veterans joining the Public Service after January 1, 2013, become members of Group II, even if their combined military and civilian pensionable service under the PSSA began before that date.

Marriage After 60 and Public Service Pensions Recommendations

Recommendation

That NCVA continue to pressure the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Minister of National Defence to remove Section 31 of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act so as to allow the spouse of a Canadian Armed Forces retiree marrying after 60 to be eligible for survivor's benefits without reducing the amount of superannuation in payment to the retiree in accordance with the Liberal Party's election platform of 2015. NCVA takes the position that this amendment to the CFSA would be a more optimal solution when compared to the nebulous Veterans Survivors Fund contained in the 2019 federal budget.

Recommendation

NCVA recommends that, to ensure fairness for CAF veterans employed in the public service and consistency with existing government policies, the definition of Group I under the PSSA be amended to include CAF members who have elected to transfer their pensionable military service from the CFSA to the PSSA where the start date of the military service was before January 1, 2013.

Recommendation

NCVA adopts the position that the Public Service Health Care Plan be amended so that seriously disabled veterans and their families be exempted from paying premiums for such coverage or, alternatively, that VAC should cover these contributions so as to alleviate this financial burden on seriously disabled veterans and their dependants.

Recommendation

NCVA will continue to monitor the operation of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act to ensure that the interests of veterans and their survivors are protected and that inequities are remedied by the Federal Government departments charged with the responsibility of administering the CFSA.

Once again, we would express our appreciation to Chuck McCabe of the Armed Forces Pensioners'/Annuitants' Association of Canada and Paul Baiden, our Vice Chairman, who continually apprise NCVA on concerns emanating from legislation impacting Canada's Public Service and its effect on the veterans' community.

Indigenous Veterans

Canadian Aboriginal War Veterans Memorial.

With reference to the longstanding grievance of Indigenous veterans in relation to their claim for compensation for post‑World War II/Korea benefits, the Government announcement initially contained in the 2019 federal budget provided an ex‑gratia payment of $20,000 to those Métis veterans still alive and a similar amount to the estates of those Métis veterans who have died in the last three years. In addition, the $30 million fund created in the budget would largely be employed to establish a legacy fund to recognize the contribution of Métis veterans to the country's Second World War and Korea efforts, and to commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of all Métis veterans.

It must be stated that this announcement unfortunately fits into the description of "better late than never" as it is a real shame that this governmental policy was not initiated many years ago when a greater number of Métis veterans were still alive. It is also noteworthy that, originally, there was a restriction in eligibility to those estate beneficiaries where the Métis veteran had died after January 2016. Fortunately, the Government has amended this limitation period as of June 2020, and the policy is now inclusive of recognition payments being presented to all surviving spouses and common‑law partners regardless of when their loved one passed. The policy remains the same that, if the spouse or common‑law partner has also passed, all living children of a World War II Métis veteran who has passed after January 2016 are eligible to receive equal portions of the $20,000 Recognition Payment.

It will be remembered that some years ago, The War Amps of Canada initiated a legal petition in the United Nations Human Rights Committee in an attempt to pressure the Canadian Government on the substance of the claim on the basis of this systemic discrimination. The claim, although gaining appropriate exposure to this particular grievance, was not fully successful in the United Nations Human Rights Tribunal due to the ostensible limitation periods that exist in that particular jurisdiction.

Indigenous Veterans Recommendation

NCVA will continue to monitor the implementation of the 2019 budgetary proposal to provide ex gratia payments of $20,000 in compensation to Métis veterans still alive and to the estates of Métis veterans, together with the establishment of the legacy fund commemorating the exemplary service of Métis veterans in support of Canada's war effort.

2021 Election Platforms

A person places a ballot into a box in front of the Canadian flag.

During the course of the 2021 federal election campaign, political issues impacting veterans generally focused on:

  1. The collapse of the Afghanistan Government and the anger of Canadian Afghan veterans as to the ineffectiveness of the Canadian Government efforts to ensure that Afghan citizens who acted as interpreters and supporters of Canadian troops were adequately protected and extracted to safety; and
  2. The ongoing crisis in the military leadership and the plight of veteran survivors of military sexual trauma who were negatively impacted by the dysfunctional military culture.

It is to be noted, however, that each federal party laid out in their individual campaign programs specific commitments that they would ostensibly adopt and implement if elected.
(Below is an appendix of the full campaign documentation of each federal party as it pertains to veterans' issues.)

We have highlighted in this section of our report the specific proposals which are of greatest significance to NCVA. It will be a continuing priority to ensure that these election campaign promises are not just political puffery or window dressing but are actually pursued and implemented to meet the pressing needs of Canada's veterans and their families.


Liberal Platform: "Honouring Our Veterans"

Liberal Party of Canada logo.

(From https://liberal.ca/our-platform/)

A re‑elected Liberal government will:

With respect to ending Veteran Homelessness:

With regard to reducing benefit wait times for Veterans:

In relation to Veterans' employment strategy:

In relation to commemoration:

In relation to military sexual trauma:


Conservative Platform: "Standing Up for Our Veterans"

Conservative Party of Canada logo.

(From https://www.conservative.ca/plan/)

Canada's Conservatives will:


NDP Platform: "Honouring our veterans"

New Democratic Party of Canada logo.

(From https://www.ndp.ca/commitments)

A New Democrat government will honour the special bond of mutual obligation between Canadians and veterans, and deliver the services that veterans need and deserve. As part of this process, we will work with veterans to design a system that provides fair benefits to all veterans, including equal access to lifetime pensions.

Veterans shouldn't have to wait weeks or even months or years to receive the services they need. We'll get rid of backlogs and step up high‑quality, personalized service delivery by actually providing one caseworker for every twenty‑five veterans, hiring more disability adjudicators to clear the backlog, putting in place automatic approvals for the most common injuries, and improving services that are delivered by phone and online.

To ease the transition from service for veterans, we'll give Canadian Forces members access to care and support before the transition, and make sure that their benefits are in place before they are released from service.

New Democrats will help support veterans and their families by expanding the caregiver allowance to more people. We'll work with partners in community services and the veterans community to end veteran homelessness for good – because one veteran on the streets is one too many.

New Democrats will make the Veterans Ombudsman fully independent so they can report transparently and directly to Canadians.

A New Democrat government will make mental health support for members and their families a priority. No member or veteran of the Canadian Forces should ever feel that they are all alone in dealing with the impact of their experiences or in transitioning to civilian life. They – and their families – need to know that their country and their government has their back, during their service and for the rest of their lives.

We are also committed to putting an end to sexual harassment and assault in the military. The Liberals have talked about the issue for six years but have failed to make needed changes, while survivors of sexual misconduct continue to suffer from a culture of silence and impunity that extends right to the top of the chain of command. We will immediately implement the recommendations of the Deschamps Report, including establishing independent oversight and accountability for sexual harassment and assault in the military.


People's Party of Canada Platform: "Veterans: Standing Behind the Men and Women Who Sacrificed for Our Country"

People's Party of Canada logo.

(From https://www.peoplespartyofcanada.ca/veterans)

A People's Party government will:


In Conclusion

From NCVA's perspective, it is important to evaluate the various recommendations as to where common ground may exist for establishing appropriate resolutions amongst the parties to begin to address veterans' concerns.

In our work with Parliamentary committees, these political commitments provide valuable ammunition in compelling individual members to live up to the stated intentions of their respective parties.

It must be recognized once again that the chance of a new election within 18 to 24 months remains very high, and the performance of individual parties will be closely monitored by NCVA and the veterans' community.

APPENDIX: 2021 Election Platforms

Following is the full campaign documentation of each federal party as it pertains to veterans' issues.


Liberal Platform: "Honouring Our Veterans"

(From https://liberal.ca/our-platform/)

Key Actions to Support Veterans, Since 2015

  • Invested, in six years, nearly $11B in new funding for better care, services, and supports for Veterans and their families.
  • Reintroduced the Veteran's Service Card, which helps members as they transition to post‑military life and acknowledges their incredible service to our Forces.
  • Developed a new Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy between the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada to prevent suicide among our military members and Veterans.
  • Reopened all nine Veterans Affairs offices closed by the Conservative government to improve Veterans' access to services.
  • Adopted a motion to end Veteran homelessness by 2025.

Ending Veteran Homelessness

Veterans have a higher likelihood of experiencing chronic homelessness. One homeless veteran is too many. Veterans have dedicated themselves to serving Canadians; no veteran should be without a home or the care, support, and opportunities that they deserve. We believe that every Veteran deserves a home.

A re‑elected Liberal government will:

  • Move forward on our plan to launch a pilot program next year that will provide rent supplements and wrap‑around supports to homeless Veterans, so that they can get the housing and services they need.
  • Introduce a Veterans stream to the Rapid Housing Initiative which will see new affordable housing become available for Veterans.

Reducing Benefit Wait Times for Veterans

Under Erin O'Toole's watch, as the Conservative's Minister of Veterans Affairs, Veterans support offices were shuttered, and staff were laid off. When we formed government, we re‑opened all nine offices, so our Veterans and their families had access to the personalized, quality services they deserve.

We have invested nearly $200 million to reduce wait times for Veterans and hired 350 additional staff. We also invested $140 million to ensure that Veterans don't have to wait for their benefits to get high‑quality mental health care.

A re‑elected Liberal government will:

  • Continue our work to reduce wait times and ensure Veterans and their families receive decisions on their applications in a timely manner.
  • Invest the necessary resources to accomplish this, such as hiring more case workers and adjudicators, continuing to enhance disability benefit processing, and by enhancing innovative digital solutions.
  • Ensure the benefit system and Veterans Affairs services are responsive and meet the needs of underrepresented Veterans including women, LGBTQ2, racialized, and Indigenous Veterans.

Veterans' employment strategy

Too many veterans struggle to find meaningful work in their post‑service careers. Veterans leave the military with a broad set of skills that are valuable to employers across the economy. We think that a key part of building back better is making sure that everyone who wants to work has access to the support they need to find a good job.

A re‑elected Liberal government will:

  • Launch Canada's first National Veteran Employment Strategy, with a goal of ensuring that every Veteran can find meaningful work after releasing from the Canadian Armed Forces. A part of this strategy will include improving qualification recognition so that certifications earned while in service can be used in civilian life.

Commemoration

Canadians are proud of their military heritage, but as time passes, it is critical that we not forget the sacrifices made by Veterans in the fields of Belgium, to the mountains of Afghanistan, and beyond. Not nearly enough is known about the extraordinary contributions of modern Veterans or the contributions of Canada's women, Indigenous, racialized, and LGBTQ2 Veterans. We have an obligation to make sure they receive the honour and recognition they deserve.

To ensure that the legacies of those who have served live on, a re‑elected Liberal government will:

  • Support Commemorate Canada and ensure this program recognizes modern Veterans as well as women, Indigenous, racialized, and LGBTQ2 Veterans from all conflicts.
  • Ensure that we recognize the valuable contributions of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans who have served our country in domestic operations such as wildfires, ice storms, and floods.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have the right to work in an environment that is free from violence, harassment, and discrimination. Allegations of sexual misconduct, homophobia, and xenophobia in the Canadian Armed Forces have shocked Canadians and revealed an unacceptable culture of discrimination and impunity. The women and men of the armed forces make tremendous sacrifices to keep us safe and protect Canadian values. They are owed nothing less than the same.

A re‑elected Liberal government will:

  • Implement the recommendations of the Independent External Comprehensive Review led by Justice Arbour to address sexual harassment and misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, including instituting external oversight and independence over the processes of reporting, investigating, and adjudicating complaints, outside of the chain of command.
  • Modernize the military justice system and ensure survivors are treated with respect and have the full range of options and services available in the civilian system, including implementing recommendations from the Third Independent Review of the National Defence Act led by Justice Fish.
  • Expand resources available to survivors through the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre and make these services available to all members of the defence team, including DND employees, veterans, and members of military families.
  • Expand health services available to women in the CAF, ensuring comprehensive access to sexual and reproductive health resources, child care, and mental health resources. We will increase investments to address the clinical, occupational and deployment health needs of CAF women in cooperation with the newly established National Institute of Women's Health.
  • Co‑design and fully fund a permanent peer‑to‑peer support program for CAF members who have experienced military sexual trauma and make it accessible to all members of the defence team.
  • Work to root out all sources of anti‑Indigenous and anti‑Black racism, LGBTQ2 prejudice, gender bias, and white supremacy in the Canadian Armed Forces and implement the recommendations of the Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism, Discrimination to ensure that all members of the defence team work in a safe and respectful workplace.
  • Undertake ambitious efforts to improve the diversity of the CAF, including women, LGBTQ2, Indigenous, Black, and racialized Canadians and persons with disabilities.

Conservative Platform: "Standing Up for Our Veterans"

(From https://www.conservative.ca/plan/)

There is a sacred trust between Canadians and those brave soldiers, sailors, and aircrew who have put service before self.

For our veterans, service meant putting the safety and well‑being of the nation first. It meant families left alone, bodies punished in far‑away lands and, for too many, injury or death.

We owe it to them to recognize and fulfill our obligation – our promise to take care of them if they are injured in the service of our country and to help them and their families transition back to civilian life when their service is completed.

Justin Trudeau was elected on a promise to restore Veterans pensions and enhance Veterans benefits. He has failed to do so. After making a cynical appeal for their support, he turned his back on our most dedicated citizens.

It's time for a government that truly cares about our veterans.

Canada's Conservatives will:

  • End the mess of two benefit systems – Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) – that do not work together and replace them with one streamlined system of benefits from enlistment through service and retirement.
  • Ensure financial security & transition support for injured Veterans and their families.
  • Streamline benefit adjudication & set performance targets to ensure that the benefits system is focused on helping our veterans rather than on outdated procedures.
  • Allow veterans and their families to direct their care and rehabilitation.
  • Insist on care, compassion, and respect in every aspect of veteran services.
  • Ensure that the benefits system is focused not only on compensation but on helping veterans build meaningful careers through partnerships with universities, colleges, and businesses.

Specific measures that Canada's Conservatives will take to honour the sacred trust include:

  • Empowering military doctors, who know the demands of service and the impact of injuries, to determine a service‑related injury for all CAF and VAC purposes.
    • No longer will one medical evaluation deny someone the ability to serve, and a separate assessment then deny them benefits.
  • Revising the concept of "universality of service" to be job‑specific.
    • The "everyone is a rifleman" concept is outdated and unsuited to the realities of modern warfare while leading to injured service members being pushed out and cut off.
    • Fitness categories will become job‑specific, and those who wish to continue to serve after injury will have the opportunity to retrain in an area where they can serve.
  • Ensuring a smooth transition for any CAF members who have to be medically released, including retaining them in the CAF until all the benefits and services from the CAF, VAC, and Service Income Security Insurance Plan have been confirmed and put in place.
  • Implementing the Lifelong Disability Benefit for moderately to severely injured veterans.
  • Making a transfer to the reserves a practical and easy option and adjusting service requirements to balance the need for training with the reality of adapting to the civilian workforce.
    • This will ease a regular force member's transition and strengthen the reserves.
  • Ensuring that military families, especially spouses, are provided with sufficient support.
  • Implementing a strategy to combat homelessness among veterans and explore the potential for using surplus military housing to provide housing for homeless veterans.
  • Covering the cost of PTSD service dogs for veterans and creating training standards for them.
  • Empowering frontline VAC employees to adjudicate claims.
  • Completing the Afghanistan War Memorial.
  • Funding educational initiatives that teach Canadians about veterans' service and Canada's place in the world.

Canada's Conservatives will stamp out the culture of sexual harassment that persists in too many federal government institutions, including the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP. We will ensure that the Government of Canada serves as an example for the country of a safe and respectful work environment.

Stamping Out Sexual Harassment

A safe and respectful workplace free from sexual harassment is essential for women to succeed in the workforce. The recent examples of harassment in the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces underscore the difficulties women often face in the workforce.

The Government of Canada needs to lead by example – starting with the Prime Minister. It is unacceptable that this Prime Minister kept the leader of Canada's military on the job for years and continued giving him raises when his government was aware of serious, credible accusations of sexual misconduct.

Canada's Conservatives will take real action to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces – and the entire federal government – are safe and respectful workplaces. We will start by ensuring that the investigation of sexual misconduct is done by investigators outside the chain of command. It is unacceptable that allegations against a superior need to be reported to someone who reports to that person and may share information with them.

Canada's Conservatives will recognize that Canada's most vital defence asset is its people by:

  • Ending harassment and discrimination and making the CAF a better workplace.
  • Enhancing the participation of women, Indigenous people, and visible minorities through proactive, targeted recruitment at the community level.
  • Ensuring a respectful and professional workforce free from sexual misconduct and discrimination.
  • Calling a public inquiry into harassment and discrimination in the Canadian Armed Forces and make immediate changes such as removing commanders' access to their subordinates' medical files.
  • Ordering a service‑wide independent investigation into sexual misconduct in the military.
  • Introducing policies to ensure future complaints are made to an external, independent body outside the chain of command.
  • Making the CF and DND Ombudsperson an independent Officer of Parliament.

NDP Platform: "Honouring our veterans"

(From https://www.ndp.ca/commitments)

Canadian veterans have made untold sacrifices for our country. To honour their service, we need to offer the best care and support possible when they come home.

Unfortunately, for too long, veterans have had to fight for the benefits they've earned. For a decade, the Conservative government denied and clawed back benefits, took veterans to court, and cut access to basic care. As Minister of Veteran's Affairs, Erin O'Toole did nothing to reverse the closure of nine regional offices and the firing of nearly 900 staff that provided services for tens of thousands of veterans across Canada.

While hopes were high that the Liberal government would improve veterans care, after half a decade in power they've broken their commitments, failing to improve long wait lists and left billions in money earmarked for veterans care unspent. Years of court cases and broken promises have deepened the disappointment and mistrust that's felt by many of Canada's veterans.

It's time to do right by our veterans.

A New Democrat government will honour the special bond of mutual obligation between Canadians and veterans, and deliver the services that veterans need and deserve. As part of this process, we will work with veterans to design a system that provides fair benefits to all veterans, including equal access to lifetime pensions.

Veterans shouldn't have to wait weeks or even months or years to receive the services they need. We'll get rid of backlogs and step up high‑quality, personalized service delivery by actually providing one caseworker for every twenty‑five veterans, hiring more disability adjudicators to clear the backlog, putting in place automatic approvals for the most common injuries, and improving services that are delivered by phone and online.

There's also much more that we can do to ease the transition from service for veterans. A New Democrat government will give Canadian Forces members access to care and support before the transition, and make sure that their benefits are in place before they are released from service.

New Democrats know that sometimes a sacrifice abroad means being unable to care for yourself when you return, and we will help support veterans and their families by expanding the caregiver allowance to more people. New Democrats will work with partners in community services and the veterans community to end veteran homelessness for good – because one veteran on the streets is one too many.

To ensure that taxpayer money earmarked for veterans care actually gets spent on it, we will automatically carry forward all annual lapsed spending in Veterans Affairs to improve services. There should never be an incentive for any government to save money on the backs of veterans.

And finally, to hold all governments accountable to the sacred commitments we make veterans, New Democrats will make the Veterans Ombudsman fully independent so they can report transparently and directly to Canadians.

Our vision is a military where Canadian Armed Forces members can work safely, get the support they need when they need it, and count on fair policies to govern their work.

A New Democrat government will make mental health support for members and their families a priority. No member or veteran of the Canadian Forces should ever feel that they are all alone in dealing with the impact of their experiences or in transitioning to civilian life. They – and their families – need to know that their country and their government has their back, during their service and for the rest of their lives.

We are also committed to putting an end to sexual harassment and assault in the military. The Liberals have talked about the issue for six years but have failed to make needed changes, while survivors of sexual misconduct continue to suffer from a culture of silence and impunity that extends right to the top of the chain of command. We will immediately implement the recommendations of the Deschamps Report, including establishing independent oversight and accountability for sexual harassment and assault in the military.


People's Party of Canada Platform: "Veterans: Standing Behind the Men and Women Who Sacrificed for Our Country"

(From https://www.peoplespartyofcanada.ca/veterans)

Issue

The Canadian Armed Forces has a proud history and is one of the most capable and respected military forces in the world.

Unfortunately, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have largely chosen to forget this proud history. They have starved our military forces of funds, equipment and support, and broken their trust with those who made an exceptional personal commitment to put life and limb at risk in the interests of the nation.

The backbone of any military is the character of the men and women who serve. The fastest way to demoralize and undermine a country's military is to fail to look after injured soldiers when they return home or to provide for the families of those who did not make it back.

Facts

Until 2006, veterans injured or disabled during military service received a tax‑free lifetime disability pension under the Pension Act, as determined by a veteran's disability assessment, including support and survivor benefits for spouses and dependent children.

On April 1, 2006, the New Veterans Charter replaced those pensions with a one‑time lump sum disability payout that is wholly inadequate, leaving many injured and disabled veterans in dire financial straits. It created two classes of veterans.

The Trudeau government campaigned on the re‑establishment of a lifelong disability pension, a "Pension for Life", which actually amounts to a hodgepodge of existing benefits recycled and repackaged as something new. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has calculated that the Pension for Life provides the average veteran lifetime payments less than one third of what would have been provided under the Pension Act. Moreover, it has become increasingly difficult for veterans to navigate all the programs and obtain the benefits they are entitled to.

When a veteran who had lost a leg asked Justin Trudeau at a Town Hall why his government was still fighting veterans groups attempting to get the support they were promised, Trudeau said: "Because they're asking for more than we are able to give right now."

Our Plan

The government of Canada has an obligation to honour the nation's sacred commitment to our military men and women and make sure our veterans receive the support they deserve.

A People's Party government will:

  • Recognize and respect the unique sacrifices of those who serve and have served in Canada's Armed Forces.
  • Enshrine in legislation the country's obligations to our veterans in a Military Covenant between the government and those who serve in the Armed Forces.
  • Reinstate the fair disability pension as previously provided for by the Pension Act. The pension will apply retroactively to 2006 and lump sum payments received since then will be treated as advance payments.
  • Instigate a line‑by‑line review of the New Veterans Charter (including the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act of 2011), to determine which policies and programs should be retained, simplify the system and make it easier to navigate.
  • Reemphasize the legislative guarantee of the "Benefit of doubt" standard under the Pension Act.
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