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October 20, 2020

Veterans News

Remember Everyone Deployed

Guy Parent Veterans Ombudsman Speaking Notes

5 min read

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen 

Bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs 

Thank you for coming here this morning for the release of my report on the New Veterans Charter with an accompanying actuarial analysis. 

I believe that this report breaks new ground on how we view the New Veterans Charter, and if it is given the consideration that I believe it deserves, it could well be a game changer by serving as the baseline of how the Charter should be evaluated today and in the future. 

The recommendations that I am putting forward in my report are backed by an actuarial analysis that shows exactly where the weaknesses are, what they are, and what it is going to take to fix them. No hypotheses, no speculation…just evidence-based facts and analysis, as in my previous reports. 

The analysis of benefits and programs pinpoint exactly where the current suite of New Veterans Charter benefits are failing some Veterans today, and will continue to fail unless changes are made quickly to save these Veterans from hardship and poverty. 

After analyzing the more than 200 recommendations for improvements to the New Veterans Charter proposed in various reports since 2006, my team found that 145 of the recommendations dealt with three key transition areas that are failing Veterans and their families. They are:

  1. Financial instability and decreased standard of living;
  2. Limitations in vocational rehabilitation and assistance programs, which can affect second career aspirations and employment options; and
  3. Difficult family environment situations due to insufficient family support.

These three military to civilian life transition challenges need to be addressed urgently because they can affect a Veteran throughout his or her life and increase dependence on Veterans Affairs Canada and other Government of Canada programs.

Notwithstanding the enhancements brought about by the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act in 2011, Veterans and their families continue to face problems. I congratulate the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, for having agreed to my recommendation for a comprehensive review of the New Veterans Charter, including all enhancements, with special focus placed on the most seriously injured, support for families and the delivery of programs by Veterans Affairs Canada.

I urge the government to use my Report on the New Veterans Charter and its Actuarial Analysis as the blueprint for action for the upcoming parliamentary committee hearings this fall, and to move quickly to address the transition support shortcomings in my report. I also urge the government to institute a regular two-year Charter review to demonstrate to Veterans and their families, and to all Canadians, that the parliamentarians who unanimously voted in the New Veterans Charter in 2005 are going to steadfastly stand up for the promise that they made to our Veterans.

They promised that the New Veterans Charter would be a “living” Charter and that its ongoing improvement would remain an enduring priority for all parliamentarians. However, seven years after the coming into force of the Charter, there are still serious deficiencies that need to be addressed – deficiencies that directly affect the successful transition of injured or ill Veterans and their families from military to civilian life. As the Ombudsman for all of Canada’s Veterans and their families, I am holding parliamentarians to their promise.

This is important not only for today, but for tomorrow too. As the nature of conflict changes, so too do the needs of our men and women in uniform. A regular two-year Charter review needs to be enshrined in legislation so that the adaptability of the New Veterans Charter to meet evolving needs lives up to the expectations that serving men and women and Veterans place upon it.

There is another thing that we have to do, and that is to decode the New Veterans Charter so that the Veterans’ Community, parliamentarians, and Canadians who are footing the bill, as well as journalists, like you, who are reporting on it, understand it and its complexities and idiosyncrasies, as well as the inter-relationships between it and the Pension Act.

Too often the debate that swirls around Veterans’ issues centres on the questions: “Am I better off under the Pension Act or under the New Veterans Charter?” or “How does the lump sum stack up against the Pension Act‘s lifelong pension?” 

My report and actuarial analysis sets the stage for the first time for an informed debate on these questions and, hence, an informed debate on what is working in the New Veterans Charter, what isn’t, what needs to be fixed, and how to go about fixing it. 

In my view, there are two components to the financial benefits provided to Veterans under the New Veterans Charter – economic support and non-economic compensation for pain and suffering. 

The objective of economic support is financial security. Its intent is to replace lost income and to compensate for reduced career opportunities and progression. In addition, it deals with the inability to work because of a disability resulting from an injury or illness while in service to the country. On the other hand, the Charter’s non-economic compensation recognizes the sacrifices made by Veterans and compensates them for pain and suffering, physical and psychological loss and the impact of a service-related disability on their quality of life. 

To understand the New Veterans Charter, you have to begin by understanding that these are separate and distinct benefits, and I believe that their shortcomings need to be resolved separately. 

The economic support benefits need to be addressed first because they provide immediate and long-term financial security. Then, when financial security has been achieved, we can address the appropriateness of the amount of non-economic compensation for pain and suffering. 

My Report on the New Veterans Charter is grounded in this approach. From there the transition issues identified in my April 2013 Review of the New Veterans Charter are analyzed and recommendations for action are made.  

In closing, the three areas that are of particular concern and the most urgent to address are: 

  1. Financial instability and decreased standard of living particularly for Veterans after the age of 65 who are so disabled that they cannot work.
  2. Limitations in vocational rehabilitation and assistance programs, which affect second career aspirations and employment options.
  3. Difficult family environment situations due to insufficient family support. 

The bottom line is this: We either deal with these issues now or we are going to have to deal with the human cost later … when it will cost us much more. 

In the final analysis, the Government of Canada has an obligation to provide Canadian Forces members who are unable to continue their military careers because of injury or illness with the support they need to make new lives for themselves. By addressing the shortcomings I have identified, government will make a significant difference for injured or ill Veterans and their families. 

Concrete and urgent action is required to implement the recommendations in my Report. Our Veterans deserve no less in return for their service and sacrifice to Canada!

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