Chair, Committee Members.
Thank-you for inviting me to appear before you to discuss the changes proposed for the New Veterans Charter.
Before beginning, I would like to thank you for the role that you have played in the real progress for Veterans and their families that we see before us in Bill C-59.
Does the proposed legislation address all of my concerns? No, it doesn’t. But, it narrows the gap in some areas that need to be addressed and for that reason; I believe that it should receive your unanimous support. The changes proposed in Bill C-59 will have a significant impact on the lives of Veterans and their families, and I encourage you to pass it without delay.
As you know, the work of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman is evidence-based. Results are measured against the fairness principles of adequacy (Are the right programs and services in place to meet the needs?), sufficiency (Are the right programs and services sufficiently resourced?), and accessibility (Are eligibility criteria creating unfair barriers, and can the benefits and services provided by VAC be accessed quickly and easily?).
Although it is too early today to offer you my opinion on the effectiveness of the proposed legislative changes and forthcoming regulations from an evidence-based perspective, I can offer you my opinion, in principle. Do the proposed changes address the fairness principles of adequacy, sufficiency and accessibility?
I believe that they do. For example, the fairness principle of adequacy is addressed by the new Retirement Income Security Benefit; sufficiency is addressed by the parity of the Earnings Loss Benefit for injured Reserve Force Veterans, and by the hiring of new frontline staff to improve one-on-one support for Veterans; and accessibility is addressed by the broadened eligibility criteria for the Permanent Impairment Allowance by the proposed new Critical Injury Benefit.
I believe that now that we have come this far for Veterans and their families, we need to keep the momentum going. Without delay, after the passage and of Bill C-59, we need to address the other needs of Veterans and their families that are still unmet, such as compensation for pain and suffering.
Three years ago in my Report on Improving the New Veterans Charter, I stated that before pain and suffering compensation was considered, we needed to resolve the issues associated with financial security for life for ill and injured Veterans. The proposed changes in Bill C-59 potentially resolve the issue of financial security after the age of 65 among others, so it is now time to turn our attention to a comprehensive discussion on what the right amount of compensation should be for pain and suffering.
Another area that I believe also needs to be addressed is treating Veterans’ support as a national security and economic priority, rather than as a social program. It is time to acknowledge that supporting Veterans is not only an obligation, but an investment in the security and prosperity of Canada.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you again for your ongoing support of Veterans and their families, and the level of effort that you and your staff have personally invested towards improving their lives.