Working to help our veterans

On June 6, 1944, nearly 21,000 Canadians took part in the Normandy landings with the goal to free Europe from the grips of the Nazi regime.
So it was fitting that the all-party Veterans’ Affairs committee in Ottawa, of which I am a member, last week agreed to the 14 recommendations in their report on the new Veterans’ Charter.
History aside, the committee report was an important first step toward ensuring Canada’s veterans finally obtain the respect, service, and benefits from their own government which they have earned but which have eluded them so far.
The Veterans’ Affairs committee began examining the new Veterans’ Charter in November as part of our legislative mandate and, not coincidentally, after hearing a lot of criticism from veterans and various advocacy groups about the provisions contained in it.
The meetings and consultations began last November and after 19 meetings, the committee report put forward 14 recommendations that unanimously were supported by the members.
Space does not permit me to list them all here, so I only can post a few (for those who are interested, I highly recommend reading the entire report, including all 14 recommendations, at www.tinyurl.com/VetComRepNVC
•Recommendation #3:
“That the most seriously-disabled veterans receive financial benefits for life, of which an appropriate portion should be transferable to their spouse in the event of death, that Veterans Affairs Canada consider the use of a probable earnings approach in determining the amount of the benefits, and include better access to the three grades of the permanent impairment allowance, for which eligibility criteria must be clarified.”
•Recommendation #7:
“That independent access to Veterans Affairs Canada’s psycho-social and vocational rehabilitation services be given to spouses or common-law partners of veterans with a service-related disability, that access to psychological counselling be also given to parents and children of veterans with a service-related permanent disability, and that financial support be provided to family members of seriously-disabled veterans acting as “primary caregivers” as defined under section 16 (3) of the Veterans Health Care Regulations.”
•Recommendation #11:
“That Veterans Affairs Canada establish a more rigorous case manager training program, and review the standard under which one case manager is assigned to 40 veterans to determine if the ratio is appropriate, and to provide necessary resources for its adjustment if required.”
•Recommendation #13:
“That Veterans Affairs Canada consider moving towards a payment system that results in one comprehensive monthly payment that clearly identifies the source of funding while ensuring the net benefit to the veteran is not reduced.”
So that should give you an idea of the some items the committee unanimously agreed upon. It’s now up to the Harper government to act, and you can be sure that New Democrats will press them to immediately implement these 14 recommendations.
But much more needs to be done. For example, one recommendation the committee examined, but eventually left out of its report (since there wasn’t unanimity), was as follows: “That at least one service agent be properly-trained to respond to specific requests from veterans in each federal office where veterans may submit service requests.”
I thought this draft recommendation, in particular, was important for veterans, but especially for those locally whose Thunder Bay Veterans Affairs office closed its doors to them for good this spring.
Since they now must seek assistance at one of the same Service Canada offices at which others seek assistance for everything else (from EI to taxation problems and immigration matters), it only seems right and fair to require that one staff person be trained specifically to work with veterans and their unique medical and social needs.
I would have liked this recommendation to be included in the final report, but since it was not, I will be tabling a private member’s motion that is very similar.
So it was a week to salute Canada’s veterans for their immense sacrifice, and to make some progress on enhancing their lives and the service they receive from the federal government.
Still, much more needs to be done and I will continue to work for this on their behalf. Lest we forget.

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