4.15 Fair and respectful Policies for Veterans

The people of Canada have a contract with our service personnel and RCMP. They sign a contract of unlimited liability, meaning we can send them anywhere, anytime, into any circumstance. In the line of duty, they risk life and limb. In return, we promise to care for them and their families in the event that they suffer physical or mental injury in the line of duty. We have abdicated our responsibility to honour our half of the contract.

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) was set up to distribute benefits and programs to returning soldiers and veterans. As a distribution network, it was tasked with making certain that all veterans in need were taken care of in a timely and effective manner. The benefit of the doubt was always given to the veteran, in the absence of irrefutable proof. This is no longer the case. VAC is now run like a for-profit medical insurance corporation. The policy manuals are specifically tailored to initially deny applications for programs and benefits based on a maze of confusing and contradictory eligibility requirements. VAC will not tell you what programs are available. You must know beforehand what programs are available and whether you qualify. VAC has subdivided veterans into several categories and bases eligibility on where they fall in a specific category, e.g.: regular forces, RCMP, reservist, trainer, combat, admin, SarTech, technical. Veterans hate this.

The New Veterans Charter (NVC) in 2006 changed how veterans are paid disability and pension funds. The most onerous of these changes is the lump sum payment that was designed to save the government money at the expense of fulfilling our contractual obligations of lifetime care for those injured while in service to our country. All three national parties unanimously passed the NVC and are thus complicit in the blowback that is happening across the country. “There is only one veteran” is a rallying cry for veterans. The Green Party of Canada affirms that we need to see an end to categorization of veterans according to areas of service. This is a key point of agreement among veteran’s organizations.

The SISIP (Service Income Security Insurance Plan) claw back of disability payments is anathema to veterans. It is a sharp slap in the face to many disabled vets who as servicemen and women were obligated to pay into the plan. No civilian disability plan denies disability payments to employees based on income. (A veteran earning 75% of salary as pension is denied SISIP disability payments.) Disability payments must not be tied to income. Again, veteran’s organizations agree that this is particularly distasteful.

The Lump Sum Payment in lieu of lifetime pension for injuries sustained on duty for Canada must be scrapped. White it saves the government tens of millions of dollars annually, it short changes veterans. The lifetime pension for injuries under the Pension Act (which preceded the NVC) must be reinstated. All veterans will support this initiative.

The 25 member Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) currently adjudicates both new case files and files under appeal. This means the same people that initially denied claims are reviewing the appeal. Consequently, most appeals are automatically denied. There are currently only three members of the Board with military experience and one with medical training. The rest are appointees (most since 2007) comprised of former MPs, MLAs, Parliamentary assistants, and local supporters of the ruling party. VRAB must become two separate panels (Veterans Review Board and Veterans Appeal Board), each comprised of qualified experts in their field.

Green MPs will work to:

  • End the Lump Sum Payment for injuries and reinstate the Pension Act benefits;
  • Completely re-write the VAC policy manuals;
  • Reinstate the Benefit Of The Doubt clause;
  • Split VRAB into two distinct panels and populate it with qualified experts;
  • Revisit the NVC with an eye to a complete re-write. The NVC was enacted as a living document but sits stagnant and out of touch with veterans’ needs;
  • Publicly support the class action suit in the Supreme Court of Canada by veterans to end the SISIP claw back.