To the editor;
On Nov. 3, 2012, The Royal Canadian Legion hosted the annual Veterans Consultation Group meeting of 17 Veterans organizations.
On Nov. 8, a letter on behalf of the Consultation Group was sent by the Legion to the Hon. Steven Blaney, PC, MP, Minister of Veterans Affairs outlining the key issues of concern discussed at this meeting. These are the highlights from that letter:
With the upcoming Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) Stakeholders Committee meeting on Dec. 6, 2012, the agenda must focus on the issues still not covered from the previous meeting of Feb. 8-9, 2012.
These include implementation of the recommendations of the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group as endorsed by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs; that VAC fully implement the recommendations from the Gerontological Advisory Council Report in order to satisfy the “social covenant” that exists between Canadian Veterans, their dependants, and the people of Canada; and that VAC incorporates the recommendations of the Special Needs Advisory Group Report into the implementation of the New Veterans Charter in order to fulfill the Federal Government’s commitment to Canada’s seriously disabled Veterans and their dependants. We cannot continue to meet with the Federal Government and not have action taken on the items discussed.
The Group commends VAC for the recent Transformation initiatives especially the recognition and approval of the Veterans Transition Program as a treatment option for Veterans with operational stress injuries.
However, the Group is gravely concerned about the impact of some of the Transformation initiatives such as the possible overstatement of how Information Technology tools (Benefits Browser and My VAC) will influence the successful transformation of client service delivery.
The Group unanimously agreed that the inaction to the long overdue improvements to funeral and burial benefits for Veterans and their families is appalling. Veterans’ organizations, the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman and the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs unanimously agree that this needs to be fixed now. These Veterans and their families are the most vulnerable and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Finally, as a priority, the credibility and trust of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board needs to be restored consistent with the recommendations of the March 2012 Report of the Veterans Ombudsman, entitled “Veterans’ Right to a Fair Adjudication.”Veterans who are seeking compensation for service-related injuries must have faith in the people and processes involved in their applications for benefits.
Much has been stated about improved benefits, services and programs to our Veterans and their families by the federal government.
However, the most important outstanding issue that has not yet been resolved is ensuring the fairness and equity in the availability of benefits, services and programs for our Veterans and their families who have been injured attributable to their service, no matter where and when they have served. There is only one Veteran.
It is the duty of all Veterans Groups to continue to advocate on behalf of all of Canada’s Veterans including serving Canadian Forces and RCMP members, and their families.
Lest We Forget,
The Royal Canadian Legion