Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New announcement: Downsizing at Department of Veterans Affairs Charlottetown?

Downsizing at Department of Veterans Affairs Charlottetown?

Published on April 28, 2016

© Guardian file photo

Department of Veterans Affairs

A few weeks ago, The Guardian published an editorial asking why many senior level management jobs at Veterans Affairs headquarters in Charlottetown are apparently being filled by people in Ottawa. It's curious the department hasn't responded, nor has an inquiry with VAC communications been answered. We can only conclude that senior level jobs are in fact moving to Ottawa.

Kent Hehr, the new minister of Veterans Affairs, and all of his senior level team recently assembled in Charlottetown for meetings. Neither the minister nor any of his senior staff made any public appearances while on P.E.I.

Why the secrecy? Why was there no public comment by Mr. Hehr about the future of Veterans Affairs? Why was there no effort to allay fears being raised about downsizing? Was there a meeting with our premier, city mayor or MPs to reinforce that all is well at VAC? Why did the minister avoid media questions?

Maybe there is a reason. It appears that Mr. Hehr and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould recently entered into an agreement to dismantle the VAC stand-alone, legal services unit - in existence since the department was formed. It appears they agreed to transfer responsibility for providing VAC legal services to a federal department in Ottawa - Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

A Guardian inquiry on this transfer has gone unanswered. New lawyers from Ottawa are taking calls and attending meetings that used to be handled by lawyers working in Charlottetown. Two senior lawyer positions at VAC are now held by lawyers who live and work in Ottawa.

The trend seems clear. First, senior management jobs quietly migrate to Ottawa; then IT Services and the entire HR division are relocated to Miramichi, N.B.; and now legal services is dismantled. The era of blaming the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper is over. The deserving finger is being pointed at the new Liberal government and Mr. Hehr.

The type of law that lawyers at ESDC practice is quite different from what Veterans Affairs lawyers would practice. Does this change in dealing with veterans and VAC legal issues mean they will be handled like EI claims - very litigious and aggressive?

Why would Mr. Hehr agree to surrender in-house legal services to ESDC, that serves more than a dozen other federal departments and has an unknown skill set for the needs of veterans. Did the two ministers inform fellow cabinet minister Lawrence MacAulay? Or the justice minister's own parliamentary secretary Sean Casey, the MP for Charlottetown?

Three major VAC units have been taken over by ESDC, which is responsible for paying benefits, Employment Insurance, Age Security, CPP and more. While VAC still pays disability pensions and benefits, doesn't it seem reasonable that its entire benefit payment component is the next to go?

What would be left here - a small department that could easily be absorbed by national defence? ESDC has no commitment to veterans or loyalty to Islanders. The federal government appears to be shirking its obligations to P.E.I. and to veterans. And no one seems to care.

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The The Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran, One Standard Team.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

New announcement: VAC Stakeholders

Stakeholders. Lordy, lot of yipping about stakeholders now that victory is within grasp and most, if not all, have now embraced the mandate letter.

I have no idea what the criteria the new government has set reference Stake holder "summit" invitations or involvement on the six advisory groups struck. The CVA were invited by the Conservative government 5 years ago, to date., there has been no change to the status quo other than increased involvement in advisory group activity.

I do not know about many of the "newbies", there are over thirty organizations now, charities, for profit, some that are obscure. I know that we fought for inclusion, held a D Day "vigil" to remind them of their promises and the consequences of failure.

We held frank, yet always respectful discussions with the minister during budget week, the Sacred Obligation principles were once again clearly refined, particularly in reference to the promised return to the Pension Act and equality between ELB and SISIP. Hehr told me that the CVA was being invited to hold HIM to account, to ensure the promises made to veterans were fulfilled with in the mandate, which he promised to do.

I have accepted.

I fully plan on holding them to account.

I do not what the new government's criteria is in reference to the others or their motives. As you know, the Liberal promises closely resemble the CVA Harmonization plan, this is not random. We are non partisan, and after securing the NDP's support, worked the liberals damn hard, pre-Trudeau and after, seeking a harmonized return to the pension act with a plan that respects the needs of those who served in war and the older generation, many who would prefer an LSA.

Promises have been made. The CVA has been invited to some of these advisory groups and "summit" to ensure these promises are kept and provide assistance at the group level to create proposals that are truly reflective of the mandate letter and the opportunity to collectively redress the major issues.

The bump to the LSA has concerned many veterans who wish to return to the pension Act, I have been asked a hundred times if not more why would the government bump up the LSA if they are planning on returning to the Pension Act?

Of course, I do not know but were I to speculate I could think of some reasons off hand. The legion and those composing the stakeholders group rallied behind a similar number and were actively promoting during the past couple of years. They would use the tort law as justification, which bring up a second likely reason, the Equitas lawsuit and the legal reference to subparity to average tort law (negligence at the work site). Perhaps it was to provide inclusion for all who were affected by the NVC LSA; the Critical Injury Benefit was very selective, while it might have applied and satisfied the Equitas litigants injuries, restrictive criteria ensured it did not apply equally to all veterans as will the increase once it passes through legislation.

I would also note, for what it is worth to you -Im not going to argue with the anti-liberal quotient- , the mandate is clear on providing a choice between the Pension act and the LSA, with an increase to the LSA. I do not know if the 360 threshold is far as they are prepared to go, whether we can get it higher during the ongoing discussions, but I do know that the Pension Act is in the mandate letter, their is unity with every stakeholder i have spoken to re pension act return and if the government is sincere, proposals will be presented prior to the next budget that will continue to address the issues many of us have been fighting for, or suffering through, these past many years.

FYI. There were over thirty organizations present at the summit last December, I read something the other day that might indicate the "summit" number will be expanded significantly.

I would encourage you to get engaged. While things are progressing according to my expectations (it has been six months- six of the fifteen mandate letter promises are already going through parliament) there is still the need to apply pressure through the base.

Stay focused on the mandate letter and the choice of returning to the Pension Act. This is new territory for some orgs, the mandate letter has circumvented their galvanization agenda. If you want your voice heard, do something about it!

Reach out.

Start speaking out not on facebook or these never ending email chains but where it will make a difference. If nothing else, write some emails to the PM, Ministers, parl secretary, use your membership with any organization to your advantage, send an email to their national presidents encouraging them to rally formally in favour of the Pension Act promises and other important issues identified in the mandate letter.

New Initiative to Consult with Veterans Stakeholders - Advisory groups to improve transparency and engage with Veterans

OTTAWA, April 15, 2016 /CNW/ - The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, today announced a new initiative to broaden engagement with stakeholders. Six ministerial advisory groups are being put in place as part of his commitment to improve transparency and support consultation to address important Veterans' issues.

The six advisory groups will focus on policy, service excellence, mental health, families, care and support and commemoration. Each group will be comprised of up to twelve members, and participants will appoint a chair from their membership. A senior departmental official will also be selected to co-chair each group and a representative of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman will be invited to attend the meetings as an observer. Current members' names will be updated as the advisory groups are established and their membership confirmed.

The overall goal is to engage with stakeholders, work toward common goals and seek advice and input on new and existing initiatives to support Veterans. The six advisory groups will help inform policy and program development as well as service delivery at Veterans Affairs Canada. This will ensure all areas reflect the changing needs of Veterans and their families. Records of discussion of these meetings will also be posted as they become available.

A Ministerial stakeholder summit with broader representation is planned for May 9-10, 2016, in Ottawa. The summit will provide an opportunity to collaborate, share views and gather information on topics that are important to Veterans and their families. This is a follow-up to the December 2015 Stakeholder Summit whose record of discussion is posted online.

Quick Facts

Advisory groups provide an opportunity for early and ongoing dialogue with stakeholders and serve as a sounding board for the development of Veterans Affairs Canada's policies, programs and services.
Advisory group members are selected in consultation with stakeholder groups and based on their interests and involvement within the Veteran community. Membership of these groups is still being finalized and will be made public once confirmed.
Veterans Affairs Canada will continue to listen to all interested and engaged stakeholders regardless of their involvement in any of these groups.
Stakeholder Summits are large, in-person events to discuss stakeholder priorities. Representatives from nearly 30 stakeholder groups attended the last Stakeholder Summit on December 2, 2015.


"Through our new initiative, I want to create a space and forum for stakeholders to give me their advice and suggestions. It is not our position to tell Veterans and their families what they need—we want to hear from them. Our new strategy, including the six advisory groups, will help us build stronger relationships with Veterans and the organizations that represent them."
The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister for National Defence

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The The Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran, One Standard Team.