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SOURCE National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada
OTTAWA, Oct. 3, 2013 /CNW/ - The National Council of Veteran Associations, consisting of sixty member organizations and representing a wide cross-section of the veterans' community, came out today in support of the essential findings of the Veterans Ombudsman's Office, which issued a comprehensive report this week in relation to the need to reform the New Veterans Charter.
Brian Forbes, Chairman of NCVA, noted that the report, which calls for urgent action, correctly recognizes the appropriate priorities for immediate revision of the Charter in its focus on three key transition issues:
- the financial instability and decreased standard of living caused by reduced post military release income and insufficient financial support after the age of 65 for totally and permanently incapacitated veterans.
- the limitations in vocational rehabilitation and educational funding which can affect second career aspirations and employment options.
- inadequate support to address difficult family environment scenarios as a consequence of military service.
"The Ombudsman's evidence-based actuarial study has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt the specific shortcomings that exist in the Charter today," Mr. Forbes said.
He pointed out that when the Charter was enacted in 2006, the Government declared that this legislation was a "Living Charter" and made a formal commitment to the veterans' community that, as gaps and inequities were identified, immediate remedial action would be taken to address these deficiencies.
"The Government has failed to fulfill this commitment with regard to a significant number of substantive issues, impacting on the compensation benefits of disabled veterans in violation of the social covenant that the Canadian people owe to our veterans and their families," he said.
NCVA has consistently demanded over the last number of years that Veterans Affairs Canada implement an overall plan of action to fulfill its commitment in relation to not only the New Veterans Charter, but also to seriously disabled veterans and health care reform.
"In accordance with the fundamental conclusions of the Veterans Ombudsman's report, it remains NCVA's position that, notwithstanding the ostensible economic constraints facing the country, the seriously disabled veteran should be given immediate priority in the implementation of the first phase of a VAC plan of action for legislative reform," Mr. Forbes said. "There is no higher obligation on Veterans Affairs Canada and the veterans' community than the responsibility to address the needs and requirements of seriously disabled veterans and their families."
He added that, although NCVA fully endorses the general thrust of the Ombudsman's report, it would have preferred that the Ombudsman's office had adopted the more beneficial recommendations of the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (2009-2010) in relation to strengthening the compensation and income security provisions of the Charter.
It has been NCVA's longstanding contention that any VAC plan of action should include the remedial measures contained in the Advisory Group and Parliamentary Committee reports (see Appendix I) so as to optimally address the deficiencies in the Charter as precisely identified by the Veterans Ombudsman's report.
In NCVA's view, immediate implementation of a comprehensive course of action to legislative Charter reform pursuant to these recommendations would represent an important step to meeting the controversy surrounding the Lump Sum Disability Award through the proposed enhancements of the complementary benefit and income support programs in the current legislation.
"We have encouraged the new Minister, Mr. Fantino, and his predecessors, to 'get out in front' of the significant criticism of the Charter with such a plan of action, and not wait for the outcome of the current class action lawsuit (Equitas), and the pending Parliamentary Standing Committee review anticipated this fall," Mr. Forbes said.
"We do commend the Minister for his immediate commitment upon receipt of the Ombudsman's report, to the initiation of a review of the New Veterans Charter, with particular emphasis on 'the most seriously injured, support for families, and the delivery of programs by VAC,'" he added, "However, in our judgement, these proposed reforms have been sufficiently studied and analyzed over the last number of years such that the gaps and voids have been readily identified by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, the Special Needs Advisory Group, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and now the Veterans Ombudsman's office."
"In our considered opinion, it is long overdue for VAC to become
proactive, and implement remedial legislation to address these well
established concerns and live up to its obligation under the social
covenant to Canada's veterans and their dependants. For a Government
that professes to support our military, the lack of substantive action
to reform the New Veterans Charter is truly unacceptable, and
represents a betrayal of the Government's commitment to the veterans'
community," he said.
THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER ADVISORY GROUP, THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE REPORT AND THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF VETERAN ASSOCIATIONS RE THE INCOME SECURITY AND COMPENSATION PROVISIONS OF THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER.
[Underlining reflects the more beneficial proposals supported by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and the National Council of Veteran Associations as distinct from the recommendations set out in the new Veterans Ombudsman's report.]
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