By Harold Leduc
Monday to Thursday (Oct. 5-9, 2015) Veteran Watch will provide a summary of our policy report card on each of the political parties. You don’t need to compare policy positions; Veteran Watch has done it for you.
Setting the Record Straight
There is far too much misinformation circulating by government, political parties and veterans’ advocates alike causing more confusion that clarity. With the class action lawsuit in abeyance, veterans’ and their family’s abysmal treatment an election issue the competing political parties are doing what they can to win veterans votes. An analysis of the parties platforms is important to help veterans and their families see whether the election promises meet political of veterans needs. The following should help clarify misinformation and set the groundwork for the analysis.
Veterans Ombudsman’s 2013 Actuary Analysis
In the June 2013 actuarial analysis entitled “Improving the New Veterans Charter” the Veterans Ombudsman (VO) compares the suite of NVC benefits with the Pension Act (PA) benefits. This leaves readers to believe that both the PA and NVC were established for the same purpose. This comparison is simply not credible because the lump sum of Part III of the NVC was developed to replace the PA life long pension for veterans and their families.
The figures in the NVC Actuary Analysis are incomplete skewing the report’s outcome because they do not contain numbers that reflect all the gateways to access the NVC’s suite of benefits which are through a:
- disability award under the Pension Act;
- disability award under Part III of the NVC;
- re-establishment need.
The PA, for the disabled, has historically been used as a cornerstone to a suite of benefits available to all veterans. Therefore the only reasonable, legal comparisons that can be made are:
- the PA to Part III of the NVC;
- the NVC with the WWII Veterans Charter.
Assimilating RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) service and benefits
Since 2004 Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has included representatives of the RCMP in committees making decisions on benefits for military veterans and their families. The practice is highly unusual given the legislated differences between the two organizations. For example, it is well established in law that Department of Veterans Affairs exists to provide care and treatment to military veterans because the unlimited liability nature of their service disqualifies them from the Labour Code protection and workers compensation benefits. The RCMP on the other hand, are protected by the Labour Code, have the right to organize and have a right not to work at risk. Military veterans’ benefits are paid for by VAC while the RCMP’s, including life long disability pensions and treatment are paid for by the RCMP. Through their professional organization under authority of the Labour Code, the RCMP seem best resourced to advocate for their own benefits. Despite this, most political parties say that both the RCMP and CAF serve under unlimited liability.
In an ongoing class action lawsuit on the NVC, lawyers for the plaintiffs established that the unlimited liability of military service makes members of the military unique from any other occupation in Canada including police, firefighters, etc. The military is also the only occupation that plans for casualties, including fatalities in operations and training.
At a 2015 town hall meeting the VO explained that the government pays the RCMP a large sum of money to pay VAC for adjudicating their claims. The VO then told the audience that for that reason alone, he is working towards having government treat CAF and RCMP veterans the same. This act ignores the military’s long established unique unlimited liability terms of service, military veterans special status in society, RCMP legislation, the Labour Code and a Supreme Court decision in favour of the RCMP.
By unanimous vote, all party Members of Parliament of the 41st Parliament government re-affirmed the social covenant with military veterans and their families, a covenant first made in 1917 by Prime Minister Robert Borden. Benefits through VAC are a large part of that covenant.
Although both occupations have inherent risk, the practice of assimilating RCMP and CAF service to determine CAF veteran’s benefits is not supported by legislation or the social covenant. VAC did try to sell the NVC to the RCMP, Corrections Canada and other para military organizations but they passed because the NVC’s programs and benefits would have to be paid through their individual operational budgets.
Demystifying the NVC
When the NVC was brought into force in 2006, it ended 60 years of government negligence in providing CF veterans with re-habilitation, retraining and re-establishment benefits. Although the NVC’s programs fall short of the WWII Veterans Charter benefits and programs it is a start. The WWII Veterans Charter provided benefits for all active service veterans providing additional benefits for the disabled through the Pension Act under the principle of “Opportunity with Security.” The NVC was also established under the mantra of “Opportunity with Security” but falls short.
The government and VO have convinced veterans’ organizations (who should know better) and the unsuspecting public alike, that the lump sum disability award of the NVC’s Part III cannot be separated from the other benefits in the NVC. Not only is this claim ridiculous but it lacks credibility because as stated above, the Pension Act disability benefit is a gateway benefit to the NVC benefits.
What government, VAC and the informed veterans organizations know is that CF active service veterans qualify for the benefits and programs of the WWII Veterans Charter just like the who served in the Korean War did. They were aware on this when they created the NVC and brought the lump sum in to replace the Pension Act life long disability benefit to pay for the NVC’s benefits. By replacing the PA with the lump sum they also knowingly removed benefits for spouses and family members that are not duplicated in the NVC.
All but one political party are firm in their position that they will not return to the Pension Act if they form government because they claim that it is too expensive. This claim is not credible for the simple fact that Treasury Board’s policy, in keeping with the social covenant, is that regardless of how many veterans qualify for benefits they will have the money.
The NVC was also developed to replace the benefits of the SISIP program and is the reason those programs are duplicated in legislation, falling short of the full needs of veterans and their families. Another reason why the NVC’s benefits fall short is because they are based on government’s need with a financial cap rather than the actual needs of veterans based on VAC’s best practices since WWII.
An analysis of the each political parties Veterans benefit platform will be conducted by comparing the policies ensuring equity with the WWII Veterans Charter and existing programs available to other military active service veterans as partially listed below.
Pension ActVeterans Benefits Act
War Services Grants Act
Veterans Rehabilitation Act
Veterans Land Act
Veterans Insurance Act
Reinstatement to Civil Employment Act
Veterans Business and Professional Loans Act
Public Service Employment Act (priority hiring)
Public Service Superannuation Act
Unemployment Insurance Act
War Veterans Allowance Act
Access to veteran’s long-term care facilities
Veterans Independence Program (full access)
Last Post Fund access
An analysis of veterans’ organization, consultation group policies/recommendations.