Late on January 30th, 2015, the Minister of Veterans Affairs provided an update to the Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA) on the progress made to date by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to address the 14 recommendations from the Committee’s June 2014 report, The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward.
While I am satisfied that progress is being made in areas such as improving transition support and processes, counseling and training, research and access to family services, I’m disappointed that the update provides no details on how the substantive deficiencies with the New Veterans Charter (NVC) are to be addressed.
As I have said before, the five priorities that need to be fixed to ensure that the NVC properly supports Veterans and their families are:
Financial Security after age 65,
Better access to allowances for those with the greatest need,
Income support equity for Veterans who served as reservists,
Better support for families, and
Improved income support during rehabilitation and transition.
I acknowledge that these substantive issues are complex by nature, but we’re not starting from scratch. Much research has been done and many reports have focussed on them. Now VAC needs to act. Further consultation is not needed.
Our ill and injured Veterans and their families have been waiting a long time for such action. Their expectations were high that the Government’s update would signal some tangible commitment on these key substantive issues. But, such was not the case. Like many of them, I am disappointed because all we have received are vague assurances that something is going to happen.
I certainly give the new Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Hon. Erin O’Toole, the benefit of the doubt at this moment. He has stated that under his leadership "every part of Veterans Affairs has to be Veteran-focussed and Veteran-centric" – and I agree with him on that. But, it’s time to start sharing with the Veterans’ community how they are going to solve the deficiencies of the NVC…and when.
Not every solution to these substantive issues has to be tied to Budget 2015. Some of the solutions to NVC shortcomings could be rolled out incrementally.
The Government has had for well over a year the facts and figures necessary to chart the way ahead. It has the ability to take immediate and definitive action.
Let’s get it done!