Author Topic: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?  (Read 12653 times)

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Offline schart28

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The Hill Times

Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?

Veterans Affairs Canada has a lot on its plate: an unexpectedly large number of wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan, 2,000 or more Second World War veterans dying each month, the appointment of the first-ever ombudsman and introducing the single largest change in veterans benefits in 60 years. While the department paints a rosy picture of effectiveness and client satisfaction, many observers and veterans point to a department in crisis, with top-heavy over centralization, insensitivity to clients and overworked frontline staff. “The bureaucrats are afraid to pop their head out into the real world for fear of becoming a ‘whack-a-mole’ and getting hit on the head,” said retired sergeant Ron Cundell, a physically disabled veteran living near Barrie, Ont. “They don’t look beyond the tables that are in front of them. They have no proper medical training so how can they truly understand a medical report.” Veterans Affairs is the only government department with its head office located outside Ottawa. Not counting their only hospital, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in Montreal, Veterans Affairs has just over 2,700 full-time equivalents working in veterans programs, benefits, and health care. More than 66 per cent of those positions are located in various headquarters, leaving only 33 per cent of the workforce or less than 900 personnel to care for the 220,000 clients of Veterans Affairs.

The labyrinthine bureaucracy did not escape the eye of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs last month. Liberal Senator Colin Kenny (Rideau, Ont.) commented to the current Deputy Minister Suzanne Tining that the departmental organization chart reminded him “of the organization chart of Homeland Security in the United States,” subsequently qualifying his reference with “I was not being complimentary.” “You are thrown into miles and miles of red tape,” said Mr. Cundell. “What sort of quality of life is that? That consumed me for the first three years of my illness-having to go through all the levels of Veteran Affairs then go to the Supreme Court of Canada for a Federal Court judge to say in one day, ‘he deserves his pension, give it to him.’ ”Only 10 years ago it was the Canadian Forces which found itself being criticized for many of the same reasons Veterans Affairs Canada is now under the gun.

However, National Defence has since undergone a ‘revolution’ of sorts. The path to many welcome changes in the CF started in large part as a result of Parliamentary hearings wrapped up in 1998 by the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. These hearings toured the country’s bases taking input directly from soldiers and their families. “DND seems to be doing a lot of introspective analysis,” said retired army intelligence officer captain Perry Gray a disabled veteran suffering from PTSD. “But on the other end there doesn’t seem to be anything done by VAC. When a person leaves DND there isn’t the same level of treatment provided by Veterans Affairs—I think it’s worse.” It is a point that is disputed by Ken Miller, director of program policy for Veterans Affairs, who claims that under the New Veterans Charter passed in April 2006 disabled veterans will encounter a “seamless transition.” “The New Veterans Charter created an access point right at the time of release where there is interaction between the veteran and us, and between us and National Defence to ensure that there is continuity as the veteran transitions from life in the military and support of their disability during the last period of time that they were in the military to support under Veterans Affairs,” he said. “It is not an entitlement eligibility type of system it is a needs-based system; that is really what is quite critical now.” If current trends continue, Veterans Affairs will be confronted with a growing queue of younger disabled vets, seeking assistance especially in the area of psychological injuries such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In its 2006-07 performance report submitted to the Treasury Board, Veterans Affairs states that “over the past five years the number of clients with PTSD has more than tripled, increasing to 6,504.” Janice Summerby of Veterans Affairs explains, “there are currently a total of 10,882 veterans receiving disability benefits for psychological conditions, including PTSD.” Yet Veterans Affairs’ only hospital, Sainte- Anne-de-Bellevue in Montreal provides
mostly geriatric care to aging veterans. There are five clinics across Canada which offer limited outpatient care for psychological injuries such as PTSD. One of those clinics is located at Sainte-Anne’s. In spite of the growing numbers of Canadian Forces veterans suffering from PTSD, Sainte-Anne’s hospital provides only four beds to treat psychological injuries of military service. “I was basically shocked by the whole thing,” said Mr. Gray who was once temporarily admitted to Sainte-Anne’s but was subsequently discharged against his wishes and under heavy medication. “It was a case of take two aspirins and call me in the morning.” Added to this is the additional stress and frustration that a soldier suffering from PTSD has to go through attempting to jump through the bureaucratic hoops in order to receive assistance. “Some of the forms they have to fill out, especially those going through PTSD, that in itself can give you PTSD,” said NDP MP Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore, N.S.), his party’s veteran affairs critic. “The minister should have honoured what he said he was going to do in the first place which is that the benefit of the doubt will always fall upon the veteran. There must be a tremendous amount of people who just said I give up.”

South of the border, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has more than 150 hospitals, almost 900 clinics and more than 200 veteran support centres dedicated to the care of veterans. Each of these facilities offers mental health care and all veterans’ hospitals have dedicated beds forveterans suffering psychological injuries. In Canada a primary concern remains the management of the limited funds dedicated to veterans’ care. It was during last month’s hearing that Sen. Kenny challenged Deputy Minister Tining, “if you could eliminate various positions and hearings, the business case might even turn out that you would save money and in fact increase benefits.” While the deputy minister testified she “could not agree more” with Sen. Kenny, Ms. Tining declined to answer the question regarding “overhead versus payout.” The Associate Deputy Minister Verna Bruce responded that it was “about $250-million.” The department’s annual report signed by Ms. Tining tells a different story. Veterans Affairs spends 30 cents of every dollar or $1-billion of its $3-billion budget on funding “overhead.” But on the health care side, the inefficiency is even more pronounced with 71 cents of every dollar covering overhead and only 29 cents making it to the veterans’ care. Of more than $1-billion budgeted to the healthcare division, only $266-million is paid out for veterans’ treatment.

By contrast, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs spends only 10 cents of every dollar on operating costs with approximately 90 cents going directly to the veteran in the form of benefits or medical care. The U.S. has 100 times more employees in their healthcare division than Canada but its budget at $37-billion is only 37 times as large as the healthcare budget of Veterans Affairs Canada. Comparison with the oft-criticized Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) paints a picture at Veterans Affairs of a productivity-challenged organization. OHIP is projected to spend approximately $280-million to administer $12.9-billion in payments for health care this year. This equates to an operating cost of 2.1 cents for every dollar paid out for the healthcare of Ontario’s residents. Veterans Affairs spends $2.70 to manage every dollar that it pays out for healthcare, almost 130 times more than the 2.1-cent cost incurred by OHIP to manage each of Ontario’s healthcare dollars. “I’m disgusted by it all,” said Mr. Gray. “If the department truly cared about its clientele,it would spend more time and effort on providing services and benefits rather than publicizing the results of their stilted client surveys.” On the front lines the area counsellors who deal directly with veterans on health care issues, have a reported case load of 1,200 or more clients, reportedly limiting them to contact clients only once every three years.

Furthermore, VAC workers especially those in the front line have been quickly trying to add the details of the benefits under the New Veterans Charter to a repertoire of programs and benefits developed over the past sixty years. “It is pure insanity; they are pulling their hair out,” said Mr. Cundell who also sits on a panel advising the office which serves Toronto and the surrounding area. “We need more Indians not more chiefs. It’s time to change the culture in Veterans Affairs.” Mr. Miller, though, is quick to point out that the number of cases that a counsellor handles should not on its own be taken as an indication of the amount of work or the actual time they may have to deal with the needs of their clients. “It is not really a case anagement number, it is the number of clients in a particular area recognizing that not all necessarily need to be case managed, and not all are case managed at the same level of intensity,” he said. Veterans Affairs has yet to face the anticipated wave of wounded military to be covered by the New Veterans Charter.

The Canadian Forces have made a concerted effort to retain even severely wounded soldiers from the Afghan conflict protecting them from what they might encounter should they be released. “I am aware that DND and the chief of the defence staff have made a commitment to not release currently serving members who have been impacted or injured,” said Ms. Tining to the Senate subcommittee meeting. “As a result, we have not yet seen as clients any who have been released from the Afghanistan conflict.” “In terms of providing services, they are really not doing enough for the modern veteran,” emphasizes chief editor of ‘veteranvoice. info’, Capt. Gray. He does not hold much hope for the wounded returning from Afghanistan when they are passed off to Veterans Affairs, “Nothing in my personal experience has shown me that [Veterans Affairs] is going to provide the level and quality of service required to ensure the necessary quality of life…[Veterans Affairs] is part of the problem, not part of the solution.” Sean Bruyea is a retired captain and disabled soldier who served as an intelligence officer in the Canadian Forces for 14 years. He is now an advocate for other disabled veterans. Robert Smol served for 20 years in
the Canadian Forces. He is currently a teacher and freelance journalist in Toronto.
news@hilltimes.com
The Hill Times

---------------------------------

What do you all think of this?
« Last Edit: January 21, 2008, 17:33:43 by schart28 »
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Offline Rifleman62

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2008, 13:52:55 »
A good article. The Auditor General should look at VAC. Although I do not have proof as I do not have access to VAC's manuals etc, it is my understanding (from VAC Service Officers) that as of 1 Mar 07 VAC has raised the bar to get a hearing loss entitlement. Additionally, the maximun entitlement has been lowered to 40%. When we have 10,000 CF veterans of Afghanistan, very many in actual combat operations without the opportunity to utilize hearing protection (as per a range shoot), VAC makes it harder to get a hearing loss entitlement.
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Offline Bigrex

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2008, 22:56:54 »
Yes a very good article, yet the minister of Veteran Affairs wrote an article in rebuttal, basically calling the authors liars. is this the respect and honor that the minister and VAC shows towards veterans. He then goes onto tout all the things that they have done for veterans, likely poorly thought out NVC, which removes the veterans financial stability of a lifelong monthly pension for a one time lump sum, the Veterans Bill of rights, a useless piece of paper with no legal power, and basically rewritten version of what has been written on the VAC website for years, and far less helpful than the tax payers bill of rights. they brought in a Ombudsmen, but ignored every recommendation set out by the Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, created a position that answers directly to the minister, and has no real power, he cannot review questionable decisions by VAC and VRAB in regards to disability pensions and awards, he cannot subpoena personnel and has no legal power, a worthless attempt at appeasing the Veterans without actually doing anything, and even if he tries, he has no real power to affect change. VAC is a relatively small government agency, yet their annual report stated that salaries increased by nearly 3.2 million last year, and 30% of their budget gets spent on things other than the veterans. Obviously, we need to clean house and get people into power that truly have veterans and our well being as a priority instead of as an afterthought, or worse, a political pawn.

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2008, 23:17:46 »
Obviously, we need to clean house and get people into power that truly have veterans and our well being as a priority instead of as an afterthought, or worse, a political pawn.

This is rich.  You know of course that the process leading up to the new veterans charter took 6 years and became law when the Liberals were in power. 
So Rex how do you feel knowing that the people responsible have already been removed from power?

Quote
Bill C-45 was unanimously endorsed by all Canadian federal political parties when it was presented before the House of Comons and became law on 13 May 2005 and subsequently implemented on 3 April 2006.
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Offline Bigrex

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2008, 01:03:49 »
Well Recce, since you seem to be a know it all, then tell me why the Tories keep repeating that the NVC is something they did for veterans, but in truth, it was a bureaucratic decision, not a political one, so no party can accept responsibility for it. The NVC was put forward by VAC and just signed off on by the politicians, who were probably blinded by the lump sum payments like those who don't have to live off a $50000 payment, even if they are unable to work, and often have to go months between being released and being approved for payments, even if they don't have to go through the appeal process, then it can take years. I know, I've been waiting for a claim put in winter of 2005, with several more months before an appeal hearing will be set, and i've already been out for over 2 years? The truth is the only thing the new charter does is to short change veterans who have become disabled after Apr 06, giving them the golden handshake in the hopes that they won't have to deal with them again, and the rest of the programs that fall under the new charter have extremely rigid criteria for approval, and has become workfare, as even those most disabled veterans must participate in a VAC approved Rehab program in order to receive any extra benefits. If Minister Thompson gave a rats *** about Veterans, he wouldn't have voted no for the Veterans first Motion, that called for the cessation of the clawbacks of VAC pensions from SISIP LTD payments, Stopped the clawbacks of CPP/QPP payments from our superannuation payments, made Harper live up to his promise to extend VIP services to all CF widows form WW2 and Korea, increased survivor benefits from 50% to 66%,. and eliminate the gold digger clause, that prevents widows of veterans who marry after 60 to any pension entitlements, regardless of how long they were married before the veteran passes. But he and the Tories haven't acted upon a single element of that motion, in spite of it passing in the House, but instead only fight Veterans at every corner, while claiming support.


So tell me recce, are you a disabled veteran? Do you have $1500.00 deducted from your LTD check every month because a politician wanted to save money? Are you facing a long legal battle to get the benefits you deserve, because the sitting Party failed to act in the best interest of the Veterans and their survivors.  The NVC was debated in the house, was never discussed at committee or the senate,there was no wide consultation with veterans groups. it was passed within a few days, with only the party leaders signatures, not the in depth process you make it out to be.


And to illustrate how well received it was by veterans, here is a poll taken by one Veterans website as to Veterans perception, not a political one, of VAC and the NVC.


Year-End VeteranVoice.info Poll Results - Effective 21 Dec 2007
H
ow would you rate the New Veteran Charter?
Answers    Votes    Percent
1.    Good    10    1%
2.    Fair      88      8%
3.    Poor     944    91%
   Total Votes:    1042
      
As a veteran are you satisfied with VAC's services?
Answers    Votes    Percent

1.    Always                       15         1%
2.    Most of the time    94       9%
3.    Some of the time     261    26%
4.    Not often             348         35%
5.    Never                      286         28%
    Total Votes:           1004
 
Has the VRAB met your needs?
Answers    Votes    Percent

1.    No                                                 147    44%
2.    Yes                                                 44    13%
3.    I gave up! Too much frustration!    145       43%
        Total Votes:                                      336


I don't know about your Torie math, but to me the numbers certainly don't look very good for the VAC, as far as their clients are concerned. So, if you are a client that hasn't had any problems with VAC, good for you, your one of the few, but if you have had problems but are willing to let the Tories slide with their actions because of political loyalty, then shame on you, and if you are not a client  and have no interest in the subject of VAC treatment of its clients, then just be quiet, and let those of us who suffer daily, physically, mentally and financially rant at the bureaucracy and disrespect we have to endure. have a good night.

 
      

Offline gnrMorbidwork

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2008, 01:34:39 »
From my experience, VAC is falling apart.

I injured myself in October, 2006 while working, howitzer ran over my foot, sent in all the paper work and waited the 6 months to get a reply that the military was taking full responsibility.  They then said that they would contact me in the next three weeks to set up an appointment to have my foot looked at and to assess the compensation.  Two months later went to one of their offices because no one had phoned me to ask what exactly was happening.  There I ended up talking to a medic who set up all the appointments and said that the office was 2 months behind in paper work and it would take another 3 months to see a doctor.  As well my paper work was all over the place from Pembroke to Ottawa to Charlottetown.

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2008, 02:40:06 »
If its anything like the Aussie DVA, they are the bastards of bastards, and to get a cent out of them, is like getting blood out of a stone.

I think they all should be ashamed of themselves.

Cheers,

Wes
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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2008, 03:03:07 »
Thank these guys.

http://legion.ca/asp/docs/serv_bur/nvc_General_e.asp

They make up at least some of the "experts" the gov called on.

Yes I am a disabled veteran.  I had my cheque within 6 months of release.  Assessed at 5% for chronic lower back pain. It wakes me up every day, I no longer need an alarm clock because unless I'm dead on my feet I will not sleep more than 6 hours straight through.  I can not do some of the things I dearly love to do, like a lot of Jiu-Jitsu, and other activities.  I can't sit too long or stand too long.  This is 100% attributable to service.

I'm 41, that $12,500 is supposed to do me until I die in another 35 - 40 years or so (avg).  

Will it?  

Nope, it was spent within a week (I paid off my new car which I bought the year before) but luckily due to the fact that I made rational choices about how I spent/saved/invested my money BEFORE I ever got out I do not have nothing.

It kills me that people are so absolutely myopic that they do not think that the worst thing that can happen to them is the one thing they SHOULD plan for.  Then when everything goes pear shaped at least they won't be left to cry on the deaf ear of government that the government isn't taking care of them.  

Rule #1:  Ask not what your government can do for you but what you can do for yourself!

As for my original post it was a direct response to another one of your sweeping generalization "Blame the GD Conservatives" posts.  If you think no one here has noticed that you enjoy grinding that particular axe you're wrong.  I never claimed to know it all, that is you putting words in my mouth.  I never claimed the system was perfect, I never even claimed to like it, but I do know how it works so get off your high horse and cut the useless hyperbole... It wont work here.
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Offline Bigrex

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2008, 07:33:47 »
Are the Tories the root of all evil, no, they're not. but when they say that they care and will fix the issues (MND, March 28 /07, during question period, as a response to NDP VA critic Peter Stoffer) that they know about (VIP and SISIP), then in spite of having 14 Billion in surplus, fight against every opportunity to actually fix the issues, including forcing a possible lengthy legal battle. You got your 5% award, good for you, I am rated at 47%,, but since it is received as a monthly check, that money is directly reduced from my SISIP LTD entitlement, so that they actually only have to pay me 16% of my pre-release pay. Plus, if I get approved finally after 3+ years for my chronic lower back pain (VRAB said that seeking medical help several times for it between 98 and my release in 2006, following an accident on ships where I was struck in the lower back by a steel door, didn't prove that I suffer from a disability from it) and aggravated  OA right knee ( loss of 4 deg of cartilage in 3 months was just coincidental that those same three month were the ones that followed major surgery on my left knee, which is covered, and was forced to do majority of weight bearing on my right leg), so any back dated payments they may give me will only be clawed back from me by SISIP. So here I am, 36 years old with a family, with severe OA in both knees and neck, chronic lower back pain, and peripheral neupathy, where I can not feel my left hand or feet. I cannot work, I cannot walk, sleep, stand or even sit up straight for long, but yet I have the several government agencies saying that the amount that I am allowed to make a month is capped, with only the indexing to look forward to. If I get CPP disability, it reduces my pension and LTD, if I get any sort of income loss payments from VAC, it get deducted from my LTD. They have made it so that severely disabled veteran cannot get ahead and out from under their control, as we do not make enough to have savings. Am I bitter? heck yes, these policies need to be changed, the funds are there to do it, and would cost less than the amount the government has given to some Native bands last year, but the Tories are playing partisan politics with the lives of veterans, and it will cost them dearly in the next election.

The thing is, even if you get everything you want from VAC, you should be prepared to stand up for all of those who have not, your brothers and sisters in arms who have been wronged and dismissed by VAC and the government, whichever party is in power, as none is better than any other. And as for my original comment about cleaning house, I was more referring to the entrenched bureaucrats that are the real policy makers in VAC.

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2008, 07:48:02 »
Some of you may have received this:

IMPORTANT NEWS FOR VETERANS WITH DISABILITY CLAIMS
(By Ron Gladstone)

Leroy Wood has been keeping close tabs on a series of Court cases involving Veterans” disability claims and has asked me to forward the results  to all Veterans.

 A recent ruling by Chief Justice Richard and concurred in by Justices  J.A.Linden and J.A. Ryder of the Federal Court of Appeal in Winnipeg, is of significant interest to all Veterans who have been refused  compensation for disabilities incurred while in service to Canada. In effect it finds  that Veterans” Affairs had instituted guidelines under the Minister’s Table  of  Disabilities for granting claims that were not in  accordance with legal provisions of the Pension Act.

This all arose when Larry W. Nelson, on having been turned down by the Board for a claim based on hearing loss, applied for a judicial review of a decision by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) that denied him disability benefits under subsection 21(2) of the Pensions Act. TheHonourable Mr Justice O’Keefe, after considering all the evidence  directed that the VRAB decision be set aside and the matter referred to a different panel of VRAB for redetermination. This judgement was appealed by the Attorney General of Canada who wanted this judgment set aside.

The Federal Court of Appeal supported the judgement of Mr Justice O’Keefe because – “Section 2 requires that the provisions of the Act be liberally construed and interpreted to recognize Canada’s obligation to provide compensation to those members of the  forces who have been disabled or have died as a result of military service. Section 5 of the Act is also aimed at making the application process as informal and expeditious as possible, requiring the Minister to draw  every reasonable inference in favour of the applicant and to resolve any  doubt in favour of the applicant when weighing the evidence”. Accordingly the Government’s Appeal was denied and, significantly, they were required  to pay all the costs of Mr Nelson. Indeed, in this judgement the Just ices went even further and did not restrict this finding to hearing loss but to ALL disabilities suffered  as the result of Service in the Armed Forces of Canada.

What does this mean to us? It means that, if you have been turned down for disability compensation in the past on grounds based on the “Minister’s Guidelines” which attempted to supersede the Acts provisions, you now have grounds for appeal (or additional appeals) to Veterans Affairs. In  doing so you may wish to quote: Canadian (Attorney General) v. Nelson, 2007 FCE (CanLII) dated  2007-05-25 I want to thank Leroy for his diligence in following this matter on  behalf of us all.
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Offline schart28

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2008, 08:44:11 »
Here is the reply from the Minister

Obvious facts missing from story, says Veterans Affairs Minister Thompson

Re: “Veterans Affairs Canada:well-oiled machine or department in crisis?” (The Hill Times, Jan. 21, p. 34.) Some people just can’t take yes for an answer. Sean Bruyea and Robert Smol are two such people. In their doomsday article last week about Veterans Affairs Canada, your two writers missed the mark so many times that it makes one wonder what the true aim of their piece was.

Allow me to point out just a few very obvious facts missing from their story.

First, veterans had believed for years that they were being neglected by successive federal governments, that they were only an afterthought in political Ottawa. That has all changed under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. With our government, veterans and their families are now a national priority. They are front-and centre, where they belong.

Here is some of the proof. Since taking office two years ago, we have increased annual federal spending on our veterans by $523-million. That’s half a billion dollars more every year. And, we’ve allotted another $150-million over five years to deal with our veterans’ other outstanding priorities. This is all good news; we are saying “yes” to our veterans.

But our work hasn’t stopped there. For years, our leading veterans organizations had been working to help develop a better and more modern approach to providing services and benefits to new Canadian Forces Veterans. Within two months of taking office, we implemented that new approach. It’s called the New Veterans Charter, the most sweeping changes to the way we care for our veterans in 60 years. And we’ve continued to work with our veterans to make sure the New Veterans Charter is achieving our shared goals.

What’s more, veterans had been pleading for decades for a Veterans Bill of Rights and a Veterans Ombudsman. Guess what. We’ve delivered on both.
 In short, we’ve overhauled the way we care for our Veterans. We’ve put the money in place to make sure this modern approach works. We’ve introduced a Bill of Rights to guarantee our veterans get this proper care and respect. And we’ve  appointed a veterombudsman to keep an eye on all of this for our veterans. Do departments in crisis act with that kind of confidence?

Finally, your article also miscalculates Veterans Affairs Canada’s overhead costs as a percentage of the department’s actual expenditures. Your writers claim it is 30 per cent; the real figure is 11.4 per cent. That’s a significant difference. Let me be very clear, however. I do not think Veterans Affairs Canada or any other federal department is perfect. We know there is still plenty of work to be done.

That’s why, for example, we have budgeted $9 million to double the number of Operational Stress Injury clinics operated by Veterans Affairs Canada. We have men and women suffering very real and serious psychological harm while they are serving our country. And their numbers are growing. Quickly. We have to be there for them —just as they have been here for us. And we are.

We also know we are losing too many of our aging war-service Veterans. And too soon. We have to make sure they enjoy the highest quality of life possible in their twilight years. The Prime Minister understands that. I understand that. We may be the last government with the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their lives, and we are determined to deliver. In closing, we know that all Canadians are very proud of our veterans. They want these courageous men and women treated with respect and dignity, and to have access to world-class programs and services. We agree. We are saying “Yes.”And we are getting it done. Veterans Affairs Minister

Greg Thompson represents New Brunswick Southwest, N.B.
The Hill Times
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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2008, 13:32:51 »
The thing is, even if you get everything you want from VAC, you should be prepared to stand up for all of those who have not, your brothers and sisters in arms who have been wronged and dismissed by VAC and the government, whichever party is in power, as none is better than any other. And as for my original comment about cleaning house, I was more referring to the entrenched bureaucrats that are the real policy makers in VAC.

I'm sorry, I don't play collectivist games.  My responsibility for you and all my other "brothers and sisters" ends at the tips of my fingers, in so much as I will not cause them harm.  Were I to choose to fight the VAC I would do it on my own behalf, for my own reasons and for my own good.

"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man; nor ask another man to live for mine."
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Offline schart28

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2008, 17:25:11 »
http://www.thehilltimes.ca/html/cover_index.php?display=story&full_path=/2008/february/11/letter1/&c=1

Veterans Affairs´ spending is not top heavy, says Thompson


It is with great regret that I must write for the second time in two weeks to correct the same error in The Hill Times. But, once again, your Feb. 4 edition contains a column, "Veterans Affairs Minister Thompson should be building trust and showing more compassion," (by Sean Bruyea, p. 17) incorrectly claiming that 30 cents out of every dollar spent by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) goes toward administering programs. As I wrote two weeks ago, the real figure is 11.4 cents.

As the minister of Veterans Affairs, I feel obliged, again, to reassure your readers particularly those veterans reading your newspaper that our program spending is not top heavy. Allow me to explain.

Under Treasury Board rules, all departmental spending in our performance reports is shown under three categories: operating expenditures, capital expenditures, and grants and contributions.

For most departments, operating expenditures consist solely of administration and overhead costs. That means such things as salaries, professional services, supplies, rentals, and other costs required to deliver a program.

However, Veterans Affairs Canada is unique in this regard. VAC also purchases goods and services on behalf of our veterans. This includes such things as prescription drugs, dental, audio and visual services, special equipment and long-term care in non-departmental hospitals.

Because these goods and services are not capital expenditures and are not expenditures made through a grant or contribution, they must be included in VAC´s operating expenditures. And these purchases accounted for $538.1-million out of the $882.4-million listed for our operating expenditures in our 2006-07 Performance Report.

That means that only $344.3-million from our overall budget of $3.028-billion actually goes toward what other federal departments would consider their administration and overhead costs. In our case, that amounts to 11.4 cents out of every dollar is spent administering federal programs on behalf of our Veterans a rate that is within the generally accepted level for any organization.

Before I close, however, I also want to repeat as I did two weeks ago that I do not think Veterans Affairs Canada is perfect. We know we can do even better serving our veterans. And we also know that no matter how much more we do, it will never be enough to repay the great debt we owe the men and women who have always served Canada so courageously.

But is Veterans Affairs Canada a department in crisis? Hardly. It is, instead, a department in transition a department changing with the times and the new needs of our modern-day veterans. (While remaining true to our traditional, war-time veterans.)

That´s why, for example, we are doubling the number of operational stress injury clinics operated by Veterans Affairs Canada. And that´s why we are adding more front-line staff to serve our veterans.

I would add that the reason we have adopted a Veterans Bill of Rights and a veterans ombudsman is because it was the right thing to do for our veterans, who had been asking for such measures for decades. We promised in the 2006 election to act on both of these outstanding requests, and we have delivered. Proudly.

That is our record. We have, at every turn, happily sided with our veterans. And we will remain here for them. Every one of them.

Veterans Affairs Minister
Greg ThompsonÂ

New Brunswick South, N.B.
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Offline wildman0101

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2008, 00:24:46 »
hey all ,,
             regards vac benifits,,srb benifits under the cfsa act ,,,also info on the new amendment
formula regards cpp benefits,,,and impacts on all of the above,,,
i can be reached  at leigh111655@yahoo.com
1-250-549-1624
addy is scoty brandt
55 1507 35th ave
vernon, b.c.v1t2r7
i was released qro 15.01 3b blah blah blah 1986 
anyway this is a no duff,,,
pm me at the above and ill do my best to help..
                                    best regards all..
                                     scoty b
scoty b (aka the brat)
so my sister say's
she would know as she
pointed out ,,,, quote
my lil brother is one bad "mo-fo"
dont f*** with him you'll just get hurt.

Offline Rifleman62

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2008, 08:59:25 »
Re the Minister's letter: BS, with a capital B and S.  Especially "That is our record. We have, at every turn, happily sided with our veterans. And we will remain here for them. Every one of them".
"It is, instead, a department in transition a department changing with the times and the new needs of our modern-day veterans". This BS line has been sprouted for years. The current Minister is non effective. He probably does not know/understand his portfolio and is held hostage by the bureaucrats who run VAC. He just signs what is put before him.
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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2008, 09:33:30 »
A friend of mine just got his cheque... he is more than happy with how his file was handled.  But of course someone like him who is happy would have less of a reason to post than someone who thinks they are owed something. 

I't is not only the squeeky wheel that gets the grease but also only the sqeeky wheel thinks it needs it.
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Offline retiredgrunt45

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2008, 14:14:13 »
Well I must say that we tend to only hear one side of the story, we don't hear from the people who had a good experience with the VAC, like myself. Joined in 78 and medically released in 01, applied for a pension in 99 while still serving, received my disability pension in 00 while still serving, took a medical release in September of 01, applied for SISIP while still serving, 3 months later received my LTD benefits upon release, went back to school (SISIP funded) and received a BA in computer science.

In 03 my condition became worse, applied for extension on my SISIP benefits, had LTD extend another 3 years, in 05 I was placed on lifetime SISIP benefits. My VAC case manager her in London has been nothing short of outstanding, she has worked and supported me through every stage of the process. I have an OT, Councilor among a few of the benefits that I receive from the VAC. When I requested an electric wheelchair, it took 60 days from the time I requested to the time is was approved. My van was also altered so It would accommodate the wheelchair, side ramp, electric lift, extended top and swivel drivers seat. They even gave us a loaner van while our van was being converted.

Monetary awards. Do I have enough to live on? Yes. Comfortably? Yes. Would I like more? Who doesn't. Do I own a house? Yes. It has been a huge adjustment in lifestyle, but you learn to adapt. When it comes to money, people tend to be their own worst enemy. The first lesson I learnt was to get rid of my credit cards, After I seen how much money I was wasting on fees, interest and spending on impulse buying, it was one of the smartest things I ever did. The 2nd was to pay of my debts and not to go through the merry - go - round again, with the exception of my mortgage. I used my severance for this and yes I took a good tax hit, but it was well worth it. Instead of buying a new van, we purchased one a few years old, so someone else had already paid for the depreciation. The 3rd was to live within our means and stop wasting money on things I wanted, like that 64" HD television, but really didn't need or that brand new shiny SUV with the 5-cup holders and the DVD surround sound system. The 4th was to setup a monthly budget and follow it "religiously". The 5th was to pay off monthly bills in full, gas, hydro etc, that way you never get behind and then are charged late fees, which can add up rather quickly. Who paid for my credit counseling sessions, the VAC. I've heard of people having to file for bankruptcy, well I must say I could of also been headed down that bumpy road, but I received the help I needed and used that good advise to make the necessary changes in my life before that happened, thanks to the VAC. It’s not necessarily the sound advice you receive that improves your life, but rather its whether or not you choose to use that advice that makes the difference.

That's my good experience story, there must be others out there, I can't be the only one... Ya I know "good for me". That's what some are thinking.
The first goal of any political party is to stay in power by whatever means possible. Their second goal is to fool us into believing that we should keep them in power.

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Offline Nemo888

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2008, 15:25:36 »
Veterans Affairs sounds like a bureaucratic meat grinder. At least if you get hurt you can become a Commissionaire. In the USA it's the Post Office I've been told. Most disabled vets want work not a pension. That lump sum thing is retarded. Yes RETARDED!!! I've worked with some paraplegics and severely injured persons who received large sums from insurance companies. Don't give someone a huge sum of money when they feel they just lost everything. They do retarded things like buy 4 cars or a million dollar house. A few years later they have nothing but bills and a substance abuse problem. Many newly disabled persons are almost suicidal during the first year or so and simply cannot make rational decisions about money. So much misery is going to come from this. The person who thought this up clearly has no experience with  disabled persons.

« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 15:51:48 by Nemo888 »

Offline schart28

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2008, 15:36:54 »
Bureaucratic you say....  it took me years of battle with them, to get reservists treated at Ste Anne. This after raising hell, at the Deputy Minister and Associate deputy minister level., totally unacceptable.
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Offline Bigrex

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2008, 16:23:12 »
grunt, what is your disability if you don't mind me asking, so that SISIP extended you?  I was told by SISIP that i didn't meet their criteria for being completely disabled, I guess severe arthritis both knees, chronic lower back pain, arthritis in my neck, peripheral neuropathy, and major depressive disorder, having to walk with a cane, and will likely end up in a wheelchair before I'm 40. My doctor even stated that I would find it extremely difficult to hold any meaningful job with my restrictions, but that wasn't good enough for them. Maybe I should stop fighting it and just go into the chair and maybe they'd cover me then, but now I have to go and try to find a job that will accommodate my disabilities while giving me enough income that I and my family won't suffer. 

You might also be interested that the class action certification hearing against SISIP went well, and the judge said that this case will proceed one way or other, we will receive his written decision in a few months, this will force SISIP from subtracting your VAC pension from your LTD payments, as income.

Offline schart28

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2008, 16:39:35 »
you can turn to VAC and the rehab program. They offer the same SISIP finacial benifits and are less demanding on getting a full disability. SISIP has started to pay less and less since the introduction of the VAC Rehab program. In fact only 3% go over the initial 2 years.

grunt, what is your disability if you don't mind me asking, so that SISIP extended you?  I was told by SISIP that i didn't meet their criteria for being completely disabled, I guess severe arthritis both knees, chronic lower back pain, arthritis in my neck, peripheral neuropathy, and major depressive disorder, having to walk with a cane, and will likely end up in a wheelchair before I'm 40. My doctor even stated that I would find it extremely difficult to hold any meaningful job with my restrictions, but that wasn't good enough for them. Maybe I should stop fighting it and just go into the chair and maybe they'd cover me then, but now I have to go and try to find a job that will accommodate my disabilities while giving me enough income that I and my family won't suffer. 

You might also be interested that the class action certification hearing against SISIP went well, and the judge said that this case will proceed one way or other, we will receive his written decision in a few months, this will force SISIP from subtracting your VAC pension from your LTD payments, as income.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2008, 16:50:17 by schart28 »
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Offline retiredgrunt45

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2008, 18:39:07 »
BixRex, I had both my legs crushed when a HLVW loaded with rations backed over them in Petawawa. Six surgeries later, IM Rodding in both Tibia's along with surgical nails to hold the rodding in place. They had to remove my right Fibula bone because it was crushed beyond repair and I had external fixtators in both legs for 8 months. I've lost 75% of motor function in my legs because the nerves were damaged so I go from excruciating pain to total numbness in both legs on a daily basis.

I was deemed 100% disabled and placed on LTD. I use an electric wheelchair most of the time, used to use a manual but ended up with carpol tunnel in my wrists.
The first goal of any political party is to stay in power by whatever means possible. Their second goal is to fool us into believing that we should keep them in power.

A politician is like a used car saleman, he'll promise you a "peach" and then turn around and sell you a "lemon"

"Politicians are like diapers, they have to be changed often because their usually full of crap.

Offline the 48th regulator

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2008, 03:06:41 »
Guys, Guys!

Please, we are beating each other up for no reason.  Let's cool the jets.


BTW, I got the scars to allow me to say that.

dileas

tess

I know that I’m not perfect and that I don’t claim to be, so before you point your fingers make sure your hands are clean.

Offline Greymatters

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2008, 12:07:26 »
To change the tone a bit, and to show that I am not completely biased against VAC and associated departments...

Finally got my new knee brace, was approved by VAC with no problem end of last year.  Even though it took 4 months, most of the delay was from the ortho specialist and the manufacturer, not VAC (for a change).


Offline Bigrex

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2008, 15:17:24 »
To illustrate how the Conservatives and the Minister of veterans affairs are guilty of committing a political snowjob in the name of supporting the veterans, to the general public, I will list the statements from the Veterans bill of rights that the Conservatives introduced keep saying is groundbreaking, and in brackets will be the VAC service standards that have been on their website for years, as you will see, they are nearly identical.

Veterans Bill of Rights                                                                                                                                                                                                        VAC Service Standards

   
* Be treated with respect, dignity, fairness and courtesy.       (treat you with courtesy, equity, fairness, respect and sensitivity)
    * Take part in discussions that involve you and your family.   (ensure you are included in the decision-making process on matters affecting your health and well-being)
    * Have someone with you for support when you deal with Veterans Affairs.  (acknowledge the important role that your family and community have in your well-being.)
    * Receive clear, easy-to-understand information about our programs and services, in English or French, as set out in the Official Languages Act. (deliver services to you in the official language of your choice, using easy-to understand language)
    * Have your privacy protected as set out in the Privacy Act.   (respect your privacy and make sure your personal information remains protected)
    * Receive benefits and services as set out in our published service standards and to know your appeal rights.   (provide you with accurate information about our benefits and services)

One service standard that they did omit from the BoR, is probably the most poignant one, that states " be consistent in the quality and level of services and benefits provided to you".

And since the Bill of Rights isn't a legal document, it has no real weight behind it and if VAC does treat you unfairly, you cannot go to court with the BoR and be awarded damages. A true veterans Bill of Rights should ensure or rights are respected by every government organization, not just VAC, and apply to ALL veterans, not just VAC clients, as it stands right now.


And to grunt, I`m sorry that you`ve had to go through what you have, but imagine if the accident report hadn't made it into your file, or when it happened you were taken to see civilian doctor or a junior med tech, where they may have written truck in their report because they didn't know what a HLVW (as a sailor, I`m not even sure what it is, honestly), so when you submitted your claim VAC said there is no solid link to your disability and service, and denied your claim, then you would not have been a client and even when things worsened, you would have had to buy your own wheelchair. This is a situation more than a fair share of veterans have come across and have battled VAC for years over. So even if i was assessed at 100%, which may be possible once my appeal goes through, I have friends and family that have been wronged by VAC, so as long as I can type, I will advocate for them. But that`s just me.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2008, 01:09:11 by Bigrex »

Offline retiredgrunt45

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2008, 00:04:33 »
Bigrex, I can understand your frustration. My accident was well documented, witnesses who saw the accident came forward immediately and gave there statement. My Pl Wo (God bless that man) who immediately compiled the witness statements and completed all the required documents CF-98, incident report etc, on my behalf while I was in the hospital. He made me copies of everything, I still can't thank him enough.
In my case it was pretty well cut and dried, they had nothing to refute.

A HLVW is a 16 ton heavy lift truck (Heavy Lift Vehicle Wheeled) My Pl WO spelled it out just like this in his report.

If I'm reading what you wrote correctly it seems that the system and your superiors are just as much to blame if not completely in your case for failing to ensure that the proper documentation was completed and placed in your file as to the cause of or the severity of your injuries, CF-98's incident reports etc. If this is correct, how are the VAC or SISIP expected to make a favourable decision on your behalf with incomplete documentation as to how, when and where the injuries happended. As you said yourself, if my files had been mishandled by my superiors I would have been in the same boat. It all boils down to being in possession of in refutable facts and if those facts are missing, well you don't pass go until you can prove otherwise. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

I have a just a few bits of advice to young soldiers. If you get hurt make sure you ask to complete a CF-98 ASAP, or if you've been  incapacitated ask to see the witness and incident reports etc at the soonest possible time. "Keep a copy of everything" and I mean everything! Ask and ensure that these reports are placed in the proper files, sometimes things stay in the "In basket" to long and get lost or misplaced. You, yourself are your best advacate, I just lucked in and had an outstanding Pl WO who took complete care of my needs, don't expect this all the time.

All I can say is I do sympathise with your situation. I wish you all the luck and I do hope this bares fruit in the end.

I can only comment on my own experience with the VAC and it has been a positive one, so far...
The first goal of any political party is to stay in power by whatever means possible. Their second goal is to fool us into believing that we should keep them in power.

A politician is like a used car saleman, he'll promise you a "peach" and then turn around and sell you a "lemon"

"Politicians are like diapers, they have to be changed often because their usually full of crap.

Offline Bigrex

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #26 on: February 17, 2008, 01:04:03 »
It is true, there is a very different mentality between supervisors in the Army and those in the navy. I had three surgeries in the last 16 months of service, and spent over 2 weeks in the hospital following them, yet i was never visited by any of my supervisors, out of an office of 15 people, so it's not like I was lost in the shuffle of a large unit. My father, a retired Sgt with the Field Engineers said that was reprehensible and a slap in the face to any injured personnel. When still serving, I have seen him visit persons in the hospital during his off time, and has gone out of his way to arrange snow removal for them while there or on sick leave, when they were unable to do it themselves. the Navy on the other hand doesn't care, in fact I had to pay for 2 PMQs one month even though it was a medical requirement that I move from the row house into a bungalow.

One problem that I came across was that the ortho surgeon who did all three of my knee surgeries was retiring and refused to write a letter for VRAB, so i was forced to see a Civie doctor, who had to make his assessment based on x-rays and the surgery reports alone and wasn't fully aware of the time line involved. In 2003, diagnosed with mild OA in both knees, x-rays showed +2 degs of cartilage, right knee was covered fully due to an injury in the gulf. 1 year later , new x-rays showed a 3 degree loss in my left knee, which according to the surgeon was a massive change in such a short period of time, so surgery was scheduled in Apr 04, my right knee remained unchanged. I had the surgery at the end of Apr, and was ordered to weight bear on my right leg, gradually increasing weight on the left leg as the months passed. in July another x-ray showed that my right knee had lost 4 degrees of cartilage, the surgeon scheduled my for surgery the week after the summer leave period, in Aug 04 and a second surgery in Nov 05. My claim with VAC was that the treatment for my OA left knee (covered) permanently aggravated a pre-existing condition, but was told that the worsening of my OA right knee was coincidental, and had nothing to do with excessive weight bearing following my first surgery, and therefor denied.  VRAb totally disregarded my Orthos opinion that substantiated my claim, and ignored the medical facts that compensating for a disability in one joint will often cause issues with other joints, such as the opposite knee and hips. Hpefully my Appeal hearing will be next month, but since only around 37% of cases get approved at that level, i'm rather wary of being positive, for fear of being disappointed.

Offline wildman0101

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #27 on: February 17, 2008, 21:35:38 »
first of all thank you for your responses...appreciated
regards to my med release 3b
i was rewarded a 2% lump sum upon  or shortly after  my release...
about 4 years after tha i recieved a flyer along with my pension cheque regarding
supplementary retirement benifits (srb) under  part 111 of the canadian forces
superannuation act (cfsa)....dappp 4-4 can be reached at 1-800-267-0352
the form to request is nhw-365 of the suppplement retirement benefit....
along with all your medical info including military,,,civilian (after military service)
and any other pertinent medical info you have regarding your military service...
said form will be completed by your practitioner (hopefully you will have your
medical copies also) and a good practitioner who understands what is required
as i had....
when you get the nhw-365 form it will also include where to send it ie;
i had to send to occupational and environmental health services,,,health canada,,
medical services branch,,,,blah blah here in bc
you will probably have to do same in your region of canada as will state when you
get the application....
there is a part you fill out and the rest your doctor...
hope this helps regard above...
sorry about the misunderstanding,,,as i was referring to the srb benifits,,,in regards
to the canadian forces superannuation act..
sorry bout the mix up,,,you have permission to shoot me in the foot lol....
best regards all and hope this clears things up
                                                 scoty b
scoty b (aka the brat)
so my sister say's
she would know as she
pointed out ,,,, quote
my lil brother is one bad "mo-fo"
dont f*** with him you'll just get hurt.

Offline schart28

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Re: Veterans Affairs Canada:Well-oiled machine or department in crisis?
« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2008, 15:00:32 »
http://www.thehilltimes.ca/html/cover_index.php?display=story&full_path=/2008/february/18/letter8/&c=1


The Hill Times, February 18th, 2008

LETTERS
Some questions for Canada´s Veterans Affairs Minister Thompson

Re: "Veterans Affairs´ spending is not top heavy, says Thompson," (The Hill Times, letter to the editor, Feb. 11, p. 8). Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson claims that he and the Conservatives "happily side with the veterans at every turn," but I´d like him to explain a few points.

Did Mr. Thompson and the Tories side with the veterans when they voted against the NDP´s veterans´ first motion, and haven´t ignored it even after it passed in the House?

Did the minister and the Tories side with veterans when they had government lawyers fight the court decision to award mentally disabled veterans the interest that was owed to them on monies being managed by the Government of Canada?

Did Mr. Thompson and the Tories side with veterans and their widows when they delayed extending VIP services as promised for over two years? I´m curious to see if this gets included in this next budget like the Conservatives promised last year, now that we are fiscally handcuffed by the tax cuts.

Did Mr. Thompson and the Tories side with veterans when they introduced the un-legislated and legally-empty Veterans Bill of Rights, which is nothing more than a rewritten version of VAC service commitments that have been listed on their website for years, or a VAC ombudsman who has to answer to the very minister of the department he is supposed to oversee?

Did Mr. Thompson and the Tories side with the veterans who were ignored after being affected by defoliant spraying at bases across Canada, by limiting payments to those affected by American Agent Orange, clearing the Government of Canada of any wrongdoing, which was far cry from the minister´s position as the opposition veterans affairs critic?

Did Mr. Thompson and the Tories side with the veterans when they sat on their laurels, while thousands of their "clients" were and still are having their pension act payments awarded by Veterans Affairs for disabilities caused by service to this country reduced from long-term disability benefits by an insurance company?

Did Mr. Thompson and the Tories side with the veterans when, as opposition, said they would eliminate the VRAB, yet have failed to do so after two years in power?

Conservatives are guilty of committing a political snow-job in the name of supporting the veterans.

S.T. White

Lower Sackville, N.S.

(The letter-writer is a disabled veteran who has been fighting for a pension for three years.)
 
******************
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