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Appointments to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board - 27 Jun 17


Army.ca Veteran
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OTTAWA, June 27, 2017 /CNW/ - Veterans and their families have earned the respect and gratitude of all Canadians. The Government of Canada is committed to supporting our Veterans so that they have access to the critical services they need.

The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, today announced 13 appointments to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, which hears appeals of Veterans' disability benefits decisions. The appointments include:

Seven new appointments and six reappointments
Four Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)
Three Veterans of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
Seven women

These appointments were made under the Government of Canada's new approach to Governor in Council appointments. This approach supports open, transparent and merit-based selection processes that strive for gender parity and reflect Canada's diversity, to support Ministers in making appointment recommendations for positions within their portfolio.


"I am very pleased to announce the appointment of these exceptionally qualified Canadians—including seven Veterans—to the Board. They have accepted the important role of providing Veterans and their families with a fair and respectful appeal program for disability benefits."

The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Quick facts

With these appointments, almost two-thirds of the 17 member board have military or RCMP/policing experience.
The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is the administrative tribunal that provides Veterans, CAF and RCMP members, and their families, with an independent appeal process for disability benefits decisions made by Veterans Affairs Canada.
The Board provides Veterans with two levels of hearings: review and appeal. Both levels are de novo, which means each hearing is new and the case is looked at with fresh eyes.
Board members conduct review hearings across the country where Veterans can give oral testimony, present new evidence and arguments, and bring witnesses in support of the case. This is their first and only opportunity to appear before decision makers and tell their story.
Veterans who come to the Board have access to free legal representation from the Bureau of Pensions Advocates (an organization of lawyers provided by the government). Service organizations, like the Royal Canadian Legion, also represent Veterans at Board hearings.
Qualified Canadians have until the end of July to apply to be members of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Biographies – of the NEW  Board Member Appointments

Laurie Blakeman – Edmonton, Alberta

Laurie Blakeman spent 18 years as an MLA in the Alberta Legislature making a substantial contribution to her community through her parliamentary activism and commitment to human rights and women’s issues advocacy. Prior to serving in public office, Ms. Blakeman spent two decades working in theatre, the arts, and with not-for-profit organizations in various creative and leadership roles. Ms. Blakeman holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Certificate in Public Administration from the University of Alberta.

Ms. Blakeman has been appointed for a five-year term.

Jacques A. Bouchard – Barrie, Ontario

Jacques Bouchard comes to the Board after a 35-year career in the Canadian Armed Forces, bringing with him significant experience in managing human, financial and logistical resources. Mr. Bouchard also has a great deal of volunteer experience serving his community on various boards. Mr. Bouchard completed advanced studies in Human Resources at the University of Toronto and holds the title of Professional logistician.

Mr. Bouchard has been appointed for a five-year term.

Richard Boughen – Cumberland, Ontario

Richard Boughen brings with him more than 26 years of experience in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, during which he gained a wealth of expertise in leadership, human resource development, and policy creation. Mr. Boughen holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Manitoba and a Master of Leadership and Management from Charles Sturt University.

Mr. Boughen has been appointed for a five-year term.

Rose Marie Braden – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Rose Marie Braden has almost three decades of experience as a lawyer in both private practice and with government. Most recently, Ms. Braden worked for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans providing legal advice on matters of environmental, administrative and Aboriginal law. Ms. Braden has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Law from Dalhousie University, and is a graduate of the Justice Canada Leaders of Tomorrow Program.

Ms. Braden has been appointed for a five-year term.

Denise Dietrich – Waterloo, Ontario

Denise Dietrich has been a Member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board since 2012. A nurse with more than 36 years of health care experience, she has worked as a vocational and medical rehabilitation consultant helping clients with permanent disabilities. She also possesses extensive experience as a decision maker on regulatory bodies. Ms. Dietrich holds a Bachelor of Sociology and a Diploma in Gerontology from the University of Waterloo, as well as a Master of Health Studies from Athabasca University. 

Ms. Dietrich has been reappointed for a two-year term.

Leonard Hall – Langley, British Columbia

Leonard Hall has been a Member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board since 2014. Prior to joining the Board, he spent 31 years with the RCMP in the areas of law enforcement, police policy, and training, as well as five years conducting training with Canada Border Services Agency and other public safety officials. Mr. Hall holds a Bachelor of Commerce from St. Mary’s University and a Master of Arts in Leadership and Training from Royal Roads University.

Mr. Hall has been reappointed for a two-year term.

Thomas Jarmyn – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Thomas Jarmyn has been a Member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board since 2014 and Acting Chairperson since April 2015. Mr. Jarmyn is both a Veteran, having served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1979 to 1997, and a lawyer. He practiced law privately for 15 years and spent almost four years as Counsel for the Minister of Public Safety. Mr. Jarmyn holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Royal Military College of Canada, a Bachelor of Laws from Dalhousie University, a Master of Public Ethics from Saint Paul University, and a Master of Laws from York University.

Mr. Jarmyn has been reappointed as a Board member for a one-year term and designated as Chairperson on an interim basis.

Wilfred Jephson – Ottawa, Ontario

Wilfred Jephson has been a Member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board since 2014. Prior to joining the Board, he spent 25 years in the RCMP as an investigator and in administrative and Human Resources roles. Mr. Jephson holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Manitoba and a Master of Arts in Conflict Analysis and Management from Royal Roads University.

Mr. Jephson has been reappointed for a two-year term.

Dana Kean – Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec

Dana Kean has been a Member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board since 2014. She has a strong legal background specializing in medical and health law. She also has extensive experience as a decision maker in an administrative tribunal, having previously served in the appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Ms. Kean holds a Bachelor of Civil Law and a Master of Medical Law from the University of Sherbrooke, as well as a Common Law Certificate of Qualification.

Ms. Kean has been reappointed for a two-year term.

Michelaine T. Lahaie – Kanata, Ontario

Michelaine Lahaie comes to the Board after 30 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, retiring as a Maritime Surface and Sub-surface Officer and a senior leader at the rank of Commander. She has a strong background in operations, training and human resource management, and the distinction of being the first female Commanding Officer for the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School. Ms. Lahaie holds a Bachelor of Arts from the College militaire royal de Saint-Jean and a Master of Defence Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada.

Ms. Lahaie has been appointed for a five-year term.

Ann Lavallée – Orleans, Ontario

Ann Lavallée spent 32 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, retiring as a senior leader at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. The last 14 years of her career were spent specializing in the fields of tuition benefits, healthcare and personnel management. Outside of her work, Ms. Lavallée has volunteered in her community, most recently with the Special Olympics of Ontario. Ms. Lavallée holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean and a Master of Business Administration from the Royal Military College of Canada.

Ms. Lavallée has been appointed for a five-year term.

Bernard Leblanc – Moncton, New Brunswick

Bernard Leblanc has been a Member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board since 2007. Mr. Leblanc brings with him 20 years of experience as a trial litigator in family and disability law to his role, and six years of experience as Chair of the Mental Health Tribunals for the Moncton, New Brunswick area. Mr. LeBlanc holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Acadia University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of New Brunswick.

Mr. Leblanc has been reappointed for an eight-month term.

Mélanie Leduc – Brossard, Quebec

Mélanie Leduc brings with her more than 15 years of experience with the federal government in the field of immigration. This work has given her a strong background in the interpretation and application of legislation and in decision-making. Ms. Leduc holds a Bachelor of Criminology and a Bachelor of Law from the University of Montreal.

Ms. Leduc has been appointed for a five-year term.


Army.ca Relic
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I know two of the newly appointed members (Michelaine Lahaie and Ann Lavallée) - both excellent choices.


Army.ca Veteran
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I echo dap's comments regarding Ann Lavallée - she is smart and compassionate and will make an excellent, balanced advocate for both veterans and the appeal/review process.

FYI, full list of Government of Canada's Governor in Council appointments and their qualification requirements:  https://www.appointments-nominations.gc.ca/slctnPrcs.asp?lang=eng-

VRAB positions - Salary Range: $108,200 - $127,200

Position Locations: Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Charlottetown


Army.ca Veteran
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Veterans may appeal for benefits again after temporary adjudicators denied them

Vets shouldn't be required to face second 'humiliating' hearing and beg for benefits, says advocate

By Murray Brewster, CBC News Posted: Sep 18, 2017

As many as 11 military veterans, whose appeals for benefits were heard before a federal review panel, have been offered the chance to re-argue their claims after questions were raised about the validity of the rulings, CBC News has learned.

The ex-soldiers and sailors find themselves in the quandary because of the Liberal government's delay in appointing people to vacant positions on the Veterans' Review and Appeals Board.

The agency is the place where ex-service members who've been denied benefits by Veterans Affairs Canada can appeal decisions.

The validity of the rulings are in question because the appeal board used adjudicators who were on temporary contracts.

Board is short of adjudicators

And that's because the cumbersome appointments process under the Liberal government has meant the review board has, at times, had only eight members, instead of the 20 it should have, according to Alexandra Shaw, the board's acting communications director,

"We didn't have any permanent members we could assign to their cases and in the interest of providing these veterans with timely hearings, we did assign temporary members to hear these cases," Shaw said.

Shaw insisted the decisions rendered by the "highly experienced" adjudicators are still valid and binding, but in the interest of fairness, she said, the agency determined the claims could be re-submitted.

Some veterans and their lawyers who contacted CBC News said the adjudicators lacked jurisdiction to rule on the cases in the first place.

So far, only four of the 11 veterans have accepted the overture to re-submit their claims and they still are unlikely to be heard in a timely way.

A copy of a letter offering veterans the chance at another hearing was obtained by CBC News and shows those cases won't make it into the system before the end of the year.

The affected veterans did have the option of waiting for the board to appoint new members, but that would have meant delaying their cases to possibly April 2019.

Even though they are getting another shot at a favourable decision, the situation is extremely frustrating for the veterans, all of whom have fought their cases through the system for years, and in some instances over a decade.

Long, frustrating fight

Retired naval lieutenant Ron Cram is one of the veterans who asked for another hearing after an unsuccessful 12-and-a-half year fight for benefits related to his chronic pain.

He is irked at the whole situation.

"There should have been enough members to fulfil the requirements," Cramm told CBC News. "Somebody obviously dropped the ball."

His first application for benefits was filed in February 2005 a few months before he was medically released from the navy.

The injury that ended his career took place in 1992 when he was working as quality assurance inspector at a P.E.I. shipyard that was building major components to the country's patrol frigates. Cramm fell head first into the massive fuel tank that was under construction, injuring his left side.

The accident was not witnessed by anyone and the medical treatment he sought through the military initially misdiagnosed his constant myofascial pain as acid reflux.

For those reasons, his plea for benefits was repeatedly denied.

"They believe that I did have an accident. They just don't believe that it can be attributed to the military," said Cramm, who requires a variety of painkillers every day and regular Botox injections to keep his suffering in check.

"I just need help with things like cutting the grass and plowing the driveway, everyday things that I can no longer do anymore — that is now coming out of my pocket to hire people to clear the driveway and cut my lawn."

'Perpetually mismanaged'

He said it's been tough to make ends meet on a fixed pension after paying those additional expenses and covering the cost of some medication that is prescribed, but remains outside of the Veterans Affairs approved list.

Veterans whose cases are in question should not be put through the wringer again and should just be granted what they've requested, said a long-time advocate for ex-soldiers.

"This is a body of individuals that's been perpetually mismanaged, both politically and bureaucratically," said Sean Bruyea, a former intelligence officer who fought a high-profile court battle with the former Conservative government after his medical records were spread around the Veterans department in 2006 in a privacy breach.

"They claim to be quasi-judicial, they should start acting like the courts. All the veterans here should have a favourable decision, case closed. They shouldn't have to go in front of this body again and face the humiliating questions that they usually have to undergo."

More appointments expected

A round of 13 appointments in June took the strain off the review board and Shaw said the agency should be able to resume a typical hearing schedule in the fall.

It is operating with 17 members, which is still not a full complement. 

Soon after being elected, the Liberals launched a new process meant to reduce patronage and increase the transparency of the government appointment process.

The result has been that a huge number of positions have gone unfilled, everything from refugee appeals to judicial posts.

Last spring CBC News reported the number of vacancies and expired terms added up to nearly 600, which is just over 30 per cent of all available positions.

The veterans review board is bound by legislation to hold hearings in a "timely manner," usually 16 weeks.

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