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VAC in the News


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Pierre Daigle, a retired General Officer, has been named as the new Ombudsman for the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence.

News release from DND went out last Friday afternoon.


Minister MacKay announces new Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces
NR - 09.010 - February 19, 2009

OTTAWA – The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Pierre Daigle as the new Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF).  Mr. Daigle succeeds Ms. Mary McFadyen, who provided strong leadership and direction for this office during her 14 month tenure as interim Ombudsman.

"Mr. Daigle brings to this position an outstanding record of professionalism and a proven track record of advocating on behalf of the men and women in the Canadian Forces," said Minister MacKay." He has an understanding of the needs and challenges facing members at all stages of their career, from recruitment to overseas deployments, and has consistently been a force for change, innovation and partnership."

Mr. Daigle's extensive experience will help him in his new role of investigating matters related to the defence community and the welfare of its members and employees. Mr. Daigle has held leadership positions at every rank during his 36 years spent in the CF.  He has commanded forces in Haiti and the former Yugoslavia, and has consulted and advised government departments. His excellent managerial skills earned him the position of Commander of the Canadian Forces Recruiting, Education and Training System where he oversaw a staff of thousands. Mr. Daigle's  strong ability to provide strategic advice led to his appointment as a strategic advisor on Homeland Security, where he participated in high-level multinational discussions.

Created in 1998, the CF Ombudsman is an independent office that contributes to the continual improvement of the CF and the Defence community by working to ensure the fair treatment of its more than 100,000 members. Reporting directly to the Minister of National Defence, the office serves as a direct source of information, referral, and education for the men and women of the DND and the CF as well as investigating and reporting on matters that affect the welfare of its members.

Moving forward, the latest new Ombudsman has been named ....
Today the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of National Defence, is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr.Gary Walbourne as the new Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Mr. Walbourne succeeds Mr. Pierre Daigle, who provided direction for the office during his five year tenure as Ombudsman. Mr. Walbourne will be serving a five year term.

Quick Facts

    Prior to his appointment, Mr. Walbourne held the position of Executive Director, Operations and Deputy Ombudsman in the office of the Veterans Ombudsman. He began that position in 2011.
    This experience will help Mr. Walbourne in his new role as he investigates matters related to the defence community and the welfare of its members and employees.
    Before working with the Veterans Ombudsman, Mr. Walbourne had distinguished career in the public service. He served as a Director General at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as a Director at the Department of National Defence.
    The office of the Ombudsman for DND and CAF was created in 1998.
    The office serves as a direct source of information, referral, and education for the men and women of the DND and the CAF.
With all his experience at VAC the approval rate for complaints will surely reach VAC level:

backberet17 :
Yet as there is an 86% approval rating for all claims to the (VAC) Department, there's positivity for you
Prior experience (among other areas) as DG of Dept of Fisheries and Oceans?  :facepalm:
That experience will let him separate the fishy complaints from the one's he will agree with.
Rifleman62 said:
That experience will let him separate the fishy complaints from the one's he will agree with.


I wasn't sure if I was supposed to laugh.....well done!! ;D
The Office of the Auditor General has reported on the tenure of Pierre Daigle as Ombudsman.  In brief, there were issues.

Rather than start a new thread for every VAC announcement/press release/news report.


Backlog for disability benefits explodes, leaving thousands of veterans waiting
- Lee Berthiaume -10 Dec 17
Veterans Affairs Canada says there were about 29,000 applications for disability benefits waiting to be processed at the end of November — a nearly 50 per cent increase since the end of March

Extracts: 1. Veterans Affairs Canada says there were about 29,000 applications for disability benefits in the queue waiting to be processed at the end of November — a nearly 50 per cent increase since the end of March.

Nearly one-third of those applications have been in the line for more than 16 weeks, which is also an increase since the spring and a sign that wait times are continuing to grow.

              2. Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan admitted the government needs to do better to ensure disabled veterans get the benefits they need and deserve and said action is being taken.

That includes hiring hundreds more staff, streamlining the way Veterans Affairs officials review files to speed up processing times and giving veterans more benefit of the doubt when it comes to approving benefits.

              3. But such promises have been made before and are starting to ring hollow as the problem continues to get worse, said Peter Stoffer, a former NDP MP and longtime veterans’ advocate.

“If you go back to (former minister) Fred Mifflin in 1997, he said the exact same thing,” Stoffer said.

“All 13 ministers since ’97 have said the exact same thing: ‘We have to do a better job, we’re speeding up the process.’ And it’s getting worse, to be honest with you.”

The inability to organize a gun auction at a prison break comes to mind. I wonder how many staff/hours/funds were expended by VAC for this.


"SHAME SHAME ON YOU!" Hundreds of Canadians complain to Veterans Affairs about disorganized Vimy Ridge ceremony
- Tom Spears - 11 Dec 17

Extracts:1. “A total disaster”, “Appalling”, “A mosh pit and Woodstock combined.” These were among the withering reviews received by Veterans Canada this year to its hosting of 25,000 Canadians....  Concerts and sports events handle similar crowds all the time. They bus people in, open lots of gates, supply portable toilets and water, give clear directions and let everyone go home when the event is over.

            2. However, documents this newspaper obtained through an access-to-information request showed how visitors...........The visitors’ letters — 397 pages of them — tell of heat exhaustion, thirst, full bladders and fear. Here are some excerpts, with the senders’ names removed by Veterans Affairs.( At link)
Same sort of planning that went into the Canada Day celebrations here in Ottawa.    :not-again:

Oh man... So October 2016, they held the damned stakeholders' conference at Casino Lac Leamy. Fill a room full of veterans, many with mental health issues, addictions, etc, and put them in a casino overnight for a couple days... Talk about poor thinking. They got a blast for that.
VAC really should hire some veterans into there planning and organization jobs. Then things might go a lot smoother.
I was at the Vimy event. It went as described but most people were in a good mood, if eventually strained after standing in mob mode waiting for a bus back to one of the debussing areas.
Teager said:
VAC really should hire some veterans into there planning and organization jobs. Then things might go a lot smoother.

When Cibeles Wilson (current CO 28 Fd Amb) was the stakeholder rep for minister O'Toole, things were going pretty smooth. O'Toole and Cibeles set a high bar for stakeholder engagement that has not since been matched.
To be fair to VAC, I believe some of this was because of conditions imposed by the French government. That there were going to be massive delays returning the spectators to where their own buses were located had to have been known before hand. A little bit of how do we make this as painless as possible would have helped.
I was a guide for the 95th, and it was crazy. I could only imagine how that would have gone for the 100th.......

Editorial: Hey, Veterans Affairs Canada – crowd control shouldn't be this hard - Ottawa Citizen Editorial Board - 12 Dec 17

Extract: 1. When Veterans Affairs Canada later surveyed its own staff about the day, reviews weren’t any more positive. The employees cited bad communication, lack of leadership and last-minute decisions. Students who worked as guides at the Vimy Monument had it particularly rough. They were alone, in uniform, and didn’t have radios to call for help from senior staff when problems or questions arose.

            2. The federal government, apparently, was oblivious to the problems that occurred last April 9, until Spears (Citizen’s Reporter)  followed up. VAC’s summary report for that day touts it all as a grand success, since the 152 VIPs on hand had a fine time. There was only minor reference to the problems everyone else faced; the report suggested a “small number” of critical comments. In fact, the file given to the Citizen contains 400 pages full of complaints. Officials are now saying things could have been done better.


Vimy revisited: Veterans Affairs 'deeply saddened' by bad experience, blames French toilets- Tom Spears -13 Dec 17

Extract: 1. A top official at Veterans Affairs says the department was unaware last spring of widespread problems at April’s Vimy 100 ceremony in France but now takes full responsibility. “I’m deeply, deeply sorry. I regret to hear all of it, you can be sure … I accept full responsibility for that,” said Mike Jorgensen, a retired brigadier-general who is director general of the Veterans Affairs office that organizes overseas events.

            2. Jorgensen’s comments are in contrast to a Summary Report and Lessons Learned document the department produced at the end of June, which in fact described Vimy 100 as a rousing success.“Despite the challenges” of high security and running events in a foreign country, “all events ran on time, on budget and virtually without incident,” that report says. The report was obtained through access to information.


EDITORIAL: Vets squeezed again in pension holdup - 13 Dec 17

Extract: 1. Peter Stoffer is right. Despite changes in government in Ottawa, and more than a dozen different veterans’ affairs ministers over the last two decades promising better, faster service, there continue to be unacceptable shortfalls in benefits programs for the men and women who put their lives on the line for this country, says the former NDP MP and longtime veterans’ advocate.

            2. The bureaucracy at Veterans Affairs, despite a drumbeat of criticism stretching back more than a decade, inexplicably continues to make life difficult for too many veterans.

            3. But the ruling (BC Appeals Court) by Justice Harvey Groberman, who said he had sympathy for the veterans, made it clear the decision was not necessarily endorsing the status quo. “All right-thinking Canadians would agree that they should be provided with adequate disability benefits. If that is not occurring, it is a national embarrassment,” wrote Justice Groberman.

            4. Liberal Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan has promised a new lifelong disability pension plan by the end of the year. Let’s hope veterans won’t be disappointed again.


Department leaves veterans in ‘financial limbo,’ behind on half its targets - 13 Dec 17

Extract: 1. Veterans Affairs missed 54 per cent of its targets last year, which opposition MPs called both 'breathtaking' and 'horrible.' More resources are needed, critics agreed, but the culture also has to change.

            2. Disability decisions and applications represented some of the department’s worst results. The vast majority of injured veterans are waiting more than four months to learn if they qualify for financial support. (See graphic at link)

            3. “We are looking at the entire disability application process, from intake to decisions, to expedite decisions and respond to Veterans’ needs more quickly,” said (VAC) spokesperson Marc Lescoutre. He said the average turnaround time on first applications is 106 days, for reassessment it’s 71 days and for a departmental review the average is 85 days. One veteran waited 1,007 days for a decision, due to “extensive time required” to assemble the documents in what Mr. Lescoutre said was a “unique” circumstance.

See link for the detailed report.


29,000 veterans waiting to see if they get disability benefits - David Burke -13 Dec 17
‘They just give up, not realizing that if they persist they could be entitled to a benefit down the road'

Extract: 1. But the system is changing, according to Rick Christopher, the director general of centralized operations division for Veterans Affairs. "One of the things that we're doing is streamlining the process for making decisions on certain types of applications: hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder and musculoskeletal conditions. We're also adding additional resources and doing what we can to get more people working on these claims," said Christopher.

            2. He (Stoffer) would like to see all veterans' benefits and medical needs set up before they leave the military so they can easily continue to receive care. Until that happens, Stoffer would like to see Veterans Affairs hire workers to sit down with veterans and go through their application forms to make sure they're properly filled out.


PRESS RELEASE: Sobering Stats: Veterans at consistently higher risk for suicide than general population - 13 Dec 17

Extract: 1. A federal study released last Thursday revealed that Canadian veterans are at significantly higher risk for death by suicide than the general population—and have been for the past 37 years. In fact, the study has even drawn criticism because because it ends in 2012, just as the veterans suicide crisis emerged. Over a period of just three months, a shocking eight veteran suicides were reported, beginning with three suicides over three days in November in 2013. According to some veterans, the study provides an incomplete picture of the true severity of the issue.

            2. Meanwhile, this is the Veterans Transition Network’s twentieth year in operation, offering specialized mental health services for 20 years to aid veterans in the critical time as they transition from military to civilian life. The research shows it’s working—the University of British Columbia has shown that the VTN's programs have a nearly 80 per cent reduction in suicidal thoughts, with nearly all veterans who entered the program actively suicidal continuing to no longer feel suicidal a full 18 months after participating in the program. In addition, 24% reported an increase in life satisfaction and 34% reported an increase in self-esteem.

            3. Read more about how the VTN has changed veterans’ lives here (see link), and for further information on the research data of the Veterans Transition Program, contact Dr. Dan Cox at dan.cox@ubc.ca.



Government's new startup aims to create better services for Canadians
- 14 Dec 17

Extract: 1. Imagine if dealing with the government was as user-friendly as buying from Amazon, or streaming from Netflix. That's the goal for the newly-created Canadian Digital Service (CDS). The fledgling team of a couple dozen employees are a mix of digital developers, designers and some career bureaucrats. Their mandate is to help federal departments create better digital services for Canadians.
            2. Some of the digital initiatives that the CDS team are working on include developing an online app with Veterans Affairs Canada. The app aims to make it easier for veterans to sort out eligible benefits.


Disabled vets being 'dumped' from case management, says advocate
- Murray Brewster - 18 Dec 17
Move away from case managers 'doesn't make sense,' says veterans advocate

Extract: 1. A change to the way Veterans Affairs manages the cases of disabled veterans ...... intends to expand an existing pilot program launched in the fall of 2016 known as "guided support," .........case manager replaced by a service agent .......the plan is aimed at serving veterans entering the system who require a "moderate" amount of help navigating a system that many ex-soldiers describe as Byzantine.

            2. .......department defines "moderate needs" is key. Those who have left rehabilitation but are still receiving long-term treatment are being swept up in the changes and receiving lower levels of service.....


EDITORIAL: Ottawa must fulfill ‘sacred obligation’ to injured veterans - 18 Dec 17
The costs of the best possible care for our veterans should be built into any decision that puts soldiers in harm’s way.