Evidence of meeting #32 for Veterans Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was veterans.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • David Robinson  Director General of Transformation, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Bernard Butler  Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Charlotte Stewart  Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Yes.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

—which they can provide, but in your next turn, I think.

It was an interesting intervention—

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Not bad, eh?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

—but it was not a point of order.

Mr. Chisu, for five minutes, sir.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for appearing in front of our committee. I listened with great care to your presentation.

I would just mention that I served in Afghanistan as a military person in the regular forces. I retired—from Petawawa—in 2009. That was before the transformation started, and I can tell you that I was not very much impressed about how the release from the Canadian Forces towards Veterans Affairs was shifting.

Can you elaborate on how you are looking at this new transformation phase that we are contemplating—the correlation between DND and Veterans Affairs, what project initiatives are contemplated—and on whatever you can do so that the forces members who are retiring from the army, not necessarily only the wounded but all the people who are retiring and are becoming new veterans, can benefit from the services from Veterans Affairs? Perhaps you could elaborate on the services and what they are.

For example, career counselling services were not very much present in 2009. Even though I'm an engineer by profession—

4:40 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

No, you're right—

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

—I have had a problem with the qualifications, let's say, or the advice from the case managers or whoever. I'm wondering how you are addressing the issue in this vast transformation. I understand you are working hard on this.

4:45 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

Yes, certainly. I'd be pleased to address this.

A great deal has changed since 2009. In 2009 we were on the cusp of making decisions, particularly with DND, that have changed the landscape—we think very significantly—for the releasing member. So let me just summarize those. You've mentioned a number of different aspects, so I'll try to capture all of them in my response.

First of all, what we have committed to with DND is a much stronger harmonization between the two departments, and this shows up in many ways. At the very senior levels, there are quarterly meetings to discuss the programs and services of each department to make sure that as changes are occurring in one, they are well understood in the other, and that we link things up.

So if DND has a program, for instance, that supports a soldier returning from Afghanistan to stay mobile in his own home, perhaps, or supports him while he gets retraining, our work with DND has been to make a crosswalk between that program in DND and the same service in Veterans Affairs. So when the member releases and becomes a veteran and a client of Veterans Affairs Canada, the transition should be fairly seamless.

I mentioned the integrated personnel support centres. These are key to the story. I want to reinforce that. When the releasing member, at least six months before release, and often even earlier, gets notification that they will be releasing, they begin to work with a DND case manager. If they've had any issues—medical, psychosocial, etc.—they'll be assisted by DND during that transition. That precedes their eventual release.

At that time, we've made a commitment with DND to engage our VAC case managers with theirs so they get a good understanding of what this veteran's story is, what their needs are, and what their family's needs are, so that when they do release, it's not into an unknown situation. It's into a situation where they will already have met a person in Veterans Affairs Canada who can help them. That's part of that bridge. That happens primarily at the integrated personnel support centres, the IPSCs as we call them, but also at our district offices.

Since 2006 we have focused extensively on making sure that when they do release, if they are in need of any level of rehabilitation, they get the support they need. That can be one of three elements. It can be medical rehabilitation, so the support they're getting in DND will continue. It can be psychosocial, because sometimes there are other issues that are not physical—PTSD being a prime example. Or it can be vocational. You mentioned how a person makes a transition. They work first of all with DND, but then with VAC, to identify what their individual aptitudes and aspirations are and how their social network is going to support them. Where there are gaps and where they need support, our programs can assist them with the transition.

If they are not medically releasing, they have access to job search and resumé-writing tools as well as websites with job postings. So they get good support in that way. If they do have a medical issue that precludes them from perhaps picking up from their previous career, we will give them retraining.

It's an extensive program. It will see them through from beginning to end. If they leave our care and after a couple of years find they're having trouble, they can come back to our program. This is something in the new Veterans Charter that was not in place in the department before 2006.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you, Ms. Stewart.

We're quite a bit over, but this is all interesting.

I hate to cut it off, but we're way past your time, Mr. Chisu.

We now go to Mr. Casey for five minutes.

May 8th, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome back, Mr. Butler and Ms. Stewart, and welcome, Mr. Robinson.

I want to start at page 6 of your prepared remarks, Mr. Robinson. In the very first bullet of the second theme, you indicate that you intend to focus face-to-face services where they are most needed.

If I drill down a bit on that, it would indicate that it's the opinion of the department that there are some areas now where you provide face-to-face services that are not needed, or that are less important than they would be in some other areas. So as you focus your face-to-face services, which ones are going to be lost?

4:50 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

I can address that question. The department is now in a process whereby we are making sure that our resources are where we need them the most. As is the case with all federal departments, we are making decisions and tough choices around making sure resources are in the right place at the right time.

There are areas of the country where the demand is increasing. I've spoken about those, and we expect that will continue. At the same time, there are areas of the country where we currently have district offices and the demand is declining.

We forecast this demand and we work very hard to understand what it means. What that means in some of these districts is that over time—not this year and not next year, necessarily, but past that point—we're going to see such a significant decline that we'll have to rebuild our service delivery model. That doesn't mean we're going to take services away from our veterans, and it doesn't mean that Veterans Affairs Canada will not be providing face-to-face service for veterans in those areas.

I'll use an example. If we have an area where currently we have an office and where perhaps the space is too large or whatever, then we're going to rightsize things. We have to do that. Frankly, it's in our accountability as professional managers in the public service to do that.

What it means, though, is that our case managers will still be there. They'll be able to provide face-to-face service. They'll be available to provide home visits. That is what's key. Case managers are the front-line staff who provide the service to our most complex cases, and that will not change.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Which district offices in Atlantic Canada are going to close?

4:50 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

The district offices in Atlantic Canada are Corner Brook, Sydney, and Charlottetown.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Those are the ones that are going to close...?

4:50 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

Those are forecast to close. That's correct. There will be no closures within the next two years, and what that shows is that we have a commitment to proper planning and getting things right. We have two years to set things up properly. As we look forward and project over those two years, we're going to find a better way to deliver services to people in those areas.