Evidence of meeting #35 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 process.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Heather Parry  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Charlotte Stewart  Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Bernard Butler  Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Sorry, Mr. Andrews, but you're actually past time, but thank you for that.

We now go to Mr. Chisu for five minutes.

May 17th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much to the witnesses on our panel.

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of Veterans Affairs clients rose by 6.5%, increasing from 205,129 in 2001 to 218,388 in 2011. Of these veterans, how many are from the Second World War and the Korean War, and how many are modern veterans? How many veterans are from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police? Do you have these statistics?

I'm asking because I understand that there will be a spike, probably in the next year, due to the 40,000 people who have served in Afghanistan. I was also serving in Afghanistan, so you can understand that I am expecting there to be some kind of increase for the difficulties that we have had in Afghanistan. So perhaps you have some kinds of statistics related to this.

I am asking because I want to know what you are doing to mitigate the risk related to program service delivery, keeping in mind that a spike will eventually happen.

4 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

Since there are a couple of things in that question, maybe I could provide a list of the statistics that show all of the numbers of all of the various groups. It might be more helpful than my reading them out.

Then we could talk about your questions about risk and what we're doing to support the veterans coming back from Afghanistan.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Absolutely.

4 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

Charlotte was relating to the risks around program and service delivery with the veterans coming back, so I'll speak about general risk, because we talk about that in the reports on plans and priorities.

Risk is something that we have to manage on ongoing basis. Not talking about it isn't the right thing to do. You need to talk about risk, determine what the issues are, and look to mitigate them.

In fact, my background is in IT, so whenever I'm implementing systems, I'm always making sure and asking, was the testing robust enough? Did we get all the scenarios? Do we have a strong governance in place? Did everybody do the right review and sign-off? Were there other options available that we should have looked at? How do we manage that? As part of our normal process, that's what we're doing.

Certainly when you look at risk you also get an opportunity to see what opportunities might be there. When you look at something, you may think you know the way you're going to go, and then you see other options that open up for you. That's generally in terms of risk; we do that as part of our normal, everyday decision-making, and it's very key to that.

In terms of the service delivery piece, I'll let Charlotte speak about the specifics around how we're managing and how we're preparing for, as you say, the potentially many more veterans coming to us.

4 p.m.

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

Charlotte Stewart

Thank you very much.

As we look to preparing for the returning veterans from Afghanistan, it's very important that we consider what's going to happen on the ground and our relationship with some of our partners. We want to make sure our case managers are ready.

Let me just move through quickly some of the points around what we're going to do.

First of all, we did set up an Afghan and seriously injured casualty support unit. The purpose of that was to make sure that those who were injured in Afghanistan and had a need for very quick decisions were able to receive that. They were given an accelerated review of their needs and they were given an answer in a very short turnaround time.

In addition to that, we've added case managers, as I mentioned, where we need them the most, and we've reduced the workload of case managers.

For those returning from Afghanistan, while some of them will remain within the Canadian Forces, other will begin the transition to civilian life. In that transition, our partnership with DND is key. We've invested in the integrated personnel support centres, and we've put over 100 VAC personnel into those centres. So they get to meet those returning veterans very early in the transition process.

I noted that in your recent report you mentioned how early intervention is so key to success, and that's why we've taken that step. We have in fact put procedures in place so that we ensure VAC case managers work earlier in the transition process, reducing the wait time for Afghanistan or any other veteran who is transitioning.

The partnership with DND is very important, and operates at many levels in the department, not just at the front line. We've taken some key steps to reduce broader risk by strengthening that partnership.

At a very senior level, we have meetings on a quarterly basis with DND. The intention is to know what they are working on in terms of their programs and services so that we have good communication from our side as well and so that we integrate and plan together. That way, a still-serving member, as they receive services in DND, as they begin to take the steps in civilian life, will be matched and have a harmonized approach within Veterans Affairs Canada so that when they take those steps towards civilian life they'll have the supports they need.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you very much.

Now we go to Ms. Perreault for five minutes, please.

4 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Good afternoon and thank you for being here today.

At page 22 of your report, you refer to a new Scientific Advisory Committee that will be set up to provide advice on veterans' health issues. Has that committee been set up already?

4 p.m.

Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

Bernard Butler

Thank you for that question.

Yes, the committee has indeed been created. It has been established. It has now met several times. It is now in the process of beginning its literature review, and beginning to direct its mind to the question that has been posed to the committee by the minister as it relates to health effects and the issue of depleted uranium.

So the committee is well under way.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

You say that the committee has already had several meetings. Can you tell us how many?

4:05 p.m.

Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

Bernard Butler

I believe the committee has had three meetings to this point in time.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

There have been three meetings. Very good, that is what I wanted to know.

At page 21 of the report, there is a table entitled Disability and Death Compensation. It mentions that 65% of veterans feel that the disability benefits they have received have been disability-based. This means that 65% of veterans receive the benefits, but what about the other 35%? Are they veterans whose benefit application is under study?

4:05 p.m.

Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

Bernard Butler

Thank you for the question.

I believe you're looking at the 65% target for performance indicators as it relates to the results for the disability pension program. Is that correct? The target is designed to try to ensure that this percentage of recipients of Veterans Affairs disability benefits effectively recognize the contribution they have made that has resulted in their service-related disability. So for us the issue becomes one of trying to measure how recipients of these benefits perceive the value of the benefit they're receiving.

The idea is that these are driven by the principles of recognition and compensation for service-related disability. From our perspective, we want to try to measure that in the population of veterans receiving the benefits, and our target is that at least 65% of them will feel that this is recognition for the loss, the disability, they've experienced.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Allow me to rephrase my question. If 35% believe that their disability has not really being recognized, is it because they feel that their benefits should be higher? I would like to know how that works.

4:05 p.m.

Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

Bernard Butler

That's a very good question.

I think it's more a question of how satisfied the recipient of the award payment is. It's that issue of recognition and compensation. There are, however, many elements of it. So if any given veteran is not satisfied or does not feel recognized, that could be because they think they should be receiving more or they should be receiving something else. Each veteran who receives the benefits paid through our programming perceives them differently.

You're not wrong to suggest that there may be any number of variables, but it would be very difficult to say that any given one applies in all cases.