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

4:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

I don't have that number with me. We have been looking at that for a long time. But we have numbers for medically released veterans hired through the Public Service Commission.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

No, I'm asking about Veterans Affairs. How many employees have you hired?

4:20 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

Until recently, we were not aware of whether people were military or not. It was not a requirement when they were being hired to identify whether they were ex-military. We now have gone out with a survey to our staff and asked for them to identify military people. This was prior to our putting in place a process where we ask if they are former military or not.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

The answer is actually 23. Since 2006, that's how many you've hired. Less than a thousand veterans have been hired since the Veterans Charter, most of them through DND. There have been very few from any other public offices.

I say this with great respect. Don't you find it just a little alarming that when someone applies for a job at DVA, the question “Did you ever serve in the military or RCMP?” isn't asked? Is that what you're saying to this committee?

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

That question is now asked. In the past, through the normal staffing process, that question would not have been asked. It would be a personal decision whether or not to identify if you were a former member of the military.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

The Veterans Charter was clear. Priority hiring for veterans was a policy, was a priority, was going to happen. Nevertheless, the department that authorized the charter, which was supported by all of us, did not ask new employees if they'd ever served. I understand what you said. I just find that a little bit challenging.

On page 25, in black letterhead, it says, “The unemployment rate of Canadian Forces Veterans will not exceed that of the Canadian population”. According to Stats Canada, the unemployment rate is around 7.3%. I was wondering if at a later date you could tell us how many veterans there are in the country, how many are working, and how many are not. I know you wouldn't have the resources to answer that right now. But at a later date, if it's possible to get that, it would be greatly appreciated.

I thank you all for coming.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you very much.

Now we go to Mr. Harris, for four minutes, please.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Thank you very much, and welcome.

I'm new to this committee too, so I'm playing catch-up on a lot of the operations of VAC.

I know clearly what the mandate is. It is to provide service and benefits that respond to the needs of veterans. With that in mind, when any department is in a transformation mode there is always a fear that the services it offers may be cut in some way. Given that you stated earlier that if you found that your budget projections were going to come up short you could apply—and I understand that you have, for many years, applied and never been turned down—for a budget top-up, what are you doing to mitigate that fear or perception? What mitigation plans and measures do you have?

4:25 p.m.

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

Charlotte Stewart

Let me begin the answer, and if my colleague would like to add to it, then I'll turn it over to Heather.

During any very significant change, managing risk is key. Right now at Veterans Affairs Canada our transformation agenda is about reducing complexity. But there are many things under way in the department, so we have a very close eye on our procedures.

The intention, of course, is not just to maintain our service. We certainly aren't going to let it decrease, but what we want to do is improve our service, even though we're in a transformation mode.

For our transformation agenda we have a very detailed plan. We have put a full-time team in place to help us manage that plan and do the careful project management that goes into it. Governance structures have been set up in the department at senior levels to allow for very close oversight of the changes, and with those structures senior managers have the ability to make very quick decisions when they see that there is a factor that has changed or that we may need to adapt to a potential issue.

Those are some simple ways. On another front, though, for the staff on the front lines where many of these changes are taking place, we've given case managers, for instance, more authority, as I mentioned. We've also given them more training and support. We've given them better tools to do their job and better access to technology so that they can apply their professional skills full-time to serving veterans rather than, as in the past, doing things that just added steps to the process without adding value to the veteran.

The risk management approach is certainly at a very senior level in the department, as I mentioned, through governance, but it carries through all of the department, down to the front line.

We also monitor things very closely. We know at the front line how many cases are being managed, about how long it is taking case managers and others who support them to work with clients. We are managing our turnaround times very carefully, and in many cases, as we've described at this committee, we've been able to reduce our turnaround times for disability awards—first applications, as an example, and secondly, for our rehab program.

So even though we're in transformation, we have made significant gains because of good oversight and good planning as well.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

We are over time, Mr. Harris. Time passes.

Mr. Chicoine, please.

May 17th, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for being here today.

I have several questions relating to the unfortunately unavoidable transfer of the Sainte-Anne hospital, which will probably happen soon. You said that you are going to ensure that veterans will still have priority access to the hospital. How many beds will be reserved for them? Will the veterans of tomorrow also have access to the very specialized services that have been provided so far by that hospital, which will unfortunately be transferred to the province?

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

I'm sorry, but I may not have understood the question fully. Are you talking about the clinics?

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

You say that space will be reserved for veterans. How many beds will be reserved to them? Also, will the veterans of tomorrow have access to the same services? That hospital provides very specialized services and I fear that this expertise will be lost. How will you ensure that beds are reserved for those veterans?

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

We're in negotiations right now, so I wouldn't want to speak inappropriately to any of those issues There is a commitment that there will be priority access for veterans to beds as they need it. The government has committed to that, and as well to having access to the services they have now and to maintaining the quality of service that they have had. That is a cornerstone of the mandate of the chief negotiator: to ensure that priority access is maintained and that the services are there as they are today, for those who need them.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Will the expertise existing in that hospital be preserved? It is our only hospital. Very often, veterans need highly specialized services, and that hospital has the knowledge required to provide them. Will that expertise be maintained despite the transfer to the province?