Evidence of meeting #36 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

  • Charlotte Stewart  Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Krista Locke  Regional Director General, Atlantic Regional Office, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Bernard Butler  Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

May 29th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you for being here.

I have a question regarding how you will be working with DND to improve veterans' transition from the service. I know that when a person is retiring from the Canadian Forces, National Defence gives that person information ahead of time, and they are staffing the disengagements from the service.

How will you be working with DND to smooth this transition? That is a very important thing. The day that you retire from the army is a psychological shock. It was for me, and you can imagine how it is for some other people. That you're out of the service is depressing. It is very important to work with DND to facilitate this kind of transition so that people will not feel depressed. How do you look at this area? How can you have a say? What measures are you taking?

4:35 p.m.

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

Charlotte Stewart

It is indeed a critical point in a releasing member's experience. The experience that they have in the Canadian Forces is not the same as having a career in many other walks of life. For those who are leaving the Forces, they feel a loss of their connection to their careers. We recognize in Veterans Affairs Canada just how sensitive and important this juncture is in their lives.

With respect to how we work with DND, I'm going to mention two areas. We have a number of areas where we have formal agreements with DND about how we will support the smooth integration and transition of members as they release, but I'll focus on two right now. The first one is what we call the “continuity of care”. This means that as VAC and DND develop new programs and services, they will ensure that there is an integration or harmonization between them. So if a member is releasing from the military, and if he has medical issues or needs vocational assistance, he'll be prepared for that transition from the military by the Department of National Defence.

Our goal—and we work very closely on this—is to make sure that we link up with them as early in the process as possible, that our programs and services are harmonized with theirs, and that our case managers are connected with theirs early on, so that the releasing member gets to know the VAC case manager. That transition, which can be a two-year process, is a partnership. When they leave the Department of National Defence, they're not entering an unknown area. They will be well acquainted with VAC and with their VAC case manager.

The other area that is perhaps more important for the releasing member with a medical or psychological issue is what we call our “casualty management and transition”. It requires a high level of agreement between the two departments. We ensure that those with medical or psychosocial issues are fully supported. This starts from the moment they're injured. Both departments receive notification of the injury at the same time. VAC case managers are assigned along with DND case managers, and the support and the benefits and services are provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, often well before release from the military. We work to support that individual through a full reintegration, including assistance in setting up a new career. At the same time, we want to support the family. That's part of the process.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you very much.

Now we go to Mr. Casey for his four minutes.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I provided a notice of motion to the committee on May 16. I advised the witnesses ahead of time that I would be presenting the motion here.

I move that the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs establish a subcommittee to immediately undertake a study regarding the subject matter of the sections of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, which directly fall within the mandate of this committee, namely part 4, division 50: Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act .

That's the motion for which I provided notice.

May I speak to it now, or do you want to put me on the speakers list?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

We do have a speakers list we will follow and I do have Mr. Harris on it. You have the right to speak first, though.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Thank you.

You have the motion before you. Essentially, as you know, this is an attempt by the Liberal Party to have the budget bill subjected to closer scrutiny, in particular by the committees responsible for the statutes that have been directly affected. You would also know that since this committee was formed after the last election, we have not had any legislation come before it. There have been no changes proposed to any of the statutes for which we are responsible. So here we are, knowing that one of the things that we're supposed to do is to consider changes to the statutes falling within our jurisdiction, and the first time one of them comes along, that statute has not been sent to the committee. So I'm asking the committee basically to do the work for which it has been mandated.

You will note that the motion calls for the formation of a subcommittee, and that's specifically out of respect for Mr. Harris's motion that we examine the transformation agenda. That is very important work that we're now doing. By striking a subcommittee, that work can continue and we can proceed on a parallel track. We could strike a subcommittee of this group to examine the impacts of Bill C-38 at the same time as continuing with the important work we're doing here today. So the motion is not meant to derail the work of the committee but to do it in parallel.

That's the motion and that's the rationale for it. Thank you.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

I have Mr. Harris next on the list.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

I move that we go in camera.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

I'm asking for a recorded division.

Is that debatable?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

No.

The motion's been made to go in camera and we want a recorded vote on that.

All those in favour of the motion?

(Motion agreed to: yeas 6; nays 5)

The motion to go in camera has been accepted, so to our witnesses, I will again suspend for a minute as we go in camera. Stay tuned.

Thank you very much.

[Proceedings continue in camera]

[Public proceedings resume]

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

I think we've seen you folks before.

As I said, our time gets more restricted, and if you're going to add to it, sorry about the time squeeze, but that's what we have to do. If the others want to comment, you'll have to jump in really quickly, because we are under a time restraint.

We stopped with Mr. Casey, so we are over to Storseth for four minutes, please.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much to the witnesses for once again showing up. It's always good to hear about the transformation initiatives and today to talk a little more about the future direction of some of these initiatives.

One of the questions to start off with, Ms. Stewart, is about the relationship with DND. How is communication about clients shared between the two departments, and what are some of the best practices used now and that we foresee using into the future?

4:50 p.m.

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

Charlotte Stewart

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for that question.

With respect to the best practices with DND, I think the starting point for those would be the VAC-DND steering committee, a high level committee that meets regularly and that has established a very strong agenda of partnership between the two departments. I already mentioned two item briefly, one being the continuity of care, which is the harmonization of programs and services; and the other casualty management and transition. Others include research, which is a key cornerstone of our commitment to working together; and a fourth would be the development of programs and services in support of families. So that's a very good practice.

I'll mention one, though, that came about as a result of more recent activity around Afghanistan, and it has to do with casualty protocols. This is very specific to what happens when a member is injured in service. The two departments respond very quickly to this need and work together with two case managers, one from each department, to support the member and the family. That commitment to immediately providing programs and services to that veteran, to committing two case managers to working together with that veteran, has been in place for almost two years and I think it's a key sign of a best practice. What it has led to is a very rapid response in the provision of benefits and services to that ailing member in a very short turnaround time. So it's treated with high priority and acted on very quickly.

Transition is another area. We work together through our integrated personnel support centres to support transition. We've committed together to 24 such centres across the country. We're doing ongoing quality reviews of these. This is where our case managers work together and meet with releasing members, meet with those who are still in the service, and provide good knowledge in support of VAC's benefits and programs for them.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much.

How much time do I have left, Mr. Chair?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

You have one and a half-minutes left.