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 / 5:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Thank you very much.

You indicated, Madam Stewart, that the number of veteran clients is going down, yet your report on plans and priorities showed an increase in 2011 by 13,000 more clients. I'm a little confused as to how you could say they're going down when your plans and priorities report—DVA's own figures—actually showed an increase.

Second, you indicated that the RCMP are a major client, yet they're nowhere in here. I would suggest in future that you have something symbolizing the RCMP in here to show that they are indeed a major client.

Also, you indicated that services won't be cut. Well, technically they will be, because if you're in Charlottetown or Sydney, you right now get to go to a district office and actually meet a human being and that human being can sit with you and talk over problems, similar to what a gentleman like this would do. These fine folks here would probably use the Internet, because they grew up with that, but I don't think he did. So those individuals who are in their sixties and beyond like the idea of having a warm body and not having to drive four hours to Halifax, or somewhere else, to see someone. In essence, services will be cut in that regard, because veterans won't be able to see someone. They'll have to talk on the phone or go on the Internet.

Would you agree or disagree with that statement?

5:25 p.m.

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

Charlotte Stewart

Mr. Chair, I would respond to that question by saying that while our Canadian Forces member veterans are increasing in number, the overall decline in our client numbers is, unfortunately, precipitated by the disproportionate number of war service veterans who are passing away, and the overall decline is led by that.

With respect to frontline service delivery, I want to clarify that we are making sure that by establishing frontline services where we have the most need, we're actually responding to the needs and expectations of the newer veterans. We have to put our frontline services in areas where there is a need—and where the need may, indeed, be increasing. Some of our offices may get smaller, and others, where there is a very low forecast demand, may close gradually over time. However, case management services and other frontline support will continue to be delivered in those areas.

That's a very important message I would like to leave here, that while we may have to find a different way of providing frontline service, veterans will still get case management services from frontline staff in those areas. They will continue to get home visits and they will continue to be supported by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Our opportunity to use online service delivery is for those veterans—or, in some cases, the children of veterans, or the power of attorney of veterans—who may wish to receive services in that way.

What we're doing is expanding our service delivery to ensure that every veteran will be served in the way they choose to be served.

5:25 p.m.

Regional Director General, Atlantic Regional Office, Department of Veterans Affairs

Krista Locke

I can add that we have veterans living all over the country where we may not have district offices right now. For example, in Yarmouth, if there's a veteran who wishes to meet with a case manager or a client service agent, we ensure that we have a staff member who will go down and meet with them in person, if that is their need.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

The last question I have for you is on the VIP payment now. I think it's a good thing, giving them the money in advance into their account, but is there going to be an audit or a monitoring system to ensure that the money they receive goes to VIP services. I ask because I can readily imagine someone in January getting a cheque for, say, $1,400 and saying, “Hmm, I need prescription drugs, but maybe I can go on a trip.” I don't know and I'm not being devilish here, but they may use that money for other purposes you intended.

Will there be a periodic audit to ensure that those people who receive money for VIP definitely spend it on VIP services?

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

I'll need a very quick yes or no on that one, I'm afraid.

5:25 p.m.

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

Charlotte Stewart

Yes, there will be follow up to ensure, generally, that this is working appropriately.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you for that.

That is pretty much our time. We could squeeze in one more question from the government side, if there's a really important one, but otherwise not.

I would simply let everybody know that on Tuesday we're going to take a very few minutes at the start of the meeting to deal with the terms of reference the analyst was referring to.

Mr. Stoffer.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

For the committee's knowledge, the Legion's convention is in Halifax this year and Pat Varga will no longer be the president. I thought it would be a nice gesture, when that changeover occurs, for the chair on behalf of the committee to write her a letter thanking her for her service.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

For once I think I was almost ahead of you. I had the same thought.

Thank you very much to our witnesses.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Yes, thank you, folks.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Does everybody agree that we send a letter?

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you to the committee.

The meeting is adjourned.