The report on plans and priorities is our opportunity to report to you as parliamentarians. This forward-looking document outlines organizational priorities, plans, and expected results for the current fiscal year and the two following years.
This report is a planning document. As you know, for budgeting purposes the main estimates document is the report for appropriation.
The Report on Plans and Priorities provides an account of the department's planned and expected results, and how public resources will be used.
The resources that figure in this document are those that have been approved by Parliament in the main estimates process, which may be adjusted throughout the fiscal year through the supplementary estimates process.
These results will be monitored and reported on to ensure that veterans have access to the programs that are tailored to their needs, which will be available through multiple channels; and that employees will have the tools they need to better serve veterans.
In addition, the five broad themes of the transformation agenda will be cornerstones of our long-term planning and reporting as they relate specifically to reducing complexity, overhauling service delivery, partnerships, sustaining the new Veterans Charter, and adapting to changing demographics by reorganizing the department.
We can already see progress on many of these fronts.
For example, veterans who are case-managed will be receiving services from case managers who have smaller caseloads. There will be fewer than 40 case-managed veterans for each case manager.
Veterans who are applying for a disability benefit will see the application turnaround time reduced by one-third.
Veterans will also see turnaround times for decisions for the rehabilitation program cut in half, from four weeks to two weeks.
Veterans and their family members calling the VAC 1-800 number will have their calls answered in less than two minutes 80% of the time.
Veterans will have the option to receive their reimbursements for the veterans independence program and their treatment benefits via direct deposit.
The progress of all departmental initiatives will be reported on in the departmental performance report. In other words, the report on plans and priorities outlines what we're going to do over the next three years and how we're going to do it. A year later, the departmental performance report will indicate how we've performed against what we said we would do.
In our actual report on plans and priorities, we outline on page 5 our program activity architecture. The program activity architecture is basically an inventory of our key programs and activities. It groups together related programs and activities. It is really the foundation on which we build the report on plans and priorities and the departmental performance report.
As you see from the program activity architecture, we're working to achieve three strategic outcomes. First is the financial, physical, and mental well-being of eligible veterans. Second is that Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all who have served in Canada's efforts during war, military conflict, and peace. Third is that veterans' rights to the services and benefits that address their needs are considered in an independent and impartial way.
Underneath these strategic outcomes you'll see the various program activities that contribute to our pursuit of these outcomes.
Following the program activity architecture, you'll see our various organizational priorities. This is really the heart of our report on plans and priorities. Our main focus over the next few years will be four priorities.
First is modernizing the department. This priority is really about transformation. As our colleague, David Robinson, the director general of transformation, outlined recently for you, the needs of veterans are changing. This priority is about how we will fundamentally transform to meet these changing needs.
Second is improving service delivery. This is also largely linked to transformation. We are taking advantage of technology and strategic partnerships to provide veterans and their families with faster and easier access to benefits and services.
Third is the transfer of Ste. Anne's Hospital. This priority is another reflection of the changing demographics and needs of Canada's veterans. We are continuing negotiations with the Province of Quebec to ensure a successful transfer for all involved, especially veterans.
Fourth is workplace renewal. Given the preceding priorities, workplace renewal will be critical. We're working to support our employees with the tools, skills, and training required to improve services and meet the changing needs of our veterans. This priority is also about increasing our knowledge of the Canadian Forces and the military experience.
Of course, our second mandate, to commemorate the contributions and sacrifices of the men and women in our military, also remains an ongoing priority.
You have heard, as part of your ongoing study on transformation, that as the traditional veteran population decreases, the number of Canadian Forces veterans who receive benefits and services from VAC is increasing. We know, too, that the future veteran population served by Veterans Affairs Canada will be much more diverse and represent several generations.
This year's report on plans and priorities shows fluctuation in planned spending in outer years. I want to emphasize that this is not due to any planned reduction in veterans programs or benefits. Services and benefits to veterans are being maintained. Funding levels are set one year at a time. The outer years are just projections, and will be refined in-year. To give perspective, VAC's planned spending for 2012-13 in this year's report on plans and priorities is actually $268 million more than was projected in last year's report.
The department is prepared to meet the needs of veterans returning from Afghanistan. In fact, our total authorities over the past five years have been increasing. For example, in our most recent main estimates for 2012-13, our planned spending increased by $44.8 million, or 1.3%, over the previous year's main estimates in 2011-12.
The key changes driving this net increase included an increase of $118.5 million related to modern-day veterans accessing new Veterans Charter programs. A decrease of $73.7 million related, in part, to the decrease in demand for traditional veteran programs.
Veterans benefits are paid in accordance with acts, and payments stem from legislation regulation. These benefits are anticipated and demand-driven; depend on variables, such as the actual number of veterans who need our help; and are non-discretionary, meaning if the veteran is eligible, he or she receives the benefit.
All this being said, I want to assure you that the government's budget process, including in-year opportunities for supplementary estimates, is designed to ensure that any veteran who is entitled to a benefit is paid that benefit. Whether ten veterans come forward or 10,000, the flexibility is there to meet the needs.
I'm sure you'll have questions on the plans and priorities outlined in the report. My colleagues and I would be pleased to field any specific questions you may have.