Evidence of meeting #8 for Veterans Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was pension.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Guy Parent  Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman
Denys Guérin  Senior Analyst, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman
Gary Walbourne  Executive Director of Operations, Deputy Ombudsman, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

12:15 p.m.

Executive Director of Operations, Deputy Ombudsman, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Gary Walbourne

We haven't fully costed out all the recommendations, because as we know, the charter is a very complex piece of legislation with a lot of moving parts in there and not well known by a lot. I'll give you a couple of examples of what we have looked at.

We talked about ELB, moving it from 75% to 90%. The cost of doing that would be to the tune of about—and these are gross numbers based on the cohort we measured and what we looked at at that point in time—$13 million to $15 million a year.

I just need to make sure we understand that the permanent impairment allowance and the supplement were intended for loss of career progression and opportunity. That's what those two vehicles were introduced for, so they do have a purpose.

To access PIA and the supplement for those people who we've determined most at risk financially, we're looking at about a $30-million tag on that, but it's over a period of 15 to 18 years. We'd need about half a million dollars this year for the people who currently find themselves at 65 with no income. As that demographic shifts, the full price tag on that would be about $30 million.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Is this something you're going to work towards, to put a little more towards this, so at the end of the day when the new Veterans Charter is finally...when they get right down to it, well, they can say these suggestions here cost $500 million a year type of thing? I'm not saying that's what it is. I'm just saying it would be helpful for the committee to be able to...because if it's $15 million for one thing and that's what everybody wants, that's a whole different story than $500 million.

The other question is—and I think you touched on it and some other people have as well—that it's not easy to boil this down to one, two, or three things, because you also have the Canadian Forces side of it as well, and your job, as you pointed out, is going to be cast with Veterans Affairs. That's why I asked for this chart to be put up, because if the corporal received a lump-sum payout.... I can't tell if he gets the full lump-sum payout or.... How much?

12:20 p.m.

Senior Analyst, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

So, it's pretty close. What this chart doesn't put up there—and I'm not criticizing you; it's just the fact of the matter—is that it doesn't recognize what he would have received from the Canadian Forces as a lump-sum payout. He would have received a payout from them as well, correct?

12:20 p.m.

Senior Analyst, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Col Denys Guérin

No, not necessarily. It depends on whether that person suffered from a dismemberment or not. That particular program is strictly for loss of function or dismemberment, but it is possible that, had he lost a leg, he wouldn't have received a thing.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

At 80% there is something significant to the injury, which isn't reflected in there. I'm not criticizing the graph. All I'm saying is it's hard to capture that, because somebody would look at that and say this is what he got, but it could actually be more. It's possible.

The other thing I wondered about in this chart is that you're taking this to age 65. Is that correct? The person is 24 years old and you're projecting this out—

12:20 p.m.

Senior Analyst, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Col Denys Guérin

This is for life. In other words, to whatever the mortality rate is for individuals, and I think it's 78 here for individuals.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Okay, fair enough.

In there with the lump-sum payout, there is no calculation for growth of that lump-sum payout. I'm not saying everybody does it, but if they put it into an investment or into an asset and it grew over time, this is not reflected in this chart at all, is it?

November 28th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.

Executive Director of Operations, Deputy Ombudsman, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Gary Walbourne

In order for the lump-sum payout to match what's in the pension, I'd need to invest $1.4 million today to get the same payout that the pension would give me.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

No, that's not my point. All I'm saying is that in.... I'm not criticizing; I'm just dealing with the facts of the matter.

In there, you've captured the earnings loss benefit as it would carry on through to the age of 65. What isn't captured in there, and probably should be, is the growth or the potential growth of that lump-sum payout until 65, because you can't really say that they took it and didn't do anything with it. I mean, that's 40 years or 50 years; it would have grown.

12:20 p.m.

Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

Let's be very clear here that the lump sum is intended for pain and suffering. It's not intended for investment. This is what has actually created a lot of arguments out there with some soldiers. They more or less look at that as a sum of money that they're supposed to invest to look after the future.... That's not what it's there for.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I didn't say that.

12:20 p.m.

Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

It's there for pain and suffering, so—

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Well, then, why did you put it in the graph? I'm not trying to be argumentative, but why did you even put it in the graph, then?

12:20 p.m.

Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

Because it is a benefit.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Okay.

12:20 p.m.

Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

It has to be considered a benefit, but it's a lump-sum award given for pain and suffering, the same as given by a court or by any workman's compensation board.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

You can see my frustrations, though—

12:20 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Peter Stoffer

Mr. Lobb, I understand your frustrations, but I do thank you very much for your time.

We'll move o to the final questioner of the day. Mr. Karygiannis, please, for four minutes.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I'm glad you pointed out, sir, that the old pension was non-taxable and the new one is taxable.

I'm going to pick up on Mr. Rafferty's point about the closing of the VAC centres. There are going to be 27,688 vets who will be affected by the closing of these centres. We are told that there are all kinds.... I mean, for My VAC—this portfolio, I think, is what you or some people referred to—people can actually go online, use phones, go in person, use mail, and whatever else there is.

With the closing of these centres, how would the older vets, vets who are 80 or 90, be able to get assistance? We get from the department that there are 600 points of reference and that they're going to do this.... You even mentioned that you're going to train personnel in service centres. But there is a feeling out there that you can't trust VAC. That was certainly obvious when it was mentioned to them that 27,388 boxes of medical records were destroyed, and they kept saying, “No, no, nobody was affected.” Then vets were coming up and saying, “We've lost our records.” That was proven.

My question is, how can the department be trusted when time and time again it has shown that their methods and their figures, as well as what they do, are incorrect? I mean, breaching personal files of Dennis Manuge, Harold Leduc...I could go on ad infinitum. How can the department be trusted? I know you might not want to answer this, but you are even reporting to the minister that you, your shop, should be reporting directly to the department.

I'm going to put it out there. I don't think that what you get from the department is something that you can take home and say, “this is it”, you know, it's firm, because time and time again they've been caught not saying the truth. They've been caught misleading and even doing stuff to members of their own board, such that in the private sector they'd be fired. I mean, for breaching somebody's medical records, you would be totally fired. I'm just wondering if you have a comment or any thoughts on that.

12:25 p.m.

Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

Well, it's very hard, of course, for me to comment. As I've mentioned many times before, we're obviously an evidence-based organization. For any personal situation and anything that is factual, if people want to contact us, we will work to try to resolve it. If there are negative things that have to be said to the department, that's fine. We'll get some corrections. There have been a few instances in the past where we've produced reports or changed the way that programs were administered because of actually challenging the department on some issues.

Obviously, we have a capacity for systemic investigation and systemic reviews. Again, I urge people, if there are any veterans and families who have specific issues they want us to look into, that's what we're there for.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I would say to you that the minister has to look in the eyes of the vets before he makes any announcements or even does anything. There are vets in this room. The minister should actually look in their eyes and say, “This is what I'm doing”, versus hiding behind departmental press releases.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Peter Stoffer

With that, Mr. Karygiannis, you reached exactly four minutes.

As that is the end of our questioning, I do want to advise the committee I did hand over my documents regarding that individual to the ombudsman for them to look at in the future. We thank you for that.

Sir, on behalf of our chairperson, Mr. Galipeau, who unfortunately is not with us, and on behalf of all the people representing our veterans affairs committee, we want to thank you and your staff very, very much for being here today, for your comprehensive report, not only for your services to our military that the three of you have done, but for your tremendous report that you have done. That really has given, in my personal view, talking to the people across the country, some great hope and insight as to the possibilities of what we can do in the future to improve the lives of our heroes and their families.

On behalf of all of us, thank you very, very much for coming. We wish you the very best.

Committee, with that, we will have a two-minute recess, and then we'll go in camera for committee business.

[Proceedings continue in camera]