Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to join this debate in the House of Commons on the quality of care for Canada's veterans. Some misinformation has been put out in the House today with regard to cuts or possible cuts to veterans' services and benefits. Many of my colleagues, including the minister, have corrected this misinformation in question period a number of times. Once again, I am pleased to set the record straight.
As the Minister of Veterans Affairs just mentioned in his speech, our government will always ensure that there are the necessary funds to provide Canadian Forces members, veterans and their families with the care and the support that they need. It is true that the number of traditional war service veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs is decreasing. While there are younger veterans entering the system at Veterans Affairs, the overall number of veterans served by the department is decreasing.
Their needs must be addressed. If we look at this government's record over the last six years, members will see that the benefits provided have actually expanded. I would like to point out all of the programs to which veterans are entitled are quasi-statutory. Many people will ask what exactly this means. There may be some uncertainty on the other side of the House. What it means is that the Government of Canada must provide these funds to administer those programs.
I will say that one more time for clarity. The Government of Canada must provide the funds to administer those programs. Veterans have the right to various programs and services that they need. The Treasury Board sets aside whatever money is necessary each year to make sure that the department can continue to provide those benefits.
The member presenting the motion is either misinformed or trying to misinform. The fact is the Minister of Veterans Affairs has said it very nicely. He has clearly summarized that the improvements our government has made over the last six years have been in the name of veterans. We know that the needs of veterans are changing and the care of veterans is evolving. It stands to reason that the way veterans access and receive those benefits should change as well.
Our government recognizes this. It has chosen to invest in new programs and initiatives and not just maintain the status quo. Veterans Affairs Canada is creating a more responsive environment for veterans to make sure that they have faster and easier access to the benefits that they deserve with as little stress as possible.
I am splitting my time with the member for Huron—Bruce.
The department serves close to 215,000 modern-day veterans, war service veterans, members of the Canadian Forces, members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families. All of these people in these groups have their own individual needs. It is our job to ensure that these needs are met effectively and efficiently.
How are we achieving this? A lot has changed. The minister announced two weeks ago that he is cutting red tape for veterans' initiatives. Most of these changes enhance front line services and reduce processing times. The minister launched the cutting red tape for veterans' initiatives, which will provide our veterans with the hassle-free service they have asked for without bureaucratic roadblocks. There were resounding responses from veterans saying this is exactly what they have been asking for.
We have also taken action in the following areas. We are communicating with veterans in plain language. Information provided to our veterans, whether it be decision letters or brochures on benefits and services, will be written in a language that is easy to understand.
We have invested in technology which allows the department to make greater use of digital imaging and electronic records.
We have supported the helmets to hardhats program, which helps veterans who are trying to find high paying opportunities to see those opportunities in trades and areas where their skills are needed. We have implemented directed deposits for some VIP payments or reimbursements for treatment benefits.
We have also reduced by one-third the time it takes for a veteran to receive a decision on applications for disability benefits. We have cut in half the time that it takes for a veteran to receive a decision on applications for rehabilitation programs. We have established an Afghanistan and serious injury unit to fast-track the benefits for Canadian Forces members and veterans who have become seriously injured or ill while serving in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
We have added case managers to areas of high demand across this country to deliver one-on-one service for veterans. They have been given more authority to approve vocational rehabilitation plans and work with the veterans to resolve complex challenges. We have reduced the amount of paperwork for veterans when they apply for veterans independence programs which now help 107,000 veterans, survivors and their caregivers remain independent in their homes for as long as possible.
That is an impressive list of accomplishments. Long overdue some would say. Nevertheless, real progress has been made by the department to update the care for Canada's veterans.
I know that the work is far from done. In fact, the Minister of Veterans Affairs has stated very publicly that he intends to lead by example. He wants his department to be one of the most efficient and responsive in all of government. After all, Canada's veterans deserve nothing less.
As the minister stated in his remarks, Canada's veterans have done far more than their fair share to build our great country, to defend our shared values and to make Canada's red maple leaf an enduring symbol of peace and freedom around the world. This government is doing its fair share in ensuring that they are well looked after.
The motion of the member--