Group opposes downsizing Veteran Affairs

Responding to recent media reports on the lack of response from the federal government and senior public servants to Canada's veterans, the National Council of Veteran Association has urged elected officials not to downsize Veterans Affairs Canada.

NCVA made reference to a recent media report that the Government is considering downsizing the Department as a cost-saving measure. A subsequent second news item suggested the Government and senior public servants have failed Canada's veterans insofar as the financial support and benefits available to these returning disabled soldiers.

Brian Forbes, Secretary General of the 58 member-group NCVA, noted that, although Canada's traditional veterans are, unfortunately, aging, VAC continues to have significant responsibilities to the more than 155,000 veterans who served Canada during the Second World War and Korea.

"Many are presently suffering from their service-related disabilities together with other medical concerns brought on by the ravages of age. The Government, through the various programs administered by VAC, provides appropriate health care benefits, long term care funding and related services such as the Veterans Independence Program to alleviate the needs of these unique and special Canadians," Forbes said.

NCVA said that there also are tens of thousands of widows in our traditional veterans' community, and VAC has an ongoing obligation under veterans' legislation to take care of not only our veterans, but their dependants in recognition of their incredible service and sacrifice.

"These remarkable women need our financial support and the benefits available under the Veterans Pension Act, the War Veterans Allowance Act and the health care programs that are applicable to their current circumstances," Forbes said. "In a great number of cases, the widows of our most seriously disabled veterans have acted as caregivers for many, many years, and now require our attention to ensure that their financial and personal well being is looked after."

"The job of VAC is far from over and indeed is entering a significant phase."

Keith Coulter, a former Deputy Minister, recently submitted a report to VAC. It was NCVA's understanding, having held a number of meetings with Coulter, that he was appointed to evaluate the future of VAC and specifically how it was to accommodate veterans and families of all demographics.

VAC administers two major pieces of legislation - the original Pension Act for the traditional veteran and the New Veterans Charter for the modern-day veteran. At the same time, Health Care Benefits, VIP Programs and all other related policies are administered by the department for all veterans and their families.

"It is quite clear that extensive financial and human resources are required of the Department due to the influx of disabled veterans returning from Afghanistan and earlier Canadian military missions," said Forbes.

"Once again, given the physical, mental and psychological concerns confronting these returning veterans, the job of VAC will become more complex and intensive in order to address these multi-faceted problems."

NCVA sits on a Committee established by VAC known as the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group together with other veteran stakeholders, leading academics and governmental officials.