by Sean Bruyea, (filed in Reports)
The recent announcement by the government of Canada presented by Ministers MacKay and Blackburn included additional benefits for veterans unable to seek full time employment. Although the additional benefits target the group of marginalized veterans who need help the most, these programs are relatively minor compared to the more than 300 recommendations pointed out by the two VAC advisory groups or the more than 55 recommendations detailed by me, Sean Bruyea, in my report to Parliament submitted on May 15, 2010.
The following analysis focusses the main questions and concerns relevant to the three programs. Parts A thru C discuss the three specific programmes, Part D makes general comments.
Part A: The Additional $1000
1) What criteria do veterans have to meet in order to qualify for the extra $1000?
2) Will veterans be receiving all or it or part of it? What is the ‘pay scale’ and how do veterans meet these criteria?
3) Although it was announced as not-taxable, VAC later corrected the press and it is apparently taxable.
4) If it is not deducted from ELB (Earnings Loss Benefit from New Veterans Charter or NVC) as announced, is it deducted from SISIP LTD (Service Income Security Insurance Plan Long Term Disability)?
5) Does it really matter that it is not deducted from ELB since SISIP LTD is first payer and that means SISIP LTD would have already deducted it?
6) Or does ELB then kick in the $1000 after SISIP deducts it?
7) How frustrating and confusing would that be for a permanently disabled veteran?
8) How often do veterans have to jump through hoops to qualify? Yearly? How humiliating would that be?
9) If it is not deducted from SISIP LTD and/or ELB, what implications does this have for the substantive points of the class action lawsuit regarding deductions of Pension Act payments from SISIP LTD?
10) This is a new programme which requires new funding and therefore needs to be passed in legislation. Will the new programme and its regulations be fast-tracked through Parliament just like the NVC so that no public debate occurs and the bureaucrats can once again unilaterally tell veterans and families bureaucrats know what veterans need better than veterans, their families and the medical practitioners who treat them?
Part B: The Additional Access to Permanent Impairment Allowance (PIA)
1) Since the restrictive criteria for PIA paid out to only 2 persons by April 2010 and 16 persons by August 30 out of more than 20,000 NVC programme recipients, how generous will the new criteria be?
2) Since the criteria are determined by regulations and policy, this change to PIA could be very quick as it does not require legislation. Will there be open debate however on the regulations to ensure the criteria meets veterans’ needs and not the government’s agenda to pay out as little as possible?
3) In the case scenarios circulating around, Case #1 elaborates about a veteran with an award of 70% PTSD and 30% other for other conditions. According to VAC, such a veteran receives grade 2 PIA (approx $1000 per month-taxable) However, few if any veterans with PTSD have met the strict regulations of “a severe and permanent psychiatric condition” or the policy which appears to limit awards to organic brain injuries or a psychiatric condition so severe as to require constant supervision. PTSD at 70% is a far cry from this strict definition.
4) Will VAC expand the PIA requirements to make them more generous for not just physical but psychological injuries?
5) Will VAC expand PIA grades to five vice three so that PIA and EIA (Pension Act Exceptional Impairment Allowance) are more compatible? Why not cease the taxable and restrictive PIA completely and allow all veterans to access the non-taxable EIA if they qualify but lower EIA requirements to 78% pension like PIA?
6) Up until now, veterans collecting Pension Act and NVC awards could not combine the awards from each act to qualify for EIA or PIA even if the combined awards were 78% or even 100% or even greater? Will this be remedied?
7) Why two near compatible programmes which are defined and administered differently? Is this the equality and fairness veterans became disabled and many died defending?
Part C: Minimum $40,000 for ELB recipients
1) This initiative is similar to NVC Advisory Group and Special Advisory Group recommendations on this issue but how difficult will it be to receive?
2) How will a corporal with many years in upon release feel when he/she is being paid the same as a private with a couple years in upon medical release? Is this fair?
3) Since it is not fair to have a corporal earn the same as a private, why not make all ELB at 100% of salary as strongly recommended by the NVC Advisory Group and the Special Needs Advisory Group?
4) How will SISIP LTD handle these extra incomes? Will they be deducted by SISIP but not by ELB?
5) What are the implications for the class action lawsuit against the unfair deductions from SISIP LTD?
Part D: General
1) If these programmes are implemented to correct changes in the NVC over the past four years, why are the changes not retroactive to April 1, 2006 the date of coming into force of the NVC?
2) Will this not now create yet a different class of veterans: those on the NVC programmes after the September 19 2010 announcements will be treated apparently better than those who were on the programmes before September 19 2010? Will this not further divide veterans and create animosity between groups…something VAC appears to prefer?
3) How long will these programmes take to be implemented?
4) Which ones will require legislation ($1000 likely) and which ones will require policy or regulation change (PIA and ELB)?
5) Will veterans and the public be able to scrutinize the programmes before they are forced yet again through Parliament with smoke and mirror publicity campaigns?
6) If you think VAC is confusing now, what confusion will this bring to the
- Application process
- Approval process
- Department level appeal process?
7) VAC frontline workers are already overwhelmed with multiple programmes. How will these new programmes affect:
- Case work load
- Processing times
- Employee burnout?
8) Veterans and their families know how difficult the bureaucracy has been to deal with at the HO level in terms of approval so in all sincerity, how can veterans count on VAC HO approval process treating veterans with dignity?
9) Why were no veterans or medical specialists directly involved in writing up these new programmes?
10) Why is it that the bureaucracy arrogantly insists it knows more about what veterans and their families need than the veterans, their families and the medical practitioners who treat them?
These new announcements do absolutely nothing to change the culture at VAC which has disempowered and humiliated far too many veterans and their families by unilaterally dictating to veterans that government knows best. The bureaucracy has been completely unable and unwilling to cooperate with veterans, their families and medical practitioners to develop programs with dignity…and let the veterans define what dignity is not VAC.
There is nothing more humiliating for a veteran and his/her family to be consistently badgered by VAC slogans and media releases by government that veterans are indeed reated with “respect” and “dignity” when veterans know all too well that the opposite is the case.
This is the most disempowering facet of being a ‘client’ of Veterans Affairs Canada. Veterans are robbed of their independence and sense of self-worth by a bureaucracy insensitive to what it means to have sacrificed so much so that government can turn around and use that freedom veterans gained for Canada to insist the veteran’s perspective is wrong and their suffering is therefore meaningless.
Is this “client-centred service”? Is this treating veterans and their families with “dignity”? When will the government finally treat veterans as equal partners and have veterans negotiate with Parliament not be dictated to by bureaucrats?
Food for thought