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Proceedings of the Subcommittee on
Veterans Affairs

Issue No. 5 - Evidence - May 18, 2016 (12:05 p.m. meeting)


OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:05 p.m. to examine the subject matter of those elements contained in Division 2 of Part 4 of Bill C-15, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016, and other measures.

Senator Joseph A. Day (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: I call to order this meeting of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

Senators will know that the purpose and objective for our meeting today is to study a portion of Bill C-15. It is what we sometimes refer to colloquially as a budget implementation bill.

In that bill, there is a portion that has been referred to this subcommittee, and that would be Division 2 of Part 4. There are certain changes to legislation pertaining to veterans.

We're doing this as a pre-study, which means that the bill has not been referred to us, and we do not have the benefit of knowing what the House of Commons is thinking. In the normal course, we would receive a bill after the House of Commons has made any amendments and has had their deliberations. They would send it to us after, and we would go through it with the benefit of their work but looking at it from a different perspective — a Senate perspective — which means we look at it from how it impacts our regions, minorities and the like.

So in this case, we are pre-studying Division 2 of Part 4. We are very pleased to welcome from Veterans Affairs Canada's Policy and Research Division, Director General Faith McIntyre. She normally, I understand, works out of Charlottetown, which is where the headquarters for Veterans Affairs is.

Ms. McIntyre, you have some introductory remarks, which I'll ask you to present. Then, before we go into a discussion, we would like to have a rolling discussion to do a sort of clause-by-clause analysis of the changes that are there, so that we can understand the purpose and what the government is hoping to achieve with these amendments. Is that satisfactory?

Faith McIntyre, Director General, Policy and Research Division, Veterans Affairs Canada: Understood, sir. Thank you very much.

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, senators, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for the kind introduction. I am honoured to be here today to speak regarding the budget implementation act and the section pertaining particularly to veterans, their families and survivors.

I would like to take a few moments, if you don't mind, and go through the remarks, because I think it will help situate you. I certainly would not be the first one to state that our programs and benefits are complex, and I think it's important that we situate the context under which these changes are being made.

[Translation]

I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before you today. Providing support to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans and their families remains our first priority. I hope that the information you receive today will be helpful to your study.

[English]

As you are no doubt aware, the government is committed to improve benefits and services provided to Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans and their families through various mandate commitments provided to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, who is also the Associate Minister of National Defence.

These enhancements that will be achieved through Division 2 of Part 4 of Bill C-15 will deliver on several of those mandate commitments. In general terms, the proposed amendments will address concerns raised by Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, their families, stakeholders and the Veterans Ombudsman that seriously disabled veterans are not assured financial security from the suite of programs currently available under the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, also known as the New Veterans Charter.

This bill is intended to provide improved financial security for veterans, and in particular, seriously disabled veterans. As a result of these enhancements, Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans with service-related disabilities will see an increase in the benefits they receive, and those who incur a severe and permanent service related disability will benefit most from these changes.

[Translation]

Now, if I may, I'd like to describe those changes in more detail.

First of all, the proposed amendments would make changes to the permanent impairment allowance, a monthly benefit payable to Canadian Armed Forces veterans whose job prospects or career advancement opportunities have been limited as a result of a severe and permanent impairment caused by a service-related illness or injury. This allowance is a taxable financial benefit payable for life. The bill would change the terminology in order to better reflect the program intent. The permanent impairment allowance would therefore become the career impact allowance.

[English]

As well, the term "totally and permanently incapacitated'' will be changed to "diminished earning capacity,'' a term used when a veteran is incapacitated by a permanent, physical or mental health problem that prevents the veteran from performing any occupation that would be considered suitable, gainful employment inside or outside the military.

Through regulatory amendment and operational policy changes, Veterans Affairs will then introduce a functional capacity assessment which, on an individual basis, will consider the impact of service-related impairment on remaining career advancement opportunities.

In doing so, it will consider the veteran's diminished earning capacity as well as their years left to serve. These changes to the Permanent Impairment Allowance will be implemented on April 1, 2017, and by approximately 2020, 2,700 veterans will be eligible for this increased benefit. So that is one area where amendments are being proposed under this act.

The second area is that relating to the earnings loss benefit. The earnings loss benefit is also a taxable, monthly benefit that ensures a veteran's total income is at least 75 per cent of his or her gross pre-release military salary.

This proposed amendment will actually increase the earnings loss benefit from the current 75 per cent to 90 per cent of a veteran's monthly military salary as of October 1, 2016.

Changes will also be done in regulations that will see the minimum monthly military salary for the earnings loss benefit be that of a senior private in the Canadian Armed Forces as well as remove the 2 per cent indexation cap. The minimum monthly salary is currently at that of a basic corporal. By 2021, approximately 15,000 veterans and survivors are expected to be eligible for this increased benefit.

The next area, an award proposing modifications under the implementation act, relates to the disability award. The proposed amendments will increase the maximum lump sum of the disability award from approximately $310,000 to $360,000.

The disability award provides injured Canadian Armed Forces members or veterans with a tax-free award for an injury or illness resulting from military service. The amount depends on the degree to which a veteran's disability is related to his or her service and on the extent of the actual disability. The amendments will also make consequential changes to both the death benefit and the detention benefit, as the latter are calculated on the same schedule as the disability award.

As a result of this particular amendment, a top-up payment will be issued to individuals who received a disability award, a death benefit or a detention benefit payment between April 1, 2006, which is the coming into force date of the New Veterans Charter and the coming into force date of these changes.

Upon implementation on April 1, 2017, 70,000 Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans and survivors are expected to benefit from a retrospective adjustment.

[Translation]

On the whole, these amendments follow through on the government's plan to invest in the financial security and independence of veterans and their families as they make the transition to civilian life. The government expects that $1.6 billion over five years would start flowing to veterans and their families in the form of higher direct payments. This amounts to an accrual-based figure of $5.6 billion over six years, starting in 2015-16.

Thank you for the opportunity to make an opening statement. I would now be happy to answer any questions you have.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you very much. As part of your presentation, I had hoped that we could then go to division 2, and you could explain — looking at what we're going to have to vote on — what we're changing and that would flow from what you have just said.

Senator White, is your comment in relation to something that we should clarify at this stage?

Senator White: We can wait, thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: I have you on the list.

Senator Lang: I want to get it clear in my mind what exactly is the full financial amount that the government is committing per year over the next five years?

Ms. McIntyre: It is $1.6 billion.

Senator White: Billion with a "b''?

Ms. McIntyre: That's over the first five years.

Senator White: That's an increase from the budget that was allocated already? You're stating it's a $1.5 billion increase?

Ms. McIntyre: That I will have to verify.

Senator Lang: Mr. Chairman, I don't know if the witness has this. I want to get a sense of where we're at and where we're going.

The Chair: These kinds of questions will flow better after she finishes her presentation. Then we'll have a full understanding of what Ms. McIntyre feels we should know about.

So go ahead and do your clause-by-clause element, which I look upon as the second half of your presentation.

Ms. McIntyre: Certainly. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I have a document that I do believe was shared with you for the clause-by-clause part. Is that the document you wish that I go through?

The Chair: It's Bill C-15. You've listed on the front page of this document, "An Overview.'' Is this the one we're looking at?

Ms. McIntyre: It says at the top right, "Clause By Clause.''

The Chair: "Clause By Clause.'' Okay. There we go. It shows clause 80, 81, et cetera?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes. I have them numbered differently, but I will pull out —

The Chair: What I would like you to do is go to Bill C-15, Division 2, Part 4. Part 4 is other matters. Division 2. Start at clause 80 and just tell us what clause 80 is doing, and then go to clause 81, clause 82. You can go through this rather quickly, but it will tell us what you're trying to achieve with this legislation.

Ms. McIntyre: Understood.

The Chair: Thank you.

Ms. McIntyre: In clause 80, we are changing the terminology of "totally and permanently incapacitated'' to "diminished earning capacity.'' It better reflects the program intent.

The Chair: Any questions on that particular section before we go on? Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: With the change of the definition, that then will bring more individuals into the program. Is that correct from the point of view of assessment?

Ms. McIntyre: Thank you for the question. In terms of this change, this is a pure change in terminology, so "diminished earning capacity'' is exactly what the intent of the assessment is when we determine if an individual is going to receive a permanent impairment allowance. So in this case it's just a straight adjustment to the language, to the terminology.

Senator Lang: So this doesn't bring an expansion within the program or anything other than the description of what exactly —

Ms. McIntyre: Not with this particular clause, sir. However the changes to the permanent impairment allowance, as a whole, will increase the benefit amount within that program.

The Chair: Has there been any court decision, or for what reason is this terminology change being brought about?

Ms. McIntyre: So the term "totally and permanently incapacitated,'' certainly in the words themselves, leads one to believe that the individual, in this case, the veteran, would not be able to work at all, that they are totally disabled and incapable of earning any income. The intent of this program is actually to reflect the fact that they have a diminished earning capacity because of their service-related injury, that they are not capable of earning what they could have earned prior to their disability.

The Chair: But this is just a policy decision to change the terminology?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct.

The Chair: To better, as you say, reflect the intent of the legislation.

Ms. McIntyre: Correct, sir.

The Chair: No other questions on that? Okay, can you move to the next one then?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes, so, in clause 81, it is the same wording, so, again, the reference to "diminished earning capacity.'' Once again, it's simplified language to better reflect the intent of the program.

The Chair: Not based on any court decision, just your experience in dealing with veterans, perhaps.

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. I think, if I might add, as well, the perception. "Totally and permanently incapacitated'' would generate and does generate a certain reflection of self, which is not an accurate reflection of an individual. They are still certainly capable of earning an income.

The Chair: Okay. Thank you. No questions from honourable senators. Go ahead. I have clause 82.

Ms. McIntyre: Yes, clause 82. That is the reference to the adjustment for the earnings loss benefit, and the earnings loss benefit is currently payable at 75 per cent. So this will modify the formula that is used to calculate that benefit, and it will be increased to 90 per cent. So the change will increase the amount of the earnings loss payment to veterans.

Senator Lang: It's more of a pragmatic question. An individual who has been incapacitated is on the program, but he or she is capable of doing certain things, maybe a far cry from the career that they had before. If that individual takes a position, and goes, for example, to work in Walmart or something like that, which helps put in the time in the day and brings in added income, does this amount of money decrease if they are able to earn money elsewhere?

Ms. McIntyre: Thank you for the question, sir. So the earnings loss benefit is payable to eligible veterans who are participating in a vocational rehabilitation program. So through the duration of that program, they could be participating in education or another type of career development or learning to assist them to achieve an ultimate outcome. They are managed very closely by a case manager. They are paid that earnings loss benefit. Should they be working, which certainly they might be working part-time elsewhere, depending upon the amount that they are earning, there may be an offset to the earnings loss benefit to reflect those employment earnings that they would be receiving.

In successful outcomes, the individual will complete their vocational rehabilitation plan and go on to work and would not need further supports. There are other benefits, certainly, that they would be entitled to, but specific to the earnings loss benefit. However, if an individual is unable to work post-completion of their vocational rehabilitation program, then there are extended earnings loss benefits, which, again, would be at the 90 per cent, as we are proposing in this act. Those are payable until age 65.

The Chair: With or without being in any sort of a rehab program?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. The extended earnings loss benefit would be post-rehabilitation, in a situation where they are not successfully able to be employed.

The Chair: Suffering from a mental difficulty would be an example?

Ms. McIntyre: As an example, yes, sir.

The Chair: Any other questions on this one? You did mention, I think, that corporal is the base salary. It was a private; now it's a corporal?

Senator White: Senior private, was it?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes, that change will be made in regulation. Again, 75 per cent is the current amount, and —

The Chair: Seventy-five per cent of —

Ms. McIntyre: For earnings loss benefit, it is the current amount. Currently, the minimum monthly amount is that of a basic corporal salary. So when we increase it to 90 per cent, of course, we need to look at the minimum to adjust it accordingly as well. So the minimum amount would actually be that of a senior private.

The Chair: You are dropping down the minimum?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct, but increasing the benefit payable.

The Chair: Increasing to 90 per cent of that?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct.

Senator White: So if that's right, what would be the difference? You're dropping down the minimum but increasing. So I have my head around this, what would be the net gain, as an example?

Ms. McIntyre: Very good question. Not everyone, to your point, will receive the 15 per cent difference. If they are currently receiving the minimum amount, that of a corporal, it's about $3,500 a month. With the 90 per cent increase, certainly their benefit from Veterans Affairs would be increased, and the minimum amount of a senior private is about $3,700 a month. So an individual who is receiving minimum to minimum would see about a 5 per cent increase in their benefit, post change.

Senator White: Okay.

The Chair: You got your head around that?

Senator White: I'll tell you this is why I didn't take accounting in university. Thank you very much.

The Chair: No other questions on that one? We will go on to the next one. Clause 84; is that the next one we're on?

Ms. McIntyre: Clause 83, which is, again, a change to the term "totally and permanently incapacitated'' to "diminished earning capacity.''

The Chair: Yes, okay.

Ms. McIntyre: Change four, again, is a change in order to reflect the formula for the earnings loss benefit from 75 per cent to 90 per cent increase.

The Chair: Same minimums we have talked about previously?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct, which would be reflected in regulations.

The Chair: Are these regulations generated now? Can we take a look at those?

Ms. McIntyre: The regulations will be coming forward post-budget implementation act. So they are currently being written, developed, and will go through the appropriate Treasury Board process.

The Chair: So they are not in a form that they can be circulated?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. Eighty-five is to clarify when a disability award becomes payable. So it is an amendment to section 53 of the act, and it's a reference to a new section that had to be added with the changes made to the disability award.

The Chair: Do we see that section 53 somewhere here? The reference to section 53 is not being amended.

Ms. McIntyre: No, you would need the full act in order to see that.

The Chair: I have the full act, but that's not being amended. So you are making reference to something that is already in existence.

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. Part 2 of number 85 is where we are acknowledging another change in terminology, if you will. The permanent impairment allowance will be changed to "career impact allowance.'' That is to reflect the intent of program better.

So a permanent impairment allowance is awarded to an individual who because of their service-related illness or injury cannot earn what they would have earned had they continued on within their military service. It is that diminished earnings capacity we talked about earlier.

The Chair: A lost opportunity.

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. That career advancement, that potential that they would have had should they have remained in the military but due to circumstances beyond their control they had to medically release in this case.

As well, this section is adding the element to clarify that there will be an assessment. The wording will be a functional capacity assessment, which will be an individual assessment to again determine, for each individual, what their lost earnings capacity would have been, so that potential for career advancement. This will be further defined in the regulations and in operational policies, but this is where we get into the point that the permanent impairment allowance program will be adjusted for those currently in receipt of the permanent impairment allowance.

There will be an individual capacity assessment completed, and the individuals will have the opportunity, for the most part, to see an increase in benefits. There are currently three grade levels within the permanent impairment allowance. Through an individual capacity assessment, we will determine precisely where that individual could have fallen should they have continued their earnings and career advancement in the military and adjust their grade level accordingly.

Senator Lang: I'm a bit confused. With these changes, does it mean that everybody under the existing program will be reassessed?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes, it does.

Senator Lang: How many people are involved? I think you gave us the numbers, but tell us again how long will the reassessment take?

The Chair: How many veterans or military personnel?

Ms. McIntyre: I said by about 2020 there would be approximately 2,700 veterans who would benefit from this increase. Because of some of the pieces we need to do, the implementation for the program will be April 1, 2017.

Senator Lang: And how many again, 2,700?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct.

Senator Lang: That's a lot of reassessments.

Ms. McIntyre: Certainly, yes, but it's to the benefit of the individuals.

Senator Lang: I'm not disagreeing with that, but do you have the resources to do that within the period of time?

Ms. McIntyre: Certainly. That's why the implementation will be April 1, 2017, to make sure we have the resources and system requirements. In order to do the functional capacity assessment, we potentially need a service provider; so we are looking at the simplest ways and means to achieve that outcome.

The Chair: If Veterans Affairs assesses a veteran, and you have determined that he has a life-time diminished earning capacity by virtue of the injury or illness, does that create another monthly payment in addition to any other lump sums or payments that the veteran might be receiving?

Ms. McIntyre: In simple terms, yes. The permanent impairment allowance is a separate benefit payable monthly, nontaxable for life, compared to an earnings loss benefit, which is tied to a vocational rehabilitation program, taxable, payable to age 65, depending on the outcomes of their rehab, and aside from the lump sum disability award.

The Chair: I hope there are lots of people in your department that can help the veteran understand all these different ways and different potential benefits he or she may have available.

Ms. McIntyre: Sir, that is a very important point and one of the areas that we are focusing on through our service delivery and service excellence principle is reducing the complexity, and simplifying not only the process — example, forms — but also in ensuring we have resources. And under Budget 2016, we were provided an increase to our field resources in order to do what you indicate and as well further support veterans and their families.

The Chair: Thank you. Let's carry on then.

Ms. McIntyre: Well, 85.3 is a reference to the change in names and 86 used to say permanent impairment allowance and now it would say "career impact allowance.''

The Chair: The underlined portion, career impact.

Ms. McIntyre: The underlined portion is the change. Once again, 87 would have said "totally and permanently incapacitated,'' and now it is "diminished earning capacity.'' And then an adjustment to the French, and we're at 88, I believe.

[Translation]

The Chair: In the French version, the word concernant is being amended, is it not?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes.

The Chair: In clause 88?

Ms. McIntyre: It was simply to update the French version.

The Chair: An update, very well.

[English]

Ms. McIntyre: Clause 88, we are looking at when the award would become payable. It refers to the disability award.

The Chair: That is the lump-sum payment at this stage.

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. It corresponds to what was immediately before the disability award became payable. There is a schedule and amounts in the schedule which are in this document, so where the individual's disability would have been immediately before the eligibility for the award is the amount they would receive from that schedule, to a maximum of $360,000. Again, 89, so when an award is payable and it refers to the changes when both of the following conditions are met.

The Chair: You have added the words, ". . . when both of the following conditions are met,'' so previously both of them didn't have to be met?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes, it clarifies that the award is payable. I believe the previous version was not clear that both conditions had to be met.

The Chair: If that qualifier was not there, it was pretty clear that only one of those conditions had to be met.

Ms. McIntyre: Understood. The disability has to be stabilized and the extent has to be assessed, which certainly is in line with what the objective of a disability award is. It's a lump-sum payment to recognize pain and suffering. It is a noneconomic loss award. First, in order to pay out that award, you would have to know what the percentage or the extent of the disability is; and second, the disability would have to have been stabilized. Otherwise, a week or month later, that extent of disability would shift, and that is not the intent. The intent is to pay for pain and suffering. We do have another benefit, the critical injury benefit, which is a lump sum amount of $70,000, payable to eligible veterans during a period of pre-stabilization. That is a period where they were immediately injured, hospitalized — other criteria. So they are still in that period of up and down in terms of their injury or illness.

The Chair: So they can get the $70,000 up front to help take care of things. Then, once they are assessed, and assessed at the top, he gets another $360,000.

Ms. McIntyre: Potentially. So once the condition has stabilized, it would be up to $360,000, depending on the extent of disability.

The Chair: Okay. Thank you.

Ms. McIntyre: Clause 90 is our transitional provisions that actually provide regulation-making authority to support the information that we need in order to make payments to recipients and to reimburse payments for financial advice fees. The transitional provisions are important, because that is where the retrospective payments come into play. That is where we want to be able to pay individuals who have been in receipt of a disability award since April 1, 2006.

The Chair: And the financial advice is where the veteran would go to a private-sector person and get advice on how best to deal with this lump sum?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct.

The Chair: Would the regulations say who that would be?

Ms. McIntyre: No, the regulations do not indicate who the provider could be, but we do indicate a maximum amount of $500 — I will verify that — that they would be reimbursed afterward. So there is a maximum amount.

The Chair: That maximum amount will probably determine to whom the person can go.

If the surviving spouse seeks the outside advice — is that a new initiative?

Ms. McIntyre: What clause are you referring to?

The Chair: Clause 90.

Ms. McIntyre: It certainly would be anyone eligible for the disability award.

The Chair: We are trying to act in the best interests of the veterans here, so any advice we can get — but you are the one who says "yes'' or "no'' to any of these comments.

Ms. McIntyre: Anyone eligible to receive the disability award would be eligible.

The Chair: Which would include surviving children or —

Ms. McIntyre: It would include survivors, yes.

Clause 91 was repealed, as it was no longer valid.

The Chair: Are we taking away a right or benefit?

Ms. McIntyre: I would need to check that.

The Chair: You could let us know. I'm assuming that is not the case, but if I'm wrong, I'd like to know that.

Jean-Rodrigue Paré, Aboriginal Affairs and Social Development Section, Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Library of Parliament: In the previous act, there was a provision that had a time stamp on it that time had elapsed. Now, with the revision of the act, it has become obsolete, because with the new coming-into-force different aspects have made that provision unnecessary.

Ms. McIntyre: Thank you for the information.

The Chair: Does that sound right?

Ms. McIntyre: It does. I just don't have the full act in front of me.

The Chair: If it turns out to be otherwise, you will let us know.

Ms. McIntyre: I will.

The Chair: Good, thank you.

Ms. McIntyre: We are at clause 93. The schedule is updated to remove reference to the piece that we just discussed, which was repealed.

The Chair: That's the same for 92 and 93, is it?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes.

The Chair: Let us go to 94.

Ms. McIntyre: Clause 94, as well, is the terminology, so rather than "permanent impairment allowance,'' we are at "career impact allowance.''

The Chair: I think we've seen that terminology change before.

Ms. McIntyre: Yes, you will see it a few more times through these various clauses.

Clause 95 is the change to the death benefit.

The Chair: The $360,000?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct.

Clause 96, again, is terminology, as is 97. All of those changes indicated there are basically replacing the "permanent impairment allowance'' with the "career impact allowance.''

The Chair: Usually we don't have to go through the transitional provisions, but is there anything in here that we should know about coming into force? You did tell us the date for coming into force, which is April 6 of next year.

Ms. McIntyre: There are three main program changes, Mr. Chair. A program change for the permanent impairment allowance and the disability award will come into effect on April 1, 2017, and the change for the earnings loss benefit will come into place as of October 1, 2016.

The Chair: Okay, 2016. So six months earlier. Are you doing that because you have to generate regulations for the permanent impairment award? Is that why it is being delayed and not coming into force right now?

Ms. McIntyre: The reason is mostly due to implementation. Going back to an earlier question, they also need the resources and system changes that are required for the permanent impairment allowance and the disability award. If you'll recall, the disability award is retrospective, so we need to go back all the way to April 1, 2006. Therefore, we need to put all of that in place in order to be able to do that.

So it's more of an implementation requirement that we have, internally.

The Chair: Is there a retrospective aspect to the $360,000 going up to $310,000?

Ms. McIntyre: That is the one benefit where there is a retrospective adjustment, yes.

The Chair: Is there anything else in the transitional provisions that we should be aware of?

Ms. McIntyre: No, I think those are the main ones, the implementation and the retrospective nature of the disability award.

The Chair: And coordinating amendments — that's typical.

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. There are consequential amendments to other acts.

The Chair: Must have kept the lawyers busy figuring out what else might be changed. Unintended consequences, as we sometimes refer to them.

Senator Lang, any further clarification you need?

Senator Lang: Not on the specific sections, but I do have general questions.

The Chair: We are at general ones now. We have finished that, so you have the floor.

Senator Lang: Thank you. I really appreciate your time going through the changes.

I want to go back on one issue that has been brought to my attention, and I wonder if you have had to deal with this kind of situation. My understanding is that there are approximately 6,000 reservists who have never had a medical that has been put on file. I'm told that puts them in peril if there is an accident or an injury in that not having had a medical prior to that happening, they would not be eligible for the benefits that would flow, maybe in some cases from these programs.

Can you comment on that? Have you run across any situation where someone has not had a medical that wasn't on file and subsequently wasn't eligible?

Ms. McIntyre: I can comment generally. I have to say that I'm not familiar specifically with that type of situation. Reservists would have eligibility that may differ from regular forces, depending upon the program and the benefit.

Having said that, the key to some of our gateways is demonstrating that the injury or illness is attributable to service. There would be medical information required; however, how that works is really a question that our medical officers would have a conversation with the medical individuals treating that individual in order to be able to determine if it is attributable to service.

The example we often hear is if you have an individual who has jumped out of a helicopter 3,000 times and has bad knees or a back. Certainly, our evidence base would be quite low in that regard because it is straightforward that that clearly is attributable to service, if you look at the relationship between the military activity that they are doing and the injury or illness.

If we can distinguish between the two, we have a low bar for a lot of these types of issues. I am not particularly familiar with this situation, but I would be surprised if that was a limiting factor to eligibility to any program or service.

Senator Lang: That was brought to my attention and I will follow up in another forum on that.

I'm trying to get a sense of the financial commitments being made here. When the amount of money is spread over 5 or 10 years and everybody's eyes glaze over and they acknowledge it will be over that period of time, so often the ramifications of exactly what it does on an annual basis on a budget does not really come home to the listener out there, and to the benefactors who deserve the care and attention that we've committed ourselves to doing.

Let's take 2017-18, that one year. What is the actual increase for that year over and above what we normally would give without these particular changes?

Ms. McIntyre: I can give you 2016-17. If you require other information, we can certainly follow up. I know it stems back to your initial question that I could not answer immediately.

Indeed, based on current projections in terms of demands of programs, we forecast what our client numbers would be. We expect that that increase for the three main program changes that I have outlined would be $1.6 billion over five years starting in 2016-17. So over five years starting in 2016-17. I do not have the breakdown per year. Starting in 2016- 17, over five years it would be $1.6 billion.

Senator Lang: We are talking about $300 million a year?

Ms. McIntyre: If you divide it, certainly yes. There might be some considerations in terms of forecasting that I cannot respond to today.

Senator Lang: I understand. I understand that it is not firm. At least it gives a projection.

The Chair: You would expect a bulge at the front end because of the retroactivity aspect?

Ms. McIntyre: Correct. For the disability award, in particular, there would be 70,000 eligible from the retrospective adjustment initially.

Senator Lang: I'm fine, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: What, if any, of these benefits that we're dealing with go to retired RCMP officers?

Ms. McIntyre: That's a very good question. The RCMP is not covered under the New Veterans Charter.

The Chair: There is a memorandum of understanding for administration of certain benefits for RCMP members and retired members?

Ms. McIntyre: Yes, there are. Those are under the Pension Act and not under the New Veterans Charter.

The Chair: The Pension Act is the act for a lot of the retired military personnel who had lifetime pensions for disability. When the New Veterans Charter came in and the Pension Act was replaced by this New Veterans Charter for recently retiring veterans, that's when we heard an awful lot from veterans. But we are now trying to sort out some of those problems and growing pains; is that correct?

Ms. McIntyre: That is a very fair statement. So the New Veterans Charter came into force in April 1, 2006. Prior to that, as of 1919, it was the Pension Act system. Certainly, the department is currently looking at that whole pension aspect, which again is a mandate commitment for our minister in trying to determine the best way forward.

The Chair: Thank you for that.

Senator White: My question is only because you raised it. How long have you been there, Ms. McIntyre, with Veterans Affairs?

Ms. McIntyre: I've been with Veterans Affairs for 10 years.

Senator White: When the New Veterans Charter came in, was there a formal offer to the RCMP to participate?

Ms. McIntyre: I don't know, sir. I do know that they are currently looking at other options to work with us. I can certainly ask the question and advise you.

Senator White: There are no recent discussions that you could disclose?

Ms. McIntyre: Not that I'm aware of.

Senator White: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Would the Library of Parliament be able to help us with respect to that particular issue?

Mr. Paré: In a previous appearance by RCMP officers to the Veterans Affairs Committee in the house, they mentioned that they were offered to be under the New Veterans Charter, but they declined the offer because some of the services offered were already covered. They felt the financial stability that was provided by the Pension Act for pain and suffering was more appropriate to the needs of RCMP officers than what was provided by the New Veterans Charter. But they remain covered under the health care regulations for veterans, the medical part of the health care regulations, which included the mental health clause.

The Chair: Thank you for that background.

If you determine anything that was said is incorrect or you would like to expand on it, please do so.

Senator White: Mr. Chair, in light of Bill C-7 that will be flowing through soon, the words "they refused'' was really not representing the membership. They were representing the organization. We already know there is a bit of a challenge in the MOU because they pay for what they desire and they can afford.

Perhaps we can have a discussion as to whether or not the membership of the RCMP should be offered consideration to attach to the New Veterans Charter again.

The Chair: My understanding is that Bill C-7, which is the unionization within the RCMP, will be coming to our committee. If it does come to our committee, let's make note of that. That's a good point.

You are here for Bill C-15, but probably the whole committee or subcommittee will be dealing with this. The parent committee will be dealing with Bill C-7, which deals with the RCMP, but we do know that there is a relationship between Veterans Affairs and the RCMP, which was just explained to us, and all of this is very interesting to us.

Thank you very much for being here and for the work that you are doing for our veterans of Canada.

Ms. McIntyre: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Colleagues, this meeting is concluded.

(The committee adjourned.)