Proceedings of the Subcommittee on
Issue No. 6 - Evidence - March 1, 2017
OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence met this day at 12:06 p.m. in public to study the
services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces; to veterans;
to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their
families; and in camera, for the consideration of a draft agenda (future
Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Today we have a very full agenda and we'll start with
Veterans Affairs Canada. Ms. Andrews is Acting Director General of the Service
Delivery and Program Management, and Faith McIntyre is Director General, Policy
and Research Division. I understand you've come from P.E.I. That's why we
couldn't do this last time because of weather issues. We certainly appreciate
your being here.
We will try to go for 45 minutes, and then we have another presentation.
We'll see how the questioning goes. I understand this is a joint presentation.
Faith McIntyre, Director General, Policy and Research Division, Veterans
Affairs Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair. We certainly appreciate the
opportunity to be present with you today. Kim and I are both very honoured not
only to be able to be part of the Public Service of Canada but, more notably, to
be able to serve veterans and their families in our respective positions at
Veterans Affairs Canada.
We'd like to walk through certain slides in the presentation. I'll ask you to
turn to those slides when we reference them to maximize certainly the time that
you would have for questions afterward. If there are certain slides that we do
not touch upon that you would like us to, you can certainly bring us back to
those as part of the question period as well.
I'll start on slide 3. The mandate of Veterans Affairs Canada is set out in
legislation through the Department of Veterans Affairs Act. The act provides for
the care, treatment or re-establishment in civilian life of any person who
served in the Canadian Armed Forces. It also provides for the care of dependents
or survivors or any other persons referred to.
It's a dual mandate. We have the mandate for the provision of that
re-establishment in civilian life for that particular population, but we also
have as part of our mandate the very important responsibility to commemorate and
to ensure that Canadians are aware of all of the achievements and sacrifices of
those who served Canada in times of war and peace.
We meet our responsibilities through various ways. We have several programs.
These include programs for disability pensions and disability awards, which we
will speak about later. We provide compensation or financial remuneration for
eligible veterans and their families, and the very important piece of
recognition as well.
Turning to page 4, we have three strategic outcomes. I will speak to each of
them in general terms. First, of course, from both a strategy and a
responsibility standpoint, we work towards the financial, physical and mental
well-being of all eligible veterans and their families who have access to our
programs and services. As I just mentioned, we deliver a wide range of support
programs and services, not only to veterans, but also, in the case of some
programs, to members of the Canadian Forces, their survivors, spouses and family
Next, further to our second mandate, we deliver commemoration programming to
ensure that Canadians remember the men and women who served in Canada's efforts
during war, military conflict and peace and that they demonstrate their
recognition of this invaluable population.
Third, we are part of the portfolio of the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The
Veterans Affairs portfolio has two other components. The Office of the Veterans
Ombudsman is one. The ombudsman reports directly to the minister and is
responsible for the independent and impartial review of complaints from veterans
and others. This is a crucial function.
The other component is the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, which operates
independently from the department. A veterans administrative tribunal dedicated
to hearing applications for review and appeal examines systemic problems and
represents veterans, as set out in its mandate.
As page 5 shows, our mission lays out very important objectives based on
care, compassion and respect for veterans. That means that veterans are at the
centre of everything we do and all the actions we take. They are at the heart,
the very core, of our mandate. They are truly the single most important reason
we do what we do, the driving force behind all of our measures and decisions.
Furthermore, we want Canadian Armed Forces members to have a seamless and
successful transition from military to civilian life. It is therefore important
that we work in partnership with our Canadian Armed Forces colleagues to make
that transition seamless.
Lastly, as part of our mission, we endeavour to deliver excellent service to
veterans and their families. By that, I mean service delivery, which my
colleague will discuss in more detail shortly.
This is my final part, and then I will turn it over to Kim.
I wanted to speak about the importance of our stakeholders. There is
reference to this on slide 14. I apologize for jumping around a bit, but I
certainly just wanted to give you the main highlights of who we are and what we
For our stakeholders we certainly need to, as we have been, ensure a very
regular engagement of various organizations that are veteran focused at the
national, regional and local levels. Our priority is to ensure that we have
positive and productive relationships among those organizations to foster an
open and frank discussion so that we can work together on priorities for
veterans and their families.
Our minister has put in place various bodies in order to be able to do so. He
holds stakeholders' summits which bring together a very large variety of
individuals from stakeholder organizations. He has also formed six ministerial
advisory groups specific to six different topics that then provide
recommendations to him.
We also have a Have Your Say online engagement tool, which is on our external
website, where we're looking for Canadians, for the public, to be able to speak
to us about our programming and what we do and provide that feedback.
Kim Andrews, Acting Director General, Service Delivery and Program
Management, Veterans Affairs Canada:
Turning to slide 7, I'll speak to whom we serve, how we serve them, and the
benefits and services that we provide to our veterans and others whom we serve.
As noted on slide 7, there is a pictorial of whom we serve. As a bit of
context, in carrying out our mandate in the past number of years we've been
affected by the rapidly changing demographics and expectations of those we
serve. As you can see, the number of Second World War and Korean War veterans
has been steeply declining, while the number of modern day veterans post
Afghanistan is on the rise.
There are approximately 670,000 Canadian veterans, and of those we serve
about 195,000 Canadian veterans. As of September 30, 2016, as you can see in the
diagram, we served about 27,000 to 28,000 Korean War and Second World War
veterans. Of interest, their average age is 91.
In Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans, there are about 90,000 to
91,000 that we served as of September 30, 2016, whose average age was 57. Also
we serve about 12,000 RCMP members, and then about 64,000 survivors, those being
spouses or dependents.
Turning to slide 10, how do we serve these veterans and the others that we
serve? We have a network across the country of staff and partners that we work
with in carrying out the delivery of and the provision of benefits and services
to those that we serve.
For instance, on the map you will see that we have 34 offices across the
country that individuals can walk into and receive personalized service and get
information on benefits from our staff. As you will note from the map, we also
have 31 integrated personnel support centres. Those are centres that veterans
can walk into. There are 24 integrated personnel centres and there are 7
satellite centres, which add to the 31 in the schematic on page 10. Individuals
and veterans can walk in there to get support, as well as information on the
benefits and services we provide and receive some services from them.
As you will also note from the map, there are also 20 operational stress
injury clinics. There is a network of 12 of those plus 8 satellite offices
across the country.
Also on the map you will see a number of green dots where we utilize the
services. We work with Service Canada, which helps provide information on
benefits and services to our veterans, and there are about 558 of those offices
across the country.
Through all of those different offices and partners we offer telephone
service. In the year 2015-16, we received about 588,000 telephone calls through
the different channels to telephone numbers that we provide. We have a national
client contact network across the country, with both English and French lines,
where veterans or their families can phone to find out information on benefits
As I noted, we also partner with Service Canada, and they received calls on
our behalf. That was up until the end of January 2016.
Blue Cross, which actually administers a number of treatment benefits on our
behalf, receives calls directly from veterans as well related to the benefits
they receive. As noted, we receive almost 600,000 calls a year related to
benefits and services.
We also have online services. As I mentioned already, we have changing
expectations from those that we serve. The younger individuals, and even older
individuals, are getting more tech savvy and are expecting more online services
to be available to them. We, as most departments and most organizations, have a
website, www.veterans.gc.ca. We also have information on the Service Canada
website. We have a number of tools on there that veterans can use.
We also have an online service called My VAC Account whereby veterans or
others can go online to find information, apply for benefits, track the status
of the benefits and see how much they're receiving in payments through that
tool. We're always looking to improve that tool and have plans in place to
actually enhance the benefits available through there.
There is another number of online tools as well. There's PTSD Coach and OSI
Connect. There are also other tools available for caregivers, operational stress
injury information for caregivers.
As with most organizations we still have the old-fashioned mail. We have an
address where all incoming mail would come into. We receive approximately two
million pieces of correspondence through that each year.
Moving on to slide 11, I'll talk a bit now about what we provide to veterans.
As you see here, we provide a number of veterans benefits and services. We have
an extensive suite of benefits and services targeted for veterans either from
the Second World War or Korean War and their family survivors, modern-day
veterans, RCMP and others.
Of interest, veterans come to us over their life course. Some would come to
us immediately upon release. Others would come to us later in life. For example,
approximately one-quarter of the individuals that come to Veterans Affairs for
benefits do so while they're still serving. We have another quarter who come to
us within 15 years after release. Half of the veterans that we serve come to us
15 years or more after their release, and some as late as 63 years in one
example that we have.
They come to us in different stages and at different times throughout their
life course, and we have benefits and services available for them during each of
those periods of time.
For the war service veterans, again Second World War and Korean War veterans,
we have a number of benefits available for them to help them maintain themselves
in their homes through the Veterans Independence Program. We have opportunities
for them to be cared for in long-term care facilities for which we will provide
financial support, and a number of treatment benefits.
For modern-day veterans, if you will, the New Veterans Charter was
implemented in 2006. It provides a wide range of benefits ranging from
rehabilitation services. It is intended to help people integrate into civilian
life. It is to ensure that they and their families both have the support and
services they need each step of the way, be it financial benefits, be it
rehabilitation, vocational assistance or treatments and benefits throughout
their life course.
I'll very quickly talk a bit more about some of our benefits. As I noted, we
have support for health care and well- being, including mental health support.
We have case management, which is an important piece of how we deliver the
services in that our case managers work with individuals who have complex health
needs to help them integrate successfully.
As well, we have peer support or other individuals who would work with the
veterans. They understand their situation and are able to assist them through
their transition to ensure continuity of care while they're transitioning out.
We have support for individuals immediately after an illness or injury. For
instance, if they require rehabilitation of some sort, we have programs and
benefits available for them.
We have support for families. In the case of a death we have death benefits,
funeral and burial assistance, et cetera. We have educational assistance
programs for their children.
As I noted already, we have a number of benefits in place for them to
transition. We have career transition services. There is priority hiring to
ensure that veterans have access to public service jobs and vocational
In the year 2016-17 the department plans to spend $3.6 billion on these
programs for veterans and their families, of which about 91 per cent flows
directly to their pockets and for the services for veterans and their families.
In closing, I would like to say that Veterans Affairs Canada cares. We care
about the well-being of all of those we serve: veterans, CAF members, RCMP and
their families. We recognize that each veteran's and each family's experience
differs and their situations are different as well. Our objective is to provide
everyone with timely access to all the supports and services they need to honour
the veterans, their sacrifice and their service, and that of their families.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentations. We will now go on to
Senator Dagenais: Thank you to our witnesses. Yesterday, I was
watching the U.S. president give his speech to Congress. He acknowledged the
tremendous debt that the country owes to its men and women in uniform, who serve
the country in an effort to keep citizens safe around the world. I think Canada
should do the same for its members in uniform.
Either your presentation or the documents I have — I'm not sure which — refer
to the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of National
Defence and the top priorities it establishes in relation to veterans. Those
priorities include care and pensions. I have no doubt you are familiar with
Could you tell me how much progress has been made on those priorities? In
terms of the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of National
Defence, what has been done, and what do you plan to do in 2017?
Ms. McIntyre: Thank you very much for the question, senator. I will
answer first, and then I will ask Ms. Andrews to round out my response with
respect to service delivery.
For the first time, the Government of Canada has made the mandate letters of
all federal ministers public. The mandate letter given to our minister, who is
also the Associate Minister of National Defence, sets out 15 top priorities.
While we have already implemented a number of them, we still have some work to
do. The 2017 budget is currently under review to determine what elements will be
included. Nevertheless, we will no doubt focus on items we have not been able to
address thus far.
Budget 2016 set out a fairly sizeable investment in support of veterans, $5.6
billion, I believe.
The budget provided for a number of noteworthy measures. As of April 1, 2017,
the disability award paid to members and veterans who are injured as a result of
their military service will increase from $310,000 to $360,000, the maximum
amount payable to someone receiving 100 per cent of the benefit.
On October 1, 2016, the earnings loss benefit was also increased. As my
colleague explained, when veterans are in rehabilitation, they need transition
support. They receive a monthly benefit for their loss of income. That benefit
went from 75 per cent to 90 per cent of a veteran's pre-release salary. That is
another significant change.
In addition, on April 1, 2017, the permanent impairment allowance will be
expanded. When veterans have a permanent impairment, they are eligible to
receive only 66 2/3 per cent of their salary, and so, in light of the fact that
they cannot return to work owing to a serious disability, another allowance is
available to them. As of April 1, 2017, the allowance paid to veterans currently
receiving it will increase. Although the change will not increase the number of
people receiving the allowance, it will change how the money is administered in
relation to those accessing the benefit.
Now, I will ask Ms. Andrews to provide details on the service delivery
component. All of this is clearly laid out in our minister's mandate letter.
Ms. Andrews: I will just add to what Faith has already provided. To
enhance or to ensure that we're providing the best benefits and services to
veterans we have hired more staff and more case managers across the country. We
have already engaged over 330 new employees and are working toward having a
ratio of veterans to case managers of no more than 25:1.
We have also reopened a number of offices. In the mandate letter it mentioned
that we're going to reopen nine offices. We have already reopened seven of those
offices across the country so that veterans and their families can walk into an
office and have conversations directly with staff in those offices, be it case
managers or others. We'll have the other offices opened by May 2017.
There are a number of benefits and services, some of which Faith alluded to,
that will benefit the veterans and their families, as well as the means and ways
in which we provide benefits and services to them.
As I also noted, we have invested in our online service tools and a number of
other ways of delivering benefits and services to our veterans.
Senator Saint-Germain: Thank you to both of you for an excellent
presentation. I am especially interested in the changing demographics you talked
I see that, in 2008-09 — which is not all that long ago — you served roughly
75,000 Second World War and Korean War veterans and that, in 2018, the number is
expected to drop to less than 20,000. The bulk of your clientele will be made up
of members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
What impact will that have on the type of services you provide? I am not so
much interested in the financial aspect, in terms of allowances and so forth.
Rather, I am curious as to whether you will have to make a larger investment in
psychological care and mental health services. Are the issues facing families
the same? I would like you to speak to the impact in that regard and the way you
intend to keep pace with the needs of your changing clientele.
Ms. McIntyre: Thank you, senator, for that excellent question. It's an
issue we try to examine on an ongoing basis. Not only are our clients changing,
but modern-day veterans are also not homogeneous as a group. We have to take
many factors into account when it comes to programming, service delivery and,
even, the resources we use to provide services.
Changes have already been made. For instance, Second World War and Korean War
veterans fall under the Pension Act, which dates back to 1918 and was
compensation-based. It did not address rehabilitation plans or the transition to
civilian life. Military members would come back from the war injured and receive
a pension. The dynamic was much different from today's.
In 2006, the new legislation, the New Veterans Charter, put the focus on the
financial, physical and mental well- being of veterans. It was at that point
that issues such as compensation, rehabilitation and transition began receiving
attention; in other words, consideration was given to how the department could
support veterans and their families. In the case of seriously injured veterans
and those unable to benefit from rehabilitation, the same services were provided
to the spouse in order to support the family in a balanced way. Similarly, in
the case of a death, support was provided to dependants. It was that type of
thinking that led to the new charter.
As changes are made, we plan to make further improvements that build on
certain elements such as mental health. Consider the fact that we have opened
clinics geared towards the treatment of post-traumatic stress, clinics that did
not exist a decade ago. The number of services available, in terms of not only
clinic staff, but also software and computer- aided services, clearly reflects
the demographic change in our clientele.
Nevertheless, the retirement age is between 50 and 55. Younger members do
retire, but, as of now, that is the average age of retirement. We realize that
things will continue to change, so we always have to be ready to make changes in
Ms. Andrews: I can add to what Faith has shared.
A number of the mandate items are to look after veteran families, spouses,
survivors, et cetera. For instance, one the mandate items is to increase the
veteran survivor pension amounts from 50 to 70 per cent. That is to ensure that
the survivors who are with us after the veterans pass have sufficient resources
available to them as well.
Over the course of time the benefits have changed that we provided to our
traditional veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War, as opposed
to what we did in 2006 with the New Veterans Charter. As those elderly
traditional veterans have gone over their life course, we have put more benefits
into the VIP services. We've also had long-term care available to them. We have
continued to look at how we can expand and ensure the veterans who need
long-term care will have access to beds.
Recently, we have been working with the provincial health authorities to
broaden the availability of beds to veterans so that they can have preferred
access in other facilities as well. We are trying at all ages across their
lifespan to ensure that we have benefits available to the veterans and their
families so that they can have what they need at the time they need it.
The Chair: You talked about PTSD and medical help. Can you tell us how
easily available it is and how far veterans have to travel? Is it near their
homes? I don't mean next door. We have recently had some tragic incidents. I
don't want to talk about those cases, but can you give us an idea of how easily
it is available?
Ms. Andrews: We have a number of areas whereby people can get
assistance with mental health issues if they are looking for help or information
around those. They can go into any office, as I noted, and we have more of those
now than we had previously.
They can go into the integrated personnel support centres, which is shown on
slide 10. There are 31 across the country. We have 20 OSI clinics across the
country. Also there are a number of online tools. Faith alluded to a PTSD Coach.
There is the OSI Connect. There are a number of online tools that they can use
in the comfort of their home wherever and whenever they want to learn more about
or to get information on. It will direct them to Veterans Affairs, if they are
so interested to come to the department to get further information on those
benefits and applications.
They can apply online for some benefits through the My VAC Account at home.
They don't have to travel at all. If they chose to go into an office, they can
go there and get assistance with that.
There are a number of ways and areas through which they can get access, some
in the comfort of their home and some in an office, whether it be a Veterans
Affairs Canada's office, a Service Canada office, any of the OSI clinics or the
other areas available to them.
Senator White: I have a question about some of the benefits we talked
about, the RCMP in particular and not just the Department of National Defence.
Do you have any statistics on the number of benefits being provided to RCMP
officers involved in UNCIVPOL, the United Nations Civilian Police, as a result
Ms. Andrews: I don't have that at hand. We would have to get back to
you on that.
Senator White: If you don't mind, thanks. Do you know if there has
been discussion around also providing benefits to non-RCMP officers who are
working for the RCMP in the UNCIVPOL in locations like OPP, SQ or municipal
police services? Almost 60 per cent of officers who are working and sworn in
under the RCMP Act are actually non- RCMP employees.
Has there been discussion about extending benefits outside of the RCMP to
other agencies operating on behalf of the RCMP?
Ms. Andrews: Again, we would have to take that back. What I can share
with you is that we administer benefits on behalf of the RCMP under the
Senator White: There's an agreement in principle. It's not actually a
part of the act.
Ms. Andrews: Exactly. We can see what we can learn and bring it back.
Some of that would be under the RCMP and what their future plans would be.
Senator White: Just so that you understand what I'm trying to do, I
know you are provided under an agreement in principle that is not part of the
act, but I think there is a gap in benefits being provided to other agencies
operating on behalf of the RCMP, doing the same job at same place and under the
I'm very keen on getting the information on how many RCMP officers are
identifying and obtaining benefits as result of their UNCIVPOL activities.
Senator Lang: Senator Wallin, Senator White and Senator Dagenais will
recall that over the course of the last number of years there was a great deal
of discussions about the number of programs available to veterans. I believe
there were 17 different programs that a veteran could access or had the
possibility. Quite frankly, I made the statement that by the time I got to the
seventeenth program I was confused and I think any veteran would have been
confused as to exactly what they were eligible for.
Could there be some streamlining of the administration of these programs so
that we would save on the question of the administration and also make the
access for the veteran and the veteran's family easier and more productive from
the point of view of applying for it? Have you done any studies on that? If you
have, can you table them here?
Ms. Andrews: I certainly can. We are always looking at ways to improve
the service delivery model we have at Veteran Affairs Canada to try to ensure we
are delivering benefits and services in the way that is most convenient and
easiest for veterans and their families.
You are correct. There are quite a number of veteran benefits available. We
have looked recently, and the minister has asked us to look in the department at
how we are delivering benefits and services. Exactly to your point, how we can
streamline those? How can we make them easier on veterans and families who want
to or need to and have requirements for our benefits and services?
We have looked at a number of different things. As I mentioned before, more
individuals are wanting to be able to apply online. We have put some benefit
applications online. We have looked at streamlining those benefit applications
How can we make it simpler? How can we use information we have readily
available to us? For instance, pre- populating the form so they don't have to
complete all the demographic information on that form when they fill it out.
We are looking at many ways to simplify the administration of those different
benefits as we move forward.
Senator Lang: In all deference, I don't think that the question I
asked was answered. I recognize that you are trying to modernize and use
technology as you move ahead.
My question was: Were there any studies done and completed that you have had
access to which you could table here to let us know what would be the various
options to look at from the point of view of streamlining and making it easier
for veterans? Do you have any studies? If you do, can you table them?
Ms. Andrews: My apologies for the earlier answer. We are in the midst
of doing a review called the service delivery review. A report has been drafted,
and it will be presented to the ministers in April, I believe.
Unfortunately, I don't have a report that I can table today. We would be able
to table it, I expect, in the next month or two.
Senator Lang: Were there no reports done two, three or four years ago
that are available to you? I want to get a sense of where we are and what could
be made available.
Ms. McIntyre: I can certainly take that back and take a look at it
specific to your point as what reports might assist you. I understand your
It is the first mandate commitment in our minister's mandate letter:
overhaul, reduce complexity. It's important to understand too that sometimes
eligibility is linked to a particular population. All of those 17 programs might
not be for the same individual. I understand your point, sir. If you would allow
us to take that back and have a look, we would be pleased to provide whatever we
can to assist in your work.
Senator Lang: I think that would assist us in recognizing what we're
dealing with. I understand that it's just not what Veterans Affairs provides;
the provinces provide services. In my view this becomes a kind of collage for a
veteran who in some cases, unfortunately, may be having some very personal
trauma and troubles. Yet, at the same time he or she is trying to understand how
to access these and how it will benefit.
Can I follow up on that a little more? I want to ask a question. You
indicated you have 300 new case managers. You are talking about a ratio of 25:1
and nine new offices. Exactly what is the projection for the growth of your
department in respect to where you were last year and where you are going at the
end of 2018?
Ms. Andrews: When you say the projection, do you mean the veterans
that we will be serving or the service delivery model that we have?
Senator Lang: The service delivery model you are adding to as we move
ahead. I am wondering where it's going because once again that's more
administration, which means less money and in some cases maybe fewer services
because we are spending more on the administration, depending on how you view
Ms. Andrews: As I noted earlier, as part of the mandate we are opening
nine new offices, seven of which have been opened and two more will be opened in
May. The total complement will be 36 Veteran Affairs Canada specific offices
across the country.
We are hiring 400 new case managers, of which we have hired 330. Those
individuals are to specifically assist veterans with complex needs. Some
veterans choose to self-serve. They choose to use the telephone. They choose to
use online services. Some individuals need some more one-on-one personalized
To your point about the complexity and the number of benefits and services we
have, their role would be to help those veterans find their way through that and
identify the appropriate benefits and services, be they provincial, be they
community or be they Veterans Affairs benefits.
In answer to your question, at the end of next year we will have opened an
additional two area offices for a total of 36. We will have engaged up to 330
case managers to work one on one with veterans, and the objective is to hire
Senator Wallin: I want to start by saying that we have been looking at
this issue for a long time. I will speak for myself. I want to say I'm happy
with how VIP works. There are lots of programs and information available online
and at service offices.
The issue we keep coming back to, as we look at this, is the actual handoff,
particularly when it comes to OSI- and PTSD-affected CF members and that
transition them from leaving the military into your hands at Veterans Affairs.
We are told repeatedly that there are huge delays. They have to be sometimes
rediagnosed with either an operational stress injury, PTSD or even a physical
injury. They need to go through that process. It's hard enough to find doctors
in the medical system the first time around. It's not any easier the second time
We've heard from the ombudsmen on both sides from Veterans Affairs and DND,
but from your perspective what is the sticking point? What is the problem? What
could we fix to allow that transition to be smooth and quick?
Ms. McIntyre: That is a very important question. Tying it back to the
minister's mandate letter and the fact that he is Associate Minister of National
Defence, the government realizes this is one of the main issues that needs to be
resolved, worked on and improved in order to ensure the seamless transition I
alluded to earlier.
Certainly we have taken steps in the right direction. It's simple things like
access to medical files pre- and post release, redacting that information,
collocation of Canadian Armed Forces members, staff who support transition, and
Veterans Affairs Canada staff who support transition.
There is policy work where we now sit down jointly with the Canadian Armed
Forces in developing the pieces. We have joint task forces on employment post
Certainly there still is a way to go. There is active work ongoing. Looking
at this part of it, there are authority issues and part of it is legislation.
Senator Wallin: That's what I'm getting at because I know the work and
everyone's mindset seems to be right. I'm trying to figure out the specific or
technical things. There might be six things. What is the biggest problem? Maybe
it is authority issues. Maybe it's that he belongs to us or she belongs to us
until they don't. Where is the problem?
Ms. McIntyre: I think authority and accountability are key. We have
certain provisions under our legislation to be able to pay an individual when
they are still serving and to adjudicate certain benefits while they are still
serving. We are paying particular attention to a warm handover of individuals
with mental health conditions.
As Kim said earlier, sometimes those conditions only become known many years
post release. Only 25 per cent of individuals come to us immediately upon
release, but to me that is part two. Maybe we need to get more engaged. We are
actively wrestling with those accountability and authority questions now.
Senator Wallin: I'll take as an answer that's one the key sticking
Senator Meredith: Thank you both for your presentations. I will go
back again to a question raised by the chair and by Senator White about those
suffering from PTSD.
I am going to be current here. We know the situation with respect to the
recent tragedy with the Desmond family in Nova Scotia. Treatment was provided to
him but in the link between the health care facility and the region where he
lives there was a disconnect.
What sort of mechanisms are being put in place now, given the fact that there
are probably several other families suffering like this? Is there a hotline for
family members to be able to call in? Has a response team been put in place?
It's paramount that there is an education piece for family members. Whether it
be a male or female in crisis, what do they do? How are they supported? How are
these families being supported post this particular incident?
Ms. Andrews: I can answer that in two ways. First, as veterans they as
any other Canadian citizen are part of the provincial health care system.
Unfortunately, if they don't wish to indicate they are a veteran, they don't
want to share their information with us, we would not be privy to that
information. That's an unfortunate [art of that.
Having said that, if the family member wants to reach out to Veterans Affairs
and wants assistance, some services and support from us, we are there. They can
phone. There is assistance lines available 24-7 that they could phone. There are
counselling services available through that. If they indicate on that phone call
that there is an immediate urgency, they can or we will phone 911 on their
behalf. If they want information on benefits and services, we will put those in
There are a number of areas we are actively working on in the department. We
are working with CAF on developing jointly with the Minister of National Defence
a suicide prevention strategy, another one of the minister's mandated items. We
are actively working on it and we anticipate that it will be available to the
spring of the year.
There is a lot of work happening between the two departments so that we can
be prepared. We are putting more benefits and more assistance in place so they
can come to us in our offices or they can learn and get the information online.
There are a number of tools, like PTSD Coach, which is a mobile application
developed in partnership with DND and the Canadian Mental Health Association. It
is available to download free of charge. We have an OSI Connect tool as well. It
is another mobile application developed by the Royal Ottawa OSI clinic, with the
support of VAC, to download free of charge. It is updated regularly and it can
help people find information on OSIs and how to support their veteran spouse or
We have put out a number of tools. We are continuously looking at what more
we can do on that front, what we can learn from these instances, and how we can
improve things going forward.
Senator Meredith: You talked about it being a provincial matter. I
understand that in this particular case they sought help at a hospital, and it
How can we ensure that doesn't happen again? Is there a part of your strategy
that will ensure the health care system is linked to these crisis situations by
the psychologists or psychiatrists who are referring the cases to say there is
an alarm to be raised here so that tragedies like these can be prevented? I
would like to see a strategy put in place among those links. No Canadian family
should go through this again.
My other question is with respect to supporting our veterans. I understand
that some receive lump sums. Is a financial planner brought in to help them
manage their funds so they are not further disenfranchised by spending this lump
sum and being left without benefits and so forth? Can you elaborate on that?
Ms. McIntyre: The disability award is a lump sum payment. There is an
option to take it otherwise as well. There is financial counselling available to
individuals who will be receiving a disability award, as well as for the top-up
I mentioned earlier that will be coming into place on April 1, 2017. There is
financial counselling available for individuals as to how best manage the money
that's coming into their household.
Senator Meredith: Can you provide us with a list? You talked about
being in touch with the Toronto Military Family Resource Centre and the
geography of where these vets have to come from to this particular centre to get
Can you provide a list of those centres that are coming online where veterans
can actually go? I would personally want to accept that because I have been
fielding some calls with respect to veterans not knowing where to go. If you can
provide us actual details to the committee rather than saying these centres are
here, it would be greatly appreciated.
Senator Boniface: Thank you for your presentation. It was extremely
helpful. I admire the work you are doing.
My question will drill down on the PTSD. I'm interested, particularly given
the amount of profile this has had in a number of professions.
The question particularly for you is: How do you do an after-action report so
it feeds back into the work you are doing? If I use suicide prevention, it kind
of surprises me that we are just doing that now. I would have thought that would
have been in place for some time. How do you feed that back in so you get
feedback on what services you are providing and whether or not they are
Ms. Andrews: We would have had a number of services and supports in
place for a number of years, but we may not have had them all pulled together
under a document called a suicide strategy. We needed to take those services and
supports and look at them holistically to make sure we do have everything
covered that we need to have going forward.
Ms. McIntyre: To the second part of your question, yes, there is a
multidisciplinary team of individuals that do group together during a
significant type of event, of which unfortunately and tragically suicide would
be an example, to look at the file in detail. A complete file review is done,
the details of which would never be available publicly. There are steps taken to
ensure, if there were issues or challenges, how we best learn from that moving
forward. This is a multidisciplinary team, including medical, case management
and field staff directly engaged in that work.
Senator Boniface: This really relates to the prevention side. You
mentioned the Canadian Mental Health Association. Have you done any work with
police who find themselves in the response to some of these, in terms of what
you might learn from each other in handling it onsite as well as follow-on?
Ms. McIntyre: Again, that is a very pertinent question regarding first
responders. Certainly there is much that we need to learn from each other.
Interdepartmental committees and networks, all of our staff, my team and me from
a policy research perspective, and the medical health professionals team are
plugged into those conversations. Public Safety Canada has been moving forward
recently as well with some key pieces of work into which we are directly linked
Senator Boniface: The point that I'm getting to is actually the
response. The only caution I would give is you that you may want to look at your
local offices making that linkage, because it's not just the federal police
force that would be doing the response. In fact in many cases it will not be.
Ms. McIntyre: Understood. Thank you very much.
Senator Lang: I would like to follow up. First, I echo Senator
Wallin's and Senator Boniface's comments about the department itself and the
work you do. It's very much appreciated by Canadians and I think Canadians can
be very proud of what you do.
The welfare of veterans is a common cause across the country. The
contributions that Canadians make allow them to stand shoulder to shoulder with
any other country in the free world to say that we are putting our best foot
I want to go into another area. The year that we're in is a year in which all
Canadians are going to get the chance to celebrate with the 150th anniversary.
At the same time there is the question of Vimy Ridge and what it did for us as a
country to make us the country we are today. Can you tell us and let other
Canadians know as well what your plans are to celebrate Vimy Ridge?
Ms. McIntyre: Thank you for your kind comment. It is a privilege for
us to be able to do what we do.
This year is very important year on many fronts. We have the one hundredth
anniversary of Vimy Ridge in April. We have the seventy-fifth anniversary of
Dieppe, which will be celebrated in August, and in November the one hundredth
anniversary of Passchendaele in Belgium.
In Budget 2016 there was a significant investment of money. This is an
important part of our mandate. This is very much in line with the recognition
that has to happen. Aside from the financial compensation rehabilitation, this
too is key and certainly as important for Canadians.
There will be many events. There is information available on our website for
individuals who want to find out the specifics. One of key events will be in
Vimy in early April. It will also tie into the opening of our new visitors
centre on which we have partnered with the Vimy Foundation. That will be one of
our main pieces, as well as a significant celebration on or around April 9, and
some smaller ones in France. There are also events being planned in Canada. I
don't have the specific details, but I know there is information on our website.
I encourage all Canadians to access it and to stay tuned as the date approaches
and celebrate with all of us.
Senator Lang: Another area that's very important is the symbolism of
monuments and investments that are made by Canadians to remember the past.
Perhaps you could update us with respect to the Victoria Cross monument that
was projected to go ahead. Where is that at? Perhaps you could brief us on that.
Are there any other monuments planned in the upcoming couple of years on
behalf of Veterans Affairs?
Ms. McIntyre: Certainly, sir. I must admit I'm not familiar with the
Victoria Cross monument, but I do know that a war memorial for Afghanistan is
being considered. That was discussed as part of the budget considerations we are
looking at moving forward with in the short term.
Certainly recognition monuments are part of our important mandate when it
comes to commemorations. I can find out more information regarding the Victoria
Senator White: Thanks again to both of you.
I am just trying to figure out the breakdown. You are responsible for a lot
of money through VAC. Could you break down, as much as you can, what percentage
is payments and what percentage is programs? It is not that you are delivering
but do you actually issue payments to individuals, so that I have a better
understanding on the scope of the work and not just the scope of the money.
Ms. McIntyre: Slide 12 of the presentation we provided gives an
outline of our departmental budget as of September 30, 2016. Approximately 90
per cent of our current budget flows directly to veterans, their families and
other eligible recipients, possibly RCMP and so forth.
Senator White: So 10 per cent of the $3.6 billion is program delivery.
The rest is a cheque being cut.
Ms. McIntyre: Correct. The earlier $5.6 billion was the investment in
2016 that was made. Some of that was for the office openings. I don't have the
specific breakdown, but a significant amount of that was to benefits to veterans
for the increase in the earnings loss and the disability awards.
Senator White: The ongoing is $3.6 billion and not the $5.6 billion
you just said.
Ms. McIntyre: Correct. No, the $5.6 billion was the investment made in
Senator Lang: Was some of that retroactive?
Ms. McIntyre: Yes.
The Chair: I thank you both for being here. We appreciate your making
a special effort to come here. This is our first meeting with you. I'm sure we
will have others.
If you can provide the clerk with the information that you have said you
would, he will make sure we all get it. Thank you for being here.
(The committee continued in camera.)