Following World War I, the Government of Canada committed to support those who had served the nation. Vocational training began to be offered in 1918 to eligible disabled Veterans and those who had enlisted as minors. Additionally, in 1919, the Pension Act was introduced, providing pension awards to those suffering from disabilities related to military service, either during peace or war time.
During World War II, the Government of Canada began to plan for soldiers’ returning home. In 1939, an Order in Council extended the benefits of the Pension Act to those who served in the World War II. A Privy Council Order in 1941 promised a rehabilitation benefit (including education and training as well as unemployment benefits, temporary incapacity payments, and subsidies for businesses) to any persons who served in the Armed Forces during the war. Other benefits for World War II Veterans included a clothing allowance, insurance, and a comprehensive medical plan. This comprehensive program of benefits later became known as the Veterans Charter. Over the years, legislation and policies were amended to incorporate the needs of new Veterans groups.
In 1944, the Department of Veterans Affairs Act became Law. This Act forms the basis of the Department’s mandate for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). Section 4 of the current Act states the Minister of Veterans Affairs is responsible for the care, treatment, or re-establishment in civil life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces and the care of the dependents or survivors.
The Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act often referred to as the New Veterans Charter (NVC), came into effect in 2006. “The New Veterans Charter contains a new program mandate that is based on years of study and consultation. Research has identified the need for VAC programs to focus on rehabilitation and re-integration to civilian life, with the aim of helping CF Veterans regain employment and attain their fullest potential. Studies highlighted the need to align the approach with the best practices of modern disability management.” 3
Previous Studies and Reports
From 1996 to 2000, Veterans Affairs Canada conducted a comprehensive Review of Veterans’ Care Needs to study the issues and gaps related to the care and support of clients and their families. This study identified that the Canadian Forces (CF) client base was growing at an annual rate of 9% and had doubled between 1990 and 1999. The average age of these CF clients was 39 years, about 75% of them were married and 40% had dependent children. In addition, these CF clients had less formal education and worse health than the general population, particularly in the area of pain, back problems and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder and/or depression. The report further indicated that VAC needed to better focus program delivery on meeting the needs of this client group. During this time, numerous other studies regarding the needs of CF members were also conducted by other federal organizations, including those described below.
In 1997, the Department of National Defence (DND) published two reports examining how the Canadian Forces support CF members with health problems. The “Care of Injured Personnel and their Families Review” examined injured CF members, their families, and the families of members who died as a result of service. The “Study of the Treatment of Members Released from the CF on Medical Grounds” assessed the adequacy of policies and procedures affecting the successful transition from military to civilian life of members releasing from the CF for medical reasons. Both studies had implications for VAC services and benefits, including service eligibility requirements and income supports for injured Veterans. The Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs report “Moving Forward: A Strategic Plan for Quality of Life Improvements in the Canadian Forces” was published in October 1998. This report put forward numerous recommendations pertaining to disability benefits, treatment and rehabilitation and income security for CF members injured in the line of duty.
Following the Review of Veterans Care Needs, additional studies were performed which provided a more detailed picture of the issues facing injured CF members and their families. The Canadian Community Health Survey’s CF Supplement on Mental Health (September 2003) further identified mental health problems that were more prevalent among CF members than among the general population. The study found that the rates for major depression and for panic disorder were significantly higher among CF members than among the Canadian civilian population. The following year, the Department of National Defence Operational Stress Injury Social Support Team produced the report, “Family Support Needs Analysis,” which provided an understanding and identification of the issues facing the families of persons suffering from psychological injuries as well as the impact of these issues and the supports families need as a result. In March 2004, the VAC-CF Advisory Committee published a report that synthesized the issues raised in the above-mentioned studies. Based on that analysis, the report, “Honouring Canada’s Commitment: Opportunity with Security for CF Veterans and their Families in the 21st Century,” made recommendations for further reform of VAC programs.
In response to these studies, and others, in 2003 VAC formed a Task Force to assess the findings and recommendations and develop measures to address them. The result was the NVC coming into effect on April 1, 2006.3 Ibid.
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