Veterans Transition Action Plan

Executive Summary

  • The Auditor General’s fall 2012 Report includes a chapter devoted to the Government of Canada’s efforts to help ill and injured military personnel transition to civilian life.
  • The audit and its findings are both helpful and constructive. They complement Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC) already lengthy list of recent accomplishments and planned future initiatives, including the Veterans Transition Action Plan.

Overview of Priority Activities and Deliverables

  • To ensure as seamless a transition as possible, Veterans Affairs Canada has introduced a number of new initiatives over the past two years. These measures include the over-arching Cutting Red Tape for Veterans initiative, which is delivering better and faster service in more modern ways for Veterans and releasing military personnel.
  • As well, various consultations and collaborations between VAC, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are being strengthened to eliminate any potential gaps or weaknesses in the transition process.
  • While some of the recent measures may seem small and isolated, the totality of the changes VAC is implementing will make the entire transition process a much better, effective and seamless experience for Veterans and releasing Canadian Armed Forces personnel.

1) Cutting Red Tape

  • Improve access to benefits: The Department is improving access to VAC benefits in a variety of ways, including:
    • an end to the deduction of Veterans’ disability pensions when calculating their Earnings Loss benefits and their Canadian Forces Income Support benefits;
    • a switch to up-front payments for grounds maintenance and housekeeping services under the Veterans Independence Program;
    • an end to the requirement for Veterans to submit receipts for health-related travel claims; and
    • the introduction of direct deposit, which is already being used by more than 48,000 Veterans.
  • Streamline VAC: By eliminating unnecessary steps and layers of bureaucracy, reducing paperwork and introducing new technologies in the processing of applications for disability benefits, Veterans Affairs Canada will dramatically reduce wait times for Veterans. For example:
    • the processing of applications for disability benefits has been greatly reduced and the Department expects to reduce this turnaround time further. By basing turnaround times on when a complete application is received and allowing VAC to measure its performance based on factors within its own control, the Department is ensuring greater consistency for Veterans; and
    • the implementation of the electronic transfer of health records between VAC and National Defence will further trim the processing time for disability benefits when this modern capability is finalized by the end of fiscal year 2014–2015.

The streamlining of the Department has already produced a number of other improvements. They include:

  • eligibility for rehabilitation services is now being determined in just two weeks, instead of four; and
  • reauthorization of medical treatment benefits is no longer required for 70% of the transactions.
  • Implement the Benefits Navigator: The Benefits Navigator began internally with VAC employees and is now available online from the Department’s Web site. It puts the full range of VAC benefits and services at the fingertips of its users.

    As well, VAC plans to make more tools and services available online to better serve Veterans. These efforts ensure Veterans and releasing military personnel are aware of and receive the full care and support available to them.

  • Enhance My VAC Account: The new My VAC Account is a fundamental piece of the Department’s plan to improve online services for Veterans. With the recently announced enhancements to the new My VAC Account, Veterans now have more options for service available to them through the convenience and flexibility of doing business securely online with the Department, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Launch My VAC Book: This new tool provides Veterans with quicker and more convenient access to information on programs and services. Based on their answers to a short series of questions, Veterans can customize their own booklet of information. Veterans will immediately receive an electronic My VAC Book and a hard copy will arrive in the mail a few days later.
  • Adopt plain language in all communications and simplify all VAC forms: By simplifying the Department’s forms and using plain language, Veterans Affairs Canada is making it easier for Veterans and transitioning men and women in uniform to understand, apply for and access benefits, services and programs.

2) Improving Delivery of Services

  • Partner with Service Canada: By partnering with Service Canada, the Department is providing greater access to its programs and services. Veterans now have more than 600 points of service available to them across the country—a significant increase from the 60 points of service previously available.
  • Enhance case management services: The New Veterans Charter is based on effective case management services, using a needs-based approach. As part of a five-year, 10-point transformation action plan for case management, rehabilitation and mental health, the Department is making significant investments in its case management services. The initiatives include clarified roles and responsibilities for front-line staff, new national workload measurement tools and a national learning strategy to continue building upon the skills and knowledge of its staff. It will also ensure that all case-managed Veterans who require a case plan have one.
  • Support through the Veterans Transition Program (VTP) at the University of British Columbia: This group residential program leverages the power of “soldiers helping soldiers” to focus on the transition process, the effects of trauma, and building skills for communication and independence. By partnering with this innovative non-profit service provider, VAC is offering greater options to Veterans and continuing to modernize to better serve new Veterans.
  • Update VAC offices: As part of the Vet Friendly initiative, VAC is launching a series of changes to its local offices. These measures include introducing important new technology and services, as well as making the offices more inviting in their appearance.

3) Creating New Career Opportunities

  • Helmets to Hardhats Canada: This innovative partnership, which complements the Department’s existing programs to help Veterans transition to civilian life, brings union, private- and public-sector resources together to match Veterans with employment and training opportunities in the building, construction and trade industries.
  • Priority access to the public service: It is intended that the eligibility period for Veterans to exercise their priority access to the federal public service will be extended. This will allow Veterans more time to seek employment opportunities with the federal government following their military service.
  • Hire Veterans at VAC: Veterans Affairs Canada has enhanced employment opportunities for Veterans to start new careers in the Department. The changes implemented are eliminating the barriers which can make it difficult for still-serving Canadian Armed Forces personnel to qualify for positions at Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Network with partners and corporate Canada: The Department is forging new networks with partners, such as the Treble Victor Group, the True Patriot Love Foundation and corporate Canada, to raise awareness about and create new opportunities for Veterans’ post-military careers.
  • Jobs-Emplois: A specially designated VAC e-mail address has been created to let corporations and organizations alert the Department about new employment opportunities. Sent through jobs-emplois@vac-acc.gc.ca, the job openings are then shared with front-line staff working with transitioning Canadian Armed Forces personnel and Veterans, as well as the Canadian Forces and national contractors offering vocational services.

4) Using Research-Based Approaches

  • Life After Service Study: This ground-breaking study, completed jointly for VAC and National Defence in 2011, offered the first in-depth look at re-establishment outcomes. Through the study’s findings, the Department has a greater understanding of how to design, implement and deliver policies, programs and business processes that best meet the needs of ill and injured personnel, including reservists.
  • Reservists Study: As a next step, the two departments are partnering with Statistics Canada to conduct research on the transition experience of former reservists. The findings will result in even greater understanding of the reservists’ experience and needs in transitioning to civilian life.

5) Building Cultural Awareness

  • Maintain Canadian Armed Forces engagement and outreach: As part of an ongoing and ambitious strategy of outreach, VAC has been visiting Canadian Armed Forces bases and wings to host information sessions which ensure serving Canadian Armed Forces personnel know about the help that will be available to them if, or when, they need it. Over the last two years, a total of 20 bases and wings have been visited, with more than 6,200 still-serving personnel, Veterans and family members participating.

    VAC, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are now working on the second phase of a stakeholder outreach strategy that includes a wider framework, a joint team and the use of new technologies to expand its reach.

  • Expand Canadian Armed Forces cultural awareness opportunities: The Department is increasing its staff’s cultural awareness and sensitivity to the Canadian Armed Forces and its traditions. Ongoing events and opportunities are being used to reinforce VAC knowledge of military culture and traditions.

The following table summarizes the priority activities and timeframe for implementation of the plan.

Overview of Priority Activities and Deliverables for 2012-2013
Priority Activities Deliverables Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
1) Cutting Red Tape Improve access to benefits Yes Yes Yes Yes
Streamline VAC Yes Yes Yes Yes
Implement the Benefits Navigator   Yes   Yes
Enhance My VAC Account     Yes  
Launch My VAC Book     Yes  
Adopt plain language in all communications Yes Yes Yes Yes
Simplify all VAC forms Yes Yes Yes Yes
2) Improving Delivery of Service Partner with Service Canada Yes Yes Yes  
Enhance case management services Yes Yes Yes Yes
Support through the Veterans Transition Program     Yes Yes
Update VAC offices   Yes Yes Yes
3) Creating New Career Opportunities Helmets to Hardhats Canada Yes Yes Yes  
Priority access to the public service     Yes Yes
Hire Veterans at VAC   Yes Yes Yes
Network with partners and corporate Canada     Yes Yes
Jobs-Emplois     Yes  
4) Using Research-Based Approaches Life After Service Study Yes      
Reservists Study     Yes Yes
5) Building Cultural Awareness Maintain CF engagement and outreach Yes Yes Yes Yes
Expand CF cultural awareness opportunities Yes Yes Yes Yes

Background

  • Our Government is dedicated to ensuring Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces personnel and their families have the support they need, when they need it. This includes an emphasis on helping ill and injured military personnel who are transitioning to civilian life and where immediate treatment and support can be particularly beneficial and effective in ensuring their long-term well-being.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) offers a full package of benefits and services which can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each transitioning Veteran and his or her family. This package includes:
    • rehabilitation services (medical, psychosocial and vocational)
    • mental health supports
    • case management services
    • disability compensation
    • monthly income to replace lost wages while in rehabilitation
    • practical help to find a job
    • a permanent impairment allowance for those with serious injuries
    • a retirement benefit for those unable to work
    • health care benefits
    • financial counselling

The Transition Process

  • All releasing Canadian Armed Forces personnel are offered a personal transition interview so that their needs can be identified before they leave the Canadian Forces. In fact, approximately 100 VAC employees are located at integrated personnel support centres (ISPCs) on 24 Canadian Armed Forces bases and wings. Personalized care plans are developed where needed and appropriate, and they are monitored and adjusted as necessary.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada also has district offices across the country to provide case management and other services to Veterans and their families, and to ensure they receive timely access to appropriate services to optimize their independence and quality of life. The Department is maintaining its case manager to case-managed Veterans workload at a ratio of 1:40 or less.
  • In particular, Veterans with mental health conditions have greater access than ever before to a continuum of specialized care. This includes more than 4,000 community mental health providers who are registered with VAC to provide care, support and professional counselling services where Veterans live.
  • As well, VAC and the Department of National Defence offer peer support from specially trained coordinators who have first-hand experience with operational stress injuries and the loss of loved ones. They can provide vital personal support to fellow Canadian Armed Forces personnel, Veterans and their families. VAC also has pastoral outreach services, with a network of over 200 chaplains, to provide spiritual guidance and support.

Closing Summary

  • As the Veterans Transition Action Plan clearly demonstrates, Veterans Affairs Canada is determined to help Veterans and releasing military personnel make the best possible transition to civilian life. It goes to the heart of the mission at Veterans Affairs Canada.
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