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War Veterans Allowance Program - Evaluation Report (May 2008)

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Prepared for Veterans Affairs Canada / Anciens Combattants Canada
by Paul Chaulk, Steve McQuaid, Shauna Fuller
Atlantic Evaluation Group Inc.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The consulting team would like to express its gratitude to the public servants in Veterans Affairs Canada who assisted in the design and implementation of this evaluation. In particular, appreciation is due to Alex Robert and Robert Parsons for their assistance in accessing the relevant knowledgeable persons and archival data within VAC. Elaine Sobey deserves a particular mention for her timely and effective provision of data for this report. Additionally, thanks are extended to those key informants who provided their perspectives and expertise on the implementation and effectiveness of the WVA program.

Background

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is the federal government department responsible for providing client-centred services to Veterans, other clients and their families.

Mission of Veterans Affairs Canada:

To provide exemplary, client-centred services and benefits that respond to the needs of Veterans, our other clients and their families, in recognition of their services to Canada; and to keep the memory of their achievements and sacrifices alive for all Canadians.

VAC's mandate stems from laws and regulations, notably the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, which outlines the following responsibilities:

"...the care, treatment, or re-establishment in civil life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces or merchant navy or in the naval, army or air forces or merchant navies of Her Majesty, of any person who has otherwise engaged in pursuits relating to war, and of any other person designated ... and the care of the dependents or survivors of any person referred to ..."

In keeping with this mandate, VAC offers income support programs to ensure Veterans receive enough monthly income to meet their basic needs. Included in these income support programs is the War Veterans Allowance, the subject of the current evaluation.

Program Description

The War Veterans Allowance (WVA) is a transfer payment program, which has been in effect since September 1, 1930. The program is a form of non-taxable financial assistance available to Canadian Veterans of World War I (WWI), World War II (WWII) and the Korean War. It also acts as a "window of access" to other programs (e.g., Veterans Independence Program, Assistance Fund) for recipients and "near-recipients" (individuals who would qualify, except they receive income through other income support programs).

Recipient(s) of War Veterans Allowance:

  • Canadian Armed Forces and Merchant Navy Veterans who served in WWI, WWII or Korean War
  • Allied Forces Veterans with war service in WWI or WWII who were domiciled in Canada at the time of enlistment
  • Allied Forces Veterans with wartime service in WWI and WWII who resided in Canada for at least 10 years after the war

    Note: Only applies to those who qualified before February 27, 1995, and who are thus "grandfathered"
  • Civilians who served in close support of the Canadian Armed Forces during wartime (only specific, narrowly defined groups, e.g., Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit)
  • And their spouses, dependents and survivors

The amount a client receives depends on the recipient's other income, marital status and the number of qualified dependents. In addition, survivors and orphans may also qualify for WVA if the deceased Veteran or civilian had the required war-related service status, or was in receipt of a disability pension. Recipients are paid at a single, couple or orphan's rate.

Program Aim

The purpose of WVA is to ensure that, in recognition of wartime service, eligible persons are provided with regular monthly income in order to meet their basic needs, and maintain dignity.

The planned results of WVA program are that qualified individuals receive the allowance to which they are entitled in a fair and timely manner, in keeping with the mission and mandate of Veterans Affairs Canada. In order to ensure the planned results are achieved, VAC has outlined six areas of accountability (as outlined in Annex C of the Integrated RMAF/RBAF for VAC Transfer Payments, Sept 2005):

  1. Identify client needs (both strategic and operational)
  2. Improve client awareness
  3. Process claims
  4. Issue payments to clients
  5. Monitor benefits, results and costs
  6. Provide redress mechanisms

Risk Assessment and Management/Results Based Accountability Framework (RMAF/RBAF)

Annex C of the Integrated RMAF/RBAF for VAC Transfer Payments, Sept 2005

Key Areas to Business Objectives:
  • Accountability - managers understand and report appropriately on the responsibilities and authorities entrusted to them
  • Relevance - programs have appropriately kept pace with the changing needs of clients
  • Success - effective government; achievement of planned objectives, within the budget, and without unwanted outcomes
  • Cost-Effectiveness - using the most appropriate and efficient means to achieve expected outcomes, in terms of alternative design and delivery approaches
Risk Management Techniques:
  • Sound (efficient, effective, affordable, flexible) infrastructure (organization, information systems and processes - operational, resource allocation, etc) that keep up with new priorities and approaches
  • Reliable and relevant financial and operational information to make decisions that attend to client needs and monitor performance/follow up Compliance with laws, regulations, rules and contracts
  • Cost-effective control environment (policies, procedures and activities to control risks) to support the achievement of objectives, safeguard assets and ensure probity, and monitor results

Resources

Funding for WVA is provided from federal government appropriations, specifically Veterans Affairs Vote 10, and is designed to supplement income up to a maximum ceiling set by law. Over the past decade, the WVA program has experienced a continuous annual decline in its client base, and consequently in its expenditures, as evidenced in the following table.

Summary of Expenditures to War Veterans Allowance Program Compared to Total Grant/Economic Support Spending 2004-2007:
Public Accounts of Canada: Details on Transfer Payments Programs for Veterans Affairs
  2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
War Veterans/Civilian War Allowance $22.8m $20.6m $18.5m
TOTAL Grant/Economic Support Spending $1,610.0m $1,680.5m $1,816.6m
Percentage of Transfer Payment Program Expenditures to WVA 1.4% 1.2% 1.0%

Note: Dollars reported in millions

Funding required for WVA has been in steady decline over the past ten years, particularly for clients who qualify as veterans and survivors. Orphans remain a fairly constant expenditure, as they constitute a younger demographic group, which will likely trend towards decline in expenditures much later.

Summary of War Veterans Allowance Program Expenditures by Client Type 1998-2002
Expenditures 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Veterans 18,230,734 12,983,457 10,629,805 8,897,635 7,647,053
Survivors 29,446,411 25,936,280 24,071,447 22,264,981 20,574,999
Orphans 1,387,838 1,223,189 1,139,983 1,118,317 1,126,237
Casual Cheques 2,570,017 2,720,074 2,107,565 1,844,007 2,096,112
Total all 51,636,998 42,864,999 37,950,800 34,126,941 31,446,402
Summary of War Veterans Allowance Program Expenditures by Client Type 2003-2007
Expenditures 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Veterans 6,356,066 5,475,341 4,527,905 3,772,304 3,230,626
Survivors 18,873,113 17,242,778 15,699,875 14,275,172 13,015,297
Orphans 1,145,474 1,205,300 1,193,291 1,214,160 1,229,848
Casual Cheques 1,669,100 1,496,177 1,354,929 1,297,010 976,498
Total all 28,045,756 25,421,600 22,778,005 20,560,653 18,454,276

Methods

Evaluation Approach

This evaluation takes a 'summative' approach, focusing on the program's effectiveness (its ability to do what it was designed to do), and the achievement of program outcomes. Additionally, a 'formative' approach was used to evaluate how the program has been functioning and how implementation has changed, providing useful information for future implementation of this or similar programs such as the Canadian Forces Income Support (CFIS) program.

Evaluation Goal

  • To evaluate program implementation and summarize lessons learned which may be applicable to other VAC programs

Evaluation Objectives

  • Document program delivery elements, client characteristics, and forecasts of a declining veterans population
  • Review income ceilings including comparisons to relevant Government of Canada programs such as Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) programs
  • Identify strengths and challenges of program delivery including barriers to access

Sources of Data

  • Document review (program administrative/utilization reports, policy, similar program details)
  • Utilization/administrative data
  • Key informant interviews with VAC personnel and external stakeholders

Limitations

  • No recent research on WVA-specific client satisfaction surveys was available from WVA clients specifically, and it was beyond the scope of this evaluation to research their experiences of the program.
  • There was no way to empirically determine the total number of low income veterans in the Canadian population in order to quantitatively determine program 'reach' although qualitative feedback on program 'reach' is included in this report.
  • The scope of the evaluation did not include empirically determining the reach of the WVA program, however; qualitative feedback on program 'reach' is included in this report.

Results

Qualitative Findings

Six key informant interviews were conducted with nine employees of Veterans Affairs Canada working in the WVA program. A brief key informant interview guide was developed to guide these discussions. A copy of the interview guide is appended to this report.

These interviews, combined with some elements of quantitative analysis, resulted in a descriptive background of the WVA program that includes an outline of client trends and experiences, policy observations, program outcomes, and lessons learned. These results are summarized in the following sections.

Background

Key informants noted that the Government of Canada first initiated the WVA as an income support for low income veterans who were unable to support themselves financially, either through age, or incapacitation due to the "intangible effects" of war.

The program has been around since the 1930s, and was originally developed in the historical and political context of the times. Early in the Great Depression, soldiers from the First World War returned to sometimes challenging economic circumstances, and there was a sense of obligation between war veterans and their country; one key informant referred to this as a "social contract."

Key informants explained that in earlier days of the WVA program, it was mainly applied to veterans suffering the intangible effects of war. It was directed towards veterans who were young enough and physically able to work, but were unable to get or keep gainful employment. As time went on and the veteran population aged, the balance shifted from a support program for incapacitated veterans to a program mainly for the elderly, their survivors, or dependents.

The program is designed in such a way that advantages are extended to veterans over the general elderly population. WVA is a gateway to other benefits, such as home health care, funeral and burial, emergency grants, etc. The WVA is designed to match and exceed the ceilings of income support programs such as OAS and GIS. In addition to "top-up" funds, veterans can access WVA funds at 60 for veteransFootnote1 (five years earlier than the general elderly population can access OAS and GIS).

Key informants indicated that in the late 80s early 90s the client population was considerably greater than it is now, and it has gone down consistently since then. In addition to the mortality rate, as veterans reach age 65, OAS and GIS become available to the client, and the WVA becomes just a "top-up". In the late 80s, the program was harmonized with GIS and OAS to reduce the potential of overpayments.

One of the strengths of the WVA noted by key informants was that some of its more fundamental foundation principles (age, service, and residency) were utilized to frame the new Canadian Forces Income Support (CFIS) Program when the new Veteran's Charter was being conceptualized and implemented. This new program was designed with the benefits of WVA, but with an added focus on reintegration and rehabilitation, as well as a whole-person and whole-family approach.

Client Population

Currently, the majority of clients are survivors, and the demographic is largely female. There are very few dependent children, because benefits cease after children turn 18 (24 if they're students), unless they are unable to function on their own (an incapacity clause exists to support these dependents).

Program Promotion

Key informants seemed to feel that generally, the WVA program is quite well known and does not require a great deal of promotion to reach eligible veterans. The District Offices (DO's) and Legions have information to share with members, but as the population is declining, it is unlikely that Veterans Affairs Canada is going to be actively promoting the program. There are very few new clients each year, and the program is well known through networks and word of mouth. Most veterans who needed this are aware of it. Sometimes there are inserts in mail going to Disability Pensioners, and occasionally there are notices in Veterans newsletters (such as the Carillon and the Salute).

Some concern was expressed about the application process, which some key informants view as onerous for the elderly clientele (e.g., providing marriage and death certificates).

Program Administration

In most respects key informants indicated that the current mechanisms to process claims are seen to be fairly straightforward. Applications are three to four pages, asking basic information about age, marital and dependent status, and income. Recipients are required to reapply on an annual basis. Help is offered for veterans wanting assistance filling out claims via a toll-free number, the District Offices, online supports, and area counselors.

In the case of a veteran wanting to challenge decisions, redress mechanisms are in place. The Bureau of Pensions Advocates provides clients with access to free legal advice and/or assistance during appeals. Originally, Board decision precedent determined future eligibility, and this means of determining eligibility set the policy for many years. Around 1984, the process changed to a three-step process; reviews initially done at the district level, and then appeals could be brought to the region, and finally board review. This way, the policy could be set from the field via the regions and districts.

In the mid 1990s, administration became consolidated in Kirkland Lake as a part of what key informants referred to as "program renewal." This centralized expertise, plus the provision of strong bilingual capacity, was seen to be an overall advantage to program administration. In 2001 the introduction of the Client Service Delivery Network (CSDN) into the system provided yet another vehicle to ensure program consistency across Canada. These revisions to program administration streamlined and equalized the application, renewal, and redress processes, although some key informants recalled "growing pains" in the move towards standardization and centralization.

One of the few remaining challenges in program administration is the time it takes to process Allied veterans claims, because it may take as much as several months to confirm service. Overall there are very few challenges because most of the process is automated. The introduction of the Veterans Program Policy Manual in the late 1990's standardized and streamlined claims processing.

Policy Changes

Key informants indicated that for the most part WVA is a straightforward program with a great deal of stability. Very few major policy changes have been necessary. In 1986, there was a comprehensive review of many of VAC's program areas, and WVA policies would have been included in this exercise as a matter of course. In 2000 when the federal government was bringing its same-sex legislation in line with recent supreme court decisions, VAC had to ensure that all of its programs were in compliance with this legislation. As noted earlier, WVA policies tend to remain consistent and stable over the years. Most changes that do tend to occur are changes required to ensure that WVA income ceilings are in line with other relevant Federal income support policies (i.e., GIS amounts increasing for Cost of Living Index).

With respect to policy development and administration, key informants noted that at one time the WVA organizational structure provided for both a policy unit and an operations unit within VAC. The operations unit worked directly with the veteran or his/her family to address application/renewal issues, communicating with GIS/OAS, etc. While the policy unit monitored and updated policy matters based on input received from the field. This structure worked well during its time, but with the advent of CSDN, new work processing and communication technology, the delivery function was eventually centralized in Kirkland Lake, while the policy function was consolidated within the VAC Head Office structure. These changes were viewed by key informants as positive and consistent with the needs of the program for the most part.

Key informants referenced a few policy changes over the history of WVA that they felt had negative impacts on some clients. Two brief examples were provided by one key informant. The first was a policy where Canada Service Veterans (those who did not have overseas service) were not deemed eligible for WVA. The key informant felt that if VAC was following the spirit of the program, they would have included these veterans. Also mentioned was the direction that foreign clients were given at one time to return to Canada if they wished to have their benefits continue. This expectation was adjusted eventually, but some veterans were treated "rather harshly" according to the key informant. These examples were the exception to the common opinion expressed, which was that WVA policy is clear and well written, and the program has access to the resources needed to support clients.

Program Outcomes

Key informants noted that the essential objective of the WVA program was to ensure that eligible veterans had an adequate income. Generally, key informants felt that clients are pretty content with the program, and veterans are supplied with an adequate income. Many WWI and WW2 veterans did not come forward to claim assistance they were eligible for, as they're very proud people, and asking for money was very hard for them to do. As they did come forward as they aged, they were not left destitute; the program helped to maintain their basic standards of living.

In addition to income, the WVA is a "window of access" to other programs within Veterans Affairs, such as Veterans Independence Program (VIP), the Treatment Accounts Processing System (TAPS) card, and the assistance fund. This goes a long way towards improving the quality of life and level of dignity for veterans in receipt of the program, thereby meeting the program's long-term objectives. This window is opened not only to those clients of WVA who financially qualify, but also to a category of clients called "near recipients" who are war veterans who financially are not eligible for pay-outs, but are still in enough financial need that they would benefit from the extended health care benefits. As war veterans age and their health declines, this gateway feature becomes more prevalent and valuable.

Lessons Learned

In terms of lessons learned several key informants noted that, in their view, one of the most notable current 'legacies' of the WVA program was its contribution to the conceptualization of the new CFIS program for Canadian Forces veterans. The CFIS program was described by some key informants as basically a modernized version of WVA, with a stronger emphasis and focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration of the younger veteran back into the workforce and community to the degree possible. Also, WVA is an "income-tested" program (if a client demonstrates income below the cut-off, they are automatically eligible); CFIS places some accountability for progress towards a goal with the veteran. And unlike WVA, the CFIS, is not a 'gateway program' (health care provision is based on need, rather than receipt of income support). These differences may represent lessons-learned (i.e., income-tested programs do not promote re-integration, and veterans deserve extended health care benefits).

A second lesson-learned that was revealed through the interview process was around the experience of centralization. Key informants who experienced the transition from regional administration to centralization reflected that centralization was a good change because now expertise is concentrated in one place rather than spread over the country, and it allows for a level of consistency, in conjunction with a rules-based system, which had not been present prior to centralization to help with the adjudication process. By centralizing, program administration may have become further removed from the population they are serving. One key informant felt that there should be some cross-training for people; those working in the field should experience how the head office works, and those writing policy should get out in the field.

One caution expressed was that the program may have inadvertently created a dependency for those who received it. Also, recipients commonly referred to WVA as a "pension" which is not accurate. These have been corrected for in the new generation of services in the New Veterans Charter and the CFIS.

The consensus amongst key informants is that the WVA continues to meet the needs of those people it was designed for, but it is certainly past its prime; "If we had set out to design it today it would look different, as evidenced by the CFIS, but there would be no merit in redesigning it at this point given the clients and their stage in life." It is a success story in fulfilling a social contract.

Comparison with Similar Federal Income Supports

In 1980 it was determined that it would be desirable to have WVA "harmonized" with other federal income supports such as Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). This was carried out with the intention of reducing overpayment of funds to clients, and harmonizing design and delivery while maintaining special appreciation of War Veterans.

Harmonization refers to modifications carried out in the WVA program to achieve greater compatibility with the income definitions and benefit calculations of OAS/GIS. This process also provides for regular verification of client information with Service Canada and Revenue Canada.

Types of Benefits

  • Old Age Security (OAS) - available to all residents of Canada who are 65 or older and who meet the residence requirements.
  • Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS - provided to OAS pensioners with little or no other income
  • Allowance - available to 60 to 64 year-old low-income spouses or common-law partners of OAS pensioners who receive the GIS
  • Allowance for the survivor - available to low-income widowed spouses or common-law partners between the ages of 60 and 64.

The following tables outline current rates for income supports, allowing for a comparison across OAS, GIS, Allowance, and WVA. Please note that rates are updated according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on a regular basis.

Table 1: Federal Income Support Programs Benefit Payment Rates April - June 2008
Accessed online at Service Canada
Type of Benefit Recipient Average monthly benefit (January 2008) Maximum Monthly Benefit Maximum Annual Income
Old Age Security Pension All recipients $476.14 $502.31 See note Footnote2
Guaranteed Income Supplement Single person $435.58 $634.02 $15,240
Guaranteed Income Supplement Spouse of pensioner $269.82 $418.69 $20,112
Guaranteed Income Supplement Spouse of non-pensioner $421.17 $634.02 $36,528
Guaranteed Income Supplement Spouse of Allowance recipient $351.72 $418.69 $36,528
Old Age Security Pension Allowance All recipients $366.10 $921.00 $28,176
Allowance for the survivor All recipients $577.89 $1,020.91 $20,520

The WVA program is designed to ensure that Veterans are provided with regular monthly income above the general population, in recognition of wartime service. The amount that a client receives depends on the recipient's other income, often drawn from the abovementioned benefits programs. Because of this, maximum income levels exist within WVA, to which veterans are "topped-up" if they fall short.

Table 2: War Veterans Allowance Maximum Income Rates January - March 2008
Accessed online at the Canadian Legion
Status Maximum Monthly Income Maximum Annual Income
Single Veteran/Survivor $1,237.80 $14,853.60
Single Blind or Survivor Blind $1,288.05 $15,456.60
Married, or Survivor with one child $1,882.79 $22,593.48
Married and blind, or whose spouse/common-law partner is blind $1,932.88 $23,194.56
Additional for each dependent child $214.74 $2,576.88
Each orphan $643.49 $7,721.88

Comparing the WVA maximum incomes with Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-off (LICO) rates for 2007 provides an indicator of income adequacy for veterans. For a single person, the after-tax Low Income Cut-offs (LICO) ratesFootnote3 are $11,745 for a single person in a rural area; $13,441 in a community less than 30,000 population; $14,994 in a community between 30,000 and 99,999 population; $15,184 in a community between 100,000 and 499,999 population; and $17,954 in a community with a population of 500,000 or greater. Thus, a single veteran/survivor receiving the $14,853.60 maximum annual income under WVA would be below the LICO if residing in a community with a population of 30,000 of greater as WVA does not take into consideration increased cost of living based on region.

Average annual expenditures for the WVA program are significantly less than what one would expect if the maximum income rates listed above were paid out to each eligible client. This occurs because the majority of WVA clients also receive OAS, GIS, or Allowance funding. Because WVA is 'harmonized' with these programs, clients receive "top-up" funding (i.e., payment in the amount necessary to bring the income received from GIS/OAS/Assistance up to WVA standards).

Average annual expenditures over the past several years are listed below.

Table 3: Annual Average Expenditures per Client (April to March inclusive)
Client Type 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Veterans $1,839 $1,887 $1,848 $1,863 $1,854 $1,922 $1,908 $1,922 $1,984
Survivors $2,092 $2,079 $2,049 $2,059 $2,067 $2,065 $2,053 $2,050 $2,083
Orphans $5,624 $5,534 $5,648 $5,912 $5,951 $6,310 $6,381 $6,493 $6,757
All Recipients $2,178 $2,179 $2,149 $2,201 $2,199 $2,232 $2,232 $2,256 $2,290

As you can see from the above information, the maximum income rates of WVA are higher than the income provided to the general elderly population through a combination of OAS, GIS, and Assistance funding. This is consistent with the objective of providing special consideration for those with wartime service, although the difference is not very large.

Quantitative Findings

In completing this evaluation, information was provided to the consulting firm in aggregate form from the Reporting Data Base (RDB) of VAC. This information has been summarized in the following sections.

Trends in WVA Use

The WVA program is winding down quickly. WVA clients decreased from 8,580 in 2005- 06 to 7,536 in 2006-07, representing a decrease of 1,044 clients or 12%. This decreasing trend is forecast to continue; by 2016-17 it is forecast that there will be 2,965 WVA clientsFootnote4 . This is likely attributable to the aging demographic of WVA recipients. With the exception of Orphans, the majority of WVA recipients have reached age 65, making them eligible for other federal income assistance programs such as OAS and GIS. The age distribution of WVA recipients is presented in Figure 1.

Table 4: Changes in WVA Recipient Numbers
Year Intakes Exits Net Change
1999-2000 298 2062 -1764
2000-01 842 2432 -1590
2001-02 1135 2769 -1634
2002-2003 1038 2497 -1459
2003-04 952 2207 -1255
2004-2005 876 1986 -1110
2005-2006 696 1781 -1085
2006-07 581 1615 -1034

Figure 1: Age distribution of WVA Clients as of March 2007

Age distribution of WVA Clients as of March 2007

It is also important to note the trend in type of client, which indicates that over time, the total WVA client population is decreasing. This decrease is particularly pronounced amongst veterans, but also applies to survivors. The number of orphans, although low, is remaining fairly constant.

Table 5: Total numbers of WVA Clients by Type, 1997-2007
Client Type 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Veterans 9579 8028 6092 5172 4456 3753 3102 2597 2149 1777 1480
Survivors 14026 12925 11873 11288 10444 9546 8717 7985 7309 6616 5879
Orphans 229 228 207 205 191 190 195 187 187 187 177
Total 23834 21181 18172 16665 15091 13489 12014 10769 9645 8580 7536

Figure 2: Trends in Type of WVA Client, 1997-2007

Figure 2: Trends in Type of WVA Client, 1997-2007

In addition to decreases in client numbers, expenditures are also decreasing rapidly. During the 1990's, expenditures decreased faster than the number of clients receiving benefits, due to many clients reaching age 65 and becoming eligible for OAS, placing their income above WVA limits. Even low-income clients, upon reaching age 65 begin to receive GIS in addition to OAS, resulting in payments from WVA becoming reduced to "top-up" levels (i.e., receiving enough money to raise their income beyond OAS levels, commensurate with WVA levels).

Table 6: OAS Status of Clients in Receipt of WVA (Number of clients)
Year Single Veteran Single Survivor Married Veteran Married Survivor Dependent(s)
No OAS OAS No OAS OAS No OAS 1 OAS 2 OAS No OAS OAS Orphan Child
2000 66 2793 1041 9485 108 802 1403 201 561 205 0
2001 54 2435 937 8846 87 671 1209 147 514 191 0
2002 51 2094 858 8052 75 511 1024 133 503 188 0
2003 48 1760 769 7418 61 391 842 100 430 195 0
2004 45 1492 694 6827 55 314 692 82 383 185 0
2005 37 1271 675 6243 55 229 562 72 322 187 0
2006 29 1055 540 5717 34 191 470 57 301 188 0
2007 22 887 460 5112 29 146 396 47 260 177 0

This trend is revealed in the following chart, which shows consistently low levels of average expenditures per client over the past ten years.

Figure 3: Trends in Average Expenditures by Client

Trends in Average Expenditures by Client

The higher average expenditure for orphans over veterans and survivors can be explained by the average age of orphans (mid-forties), which would prevent many of them from receiving OAS and GIS, but it is important to recognize that there are very few recipients in the "orphan" category (see Table 5).

Figure 4: WVA Program Expenditures, 1997 - 2007

WVA Program Expenditures, 1997 - 2007

Regional Distribution of Clients

Distribution of clients across Regional and District Offices are presented in the table below. There is a high number of WVA clients concentrated in the Atlantic and Ontario regions.

Table 8: Number of Clients in Receipt of WVA By Region and District Office March 2007
Region Veterans Survivor + Orphan Orphans Survivors Total
Atlantic Regional Office 414 2178 91 2087 2592
Quebec Region 126 818 18 800 944
Ontario Region 499 1685 22 1663 2184
Prairie Region 208 833 37 796 1041
Pacific Region 233 542 8 534 775
District Office Veterans Survivor + Orphan Orphans Survivors Total
St John's 126 615 34 581 741
Corner Brook 25 189 4 185 214
Charlottetown 34 156 15 141 190
Sydney 38 206 7 199 244
Halifax 98 504 20 484 602
Saint John 61 307 9 298 368
Campbellton 32 201 2 199 233
Quebec 25 216 3 213 241
Sherbrooke 10 64 3 61 74
Gatineau 7 62 1 61 69
Montreal 84 476 11 465 560
Mississauga-Brampton 45 205 2 203 250
Scarborough 48 159 0 159 207
Pembroke 8 22 1 21 30
Foreign Countries 127 291 2 289 418
Toronto 72 146 3 143 218
Ottawa 28 112 2 110 140
Kingston 10 64 2 62 74
Peterborough 30 131 0 131 161
Hamilton 64 168 3 165 232
London 29 96 4 92 125
Windsor 18 87 2 85 105
North Bay 11 145 1 144 156
Thunder Bay 9 59 0 59 68
Winnipeg 43 147 13 134 190
Brandon 14 64 5 59 78
Regina 132>28 5 127 160
Saskatoon 28 156 8 148 184
Calgary 38 112 3 109 150
Edmonton 57 222 3 219 279
Vancouver 112 239 2 237 351
British Columbia Interior 55 182 3 179 237
Victoria 66 121 3 118 187
Total 1480 6056 176 5880 7536

Use of WVA as "Window of Access"

WVA provides a 'gateway' or 'window of access' to other services, such as the assistance fund and health care benefits (OHPS and VIP), as set out by the Veterans Health Care Regulations. Table 9 (to the right) presents information on the rates of client access to these additional programs.

Table 9: Use of Gateway Programs in Fiscal Year 2006-07
  Clients Expenditures Average $/client
OHPS clients 1265 $3,602,184 $2,848
VIP clients 984 $5,110,558 $5,194
Number of Unique Clients 1291 $8,712,742 $6,749

Use of WVA by "Near Recipients"

In addition to WVA recipients, another category referred to as "near-recipients" have access to programs through the WVA gateway, as per Section 2 of the Veterans Health Care Regulations (VHCR). The official name for "near recipients" as outlined in the VHCR is 'income-qualified veteran' whereas the term often used by key informants within VAC is "near recipient." These are clients who are just over the income cut-offs for receipt of WVA, but due to their relatively low income, are provided with the gateway services offered to WVA clients. These clients are a very significant proportion of the WVA administrative caseload, even though WVA does not provide any financial assistance to these clients (see Table 11).

Table 10: WVA Near clients March 31, 2007
Age Group Number of Near Clients
70-74 477
75-79 1,476
80-84 11,782
85-89 9,695
90-94 2,367
95+ 313
total 26,110

Use of Assistance Fund

In addition to the healthcare benefits listed above, WVA clients have access to an Assistance fund that provides funds for expenses that the veteran may not be able to afford, but is required to maintain their basic standard of living (e.g., to cover oil tank replacement in their home). Table 11 outlines the total amount spent on Assistance fund, and the average amount spent per eligible client in each category.

Table 11: Annual Use of Assistance Fund in Fiscal Year 2006-07 by Client
Type of Client Total Average
Veteran $87,530 $59.14
Survivor $771,777 $131.28
Orphan $16,046 $90.65
Other $6,534 n/a
Total $881,887 $117.02

Conclusions

It is clear from this evaluation that WVA is a 'sun-setting' program, which is forecast to decline in the coming years (as delineated by Veterans Affairs Program Client and Expenditure Forecasts, 2008-2009 Forecast Cycle, Statistics Directorate, Financial Division, Veterans Affairs Canada, November 2007). This will result in a decline in clients, and also a shift in who clients are (from veterans, to survivors, finally to orphans.)

The program has been deemed valuable and relevant, qualitatively, by key informants. There is a sense of pride in the delivery of this program, and most key informants feel that without WVA, veterans would be encountering hardships. This is supported by the data indicating large numbers of 'near-recipients' making use of the gateway nature of WVA, as well as the use of Assistance funds.

Lessons learned through the 77-year history of this program have been integrated into the Canadian Forces Income Support program, with some updates for a changing social climate, and a clear focus on rehabilitation/reintegration.

This report cannot definitively say if the WVA program achieves its long-term objective of ensuring quality of life and increased dignity for veterans without further research that speaks directly with WVA clients. Recent client-satisfaction research conducted by VAC (2005) did not break down client satisfaction by program. More problematically, data on income adequacy of the WVA was not available and it is not within the scope of the current evaluation to collect such data. Nevertheless, comparisons to Statistics Canada data revealed that many single veterans/survivors would be below the Low Income Cut-off, depending on where they lived. Further research is required to determine if the WVA is meeting the basic economic needs of veterans and survivors.

Given the scope of the evaluation, this report can draw the following conclusions:

  1. The WVA program provides income support at levels higher than OAS and GIS, but in some cases below Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-off (LICO).
  2. WVA provides access to other VAC programs such as VIP, health care benefits, and the Assistance Fund.
  3. VAC conducts client satisfaction surveys every two years. VAC has obtained high client satisfaction ratings in its last several surveys. No issues were raised about the WVA program as a result of these surveys.
  4. Key informants felt that the main objective of the WVA program, to ensure that eligible veterans had an adequate minimum income, has generally been achieved.
  5. The WVA program has been automated into the CSDN. This resulted in reduced turnaround times for applications and renewals as well as helping to provide improved consistency in program delivery.
  6. Program delivery was consolidated into one region to improve efficiency and service to client.
  7. Key informants felt that the program had great stability and required very few major policy changes.

It is the ultimate recommendation of this evaluation that the WVA program continue. However, it is recommended that the Senior ADM Policy, Programs and Partnerships Branch, conducts further economic research on the income adequacy of the WVA for program recipients in terms of the maximum amounts, adjustment for cost of living by region/community size, and methods of indexing of rates over time.

Appendix

Key Informant Interview Guide

You have been invited to participate in an interview to assist with the evaluation process of the War Veterans Allowance Program. This evaluation is being completed as part of the Federal Treasury Board's evaluation requirements for federally administered programs. This interview will be one of a series of interviews conducted with relevant WVA program staff within Veterans Affairs.

  • A. Client Identification

    • 1. What is the general profile and characteristics of the clients served by the WVA program?
    • 2. What activities are conducted to promote the program to eligible clients and identify client needs? What works well? What are the challenges?

  • B. Client Eligibility Assessment and Program Administration

    • 3. What are the current mechanisms to process claims? (i.e. application process, decision-making/approval levels and protocols, etc) What works well? What are the challenges?
    • 4. How does VAC monitor benefits, results and costs? How does VAC provide redress mechanisms?

  • C. Policy Impacts

    • 5. As a result of program delivery and/or administrative challenges encountered, has there been a need to review/amend policy? If so, what is the nature of these policy impacts?

  • D. Program Outcomes

    • 6. What are the short-term outcomes of the WVA? (e.g. providing income support to eligible veterans in need, financial stability,)
    • 7. What are the long-term outcomes of the WVA? (e.g. provides access to better quality of life by acting as a 'gateway' to other VAC benefits and programs, benefits to spouses, dependents and survivors, etc)
  • E. Lessons Learned
    • 8. In terms of program design, delivery, and administration, are there any 'lessons learned' that may be useful to note, and that could be transferred to any similar types of programs; e.g. the CFIS Program?

Evaluation Framework

Project Sponsor

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is the federal government department responsible for providing client-centred services to Veterans, other clients and their families.

Mission of Veterans Affairs Canada:

To provide exemplary, client-centred services and benefits that respond to the needs of Veterans, our other clients and their families, in recognition of their services to Canada; and to keep the memory of their achievements and sacrifices alive for all Canadians.

VAC's mandate stems from laws and regulations, notably the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, which outlines the following responsibilities:

"...the care, treatment, or re-establishment in civil life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces or merchant navy or in the naval, army or air forces or merchant navies of Her Majesty, of any person who has otherwise engaged in pursuits relating to war, and of any other person designated ... and the care of the dependents or survivors of any person referred to ..."

In keeping with this mandate, VAC offers income support programs to ensure Veterans receive enough monthly income to meet their basic needs.

Project Description

The War Veterans Allowance (WVA) is a transfer payment program, which has been in effect since September 1, 1930. The program is a form of non-taxable financial assistance available to Canadian Veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. It also acts as a "window of access" to other programs (e.g., Veterans Independence Program, Assistance Fund) for recipients and "near-recipients" (individuals who would qualify, except they receive income through other income support programs).

Recipient(s) of War Veterans Allowance:

  • Canadian Armed Forces and Merchant Navy Veterans who served in WWI, WWII or Korean War
  • Allied Forces Veterans with wartime service in WWI or WWII who were domiciled in Canada at the time of enlistment
  • Allied Forces Veterans with wartime service in WWI and WWII who resided in Canada for at least 10 years after the war (note: Only applies to those who qualified before February 27, 1995, and who are thus "grandfathered")
  • Civilians who served in close support of the Canadian Armed Forces during wartime
  • And their spouses, dependents and survivors

The amount a client receives depends on the recipient's other income, marital status and the number of qualified dependents. In addition, survivors and orphans may also qualify for WVA if the deceased Veteran or civilian had the required war-related service status, or was in receipt of a disability pension. Recipients are paid at a single, couple or orphan's rate.

Project Aim

The purpose of the WVA program is to ensure that, in recognition of wartime service, eligible persons are provided with regular monthly income in order to meet their basic needs, and maintain client dignity in recognition of their wartime service. Over the past decade, the WVA program has experienced a continuous annual decline in both its client base and expenditures. The planned short-term results of WVA program are that qualified individuals receive the allowance to which they are entitled in a fair and timely manner, leading to the long term results of Improved quality of life for clients, in keeping with the mission and mandate of Veterans Affairs Canada. In order to ensure the planned results are achieved, VAC has outlined six areas of accountability (as outlined in Annex C of the Integrated RMAF/RBAF for VAC Transfer Payments, Sept 2005):
  1. Identify client needs (both strategic and operational)
  2. Improve client awareness
  3. Process claims
  4. Issue payments to clients
  5. Monitor benefits, results and costs
  6. Provide redress mechanisms

Resources

Funding for WVA is provided from the federal government of Canada, and is designed to supplement income up to a maximum ceiling set by law. Expenditures for this program have been slowly declining over the past decade, as evidenced in the following table.

Expenditures to War Veterans Allowance Program 2003-2006:
  2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
War Veterans/Civilian War Allowance $25,416k $22,776k $20,559k
TOTAL Grant/Economic Support Spending $1,562,182k $1,620,431k $1,680,504k
Percentage of Transfer Payment Program Expenditures to WVA 1.6% 1.4% 1.2%

In addition to financial support, VAC dedicates administrative and client support staff resources as well as communications about the program (eligibility and benefits) and redress mechanisms.

Evaluation Approach

This evaluation will mainly take a 'summative' approach. Summative evaluation provides information on a program's efficacy (its ability to do what it was designed to do), focusing on the achievement of program outcomes. Additionally, a 'formative' approach will be used to evaluate how the program is implemented, providing useful information for future implementation of this or similar programs such as the CFIS program.

Evaluation Goal

  • To evaluate program implementation and summarize lessons learned which may be applicable to other VAC programs, such as the CFIS program

Evaluation Objectives

  • Document program delivery elements, client characteristics, and forecasts of a declining veterans population
  • Review income ceilings including comparisons to relevant Government of Canada programs including Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement Program, and the Canada Pension Plan
  • Identify strengths and challenges of program delivery including barriers to access

Types of Data Collection

  • Document review (e.g., policies, communications material, reports, etc)
  • Program administrative/utilization data (collected by VAC)
  • Document review of similar programs (e.g., communications material for comparison programs)
  • Key informant interviews with VAC personnel and external stakeholders

Timing of Data Collection

  • Data collection, analysis, and reporting will occur between March 3 and March 31, 2008.

Evaluation Design

  • This evaluation uses a mixed-method design (both quantitative and qualitative)
  • Document review and program administrative data will provide a quantitative picture of program delivery, whereas key informant interviews and document review of similar programs will provide a qualitative sense of how the program meets the needs of clients.

Dissemination of Evaluation Results

Evaluation reports will be provided in Word and PDF formats and up to 30 hard copies (if required) will be provided for distribution by VAC to relevant stakeholders.

Evaluation Matrix
  Evaluation Questions Success Indicators Data Sources
A
c
t
i
v
i
t
i
e
s
1. What activities are conducted to identify client needs? Program meets clients basic financial needs, acts as a gateway to other programs and services Comparison with basic cost of living Comparison with similar programs
2. Does WVA provide appropriate levels of support? Program is in keeping with similar Gov't of Canada programs
3. What activities are conducted to improve client awareness? Program information is accessible and understandable Document review
Policy review
Key informant interviews
4. What are the current processing mechanisms? Claims are processed accurately and with efficiency
5. What are the current payment mechanisms? Payments are issued accurately and with efficiency
6. How does VAC monitor benefits, results and costs? Program is monitored for benefits, results and costs
7. How does VAC provide redress mechanisms? Clients have their concerns addressed/decisions reviewed
8. How has the program (policies and practices) evolved to meet client needs? Program has adapted over time to meet client needs
P
o
p
u
l
a
t
i
o
n
9. What are the demographics of the clients served by the WVA program (i.e., age, income, type of recipient)? Client receive the benefits they are entitled to
Program is suitable to the type of client being served
Document review
Policy review
Statistics Canada data
10. How is this population forecast to change over the coming years? Program forecasts and prepares to adapts to changes in client population
O
u
t
p
u
t
s

a
n
d

O
u
t
c
o
m
e
s
11. What are the deliverables of the WVA program? The WVA is delivered to clients in a timely and efficient manner Document review
Policy review
Key informant interviews
12. What are the short-term outcomes of WVA? Clients understand the program.
Efficient receipt of benefits and access to other programs.
High level of client satisfaction.
13. What are the long-term outcomes of WVA? Client pride and dignity.
Improved standard of living.
Improved quality of life.
Program Evaluation Logic Model
Program Components Administration and Monitoring of WVA
Activities Identify client needs
Improve client awareness
Process claims
Issue payments
Monitor results, costs Monitor efficiency of delivery, provide redress mechanisms
Target Population Veterans of WWI, WWII and Korea
Their spouses and/or dependents
Administrative staff of VAC
Outputs Administration of WVA program and "window of access" to other Programs (e.g., VIP, Assistance Fund)
Short-Term Outcomes Clients understand their benefits and rights and Basic economic needs of clients are met WVA is delivered in a timely and efficient manner
Problems with delivery are dealt with fairly and quickly
Long-Term Outcomes Quality of life for clients is improved Clients receive their benefits in fair and timely manner, program efficiency

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Senior ADM Policy, Programs and Partnerships Branch, conducts further economic research on the income adequacy of the WVA for program recipients in terms of the maximum amounts, adjustments for cost of living by region/community size, and methods of indexing of rates over time.

Management Response

Management agrees with the spirit and intent of the recommendation aimed at ensuring the ongoing adequacy of War Veterans Allowance rates. WVA is one of VAC's legacy programs having been in place since the end of the First World War. It has been, and continues to be a very stable program with overall client satisfaction. Given the age and income levels of potentially eligible program recipients, the program uptake has been steeply declining, and is expected to sunset in time. The rates that apply today, which are tied to the WVA Act, compare very favourably with the Government's Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Support programs. Any rate change, or proposed change to the method of indexing, would require a legislative amendment.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
1. Carry out a preliminary analysis to determine if, given the context of the program and competing urgent priorities, a detailed economic review of the WVA program is warranted at this time. PPD November 2008
2. Subject to the outcome of the action item above, and a decision to proceed, carry out the work of reviewing program rates. PPD TBD (as part of action item 1)
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