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Evaluation of the Funeral and Burial Program - January 2009

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The Audit and Evaluation Division would like to acknowledge the efforts of those who helped with this evaluation, with a particular thanks to the staff of the Canada Remembers Division, the Last Post Fund Corporation and members of the Funeral Services Association of Canada. We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of staff from the Finance Division and National Operations Division.

The Evaluation Team consisted of the following persons:

  • Kevin Edgecombe, Audit and Evaluation A/Director
  • Karen Walsh, Audit and Evaluation Manager
  • Tim Brown, Audit and Evaluation Officer
  • Elaine Brien, Audit and Evaluation Officer
  • Iqbal Jaswal, Consultant, Government Consulting Services

1.0 Executive Summary

The Funeral and Burial Program is mandated in the Veterans Burial Regulations 2005. In 2006, the delivery of this program was wholly devolved to a non-profit Organization called the Last Post Fund (LPF) Corporation. The mandate of the LPF is "to ensure, insofar as possible, that no war Veterans, military disability pensioners or civilians... are denied a dignified funeral and burialFootnote 1 for lack of sufficient funds." The following table provides an overview of key information on the Funeral and Burial Program.

Table 1 - Summary of Program Activity
Activity Actual Forecast
2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Target population 219,500 197,500 176,200 155,700 136,400 118,200
Approved Cases+ 2,187 2,114 2,039 1,958 1,958 1,788
Program Costs $8.62M $9.09M $9.00M $8.90M $9.20M $8.61M
Administration Costs $2.98M $2.72M $2.70M $2.60M $2.60M $2.60M
Total Costs* $11.60M $11.81M $11.70M $11.50M $11.80M $11.20M

SOURCE: VAC Statistics Directorate, October 2007.
+ note case data is reported on a calendar year basis.
* note total costs do not include VAC Program Management costs.

In April, 2007, the Audit and Evaluation Committee of Veterans Affairs Canada approved an evaluation of the Funeral and Burial Program. The objectives of the evaluation were to evaluate the relevance, success, effectiveness, efficiency and economy of the Funeral and Burial Program.

This evaluation re-affirmed the need for the Funeral and Burial Program. The program does not overlap with other programs, and the number of applications received indicates a steady number of people apply to the program. The program is aligned with government priorities. However, Modern Day Veterans may benefit from the program but are not currently eligible on the same basis as War Service Veterans. Some lack of awareness or misinformation exists concerning the Funeral and Burial Program. To remedy this issue, program awareness should be targeted to those who interact with Veterans' families on a regular basis, such as workers in long-term care facilities.

To assess the success of the program, it was necessary to analyze emerging concepts of what would constitute a dignified funeral. Trends in the funeral industry are changing, and certain funeral items that were once considered essential are no longer prevalent. The allowable amounts for the estate exemption and funeral items have not changed in the past thirteen years. The cost of living has increased 28% since that time. In addition, the maximum allowable funeral and burial amounts have not changed since 2001, when they were increased based on the cost of living. More flexibility is required in defining both the allowable funeral items and maximum amounts.

The assessment of effectiveness and efficiency of the program was hampered by the lack of consistent cost and workload data. The establishment of standardized performance information such as expected turnaround times, service standards, acceptable client satisfaction levels, processing targets, the per grant costs of program administration, processing times for applications, awareness levels of service providers, reasons for denied or withdrawn cases, percentage of cases which are not considered dignified, and average grant amount and trends would ensure accountability for both the LPF and program management.

In the area of economy of the program, the lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities for matter-of-right was a constraint. The LPF branches have varying processes in place for identifying matter-of-right cases and applications are sometimes screened based on incomplete data. In addition, applications that are pre-approved over the telephone can result in overpayment due to the lack of standard criteria to define eligibility. Notwithstanding these constraints, it is clear since salaries account for the majority of administrative costs that savings cannot occur without a change in the current branch structure of LPF offices. The cost-effectiveness analysis explored a call centre approach both within the LPF and within VAC. The results indicate a potential savings of approximately eight hundred thousand dollars in 2006, had this approach been adopted.

The eight recommendations raised in this report are listed below.

Recommendations

Relevance

R1 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, consider the impacts and merits of expanding eligibility to CF Veterans on the same basis as War Service Veterans.

R2 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, take steps to ensure awareness of the program is enhanced.

Success

R3 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, obtain Treasury Board approval to amend the Veterans Burial Regulations to include the following:

  • more flexibility in the compensation for certain items considered appropriate for a dignified burial;
  • appropriate consideration of the cost of funerals and the cost of living in relation to the grant amount and estate exemption amounts. This could include the provision of a Cost of Living Allowance clause.

R4 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, ensure that effective performance targets are put in place to measure results. This will allow for systemic monitoring and reporting in order to ensure targeted outcomes are achieved.

R5 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, in consultation with the Director General, National Operations Division, develop clear roles, responsibilities, policy and procedures for the identification, screening, adjudication, and processing of matter-of-right cases. Consideration should be given to a more centralized approach within VAC.

R6 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, update the Veterans Program Policy Manual, Volume 5: Funeral and Burial Assistance, to include a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of VAC and the LPF, an accountability framework, expected results, and the requirement for the LPF to provide performance reports with explanations for variances.

R7 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, develop criteria to ensure clarity and consistency of approval of Type I services.

Effectiveness, Economy, Efficiency

R8 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, encourage the LPF to review the branch structure of LPF with a view to providing greater efficiency and reduction in administrative costs. A call centre approach should be considered to provide more consistent service across the country and to ensure costs on a per case basis are controlled and stable.

2.0 Evaluation Context

This evaluation study was undertaken for the following two reasons: (1) commitments made by VAC to Treasury Board; and, (2) concerns voiced by program managers at the prospective costs of delivering the program as the number of eligible Veterans continues to decline.

In September 2005, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) approached Treasury Board to renew the Terms and Conditions of the LPF Grant. As part of the renewal, a commitment was made to evaluate the Funeral and Burial Program and examine risk-based issues such as relevance and cost-effectiveness.

This commitment is restated in the Report on Plans and Priorities for 2007-08, which states "Over the years, there have been significant changes in the landscape of Canada's social programs as well as VAC's client base. As a result, the Funeral and Burial Program will be evaluated to ensure it is effective, efficient and meeting the needs of VAC's client base."

The objectives of the evaluation are to evaluate the relevance, success, effectiveness, economy, efficiency of the Funeral and Burial Program, and to provide an independent assessment of the Funeral and Burial Program's performance measurement system and accountability framework.

3.0 Program Context (Background)

3.1 Origin and Rationale

The Canadian Government has traditionally assumed responsibility for the burial of members of the Canadian Armed Forces who died during battle and, later, those who died as a result of war-related injuries. However, in the early 1900's, there were no provisions for providing a burial for a Veteran who died homeless and indigent. The public feeling at that time was that the Veteran poor should be treated differently from the civilian poor. Whereas an indigent civilian would be buried in a pauper's grave, Veterans were considered to be a separate class of citizen and, therefore, should receive dignified burials.

The LPF Corporation was founded to address situations where Veterans died indigent. The LPF began in 1909 when a Veteran of the Crimean War died in a Montreal hospital. Because the Veteran died alone, indigent and homeless, his remains were destined to be buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. Arthur Hair, a Veteran of the South African War, intervened and raised enough funds to provide a dignified burial. This was the beginning of a Montreal based organization dedicated to the burial of indigent Veterans, and later became known as the LPFFootnote 2.

The legislative basis for the Funeral and Burial Program is composed of the following:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs Act, Subsection 5 grants the Minister authority for providing, maintaining and replacing gravemarkers and for providing financial assistance towards the expenses of last sickness, funeral, burial and cremation.
  • PC Order 1965-68, assigns the Minister of Veterans Affairs the primary responsibility for all matters relating to the recognition of Canadian war dead and former members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
  • Veteran Burial Regulations 2005 provide for an agreement with the LPF Corporation.

More information on the program's history can be found in Appendix B.

3.2 Mandate and Strategic Outcomes

The Funeral and Burial Program (FBP) derives its mandate from the Veterans Burial Regulations 2005. The FBP is a component of the Canada Remembers Program, which "endeavours to keep alive the achievements and sacrifices made by those who served Canada in times of war, armed conflict and peace and to promote an understanding of the significance of these efforts in Canadian life as we know it today."Footnote 3 The strategic outcome for Remembrance Programming is to help Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all those who served in Canada's efforts during war, military conflict and peace.

The objective of the FBP is to provide financial assistance to ensure eligible persons receive a dignified funeral and burial.

3.3 Governance

The FBP is delivered by the LPF Corporation through a transfer payment arrangement with VAC. A memorandum of agreement, signed by the two parties, provides for advanced funding to the LPF on a monthly basis for reasonable administrative and operating expenses. The Veterans Burial Regulations 2005 stipulate the requirements of the Memorandum of Agreement.

The LPF has a mandate "to ensure, insofar as possible, that no war Veterans, military disability pensioners or civilians who meet wartime service eligibility criteria are denied a dignified funeral and burial for lack of sufficient funds."Footnote 4

The LPF is supported financially by VAC and by private donations. The National Office is in Montreal and branch offices are located in every province except Prince Edward Island, which is administered by the New Brunswick Branch. Each office is managed by a branch manager and one or more counsellors. The LPF is managed by an Executive Committee and guidance and direction is provided by the Governing Council, which is composed of volunteer members from each of the ten provinces. Each provincial branch has also has a board of directors which consists of volunteer members. The Executive Director of the LPF works in close contact with VAC program management to obtain guidance and clarification on policy issues.

Within VAC, there is a program manager who reports to the Director of National and International Memorials Branch who in turn reports to the Director General, Canada Remembers Division. The program manager is supported by a program officer. The two-person program group in VAC administers and enforces the FBP policy, and its main role is to provide guidance in regard to rules and interpretations of policy. The program group also oversees the monthly advances provided to LPF and carries out monthly reconciliations. The office takes an active role in monitoring proposed LPF expenditures and is involved in the approval of staffing, purchasing computer equipment and other expenditures. VAC program management meets on a regular basis with representatives from the LPF to discuss issues, share common concerns and lessons learned.

3.4 Program Delivery

3.4.1 Client Population

The War Service Veterans, i.e. Veterans who served in the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War, are the main target groups eligible for the FBP along with certain eligible CF Veterans. CF Veterans in receipt of a Disability Pension or Disability Award make up the majority of eligible CF Veterans. The table below demonstrates a decline in the client population.

Table 2 - Estimated FBP Client Population
War Service Veterans March 2007 Avg Age March 2008 March 2009 March 2010 March 2011 March 2012 Avg Age
WWII 205,500 84 184,100 163,400 143,700 125,000 107,600 88
Korea 13,900 75 13,300 12,700 12,000 11,400 10,600 80
CF Veteran Pensioners 48,700 53* 49,700 48,700 47,400 47,500 47,400 56*
Total 268,100 n/a 247,100 224,800 203,100 183,900 165,600 n/a

* CF Veteran Pensioners' average age was not available, therefore average age of all CF Veterans is presented in the table above.

Note: Numbers have been rounded to nearest 100

Source: VAC Statistics Directorate

3.4.2 Program Delivery

The FBP provides financial assistance for basic funeral services, burial/cremation and military style grave marker or inscription on a private grave marker. The deceased must meet the service eligibility criteria, and the application for funeral and burial benefits must be made within one year of the date of death. Assistance is provided to eligible persons under the following two benefit streams:

Matter-of-right:
when the death is attributable to a service related injury or disease; and,
Means Tested:
when the Veteran's estate does not have sufficient means to provide a dignified burial.

3.4.3 Service Eligibility

In order to be eligible for the FBP, the deceased must meet certain service eligibility criteria, which are outlined below.

The eligibility criteria for War Service Veterans, Overseas Service Veterans and certain classes of civilians are based on the type of service and the period of service. The deceased must meet one the following criteria:

Wartime:
To be eligible for the funeral and burial benefits, a person must have served on Active Service basis during one of the following periods:
  • World War I - August 4, 1914 - August 14, 1921
  • World War II - September 1, 1939 - September 30, 1947
  • Korea - July 5, 1950 - October 31, 1953
Veterans of WWI and WWII need not have overseas service in a Theatre of War;
Special Force personnel are eligible only if a person enlisted specifically for service in Korea. Those who served active or regular force must have seen duty in Korea or Japan.
Peacetime:
For peacetime service the deceased, at the time of death, must have been:
  • receiving a disability pension from Veterans Affairs Canada;
  • receiving treatment from Veterans Affairs Canada for a pensioned condition that can be related to military service;
  • receiving a Disability Award, Earnings Loss Benefits or Canadian Forces Income Supplement (CFIS).
Other:
Also eligible are deceased persons who were in receipt of a disability pension or an allowance under the Merchant Navy Veteran or Civilian War Related Benefits Act; Merchant Navy Veterans; War Veterans of the Armed Forces of Canada's allies who were resident in Canada on enlistment and Allied Veterans who were in receipt of certain War Veterans Allowance Act benefits on or before 27 February, 1995.
Once the service eligibility is confirmed, the estate of the deceased will either be means tested, or a determination made on whether the death was attributable to service.

3.4.4 Payments to LPF by VAC

Each month, the LPF sends a forecast of anticipated administrative costs and program costs for the following month. The Program Manager reviews the forecast and requisitions a cheque for the LPF. There is only one cheque issued, however, on the Internal Requisition for Materiel/Services (GC 92), the money is coded to two separate line objects; one line object for administrative costs, and another for program costs.

The LPF sends the Program Manager a monthly report of administrative and program expenditures. The Manager reconciles the actual expenditures with the forecasted expenditures. The Manager also reviews the expenditures from the previous year to determine if there are any anomalies. At the end of the year, if there is money left over in the LPF Administrative Account or Program Account, VAC subtracts that amount from the following year's expenditures (i.e. the LPF does not write a cheque to reimburse the Receiver General; rather, the money is used as a credit for the upcoming year. This is also the process on a monthly basis as the unused portion is subtracted from the monthly forecast).

3.4.5 Benefits Payable

The Veterans Burial Regulations 2005 specify allowable funeral and burial items and amount payable. The following table summarizes the benefits payable and the associated amounts.

Table 3 - Summary of Benefits Payable
Item Maximum reimbursement amount*
Funeral Services
This includes the following:
  • Normal preparation of the remains for viewing
  • A casket, if the remains are to be buried
  • A rental casket, if the remains are to be cremated
  • The use of a viewing room and a chapel
  • The use of a hearse and up to two vehicles for mourners and pallbearers
  • The attendance at the place of burial or cremation by funeral home officials
  • Local transportation of the remains from the place where the death occurred to the nearest funeral home and from there to the nearest place of burial, up to a maximum of 16 km for each stage (in the case of cremation, an additional transportation from the funeral home to the place of cremation)
$3,600 for one funeral director

$4,100 when two funeral directors are required
Cremation Urn $350
Cost to cremate the body Paid at cost (approx $675 on average)
Last Sickness $75
Regional Transportation

Regional transportation is reimbursed up to a maximum amount, but only if the service of two funeral directors is required.
$500
Special Preparation of the Body

If required
$210
Grave liner 570
Grave plot
The rate is called “lowest cost earth burial” and is set by the LPF Branches in the various provinces after consulting with one or more cemeteries. The plot is located in a section of the cemetery designated for Veterans, or in a section of a cemetery designated as a "Field of Honour", or a plot that would ensure a dignified funeral.
Rate set by LPF **
Opening and Closing of Grave At cost **
Grave Marker& Installation

Rate is negotiated with local suppliers
Negotiated rate **
Perpetual Care of Grave At cost **

* Detailed numbers, if not in the VBRs, were taken from policy submissions and the LPF database

** These four items are approximately $2,000, on average

3.5 Planned Outcomes

The Logic Model was developed by the Evaluation Team and identifies the planned outcomes defined in terms of the benefits to the deceased Veterans, their survivors and to Canada.

Chart 1 - Logic Model

Logic Model.  Details in text following the image.

Chart 1 - Text Version

Activities and Outputs
The Program Management activity conducted by VAC results in the following outputs:
  • Approved Budgets
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Surveys
Specific activities under LPF include:
  • Planning resulting in the following outputs:
    • Budgets
    • Statistics
    • Staffing
    • Policies and procedures
  • Communication resulting in the following outputs:
    • Brochures
    • Presentation
    • Web site
  • Dealing with Clients resulting in the following outputs:
    • Responding to enquiries
    • Adjudicating cases
    • Recovering overpayments
    • Payments to funeral home
LPF - Immediate Outcomes
  • FBP awareness raised
  • Deceased Veteran eligible for the government dignified burial
  • Applicant satisfaction
LPF - Intermediate Outcomes
Applicants and others consider the funeral ceremony to be dignified
LPF - Long Term Outcomes
Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of those who served in Canada's effort during war, military conflicts and peace
Only the immediate outcomes are of concern in this study, as the FBP is just one of the many programs delivered by VAC for the achievement of the long-term outcomes.

3.6 Resources

The total program resources, both historical and forecast, were provided by the Canada Remembers Division of VAC.

Table 4 - Program Costs
Resource Actual Forecast
2004
2005
2005
2006
2006
2007
2007
2008
2008
2009
2009
2010
2010
2011
2011
2012
2012
2013
Approved
Cases+
2,366 2,178 2,187 2,114 2,039 1,958 1,958 1,788 1,744
Program
Costs
$9.22M $8.05M $8.62M $9.09M $9.00M $8.90M $9.20M $8.61M $8.40M
Admin
Costs
$2.55M $2.79M $2.98M $2.72M $2.70M $2.60M $2.60M $2.60M $2.60M
Total $11.77M $10.84M $11.60M $11.81M $11.70M $11.50M $11.80M $11.20M $11.00M

+ Number of cases approved is reported on a calendar basis.

ASSUMPTIONS:

1. Proportion of clients receiving funeral and burial assistance will remain constant at the 2004-2005 participation rates;
2. Forecasted programming costs are based on the 2004-05 cost/case being flat lined, with inflation factored in (yearly inflation figures provided by VAC's Statistics Directorate);
3. Forecasted administrative costs are based on 2005-2006 costs being reduced by 2.5% per year until year 2009-2010, where administrative costs will be capped at $2.60 M/year.

DATA SOURCES:

1. "ACTUAL" statistics are based on figures provided from LPF and VAC's Finance Department;
2. "FORECAST" estimates are based on figures provided by VAC's Statistics Directorate using 2004-2005 forecasts.

4.0 Evaluation Methodology

The Evaluation Design is based on the collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data to answer the evaluation issues identified in the framework. The qualitative data refers to the interviews conducted, while the quantitative data refers to the program and administrative costs.

VAC conducted the planning and fieldwork phase of the evaluation and engaged the help of a consultant firm, Government Consulting Services, Public Works and Government Services Canada, to conduct the analysis of the economy, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the evaluation along with assisting in drafting the report.

The evaluation study of the FBP draws on the findings from statistical analysis; in-person and telephone interviews with representatives from VAC, LPF, Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) and the funeral industry; a client satisfaction survey; a review of case files, and a supporting review of documentation and research literature. A detailed list of data collection methods is presented in Appendix A.

4.1 Limitations of the Approach

During the review of the findings, some limitations of the methodology should be considered. Cost and workload data provided were often inconsistent. The project team, when required, relied on the judgement of the Program Manager, Executive Director of the LPF and the LPF Programmer to determine the appropriate cost and workload data. The participants of the key informant interviews formed a convenience sample, composed of people with direct interest in the management and relevance of the program and therefore efforts were made to alleviate any bias by interviewing a variety of groups with varying interests in the program. In addition, the evaluation used a combination of funeral industry expert opinion, feedback from the front line deliverers of the program, the client satisfaction survey, statistical analysis and a review of ministerial inquires and media articles to determine the needs and views of clients. This was done due to the sensitive nature of the program.

5.0 Key Findings by Evaluation Issue

5.1 Relevance

5.1.1 Is there a role for government in the Funeral and Burial Program?

Client Needs

In 2005, a large national telephone survey was carried out. A sample of War Service Veterans, CF Veterans, clients, survivors and RCMP members were interviewed. The overall level of satisfaction was at a relatively high level of 84%. The Canada Remembers Program received an overall client satisfaction rating of 80%. The priorities for Remembrance activities were consistent among all four client groups and were the following:

  • maintaining and restoring grave sites;
  • educating youth by providing materials and resources;
  • providing remembrance materials based on contributions, achievements and sacrifices;
  • promoting ceremonies and events in Canada; and
  • conducting pilgrimages to overseas battlefields.

This indicates the high importance placed on remembrance activities by military personnel and the need for the FBP.

Need for Government Involvement

Government involvement is required to provide a dignified burial. Without the program, some Veterans may not receive a dignified burial, as defined in the Veterans Burial Regulations 2005. This is elaborated upon further in Section 5.1.2. In addition, Veterans programming has traditionally been a federal government responsibility, and the Minister of Veterans Affairs has been legislated the authority to provide funeral, burial, and grave marking assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

Practices in Other Countries

Veterans Affairs Canada often researches the practices in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia because they have similar programming for Veterans. All three countries offer a funeral and burial program for Veterans; however, they appear to be less generous because the maximum amount is approximately $2,000. For further details, refer to Appendix C.

5.1.2 Is There a Need for the Funeral and Burial Program?

The following section explores the need for the Funeral and Burial Program.

Overlap With Other Programs

Without this program, Veterans and other eligible clients who died without sufficient means to pay for a burial would be buried at the expense of provincial or municipal programs. Although practices vary among jurisdictions, funerals funded by social services and municipal services typically involve burial in a cloth casket, limited viewing of the body, a burial in the common ground of the cemetery, no grave marker and a maximum amount of approximately $2,500.

In addition to Social Services programs, there is a Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Death Benefit which is paid in the amount of $2,500. "The death benefit is meant to act as a trigger for survivors to inform the government that CPP retirement beneficiaries are no longer living." Clearly, the intent of the CPP Death Benefit and the FBP are different and therefore, there is no overlap with this federal program.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Department of National Defence also offer funeral and burial benefits to their members. These benefits ensure dignified burials are provided to members while they are on active service. The benefits fall under an employee benefit and compensation program and are considered an entitlement for all members of the Regular and Reserve force members who die in service. There is no means testing conducted. The target population is all employees who die while serving and the expectation of a funeral for a member of the CF or RCMP who die in service is different from the intent of the Funeral and Burial Program, which is to provide a dignified burial for those who could not otherwise afford one.

Program Utilization

One indicator of the need for the program is provided by the number of applications received. The LPF categorizes application activity into the following three components:

  • Approved cases, which are cases where the applicant has been approved for funeral and burial assistance.
  • Not approved, which are cases where a formal, signed, submission has been made by the applicant, all documentation has been received, and the applicant has been denied.
  • Withdrawn cases, which are cases where the applicant has not submitted the supporting documentation or estate information and therefore the application cannot proceed.

Over the past few years, there has been misunderstanding in the definition of a withdrawn case and when to enter cases into the database. Initially, a claim is entered into the database and is captured as a pending case. Once the documentation is received, the application is either approved, not approved, or cancelled. The cancelled cases are reported as being "withdrawn". In theory, there should be relatively few withdrawn cases. However, Table 5 shows a dramatic increase in the number of cases withdrawn. Practices varied in branches in terms of when to enter a claim in the database. It was the practice in some offices to open a pending case when an application was mailed to the estate of the deceased. This practice inflated the number of withdrawn cases, as the LPF sends an application to every VAC client who passes away. In some branches, phone inquiries were captured as a withdrawn case, which also inflated the number of cases withdrawn. The extent of this issue was not measured in this evaluation.

On October 1, 2007, a new standard set of procedures were implemented. It is apparent that the branches consider capturing the number of phone inquiries handled and applications mailed to be important. The implementation of a system which monitors telephone calls and applications mailed could complement the application activity and provide a better picture of the workload in branch offices.

The data in Table 5 below indicates a declining trend in number of applications (cases) approved from 2,656 in 2003-04 to 1,800 in 2007-08, while the number of applications not approved appears steady. The number of withdrawn applications has shown a steady increase over the same time period; however, due to the varying practices in branch offices the numbers of cases withdrawn are not reliable. Therefore, for the purposes of analysis, the evaluation team focused on the applications approved and not approved. It is interesting to note that, in the last five years about 70% of applicants who completed an application were denied. The results of the case file review show that 87% of the cases reviewed were denied due to sufficient funds in the estate. This indicates a desire among the public for funeral and burial assistance; however, the program is not reaching this group. Further analysis would be required to identify the needs of applicants who were denied and/or legitimately withdrawn.

Table 5 - Application Activity
Category 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Approved 2,656 2,449 2,212 2,081 1,801
Not Approved 5,266 5,762 5,725 5,675 5,834
Total Approved & Not Approved 7,922 8,211 7,937 7,756 7,635
% Not Approved to total approved and not approved 66% 70% 72% 73% 76%
Withdrawals 2,723 3,129 4,919 5,161 7,258
Total Activity 10,645 11,340 12,856 12,917 14,893

Source Document: Last Post Fund Funeral and Burial Statistics

Table 6 Applications as a Proportion of the Number of Deaths
Estimates 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08
Estimated Veteran population 258,000 234,000 210,000 187,000
Estimated Mortality Numbers 26,000 24,000 24,000 23,000
Cases Approved* 2,449 2,212 2,081 1,801
Proportion of applications approved versus estimated deaths 9.42% 9.22% 8.68% 7.83%
Cases Approved and Not Approved* 8,211 7,937 7,756 7,635
Proportion of applications approved and not approved versus estimated deaths 32% 33% 32% 33%

Source: Statistics Directorate and Last Post Fund Corporation
* Case statistics are reported on a calendar year basis

The above table indicates that a relatively small number of applicants qualified for the grant (9.42% in 2004-05) and the number is declining, perhaps due to inflationary increases in asset values or assets being in excess of the estate exemption. However, the numbers qualifying are still significant in terms of the number of deceased Veterans who otherwise would not have received a dignified burial. Also of interest is approximately 30% of estimated mortality numbers applied for the grant, indicating that there is a desire for funeral and burial assistance.

Unmet Client Needs

The evaluation team conducted a case file review of 39 approved applications made after the funeral and burial. The file review revealed that there were frequently items that were listed as a funeral expense, but were not eligible expenses under the Funeral and Burial Program. Specifically, 77% of applicants claimed obituaries as an expense (average amount $318); 46% claimed an honourarium for clergy (average amount $225); and 44% claimed amounts for flowers (average amount $240). Interviews with LPF and Funeral Directors supported these findings; that is, in the view of applicants, obituaries, clergy, and flowers are often items associated with a dignified burial.

LPF staff note that sometimes families need someone to walk them through the process, as they have no idea what steps to take upon the death of a loved one. In large measure this could be due to the high average age of the surviving Veterans and their spouses, which was around 83 (in 2007). Unless younger members of the family are able to help with the funeral arrangements, the grieving surviving spouse may not have the functional capability to make the arrangements for a dignified burial. LPF Branch offices have been providing assistance by making contact with the funeral homes and arranging for the funerals.

5.1.3 Is the Program Reaching its Target Population?

The target population comprises those without sufficient funds in their estates to provide a funeral, those who are due assistance as a matter-of-right, and those who are homeless or abandoned.

Target Population is Rapidly Diminishing in Size

Statistical estimates indicate that the target population had an average age of 83 years in 2007.

An estimate of Veterans mortality rate is provided in Chart 2 below.

Chart 2 - Forecast Deaths
An estimate of Veterans mortality rate.  Details in text following the image.
Chart 2 - Textual version
Chart 2 - Forecasted Deaths
Fiscal Year Estimated deaths
2004/05 25,100
2005/06 24,500
2006/07 24,500
2007/08 22,000
2008/09 21,300
2009/10 20,500
2010/11 19,300

Source: VAC Statistics Directorate

The LPF has been advocating extending eligibility of the FBP to Modern Day Veterans on the same basis as War Service VeteransFootnote 5. In addition, the Royal Canadian Legion Statement on the New Veterans Charter states that "The Legion also believes that the current Funeral and Burial benefits administered by the LPF are inadequate. Access to these benefits should be enhanced." This idea is further supported by the Veterans Affairs Canada and CF Advisory Committee, who recommended that equitable access to funeral and burial benefits in regards to CF Veterans be a priority for the Department.

CF Veterans who are in receipt of a Disability Pension, Disability Award, Earnings Loss Benefit or Canadian Forces Income Supplement are eligible to apply for the grant. The LPF stated during interviews that the program is missing a large portion of potentially needy CF Veterans. They indicated that the post-Korean War Veterans' pensions drawn prior to mid-1970 were meager. In addition, some CF Veterans may not have served long enough to receive an adequate retirement pension. Indeed VAC has recognized, through its programming, the challenges CF clients face when integrating into civilian life, including difficulty maintaining employment and an inadequate post-service income.

Program Awareness

The Client Satisfaction Survey of the Funeral and Burial ProgramFootnote 6, conducted in March 2008, assessed client satisfaction with program delivery and provided some indication of how potential clients became aware of the program. The evidence from this survey indicates that few persons access the websites of either VAC or the LPF to learn about the FBP. The primary method of learning about the FBP is through Veterans' organizations (33%), friend or family member (25%) or a funeral home or association (18%). A limited number learn about the program from the following methods:

  • A condolence letter (6%).
  • LPF contacted the client directly (2%).
  • The VAC or LPF website (1%).
  • Hospital/nursing home/ social worker (1%).

Interestingly, the way in which a person first finds out about the FBP is largely dependent on the province they reside in and the LPF office they deal with. For example:

  • Clients of the British Columbia office are more likely to find out about the program through a condolence letter than clients in other provinces.
  • Clients of the Manitoba office are more likely to be contacted directly by the LPF.
  • Quebec clients are more likely to find out about the program from a friend or family member.
  • Clients of the New Brunswick and Alberta offices are more likely to find out about the program from a funeral home or association.
  • Those who deal with the Saskatchewan and Quebec offices are more likely to find out about the program through a Veteran's organization.

The FBP is not an easy program to promote to the target population; mainly due to the sensitive nature of the services and benefits provided. Some LPF Branches have promoted the program to intermediaries such as the Service Directors at branches of the Royal Canadian Legion, funeral directors and others. Based on interviews with funeral industry representatives, the level of awareness and understanding of the program of these service providers is limited. Information obtained during interviews with LPF and program managers indicates that the eligibility criteria of the program may not be known to all surviving Veterans and/or their families. Some feel the program is for helping the poor, while others believe the program is available to all Veterans regardless of their financial situation. Program awareness should be targeted to groups who are in contact with the next-of-kin; for example, retirement homes, senior citizens homes and community service agencies. In addition, with the majority of potential clients becoming aware of the program through outside groups, it is important that these groups are properly informed about the program and how to apply.

An explanation is provided below to further outline whether the program is reaching out to different categories of clients.

Matter-of-Right Cases

Matter-of-right cases are cases where the grant is paid to the estate of a deceased Veteran whose death is attributable to a pensioned condition (Pension Act) or a person who dies as a result of a service related injury/disease or a non service related injury/disease that was aggravated by service ((New Veterans Charter(). Consequently, they are established clients of VAC. When the Department learns of a client's death, a condolence letter is sent from the District Office to the next-of-kin. The practice of sending condolence letters varies across the District Offices and letters may or may not include information on LPF Services.

LPF Branches make application to the Department to adjudicate on matter-of-right cases. It is the practice in some LPF Branches to screen the applications based on the percentage of disability pension or the nature of the pensioned condition. In other words, when the LPF learns of a VAC client's death, they refer to CSDN to determine the pensioned condition and the amount of the pension. If a client is pensioned for a minor condition, one from which they could not have died, no application is made to the VAC District Office. Although this practice seems reasonable, the LPF does not have all the necessary information to make a determination because matter-of-right also applies in other cases; for example, if the deceased was in the process of applying for a disability pension, or if they were receiving treatment for the pensioned condition, or if they were on a period of acute care.

Means Test Cases

The Means Test is consistent with the intent of the program which is to provide assistance to those who would not otherwise receive a dignified burial. Financial eligibility is based on an assessment of financial resources at the time of death. The assessment depends on the marital status of the deceased and whether there are dependent children.

The following assets in the deceased's estate are not included in the calculation of financial status:

  • Assets to a value of $12,015 if there is a surviving spouse.
  • Assets to a value of $700 for each dependent child (as defined under the Legislation).
  • The family home (including normal household furnishings) and the family automobile.
  • Regular income cheques (payments under: Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, War Veterans Allowance, or disability pension payments) issued to the deceased for the month of death.

The LPF classifies the means tested applications into two types: Type I, those applications made prior to the burial and Type II, those applications made after the burial.

In Type I cases, the applicant provides the LPF with financial information about the estate of the deceased. This information is usually gathered over the phone. If it appears that there may be an insufficiency of funds in the estate, the applicant is approved for Type I service. This involves the applicant and the LPF entering into an agreement whereby the LPF undertakes all arrangements in regards to the funeral. The funeral home is reimbursed for the funeral costs up to the maximum amount set out in the Veterans Burial Regulations 2005 and in accordance with specifications set out in the Last Post Fund Management and Operations Manual (LPFMOM). The information on the eligibility of the deceased as well as financial information on the estate is verified after the burial. This can result in an overpayment situation and the LPF must attempt to recover the overpayment from the estate or the applicant.

In a Type II case, an applicant contacts the LPF after the burial. An estate test is conducted based on self-declaration of assets and verification of debts. The estate test determines if there is insufficient funds in the estate and the amount of the insufficiency. Secondly, the Veterans Burial Regulations 2005 outline the maximum amount payable for reimbursement of funeral and burial costs. The payment issued to the applicant is the lesser of the amount of the insufficiency and the maximum funeral and burial costs.

Upon the death of a Veteran, widows live with reduced household income, while their shelter costs remain the same. The intent of the estate exemption is to provide a cushion from the financial impact of the loss of someone who, in many families of the War Service Veteran generation, was the primary income earner.

In 1995, the estate exemption was decreased from $24,030 to $12,015. This was done in an effort to return the program to its original intent; in other words, to provide burials for those who could not afford them. At that time, the revised estate exemption of $12,015 was close to the Low Income MeasureFootnote 7 (of a single person before tax) of $12,178. However, the estate exemption has not increased since 1995. If adjustments had been made for inflationary pressure, the exemption would presently be $15,515. This represents an increase of 29% over the past thirteen years. An increase would have had an impact on those who were denied because the estate was over $12,015. In addition, those who did qualify would have received a greater insufficiency, thus receiving a larger grant. Data provided by the LPF indicate that, in 2006, 91 cases would have qualified, had the estate exemption been increased to $15,000. This represents an increase in approved cases of 5%. An additional 140 cases would have qualified for a larger grant amount. Forecasts from VAC's Statistics Directorate predict that this trend would continue annually.

The AED Evaluation Team visited four LPF offices and observed that the process for determining eligibility is lengthy, primarily due to the need to verify military service and debts to the estate. This observation was supported by interviews with LPF staff. It can take several months to determine the value of the estate leading to the observation that other options for determining eligibility need to be explored to expedite the process; for example, linking eligibility to the Guaranteed Income Supplement. However, the Client Satisfaction Survey conducted by VAC indicates that applicants are satisfied with the process, even if it may be a lengthy one.

5.1.4 Summary Conclusions and Recommendations (Relevance)

The program meets the desires of Canadians to honour the sacrifices of Veterans and the program is aligned with government priorities. There is a need for providing funeral and burial benefits to those who die without sufficient means to provide one. In the absence of the program, eligible Veterans would be buried at the expense of provincial and/or municipal programs. These programs generally do not provide a grave marker and burial is in common ground of the cemetery. This does not ensure a dignified burial nor does it ensure the sacrifices of the Veteran are memorialized and recognized by Canadians.

Other than provincial and municipal social services, there are three federal government programs which offer benefits upon death. Human Resources and Social Development Canada offer the CPP Death Benefit and RCMP and DND offer funeral and burial benefits to members who die in service. There is no overlap among these three programs.

The program has extended eligibility to certain Modern Day Veterans; however, the new eligibility is expected to reach a small percentage of the total Modern Day Veterans. There is a desire among certain Veterans Organizations to extend eligibility to Modern Day Veterans on the same basis as War Service Veterans, and there is indication that there may be Modern Day Veterans in need of the program.

The method by which applicants become aware of the FBP varies among provinces. The most common method is from Veterans Organizations and family members. The Department must ensure that the Veterans Organizations are disseminating the proper information to applicants. In addition, there are other areas that should be targeted to ensure that the program reaches all intended recipients, such as employees of long-term care facilities who would be in a good position to inform next-of-kin.

R1 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, consider the impacts and merits of expanding eligibility to CF Veterans on the same basis as War Service Veterans.


R1 Management Response

Management agrees with the recommendation. The proposal will be analysed and costed and will be presented to the Minister for consideration.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Canada Remembers will prepare a Treasury Board Submission for the consideration of the Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada. Director General, Canada Remembers Division December 2009

R2 It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, take steps to ensure awareness of the program is enhanced.


R2 Management Response

Management agrees with this recommendation. Canada Remembers is working with the Communications Division and the Last Post Fund to enhance awareness of the Funeral and Burial Program. In the 2009-2010 budget for the Last Post Fund, Canada Remembers has approved a request to establish a Communications/Public Relations position to further promote the Funeral and Burial Program. A joint committee of representatives from Canada Remembers, Communication Division and the Last Post Fund will be established to further enhance program awareness.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Provide funding for Communication/Public Relations position. Director General, Canada Remembers Division April 2009
Create a joint communication committee with participation of Last Post Fund, Canada Remembers and Communication Division. Director General, Canada Remembers Division April 2009
Create and implement a Funeral and Burial Communication Plan. Director General, Canada Remembers Division, Director General Communications Division and Last Post Fund's Executive Director August 2009

5.2 Success

5.2.1 Has the Program Achieved its Targeted Outcomes?

Targeted outcomes, such as expected turnaround times, service standards, client satisfaction levels, and processing targets, have not been defined.

Dignified Burials are provided to Eligible Clients

The objective of the FBP is, "to provide financial assistance to ensure eligible persons receive a dignified funeral and burial".

In order to determine if the program is meeting its objective, it is necessary to define a dignified funeral and burial. The components for funeral and burial assistance, as outlined in the VBRs, include the following:

  • a casket made of solid wood or wood veneer with a swelled or tiered top, a satin or high gloss exterior finish, an eggshell satin lining and extension bar handles;
  • a cremation urn;
  • preparation of the body for viewing;
  • a viewing of the body for two days;
  • a Canadian flag to cover the casket while it is on public view;
  • appropriate clothing;
  • clergy services;
  • a grave marker;
  • a plot in a cemetery;
  • perpetual care of grave.

The items listed above provide the Department's de facto definition of a dignified burial, as these are the specific items which will either be provided (Type I) or reimbursed (Type II). Funeral industry experts agreed that the items listed above constitute a dignified burial, but there are other definitions of a dignified burial. According to funeral industry representatives, the dignity is not in the components of the funeral, but rather the manner in which the family wishes to memorialize their loved one. One funeral industry representative stated that "funerals are about a community's care, compassion, respect and most importantly spiritual beliefs. A funeral allows the family to face the reality of death and provides a climate to mourn, share sorrows and celebrate the achievements of loved ones in a dignified manner."

Society's views on funerals are changing. For example, the funeral directors interviewed noted that some families choose not to have a religious service for the deceased. Many families place more emphasis on the luncheon than the visitation. Often, families employ a funeral celebrant, who helps plan the celebration of the person's life. There is also a trend toward "green funerals" which may include a shroud, biodegradable caskets, and environmentally friendly embalming fluids.

Although the definition of a dignified funeral is based on individual beliefs, the consensus among key informants interviewed was that a dignified funeral for a Veteran should be more elaborate than a social services funeral. There should be a grave marker and perpetual care of the grave in order to ensure that the grave site is maintained and thus the memory of the sacrifices of the Veteran would be recognized for generations to come.

Certain items in the FBP are reimbursed at cost, such as cost of cremation and perpetual care. Other items, such as Funeral Director Services and caskets, have maximum allowable limits. The limits have not increased since 2001. Although the FBP is successful in providing financial assistance, the rates at which the Department reimburses either the funeral directors (Type I) or the applicants (Type II) are not keeping pace with inflationary changes. VAC reimburses $3,600 for the services of a Funeral Director and a casket. A recent survey provided to the Department from the Funeral Services Association of Canada indicated that the average retail cost of the funeral director service fee and a casket is $5,892. This is supported by statistics in the LPF database, where the average retail costs for the same services claimed in approved Type II cases was $5,337.

Client Satisfaction Survey

The VAC Client Satisfaction Survey of the FBP indicated that clients of the LPF are satisfied (73%) with the interaction they had with LPF staff. Not surprisingly, those who were approved for funding are more satisfied (96%) than those who were not approved (63%).

From a client's perspective, VAC could attempt to meet their needs by improving financial assistance (26%) or modifying eligibility criteria (21%).

In general, the survey shows that satisfaction is high, though improvements could be made in the following areas:

  • improvements to application forms and written communications;
  • improved explanation of benefits by staff and the ability to answer questions;
  • better understanding of client's needs.

No improvements are necessary with respect to interpersonal skills of staff as clients are consistently satisfied in relation to respect, courtesy, privacy and sensitivity.

Achievement of Performance Goals

VAC Program and LPF managers measure overall program success by monitoring appeals, pending cases, approved cases, denied cases, withdrawn cases, and program dollars. There are standardized reports which are available to all branch managers and enable them to manage and monitor the workload. The LPF provides VAC with regular financial and workload statistics. In addition, as mentioned in the previous section, VAC commissioned a client satisfaction survey of program delivery by LPF.

There are several other indicators of performance that would help optimize program delivery which are not being gathered and/or analyzed. These include the following:

  • costs of administering the program on a per grant basis;
  • processing times for applications for matter-of-right cases;
  • processing times for applications for means test cases;
  • awareness levels of service providers;
  • percentage of cases which are not considered to be dignified;
  • reasons for withdrawn cases;
  • ongoing analysis of cases adjudicated to determine average grant size and trends.

5.2.2 Are roles, responsibilities, and accountability structures clear?

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities for matter-of-right cases are not clearly defined. LPF staff and VAC representatives indicated that they are sometimes unsure of their role. This uncertainty leads to varying procedures for matter-of-right cases. The evaluation team observed varying practices in the branches for delivery of matter-of-right cases. In addition, there are more matter-of-right cases, proportionately, in New Brunswick, where the District Offices and the LPF Branch have come to a mutual agreement on roles and responsibilities.

Chapter 10 of the Program Policy Manual, section 10.3.1 points out that VAC is responsible for adjudication of matter-of-right cases, and further that a detailed business process for the review of matter-of-right cases was being developed by VAC. While VAC Program managers have developed draft procedures for matter-of-right cases which would lead to uniform practices across the country, they have not been promulgated.

When considering the roles and responsibilities for matter-of-right, program management should consider the level of effort required on VAC's part, the information required by the LPF in order to process the payment and the streamlining of the process.

Program Management

VAC has been attempting to have benefits expanded and the amounts increased to become consistent with inflationary increases in funeral and burial costs. Since the rates and allowable items are embedded in the VBRs, the Department must follow formal procedures to obtain approval of rate changes, including Treasury Board Submissions and Memoranda to Cabinet. To date, the attempts by VAC have been unsuccessful. VAC and LPF staff are of the opinion, that the regulatory process is too complex and cumbersome. To improve the situation, the VBR should include a COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) clause that would allow the rates to change in a timely fashion and avoid an overly burdensome process.

LPF staff were critical of the Canada Remembers Program and Policy Manual. The manual is devoted to explaining and elaborating on VBR procedures but the manual is considered out-of-date with updates and amendments being slow to appear. The policy manual would normally be expected to elaborate on the working relationship with LPF, expectations from a results-based perspective of the collaboration between the two organizations, mechanisms for dispute resolution, responsibilities and accountabilities of the two entities and related matters.

Paragraph 5.4 of the MOA states "the Minister and the Corporation will agree from time to time on service standards for processing applications." However, these standards are not included in the Program and Policy Manual and were not available for this evaluation.

Appropriateness of Accountability Structure

Accountability is about demonstrating achievements and stewardship. This is dependent on effective relationships between the LPF and VAC for assigning authority and resources. Although a results-based management accountability framework was prepared, it was not of sufficient detail. The program would benefit from a clearer framework for the management of the partnership. The framework should be included in the Policy and Program Manual and should spell out the systems in place to monitor the partnership, assign responsibility, and measure and report results. Although management audits, financial reports and workload reports are provided to VAC, a more comprehensive reporting strategy which sets goals and objectives would add an important aspect to the partnership.

5.2.3 Are there any unintended outcomes?

Lack of rate increases will bring VAC on par with provincial and municipal programs

Funeral homes are reimbursed at various rates from provincial social services and municipalities that offer funeral and burial benefits to those who die in need. The amounts and allowable items vary among jurisdictions, but generally funeral directors are not required to provide the same level of service for a social services ceremony as they are for the Funeral and Burial Program. For example, the casket is of lower value, the viewing is for fewer days, vehicles for mourners and pallbearers are not the norm and the requirements for the preparation of the body are different. Although funeral homes are reimbursed a lower amount for social services than the Funeral and Burial Program, the requirements are less. In addition, in some provinces, funeral homes are reimbursed for certain items at cost rather than a maximum rate. When the maximum rate is below cost, then the items reimbursed by the FBP are less than social services. With the large variation in funeral costs across the country, the Department may wish to explore any cost savings in reimbursing more items at cost, rather than a maximum amount, or have maximum rates set by province.

Variations in Adjudicated Cases

The Branches appear to have latitude in how they operate. This is admirable as it allows the branch managers flexibility in running their Branches; however, certain aspects need to be standardized. Specifically, criteria are needed to determine when to accept Type I applications. The LPFMOM gives the Branch Managers latitude in determining when to accept a Type I application. In addition, the evaluation team observed variation among branches for Type I services. This is further supported by the proportion of Type I cases being approved in each branch. For further details, please refer to Appendix D, Table 1.

When determining the criteria for Type I services, there are factors to consider. From a financial perspective, Type I services lead to greater administrative work and over-payments which may not be completely recovered. On the other hand, any benefits Type I Service has on the survivors of the deceased could be explored further when determining the criteria for Type I. The criteria should be developed after consideration of all costs and benefits of Type I service.

LPF Client Service

The LPF has contacts with Veterans Organization and the Funeral Services Industry and have built up a network of expertise. Partnerships have been made with grave marking companies, local cemeteries, etc. Staff members interviewed from the National Office and the Branches visited were observed to be friendly, courteous and dedicated. One Branch's philosophy is to treat the clients like they are a grandparent.

Dependencies created with the LPF

The Federal Government has been providing funding to the LPF 1922 when Order in Council P.C. 1581 passed. With such a long standing partnership, it is difficult to enact changes in program delivery. The LPF has been in existence since 1909 and the FBP makes up a substantial amount of the LPF's activity. If the Department were to discontinue the partnership, the Corporation would experience a significant loss of funding and activity.

Means test leads to differing service

Upon a person's death, any assets owned jointly become the property of the surviving owner. The means test does not include any joint assets or the resources of the surviving spouse. Eligible clients who die with their assets co-owned are more likely to receive the Funeral and Burial grant. For example, a single War Service Veteran who dies with a home in his own name will not qualify for the grant; however, if that Veteran were to change the ownership prior to death, then the house would not be assessed and the Veteran would qualify for the grant (depending on the value of any other assets in the Veteran's estate).

5.2.4 Summary Conclusions and Recommendations (Success)

The concept of a dignified burial is changing and certain funeral items that were once considered essential are no longer prevalent. The trend in funerals is moving away from religious services and towards celebration of the deceased's life, rather than a mourning of their death. The Regulations stipulate what is allowable for a funeral expense.

The allowable amounts for the estate exemption and allowable funeral items have not kept up with inflationary changes. The estate exemption of $12,015 has not changed in the past thirteen years. In addition, the maximum allowable rates have not changed since 2001. Since the Minister does not set the rates, and no cost of living adjustment is present in the Regulations, the Department has experienced lengthy delays in enacting changes. This has led to the program not keeping up with reimbursement amounts for certain items by social services in some provinces, such as Alberta and Ontario where funeral directors are reimbursed more reasonably from social services relative to certain services they are required to provide.

Program management would benefit from access to detailed performance information and should set defined targeted outcomes. Outcomes, such as expected turnaround times, service standards, acceptable client satisfaction levels and processing targets would ensure accountability for both the LPF and program management. Prior to obtaining this information, VAC must address the issue of inconsistency in the data provided by the LPF.

The roles and responsibilities for matter-of-right cases are not clear. There are varying processes within VAC District Offices and Head Office. Although the LPF Management Operations Manual outlines the process for LPF Staff to follow, the LPF branches have varying processes in place for identifying matter-of-right cases and applications are sometimes screened based on incomplete data.

Type I services result in recoveries of over-payments when applicants are approved, based on a telephone conversation, and after the formal means test it is determined that they are in an overpayment situation. There are no standard criteria developed to define in which specific instances a Type I service should be approved. Type I should be limited to specific situations so as to avoid unnecessary administrative work and overpayment situations.

R3It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, obtain Treasury Board Approval to amend the Veterans Burial Regulations to include the following:

  • more flexibility in the compensation for certain items considered appropriate for a dignified burial;
  • appropriate consideration of the cost of funerals and the cost of living in relation to the grant amount and estate exemption amounts. This could include the provision of a Cost of Living Allowance clause.
R3 Management Response

Management agrees with the above recommendations. Canada Remembers will continue to seek Treasury Board approval to amend the Veterans Burial Regulations to allow more flexibility on items considered appropriate for a dignified burial; to appropriately consider the cost of funerals; and to include a provision of a Cost of Living Allowance clause.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Prepare a Treasury Board Submission for the consideration of the Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada. The submission would include increases to eligible expenses; increases to estate exemption; and, to allow more flexibility in funeral expenses. . Director General, Canada Remembers Division December 2009

R4It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, ensure that effective performance targets are put in place to measure results. This will allow for systemic monitoring and reporting in order to ensure targeted outcomes are achieved.


R4 Management Response

Management agrees with this recommendation to establish effective performance measurement tools. Canada Remembers is currently working to establish service standards for the Funeral and Burial Program.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Create a committee with Last Post Fund and Canada Remembers on service standards. Director General, Canada Remembers Division February 2009
Develop and implement service standards for the Funeral and Burial Program. Director General, Canada Remembers Division August 2009

R5It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, in consultation with the Director General, National Operations Division, develop clear roles, responsibilities, policy and procedures for the identification, screening, adjudication, and processing of matter-of-right cases. Consideration should be given to a more centralized approach within VAC.


R5 Management Response

Management agrees with this recommendation. Canada Remembers and National Operations Division are working together to develop a revised business process for matter-of-right cases.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Develop and implement a revised business process for matter-of-right cases. Director General, National Operations Division and Director General, Canada Remembers Division June 2009

R6It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, update the Veterans Program Policy Manual, Volume 5: Funeral and Burial Assistance, to include a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of VAC and the LPF, an accountability framework, expected results, and the requirement for the LPF to provide performance reports with explanations for variances.


R6 Management Response

Management agrees with this recommendation.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Canada Remembers Policy, Planning and Regional Delivery and Funeral and Burial Program will update the Veterans Program Policy Manual, Volume 5: Funeral and Burial Assistance. Director General, Canada Remembers Division December 2009

R7It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, develop criteria to ensure clarity and consistency of approval of Type I services.


R7 Management Response

Management agrees with this recommendation. Canada Remembers and the Last Post Fund are monitoring the approval of Type 1 services. The Executive Director of the Last Post Fund is working with Branch managers to ensure consistency in approving Type 1 services. Canada Remembers is working with the Last Post Fund by participating on its Strategic Planning Committee which will review all aspect of its operations.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Ensure that quarterly reports on Type 1 services and recovery payments are part of the next Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Department and the Last Post Fund Corporation. Director General, Canada Remembers Division and Executive Director of the Last Post Fund June 2009
Ensure that clear and concise criteria for Type 1 cases are part of the Last Post Fund's Strategic Review Committee's final report. Director General, Canada Remembers Division and Executive Director of the Last Post Fund June 2009
Monitor the results of the Type 1 cases and make the appropriate adjustments. Director General, Canada Remembers Division June 2009

5.3 Economy, Efficiency & Cost-Effectiveness

5.3.1 Are the input costs of the Program appropriate?

The two components of input costs are program costs and administrative costs.

Program Costs

The table below itemizes the costs paid to the recipients and/or to the funeral and burial service providers.

Table 7 - Program Costs
Disbursements 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Burials $1,497,557 $1,402,808 $1,212,048 $1,190,085 $1,296,822 $1,132,274
Grave Markers $513,788 $599,719 $532,956 $576,523 $526,343 $480,104
Transportation $61,114 $51,908 $41,391 $35,817 $37,975 $35,438
Funeral Director Services $8,132,780 $7,423,670 $6,694,344 $6,176,138 $6,321,480 $5,571,874
Cremation $673,900 $648,662 $595,323 $611,419 $668,999 $640,611
Last Illness $10,605 $11,108 $8,482 $8,271 $8,452 $6,976
Total Program Costs $10,889,744 $10,137,875 $9,084,544 $8,598,253 $8,860,071 $7,867,277
Average program cost per Approved Case n/a $3,817 $3,709 $3,887 $4,258 $4,368

Source: Consolidated Auditor's Reports of the Last Post Fund Corporation

Program costs include all monies paid out for approved cases to applicants to cover the categories of expenses listed in Table 7. It is unlikely that savings can be had in this area.

The cost forecasts indicate the amount expended per year will remain between $8 million and $9 million up to 2010-11.

With the exception of 2004, the average program cost per approved application is increasing steadily. This is due to the increase in costs for items reimbursed at cost; such as burial, grave markers and cremation. The costs for funeral director fees have remained steady due to the set maximum amount of $3,600.

Administration Costs
> Table 8 - Administration Costs Adjusted for CPI
Program 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
LPF Admin Cost $2,444,469 $2,671,593 $2,755,431 $2,919,112 $2,944,407 $2,702,319
Cases Approved 2,916 2,656 2,449 2,212 2,081 1,801
Total Cases (Accepted + Not Accepted) 7,821 7,922 8,211 7,937 7,756 7,635
CPI 2.20 2.80 1.80 2.20 2.00 2.20
Cumulative CPI* 1.00 1.07 1.07 1.12 1.10 0.99
Admin Cost Adj for CPI $2,444,469 $2,498,247 $2,568,198 $2,614,426 $2,671,943 $2,725,382
Admin Cost/Accepted Case $838 $1,006 $1,125 $1,234 $1,320 $1,415
Admin Cost CPI Adj/ Accepted + Not Accepted Cases $313 $315 $313 $329 $345 $357

Source: *Cumulative CPI (CPIC) is widely used to forecast costs at completion. CPIC equals the sum of the periodic earned values (EVC) divided by the sum of the individual actual costs (ACC).
Formula: CPIC = EVC/ACC

Table 8 indicates a steadily rising administration cost per approved case from $838 per case to $1,415 per case, a 40% increase. When determining eligibility, the LPF Branches also turn down some applications for the grant, and the rejected cases require that counselors spend time reviewing the information provided. In most cases this requires as much effort as the Type II approved cases. The only difference is that for accepted cases, the counsellor has to complete a request for payment, but the information collected for the means test calculation is the same whether the case is approved or not. When the total number of cases, that is both accepted and not accepted, is considered, the total cost per case increases from $313 in 2002 to $357 in 2007, representing a 12% increase. Therefore, it is important to note that all adjudicated cases should be taken into account when determining the cost on an individual grant basis.

There are other activities conducted by the LPF which need to be considered, such as, responding to telephone inquiries and mailing applications. Responding to these inquiries takes away time from other duties and should be considered in the productivity calculations.

Target Population is Diminishing in Size

As stated in section 5.1.3 of the report, the target clientele of the FBP is expected to decline sharply over the next 15 to 20 years. It would be expected that the total costs to approve the grants would decline as the total number of applications declines. To achieve this scenario, the present administrative arrangement needs to be examined to identify possible improvements.

5.3.2 Are There Areas for Improvement?

Data Issues

A number of data issues arose during this evaluation and these are highlighted here. The cost information contained in the LPF audit reports were calendar year costs, whereas the costs provided by VAC were on a fiscal year basis. The LPF costs were available on a consolidated basis for all LPF Branches and were considered accurate as they had been confirmed in the auditing process. The cost information provided by VAC at different times and from other sources within VAC did not always agree, and reconciliation was necessary.

The numbers of accepted and not accepted cases provided in different reports and at different times during the study did not agree. Also the reasons for cases being withdrawn are not known and this creates some confusion between the not accepted and the withdrawn cases. The tracking and reporting system needs to be improved.

The information on accepted and not accepted cases was available on a fiscal year basis, while the reports from the LPF, which are on a calendar year basis, were considered the most accurate.

Program management and LPF were asked to provide consistent data sets for the cost-effectiveness calculations. However, in most cases, the absolute values are of less interest than the trends revealed by the data, and the choice of data used in the final calculations was guided by the Audit and Evaluation Division of VAC.

5.3.3 Are the program costs of achieving dignified burials optimized?

Analysis of Major Cost Component

This section examines the administrative costs for delivering the program and the options available for limiting the foreseeable cost increases.

Salaries and benefits constitute the largest component of the total expenses at 75% of the total administrative costs. Decreases in input costs in this area are difficult to foresee without a reduction in the numbers of staff employed. Each Branch employs one or more managers and one or more counsellors, with the details provided in Appendix D, Table 1.

Travel and meetings consume 5% of the administrative budget, however, face-to-face communications ensure consistent practices are maintained and issues and problems that arise are dealt with in an expeditious manner. Little reduction in costs can be foreseen in this category, without a change to the business model. No specific trends in travel costs were uncovered and reductions can only result from reducing the number of meetings held and/or the number of participants.

Facilities and services consume 15% of the budget and are generally of a fixed nature, often prescribed in written legal agreements. It is unlikely that reduction in costs can be effected in this area, again without a change in the business model.

5.3.4 Can expected outcomes be achieved in a more efficient manner?

In this section a number of options are examined with a view to reducing the costs of administration.

Policies, procedures and standard form letters

Standard form letters are used in all Branches and are available in both official languages. This is important as the FBP survey reveals that LPF clients believe that the clarity and ease of understanding forms is most important (61%), followed by the language in which they are served and the way in which their questions are answered (both 59%).

Delays in Determining Eligibility

LPF staff need information on the next-of-kin of the deceased Veteran and other details to determine eligibility of the Veteran and to know who to contact to advise them of the availability of the grant. VAC possesses some information for those Veterans who, when alive, contacted VAC for benefits and became its clients, but lacks information for those Veterans who have never contacted VAC.

VAC maintains the client database (CSDN) to which the LPF staff have limited access. LPF counselors indicated that VAC does not always provide complete information regarding next-of-kin and military service. This information is often contained in the CSDN database, but counselors do not have access to the areas of CSDN that have this information.

In those cases where Veterans' information is not available from CSDN, or is not provided, LPF staff contact National Archives for information regarding service eligibility. They also contact them for the rank and unit number for grave marking purposes. Often the response from National Archives can take several months, which can delay the adjudication of the case and the marking of the grave.

Appropriateness, measurability and consistency of service standards

The existence of service standards for the time taken to process applications was not seen during the data collection.

5.3.4.1 Options for Alternative Service Delivery

In an effort to analyse alternatives for service delivery, and ultimately to reduce administrative costs, the following options were explored:

Option 1:
Consolidating and reducing the number of LPF Branches
Option 2:
VAC Delivery of the Funeral and Burial Program

It should be stated that these options are analysed based on an expenditure basis. Certain qualitative benefits of having the LPF deliver the program cannot, and therefore, have not been quantified.

Option 1: Consolidating and reducing the number of LPF Branches

As indicated in section 5.3.3, substantial cost savings can be achieved only if staff reductions are considered, which would require a consolidation of the number of LPF Branch offices. Calculations were carried out to determine the potential savings to be had by consolidating the existing LPF Branches and delivering the FBP from a single location as in a call centre operation.

The LPF Branches were established in the 1920s at a time when it was customary to have an office close enough to the target population. With the advent of competitive long distance phone rates, internet and email, the situation has changed. The evaluators were told during site visits that applicants rarely visit a Branch office to fill in an application. The great majority of the enquiries and applications are received over the telephone. Therefore, it is irrelevant where the call centre operation is located as long as the hours of operation are convenient and service is available in the language of choice. In the face of declining target population, the present Branch Office arrangement is not tenable if the administrative costs are to remain proportional to the number of applications received. Without a change to the Branch Office structure, little reduction in administrative costs can be foreseen.

To ensure knowledgeable staff is available to respond to callers and deliver the program, a sufficient number of counselors are needed to be available throughout the year at each location. At present the LPF staff delivering this program is thinly spread across the country as shown in Appendix D, Table 2. Three branches have only one full-time counsellor and one branch manager. These branches must experience difficulties in providing service when staff is on sick leave or yearly vacations.

With the current branch system approximately twenty counselors are employed across the country. The Ontario Branch was used as a benchmark in assessing the number of counselors that are required if all Branches are consolidated into one. The average number of cases processed by each counsellor at the Ontario Branch was used to calculate the number of counselors required for all cases received in the year. An allowance of fifteen counsellors, which included a contingency for unforeseen workload demands, was used in the calculations. It was also assumed that one manager with two assistant managers would be sufficient to manage the operation. The specialized expertise of programmers and professional accounting staff would continue to be provided by the National Office. Average salary levels were used for the different classes of employees and average costs were used in calculating costs of facilities and equipment. A suitable single location for both the National LPF Office and the Branch office would be desirable and could lead to even greater efficiencies. The estimate does not include costs of transitioning to a one Branch system.

If a call centre mode of operation had been adopted, the savings for the 2006 year would be approximately $850,000. This level of savings would continue annually into the future.

Many benefits can be foreseen if the operations are consolidated in this way:

  • Longer opening hours from 7:00 am in Newfoundland to 7:00 pm in British Columbia on a two shift basis, possibility of 24 hour coverage if situation warrant.
  • Availability of full time, knowledgeable staff at all times.
  • Potential to specialize, some counselors could specialize in matter-of-right cases, as these require close liaison with VAC and/or liaise with the National Archives for service related information.
  • Consistent treatment of all cases across the country.
  • Staff with knowledge of both official languages and capable of responding in either official language.
  • A gradual reduction in Branch Office staff as the number of applications declines.
  • Use of client relationship management software to improve operations and reduce costs, while providing a standardized, streamlined, uniform service for consumers.
  • Consistent training for all staff.
  • Any changes to rules and/or procedures for matter-of-right cases or other situations could be easily communicated to all counsellors.
  • Easier monitoring of service quality.

There are disadvantages to the one branch system, including the impact on local relationships with funeral directors, cemeteries and Veterans organizations.

Option 2: VAC Delivery of the Funeral and Burial Program

In this section, above considerations are taken one step further to understand the administration costs involved if the FBP were to be delivered in-house by VAC. The advantage of having VAC employees administer the program is that they have access to the CSDN database, could identify the next-of-kin and if necessary source this information from the National Archives.

As mentioned in Section 5.3.3, salaries are the major cost driver for administrative costs. The evaluators estimated the salary dollars for LPF delivery versus VAC delivery of the call center approach proposed in Option 1. The estimate used the classification structure of similar sections in VAC to determine the classification levels of the positions. To simplify the calculations, the maximum salary levels for both LPF and VAC positions was used. It was assumed that the single call centre would not result in the reclassification of positions in the LPF. This option did not result in any salary cost savings for the Department. There may be economies of scale in terms of office space rental, office supplies and equipment, particularly if the call center were to be co-located with an already established VAC office. However, since salaries are the major driver, no significant savings would result from this option.

Details of the estimates for option 1 and option 2 can be found in Appendix D, Tables 3 and 4.

5.3.5 Summary Conclusions and Recommendations (Cost-Effectiveness)

The LPF has an automated computer system for entering case data and requesting payments. This ensures that all the pertinent information is entered and the calculations are accurately done by the computer. There are several reports available to LPF managers; however, the evaluation team had difficulty obtaining a consistent set of data on cost and case information.

Staff costs are the predominant source of administrative costs and are increasing. Without a change in the current business model, little savings can be gained in administrative costs. Options to reduce staff would require a rationale for having branch offices located in all provinces, particularly when most enquiries are handled over the telephone. Cost savings could be realized by consolidating branch offices and using a call centre approachFootnote 8.

R8It is recommended that the Director General, Canada Remembers Division, encourage the LPF to review the branch structure of LPF with a view to providing greater efficiency and reduction in administrative costs. A call centre approach should be considered to provide more consistent service across the country and to ensure costs on a per case basis are controlled and stable.

R8 Management Response

Management agrees with the recommendation to encourage the Last Post Fund to review its structure to provide greater efficiency and improvements in its administration costs. Canada Remembers is working with the Last Post Fund by participating in its Strategic Review Committee to review all aspects of its operations. A presentation of the final report of this Committee will be made to Last Post Fund Governing Council in June 2009.

In March 2008, the matter of a call centre approach was discussed with the Last Post Fund's Executive Director. In November 2008, a national answering service was established to provide after-hours and weekend service to its clients across the country.

The Strategic Review Committee of the Last Post Fund will be presenting their report to the Executive Committee in March 2009 and the Corporation's Governing Council in June 2009. Canada Remembers Division is participating on the Strategic Review Committee and is represented on the Last Post Fund Governing Council.

Management Action Plan
Corrective Actions to be taken OPI (Office of Primary Interest) Target Date
Canada Remembers will be monitoring the implementation of the reports recommendations over the following twelve (12) months. Director General, Canada Remembers Division June 2010
Quarterly reports detailing operational and administrative expenses will be part of the next Memorandum of Understanding between the Veterans Affairs Canada and the Last Post Fund. Canada Remembers continues to work with the Last Post Fund to improve efficiencies in the administration of the Funeral and Burial Program. Director General, Canada Remembers Division June 2010

6.0 Distribution

  • Deputy Minister
  • Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Programs and Partnerships
  • Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery and Commemoration
  • Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services
  • Director General, Canada Remembers Division
  • National President, Last Post Fund Corporation
  • Executive Director, Last Post Fund Corporation
  • Office of the Auditor General
  • Program Analyst, Treasury Board of Canada (TBS), Secretariat
  • Comptrollership Branch (TBS)

Appendix A - Detailed Primary and Secondary Data Collection

A1.1 Primary Data Collection

A team of two evaluators from the Audit and Evaluation Division of VAC made site visits to Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Saint John to conduct the in-person interviews.

A1.1.1 Interviews

In-Person Interviews
Table 1 Interview Matrix
# Category Issues Covered Location and Number of Persons Interviewed
1 VAC Staff Relevance
Success, Cost, Program Delivery
Charlottetown, PEI
Total interviewed = 5
2 LPF Staff Relevance
Success, Cost, Program Delivery, Data reliability, Financial data
National Office, Montreal, QC
Total Interviewed =3
2 LPF Staff Selection of files to be reviewed Montreal , QC
Total contacted =1
2 LPF Staff Relevance
Success, Cost, Program Deliver
Toronto, ON
Total Interviewed = 4
Edmonton, AB
Total Interviewed = 2
Saint John, NB
Total Interviewed = 2
Toronto, ON
Total Interviewed = 3
3 Funeral Services Representatives Relevance
Success, Cost-Effectiveness
Montreal, QC
Total Interviewed = 3
Toronto, ON
Total Interviewed = 3
Edmonton, AB
Total Interviewed = 1
Saint John, NB
Total Interviewed = 3
Telephone Interviews
Table 2
# Category Issues Covered Location
1 Royal Canadian Legion Relevance Success, Cost, Program Delivery Ottawa, ON Total Interviewed = 1

A1.1.2 Observations of Work Procedures

Table 3
# Category Issues Location # Interviewed
1 Counselors (the front line delivery staff) Review of case files, work procedures Montreal, QC n/a
Toronto, ON 2
Edmonton, AB 1
Saint John, NB 1
TOTAL 4

The study team from the Audit and Evaluation Division of VAC observed the process at each site of responding to enquiries and documenting the cases. In particular, the steps in the processing of an application were reviewed. Counselors were observed interacting with clients. The study team informally examined their work practices and requested clarification on the application process.

A1.1.3 Case File Review

Table 4
Issues Office Number of files Reviewed
Approved Cases Matter-of-right Withdrawn Not Approved Total
Program Delivery Montreal, QC 20 5 0 15 40
Toronto, ON 19 5 0 14 38
Edmonton, AB 19 5 5 16 45
Saint John, NB 20 5 1 14 40
Total 78 20 6 59 163

The case files were reviewed to obtain an understanding of the process, determine if efficiencies could be gained, and to gather more specific data on what was being claimed and the associated dollar values (such as caskets, urns, obituaries, etc.). This helped the evaluation team determine which items are commonly being claimed but not reimbursed. The files consisted of a selection of accepted, not accepted, matter-of-right, and withdrawn cases over a one year period.

A1.2 Secondary Data

A1.2.1 Cost Data

Calendar year cost data was obtained from the audited statements provided by LPF to VAC. VAC reports expenditures incurred on a fiscal year basis.

A1.2.2 Veteran Population and Mortality Forecasts

This information was obtained from the reports produced by the Statistics Directorate at VAC. This information was available on a fiscal year basis. No new information was generated specifically for this study.

A1.2.3 Applications Accepted, Not Accepted and/or Withdrawn

This information was obtained from the data submitted by LPF by calendar year.

The cost-effectiveness calculations are based on the above noted secondary data.

A1.2.4 Document/Literature Review

As a first step toward the evaluation, a document/literature review was conducted. The document review attempted to provide information on the history of the FBP, identify issues surrounding the program, and gain an understanding of the financial/statistical data. A complete list of documents reviewed is attached as Appendix E.

A1.2.5 Client Survey

The main objectives of the survey, Client Satisfaction of Veterans Affairs' Funeral and Burial Program, March 2008, were:

  • to analyze the program in its current form and solicit feedback;
  • to consider recommendations for best methods of program delivery;
  • to provide VAC with concrete data that will assist in developing necessary program changes as well as a baseline for future studies of a similar nature;
  • to identify client perceptions with the current process for accessing and using the program;
  • to assess levels of service (client treated fairly with dignity and respect); and
  • to identify barriers for accessing the program and explore ways to elevate the awareness of the program.

Telephone interviews were conducted among randomly selected individuals who applied for funding with the LPF in the past 18 months. Prior to being contacted by TNS Canadian Facts, participants were mailed a letter to inform them that they may be contacted for participation in this study and explained the purpose of the research. In total, 2,254 pre-notification letters were sent to clients of the LPF, 1,480 were sent to individuals who were not approved for funding and 774 were sent to individuals who were approved for funding. A total of 307 interviews were completed from the approved sample and another 298 completions were reached among the not approved sample. Interviewing was done from February 4th to February 19th, 2008.

Weighting adjustments were applied to the final, clean data to ensure that the data is representative of the original population. More specifically, data was weighted by whether the respondent was approved or not approved for burial assistance, as well as by which LPF office processed the application.Footnote 9

Appendix B - Program Chronology

The LPF began in 1909 in Montreal with the aim of providing a dignified burial for Veterans who died indigent. In the early 1920s, it became apparent that there was a need for assistance in the rest of the country. The Government agreed to provide financial assistance to the LPF and the Corporation extended its services to the rest of the country.

In 1935, the first set of regulations governing grants made to the LPF, entitled the Last Post Fund Regulations, were approved. The Government of Canada also had provisions for burying certain classes of Veterans and other persons. This was governed by various Orders in Council. In addition, the original Pension Act of 1919 included a provision granting the Canada Pension Commission authorization for funeral and burial expenses for disability pensioners whose estates were insufficient to pay the expenses. Later, provisions were made in the Veterans Treatment Regulations (pre-curser to the Veterans Burial Regulations) to provide funerals and burials as a matter-of-right for pensioners dying of their pensioned conditions and for other Veterans who could not themselves afford dignified funerals and burials.

In 1957, the Veterans Burial Regulations (VBRs) were enacted. These regulations brought together the various Orders in Council and sections of the Veterans Treatment Regulations relating to funeral and burial assistance. The VBRs governed the provision of funeral and burial assistance for certain eligible Veterans who died without sufficient means to pay for a dignified burial and funeral.

Thus after 1957, there were three programs mandated under three separate authorities which provided funeral and burial benefits for Veterans. The LPF provided funerals and burials for indigent Veterans and the Corporation was granted funding from the Government of Canada in accordance with the Last Post Fund Regulations. The Government of Canada provided funeral and burial assistance for eligible Veterans who died of their pensioned conditions under the Pension Act and those who died without sufficient means in the estate under the Veterans Burial Regulations.

There were overlaps and inconsistencies with these three programs, and a review of the programs was initiated in the early 1990's. As a result, funeral and burial assistance was reduced from three programs to two and was administered under the Veteran Burial Regulations 1995 and the Last Post Fund Regulations 1995. The two programs were quite similar except that one was delivered by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the other by the Corporation. In 2005, the Regulations were combined to create a single, more cohesive policy framework, and to clarify VAC's and the Corporation's responsibilities, resulting in the Veteran Burial Regulations 2005.

In November 2005, Treasury Board approval was granted to support the costs relating to the suite of programs and benefits under the New Veterans Charter (NVC). The NVC became effective April 1, 2006 and applies to CF Members and Veterans who have served since April 1, 1947, with the exception of those who served in the Korean War. (Note: First World War, Second World War and Korean War Veterans are eligible under the original Charter.)

Some of the noteworthy milestones in the life of the Funeral and Burial Program (FBP) include the following:

  • 1965 - The Government granted the Minister of the Department of Veterans Affairs responsibility for program and policy matters relating to remembrance of the war dead, under the authority of the Privy Council Order PC 1965-68.
  • 1988 - The first Memorandum of Agreement between VAC and the LPF was signed.
  • 1989 - The estate exemption for a deceased Veteran was linked to the cost of living index.
  • 1995 - Under pressure of fiscal constraint, the Government of Canada launched a review of all government programs in order to bring about the most effective and cost-efficient way of delivering programs and services.
  • 1995 - The survivor estate exemption amount was reduced from $24,030 to $12,015, the dependent child estate exemption was reduced from $2,100 per child to $700 and the benefits were no longer linked to the CPI. Further, the CPP Death Benefit was included in the assets of the estate.
  • 1996 - The Last Post Fund Regulations 1995 and the Veterans Burial Regulations 1995 were enacted.
  • 1998 - The Corporation assumed the responsibility for VAC's Funeral and Burial Program for means-tested applications.
  • 2006 - The Veterans Burial Regulations 2005 were enacted which formalized the agreement with the LPF and embedded the rates in the legislation.

Appendix C - Practices in Allied Nations

Australia

If death is due to disability then payment of up to $2,000 towards the funeral costs will automatically be paid to the estate of the deceased Veteran. Some assistance may also be provided if the Veteran died in needy circumstances or while under treatment.

Research on the Internet revealed that the average cost of a funeral in Australia varies widely but is approximately $4,000-$7,000Footnote 10. Generally, less than half the cost of the funeral is paid for by the government.

United States of AmericaFootnote 11

If death is due to a service related injury, there is a $2,000 burial allowance. However, if the death is non-service related, in a Department of Veterans Affairs facility, or while collecting a Veteran's pension or disability compensation, a $300 burial allowance is available to help cover costs.

All Veterans are entitled to burial in a national cemetery, a grave marker (regardless of the cemetery), and a flag. There is no charge for opening or closing the grave, a vault or liner, or setting the marker in a national cemetery. Depending on the circumstances, a family may be responsible for all other expenses including transportation to the cemetery.

United Kingdom

If the deceased was a war pensioner who died from the disabling condition for which they were getting a war pension or the war pensioner died in hospital while having treatment for that disablement condition, then assistance may be granted. The specific amount available is not provided. Funeral items such as embalming, viewing, and providing transportation are not covered.

The practice in Allied Nations, described in the brief descriptions above, varies dependent on the country. However, for the most part, Allied Nations provide assistance towards the cost of a simple funeral to those Veterans who suffer from a disability due to war, and those who are in a needy situation.

Appendix D - Detailed Tables

Table 1: Nature of Approved Cases (2007)
Branch Case Type I Case Type II Case Matter-of-Right* Total Percent of total accepted cases by LPF Type I as percentage of cases at the Branch
BC 31 176 30 237 12% 13%
Alberta 11 115 11 137 7% 8%
Saskatchewan 11 46 3 60 3% 18%
Manitoba 8 49 7 64 3% 13%
Ontario 132 517 52 701 36% 19%
Quebec 29 137 24 190 10% 15%
Nova Scotia 56 156 10 222 12% 25%
NB/PEI 84 99 17 200 10% 42%
Newfoundland 28 85 6 119 6% 24%
Total 390 1,380 160 1,930 100% 20%

*note that matter-of-right applications are a subset of the Type II applications. Source: Last Post Fund Corporation

Table 2: Staff Resources at LPF Branches
# Location Management and support Counsellors (FTE's) Total 2007 Salary dollars
1 National Office, Montreal 7.5 0.5 8 $405,413
2 British Columbia 1 2.5 3.5 $169,891
3 Alberta 1 2 3 $149,644
4 Saskatchewan 1 1.25 3.25 $101,184
5 Manitoba 0 1 1 $53,169
6 Ontario 2 5 7 $278,531
7 Quebec 1 2.5 3.5 $ 200,565
8 New Brunswick /PEI 1 2 3 $ 153,965
9 Nova Scotia 1 2 3 $ 158,474
10 Newfoundland 1 1 2 $ 93,971
  TOTAL 17.5 19.75 37.25 $1,763,907

Data Sources:
(1) FTE Data provided by VAC program management (as of July 2007)
(2) Cost Data from Consolidated Administrative Overview provided by LPF
(3) LPF Website

Table 3 - Option 1: Case for National Office and One Branch
Cost Component National Office One Branch Office Total Total LPF Admin Costs 2006 Potential Savings
Salaries $405,590 $875,410 $1,280,990 $1,815,960 $534,970
Employee Benefits $65,570 $120,040 $185,600 $258,960 $73,350
Travel $8,070 $25,730 $33,790 $51,460 $17,680
Br. Meeting $620 $6,760 $7,380 $60,860 $53,480
Meetings, Executive $7,010 $10,000 $17,010 $17,010 0
Meetings, Br. Mgrs $4,250 $1,310 $5,570 $17,890 $12,320
National Meeting $7,200 $18,280 $25,480 $25,480 0
Postage & Courier $3,150 $9,540 $12,690 $22,230 $9,540
Telecomm. $20,320 $26,240 $46,560 $72,800 $26,240
Publicity & Adv. $21,120 $7,310 $28,430 $28,430 0
Prof. Services $129,120 $7,930 $137,050 $137,050 0
Office Rental $100,190 $83,520 $183,710 $267,230 $83,520
Equipment Rental $3,470 $12,150 $15,630 $27,780 $12,150
Training $2,920 $7,120 $10,040 $17,160 $7,120
Repairs & Maintenance $1,760 $5,430 $7,200 $7,200 0
Office Supplies $4,000 $15,780 $19,780 $35,560 $15,780
Office Furniture and Equipment $660 $9,640 $10,310 $19,950 $9,640
Computer Hardware $7,790 $11,530 $19,320 $30,850 $11,530
Insurance $8,590 0 $8,590 $8,590 0
Bank Charges $2,670 $1,170 $3,840 $3,840 0
Misc. $3,800 $14,310 $18,110 $18,110 0
Total $806,860 $1,269,200 $2,077,080 $2,944,400 $867,320
Table 4 - Option 2: Salary Estimates for VAC and LPF Delivery
Position # FTEs Classification LPF VAC Estimate LPF Estimate VAC
Executive Director 1 WP 06 $86,712 $95,554 $86,712 $95,554
Finance Officer 1 FI 02 $62,161 $77,625 $62,161 $77,625
Programmer Analyst 1 CS 02 $59,420 $72,077 $59,420 $72,077
Administration Officer 1 AS 02 $52,426 $51,989 $52,426 $51,989
Accounts Payable Clerk 3 CR 04 $36,121 $43,286 $108,363 $129,858
Chief Accounting Clerk 1 CR 05 $44,425 $47,447 $44,425 $47,447
Branch Manager 1 WP 04 $65,291 $68,582 $65,291 $68,582
Deputy Branch Manager 2 WP 02 $51,502 $56,043 $103,004 $112,086
Branch Counsellor 15 CR 05 $43,886 $47,447 $658,290 $711,705
TOTAL         $1,240,092 $1,366,923

Appendix E – Source Documents

Final Report, 2005 Client Satisfaction Survey
Prepared for Veterans Affairs Canada, September 2005

Arrangements in Other Countries

United States:

Veterans Funeral and Burial Benefits

United Kingdom:

Pensions and Compensation
Claim Forms
Funeral Payments

Australia:

Funeral Benefits

Previous Audits and Studies conducted:

  • Funeral and Burial Program Assurance Audit, Final: March 2005
  • Commemoration Evaluation Framework, March 1999
  • Review of Declined Funeral and Burial Applications, Final July 1997
  • Commemoration Evaluation Study Volume 1 and 2, Final: February 1997
  • Commemoration Evaluation Assessment Study, November 1995
  • Funeral & Burial Program Review (Evaluation Portion), October 1993
  • Funeral & Burial Programs Review, Technical Appendices, October 1993
  • Funeral & Burial Program Review (Audit Portion) Internal, Final Report: May 1993
  • Program Evaluation Study of Funerals, Burials, and Gravemarkers, December 1982

Agenda, Discussion Items and Minutes:

  • LPF Governing Council Meeting, June 1, 2007
  • LPF Annual General Meeting, June 2, 2007
  • LPF Executive Committee Meeting, February 27 and 28, 2007
  • LPF Governing Council Meeting, June 2, 2006
  • LPF Annual General Meeting, June 3, 2006
  • LPF Executive Committee Meeting, October 23 and 24, 2007
  • LPF Branch Managers Meeting, September 18, 19, 20, 2007

Other Documentation:

  • Memorandum of Agreement between LPF and Veterans Affairs Canada, December 1, 2005
  • Department of Veterans Affairs Act
  • Veterans Burial Regulations 2005
  • Veterans Burial Regulations 1995
  • LPF Regulations 1995
  • Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re establishment and Compensation Act
  • 1965, April 13-P.C. 1965-688-Commemoration Order of 1965
  • Canada Remembers Division, Program Policy Manual, Volume 2: Funeral and Burial Assistance, February 2006
  • LPF, Management and Operations Manual (LPFMOM)
  • Canada Remembers Program Activity: Terms and Condition, VAC Grant Program, LPF, September 2005
  • Integrated RMAF/RBAF for VAC Transfer Payments, Nine Grant Programs, September 2005
  • National Technical Maintenance Manual for Veterans' Gravesites in Canada, March 2005
  • Management of Voted Grants and Contributions, Office of the Auditor General of Canada, 2006
  • VAC Report on Plans and Priorities, 2008-2009
  • VAC Departmental Performance Report, 2006-2007
  • Durflinger, Serge M. Lest We Forget: A History of The Last Post Fund 1909 - 1999. Montreal, 2000
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