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Executive Summary

Background

This Rehabilitation Services Evaluation was conducted in accordance with Veterans Affairs Canada's (VAC) approved Multi-year Risk Based Evaluation Plan 2013-2018.

Established in 2006, the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act (hereinafter referred to as the New Veterans Charter or NVC)Footnote 1, shifts the Department's focus from one of disability to one of wellness and responds to Canada's commitment to injured Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and Veterans. As part of the NVC, the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program (hereinafter referred to as the Program) provides eligible Veteran recipients and their spouse/survivor(s) with one or more of the following types of rehabilitation services: medical, psychosocial, or vocational. In fiscal year 2012-13, the Program funded $18.4 million in benefits and services.

The intent of the Program is to support the reasonable restoration of functioning in the following five major areas: mental and physical functioning; social adjustment; family relationships; financial security, employment and personal productivity; and community participation. Recipients are primarily Veterans who were recently medically-released from the CAF, or CAF Veterans who have a health problem resulting primarily from service which is creating a barrier to their re-establishment in civilian life. Veterans often present with complex co-morbidFootnote 2 conditions which require the use of the various available medical and psychosocial rehabilitation benefits and services.

The evaluation examined the relevance and performance of the Program and was conducted in accordance with Treasury Board (TB) requirements and TB Secretariat guidance material. The evaluation findings and conclusions are based on the analysis of multiple lines of evidence.

Overall Results

Relevance

The evaluation confirms a continuing need for the Program as the number of eligible recipients is increasing annually, the usage of benefits and services are increasing, and forecasts indicate this trend will continue. In addition, a need for the Program has been indicated by various Veteran groups and studies. The Program is aligned with the priorities of the Government of Canada, as well as the strategic plans of the Department.

Performance - Achievement of Expected Outcomes

More appropriate health, functional capacity and vocational performance measures would allow for better measurement of the participant's success in the Program. In addition, the assessment process would benefit by having earlier and more holistic consultation with health and rehabilitation professionals to promote the success of participants in the Program.

For the past three fiscal years, more than 95% of those who apply to the Program became eligible. The evaluation team noted that eligible Veterans:

  • received an assessment of need following determination of eligibility;
  • received access to funding for rehabilitation services but it was not always timely (within 90 days of eligibility);
  • acquired the knowledge, skills, and abilities to achieve their occupational goal; and
  • experienced positive family relationships but limited integration within their communities; yet
  • were not achieving their employment goals at a high rate.

Data gathered since the Program's inception shows that a participant may remain in the Program for a long period of time. For example, of the participants who entered the Program in 2006-2007, approximately 33% (324 of 989) are still in the Program. As of March 31, 2013, 2,342 recipients have completed the Program since its inception.

The success of the Program is dependent on recipients completing the Program and this is not occurring at the rate expected. The Financial Benefits Program has a range of monetary benefits which may be deterring Veterans from participating in the vocational aspects of the Program and the labour force. These issues may be addressed in the context of the current NVC Review or in response to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (ACVA) report, The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward and may be part of an upcoming NVC Financial Benefits Evaluation which the Audit and Evaluation Division plans to begin in 2015-16.

Performance - Demonstration of Economy and Efficiency

Original forecasts for the Program displayed an expected rapid increase and corresponding decrease in expenditures before fiscal year 2010-11. In actuality, the Program experienced a steady growth in expenditures since inception and those expenditures are forecast to continue to increase. As of September 2013, the Department forecasts a 97% increase ($18.4 million to $36.2 million) in expenditures between 2012-13 and 2017-18.

Program resource utilization costs are those costs associated with delivering a program and include salaries, operating and maintenance, employee benefits, and contract administration costs. These costs could not be estimated with an acceptable level of confidence. The allocation method for the Program needs to be revised to more accurately reflect the Program's costs.

Recent initiatives have improved efficiency within the Program such as increased decision-making authority for front-line workers and streamlined policies. Also, a recent legislative amendment has streamlined the process for approving education/training expenses for vocational rehabilitation.

The evaluation findings resulted in the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery, develops:

  • measurable program-specific performance indicators to assess "improved health and functional capacity" for the intermediate outcome; and
  • more appropriate vocational indicators to assess program success.
Recommendation 2

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery, reviews the Program's assessment process to facilitate earlier consultation with health and rehabilitation professionals.

Recommendation 3

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services Branch, in collaboration with the Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery, develops an appropriate methodology to accurately calculate the costs of the Program.

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