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Record of Discussion – Advisory Groups Teleconference

Advisory Group on Families
Service Excellence Advisory Group

Pension for Life and Consultation on Veterans in Crisis

Friday, March 2, 2018
12:30 - 14:00 (EST)

Participants

Advisory Group on Families Members (AGF)

  • Sergeant (Retired) Alannah Gilmore (Co-chair)
  • Namita Joshi, True Patriot Love
  • Ray McInnis, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Brigadier-General (Retired) Bill Richard

Regrets

  • Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Chris Linford
  • Tamara Kleinschmidt, Canadian Armed Forces Military Family Resources Centres
  • Laurie Ogilvie, Canadian Armed Forces, Military Family Services
  • Yvonne Burke, Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association
  • Dave LeBlanc, RCMP Veterans Association
  • Jenny Migneault
  • Norah Spinks, Vanier Institute of the Family
  • Karine Villeneuve, Operational Stress Injury Social Support

Service Excellence Advisory Group (SEAG)

  • Master Corporal (Retired) Joseph Burke
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Coté, Canadian Armed Forces Liaison Officer to Veterans Affairs Canada
  • Deanna Fimrite, Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada (Co-chair)

Regrets

  • Charls Gendron, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Bruce Henwood, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada
  • Sylvain Chartrand, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
  • Captain (Retired) Dennis LeBlanc (Co-chair)
  • Ralph Mahar, RCMP Veterans’ Association
  • Commander (Retired) Sarah McMillan, It’s Just 700
  • Corporal (Retired) Bruce Moncur

Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

  • The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Veterans Affairs Canada Officials

  • General (Retired) Walter Natynczyk, Deputy Minister
  • Bernard Butler, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy and Commemoration
  • Paul Thomson, Director General, Service Modernization
  • Faith McIntyre, Director General, Policy and Research (VAC Co-chair, AGF)
  • Sylvie Thibodeau-Sealy, Director, Veterans Priority Programs Secretariat
  • Katherine Spencer-Ross, Director, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach
  • Karen Rose, Senior Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach
  • Jennifer MacLeod, Team Lead, Policy and CFOCS Communications

Observers

  • Amanda Jane, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (AFG)
  • Sharon Squire, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (SEAG)

Opening Remarks by Minister O'Regan

The Minister of Veterans Affairs opened the meeting by welcoming the advisory group members and highlighting the important role they have served to the Department. He mentioned the recent Budget announcements that will impact Veterans, including the tax credit for service dogs, and $24 million in funding to upgrade and restore Veteran graves. The Minister invited members to reflect about the structure, focus, direction and membership of the advisory groups going forward, as the terms of members are concluding in the near future. He will be reaching out formally to gather their thoughts.
Comments and questions were solicited from participants and included:

Complexity of the Pension for Life and how it appears to be a cocktail of different programs and will result in three classes of Veterans, all compensated differently for pain and suffering ( Pension Act New Veterans Charter and now Pension for Life). This is not one Veteran and one standard. Pain and suffering was worth more under the Pension Act.

  • The Minister indicated that the Pension Act is still attractive for Veterans because it is simple, easy to understand and explain. However, he acknowledged that the problems faced by Veterans are complex and that the solutions are also complex and individualized. So while at this stage we cannot tell Veterans exactly how they will be impacted and compensated under the Pension for Life, unlike the pension system, it is the right thing to do – get people well. The Pension for Life option was finalized three months ago and now our job is to communicate it which is part of the reason we are with you here today.

Lifecycle timeline and what information will be available to Veterans so that they can understand what they will be eligible to receive before April 1, 2019 and what should those working with Veterans be telling them in the interim.

  • The Minister indicated that the April 1, 2019 implementation date gives time to finalize the changes through legislation, which must be passed into law by Parliament. This also gives Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC) staff time to put in place all the systems and processes to efficiently deliver the new benefits to the thousands of Veterans and their families who will benefit from this change. Until then, the Veterans and their families will continue to receive the benefits they are eligible for now under the current legislation.
  • It was also noted that various tools are being considered to help Veterans understand what they will receive, including an on-line calculator that will be available in advance of implementation.

Resources and where will the Department be getting the staff to do all of this, particularly given the current backlog.

It was noted that additional resources were announced in Budget 2018 to enhance our capacity to deliver services and that the Pension for Life comes with funding. At the same time, the Department is taking steps to delegate more authorities and to work smarter. In addition, the consolidation of six benefits into one will help to streamline process, as in the future Veterans will need only one application, assessment, exam and decision.

Pension for Life Presentation by Director General, Policy and Research

The Director General of Policy and Research Division, made a presentation about the Pension for Life, guided by the document which had been provided to the groups in advance of the teleconference( ). The Director General explained the three key benefits: Pain and Suffering Compensation, Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation and the Income Replacement Benefit. She noted that there will be no change to the Pension Act. As of April 1, 2019, the Department will be replacing certain benefits that currently exist under the New Veterans Charter. Those currently in receipt of benefits under the New Veterans Charter will be moved over to the new program which will be the new Pension for Life benefit, with the continued premise of well-being. She also noted the new programs and services to be implemented on April 1, 2018 as a result of Budget 2017: Education and Training Benefit; Caregiver Recognition Benefit; Redesigned Career Transition Services; Veterans Emergency Fund; Veterans and Family Well-being Fund; Veteran Family Program; and the end time limits for vocational rehabilitation.

Following the presentation, there were some questions. Highlights of these are provided below:

Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation

Questions were asked and comparisons made between the Career Impact Allowance and the Career Impact Allowance Supplement and the Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation. Points were raised that Veterans already in receipt of Career Impact Allowance will have their grade level protected under the Pension for Life and those coming on line as of April 1, 2019 with similar disabilities will be assessed differently since there will be no consideration of the Veteran’s loss of earning capacity.
In response it was explained that the Career Impact Allowance was a benefit to recognize the loss of career progression and not pain and suffering, and that was why the Permanent Impairment Allowance was renamed Career Impact Allowance, to better reflect the policy intent. The Additional Pain and Suffering Compensation’s design was about how best to recognize an individual with a permanent and severe impairment who has barriers to re-establishment in civilian life.
It was also explained that compensation under the Pension for Life needs to be looked at as a complete package as it is customized for each individual in order to provide financial security and well-being. Members were encouraged to review the scenarios on the web site.

Pain and Suffering Compensation – Retrospective - Additional Monthly Payment – Life Annuity Calculation

There was discussion on the additional monthly payment for those who had already received the Disability Award and may be eligible for an additional monthly amount that would be payable for life. It was explained that the calculation considers: the amount that the Veteran already receives from VAC; the monthly amount the Veteran would have received so far (had a monthly payment option been available); and a life annuity calculation, (age, gender, inflation, interest) which takes into consideration individual circumstances to calculate any offsets to the monthly payment.
It was explained that age and gender are a consideration as the calculation used to convert lump sum amounts into monthly amounts must incorporate mortality rates which are sex dependent. Mortality rates take sex into consideration because life expectancy varies between men and women. However, there is no distinction made based on age or sex in any benefit under the Pension for Life.
Follow-Up - It was agreed that additional information on life annuity would be shared.

Veterans in Crisis Presentation

The Director of Veterans Priority Programs Secretariat provided an overview of the work to date on this file. The Strategy has yet to be launched officially, but many action efforts are already underway. The intent of the discussion was to seek input from the various groups. It was noted that the work on the Veterans in Crisis Action Plan is driven by a task force that provides regular input and feedback. It is a collaborative effort to address the complex issue of homelessness. The key themes were noted:

  • Lead and Engage: Improve Collaboration and Leadership
  • Find: Improve Outreach and Identification
  • Assist: Improve Mechanisms to Assist Homeless Veterans and Veterans in Crisis
  • Prevent: Prevent Veteran Homelessness through optimizing Veteran Well-Being

The PowerPoint presentation provided to the group (link) also has key action items for each theme, and the groups were asked to provide their input and comments.
There was some discussion around the need for better communication between VAC and banks when Veterans who are in receipt of VAC benefits are looking for mortgages and loans. It is understood that a letter is provided upon request from the service delivery area.
Follow-up: VAC agreed to follow-up on what the process is for this letter and income verification.
Members were encouraged to provide any additional comments on the Veterans in Crisis Strategy through VAC’s Engagement mailbox.

Round Table Discussions

  • Question on Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) and that this would be part of a much broader discussion in areas that are still being looked at actively in terms of communications and duplication.
  • Question on the Pension for Life application process and that a dedicated group of staff is working on this and doing user testing. My VAC Account will be an important component of the new programs and Veterans will be encouraged to sign-up for My VAC Account.
  • Advisory Group members suggested getting together to discuss the way ahead. It was noted that the Minister wanted feedback on how best to engage the advisory groups and welcomed “blue sky” ideas.

The group was thanked and the meeting was adjourned.

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