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Record of Discussion – Service Excellence Advisory Group Meeting

September 14, 2016
0830 – 1630 (EDT)
Ottawa, ON

In Attendance

  • Joseph Burke, Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association
  • Sylvain Chartrand, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
  • Deanna Fimrite, Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada
  • Marie-Claude Gagnon, “It’s Just 700”
  • Mark Gaillard, RCMP Veterans’ Association
  • Charls Gendron, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Bev Hawton, Assistant Deputy Minister, Business Improvement Division, Service Ontario
  • Bruce Henwood, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada
  • Captain (Retired) Dennis LeBlanc
  • Captain (Retired) David Mack (Member Co-chair)
  • Corporal (Retired) Bruce Moncur
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Jamie Morse, Canadian Armed Forces Liaison Officer to Veterans Affairs Canada
  • Michel Doiron, Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery (VAC Co-chair)

Observer

  • Sharon Squire, Deputy Ombudsman, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

1. Welcome and Opening Remarks

The Co-chairs provided opening remarks and both addressed the need and importance in defining “Service Excellence”. It was felt that with a strong definition, the group would be well positioned to provide concrete recommendations and advice to the Minister as outlined in the Terms of Reference. It would also help define and drive the priorities of the group. As noted at the previous meeting on June 22, 2016, the Advisory Group will be expected to provide a briefing on the group’s work at the Stakeholder Summit in October 2016.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Karen McCrimmon, also provided opening remarks and thanked all members for their participation and contribution to the important work of the Service Excellence Advisory Group (SEAG). The importance of thinking at a strategic level with focus on the Veteran’s perspective and looking at how other companies and organizations achieve and operationalize “Service Excellence” should be considered as the group moves forward. She noted that any recommendations put forward, especially those with a cost, should be prioritized. Costs will impact how decisions are made.

2. Service Delivery Model Review: Report on Findings

Brenda MacCormack, Acting Director General, Service Delivery Review (SDR) provided an overview of the current VAC context and outcomes from the SDR. She indicated that the findings might provide a helpful foundation for the group as it moves forward.

General information was provided on concurrent reviews underway: the Financial Benefits Review, Income Support and Rehabilitation Programs Review, Seamless Transition and Service Excellence, of which SDR is a part, toward one outcome; the successful transition of Veterans to civilian life, service excellence to enable well-being of Veterans and their families, and care compassion and respect.

An overview of the key activities of the SDR were outlined. This was followed by a summary of the key facts and observations, proposed solutions and recommendations, by theme, which will be provided in the report submitted to the Minister in the fall of 2016.

The presentation was followed by a question and answer session. Observations and suggestions included:

  • VAC programs are very good by themselves but with the “piece meal” or “patch work” changes made to policy and regulations over the years, the programs have been made more complex, although this was never the intent.
  • There is a need for “one point of entry” with better coordination and communication/information from other partners (i.e. Medavie Blue Cross) as individuals come to VAC.
  • Recognition of service and identity remains important.
  • VAC needs to do a “push” of information on the programs and services available to help show Veterans, serving members and their families that they care.
  • There is need for mandatory service education about VAC programs and services for members of the CAF at specific career milestones to prepare them better for transition.
  • There is need for a “test team with real Veterans” after new VAC staff are trained to help ensure they are able to interact in accordance with established service excellence standards/principles.

3. Discussion: Defining Service Excellence

The need to define and operationalize “service excellence” from the perspective of the Veteran was central to the discussion. A number of definition options were put forward and considered. Following discussion, members voted on the preferred definition that would be presented for consideration and discussion at the Summit. All members agreed on the preferred option; namely:

  • Service Excellence ensures that the continuing needs of Veterans and their families, who have served Canada, are met. Service Excellence must underpin the design of all VAC policies, programs and service experience
  • Service Excellence means:
    • Veteran and family centric
    • Release ready (transition)
    • Health and wellness
    • Communications
    • Others may be added – input will be requested from participants during the Minister of Veterans Affairs Stakeholder Summit on October 5 – 6, 2016.

4. Discussion: Communication Tools and Mechanisms

Observations and suggestions in regard to communication tools and mechanisms (written correspondence, forms, My VAC Account etc.) included;

  • Communication must be Veteran-centric. Veterans should not need to figure out to which programs they are entitled. “I don’t know what I don’t know.”
  • Increase communication and information sent to stakeholders so they can share with their groups/organization. Part of a “push” system.
  • My VAC Account needs to be one portal. It should also allow an individual to access all information related to his/her awarded condition(s).
  • Changes made to the VAC Health Card do not serve Veterans well. It is no longer clear to which programs one is entitled.
  • VAC should consider alternate ways of getting information on available programs and services to Canadians/Veterans (consider MP mailouts and annual superannuation deduction mailouts).
  • There is still a need for some printed publications/pamphlets.
  • Consider providing a “Welcome Package” when individuals first make contact with the Department.

5. The Way Ahead

It was proposed that the group meet via tele-conference in November 2016, and as required, to be updated on what is changing within the Department and to advance work of the group. The possibility of another face-to-face meeting before the end of fiscal year, if required, was also suggested. A member of the group was also identified to capture notes in addition to VAC’s note taker.

6. Closing Remarks and Next Steps

The co-chairs thanked everyone for attendance and participation. Given scheduling conflicts for the 2 co-chairs, two advisory group members volunteered to make the SEAG presentation at the VAC Stakeholder Summit in October 2016.

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