Record of Discussion – Advisory Group Teleconference

Pension for Life and Consultation on Veterans in Crisis Strategy

Care and Support Advisory Group
Mental Health Advisory Group
Commemoration Advisory Group

Friday, Match 2, 2018
14:00 - 15:30 (EST)

Participants

Care & Support Advisory Group Members

  • Mary Boutette, The Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre (Co-chair)
  • Carolyn Gasser, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Major (Retired) Bruce Henwood (Co-chair)
  • Marie Andrée Malette, Caregivers Brigade
  • Percy L. Price, North American Treaty Organization (NATO) Veterans Organization of Canada

Regrets

  • Dr. Norah Keating, University of Alberta
  • Dr. Alice Aiken, Dalhousie University
  • Sylvain Boulliane,VeteransCanada.ca
  • Candace Chartier, Canadian Alliance for Long Term Care
  • Debbie Eisan, Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones
  • Captain (Navy) Marie-France Langlois, Director, Casualty Support Management, Canadian Armed Forces

Mental Health Advisory Group Members

  • Michael Blais, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
  • Dave Gallson, Mood Disorders Society of Canada
  • Glynne Hines, Royal Canadian Legion (Co-chair)
  • Robert Thibeau, Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones

Regrets

  • Sapper (Retired) Aaron Bedard
  • Colonel Colleen Forestier, Director of Mental Health, Canadian Armed Forces
  • Dr. Karen Cohen, Canadian Psychological Association
  • Sergeant Brian Harding
  • Dr. Ruth Lanius, University of Western Ontario
  • Ed Mantler, Mental Health Commission of Canada
  • Warrant Officer (Retired) Brian McKenna
  • Kerry Mould, Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping Dr. Don Richardson, Canadian Psychiatric Association
  • Dr. Patrick Smith, Canadian Mental Health Association

Commemoration Advisory Group Members

  • Steven Clark, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Ray Kokkonen, Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association
  • Major (Retired) Gerry Wharton, Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada

Regrets

  • Linda Brunet, Encounters With Canada
  • Dr. Steve Harris, Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence (Co-chair)
  • Derrill Henderson, National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada and Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Mills, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Canadian Armed Forces
  • Dr. Lee Windsor, University of New Brunswick Gregg Centre

Other

  • Jenny Migneault (advocate), Advisory Group on Families

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

  • Bernard Butler, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy and Commemoration
  • Faith McIntyre, Director General, Policy and Research
  • Elizabeth (Libby) Douglas, Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management (Co-chair, Care and Support Advisory Group)
  • Hélène Robichaud, Director General, Commemoration (Co-chair, Commemoration Advisory Group)
  • Paul Thomson, Director General, Service Delivery Modernization
  • Sylvie Thibodeau-Sealy, Director, Veterans Priority Programs Secretariat
  • Rear Admiral John Newton
  • Jennifer MacLeod, Team Lead, Communications
  • Michelle Morrison, Senior Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach

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 for the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). 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 advisory group members reflect on the structure, focus, direction and membership of the advisory groups going forward, as the terms of members are ending in the near future. He will be reaching out formally to members to gather their thoughts. He again thanked the group for their time, noting their work has made a significant difference from a policy perspective. Comments and questions were solicited from the group. They included:

  • A question about whether there were updates on the Centre of Excellence, and if the Mental Health Advisory Group will be further consulted on the process of developing the Centre of Excellence. The response was yes.
  • One member asked if the recommendations previously made by the subgroup members of the Mental Health Advisory Group regarding the Centre of Excellence will be embraced in the announcement on April 1, 2018. The lead on the development of the Centre of Excellence was not present at the meeting, so details were not readily available, but will be provided to the group in a follow-up teleconference. It was noted by the Minister that there will continue to be much work over the coming months on the Centre of Excellence, for which the Mental Health Advisory Group will be engaged.
  • One group member noted that the current structure of the Mental Health Advisory Group has a good balance of professionals and those with lived experience. He expressed concern that there will be continuity of the membership for at least a couple of years, in order to ensure the work done regarding mental health issues is fully realized, without disrupting the momentum. The Minister agreed that he does not wish to lose momentum.
  • It was suggested that the Care and Support Advisory Group should be working more closely with the Mental Health Advisory Group, rather than separating the focus between physical and mental health issues, to ensure that the resulting recommendations and advice reflect this reality.

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 PowerPoint presentation 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:

  • Diminished Earnings Capacity

    A question was raised about how the disability percentage relates to the employability assessment, how will it be determined, and if it will be possible to grieve the determination of diminished earnings capacity test. The response was that the current diminished earnings capacity test will remain, and there will be the option to have this decision reviewed. What will change about the process is that the decision-making will be centralized, to enhance consistency, and these recommendations will be provided by a third party provider organization.

  • Education and Training Benefit

    There was a question specific to the process for applying for the new Education and Training Benefit. The group was informed that the process to apply will be digitized, and will come into effect on April 1, 2018. It was suggested that in the interim, Veterans should be encouraged to register for My VAC Account, through which information will be shared.

  • Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund

    There was a question pertaining to the mechanism for an organization to access the new Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund. It was explained that the Department will market the program and launch Requests for Proposals likely in May 2018. It is a terms and conditions program, with a budget of $3 million per year. Guidelines for the program will be posted in April 2018.

  • Budget 2017 updates to the VAC website

    One member asked when the website will be updated with all the new benefits, for example the Caregiver Recognition Benefit. It was explained that the Department is not able to provide detailed information on the website until the programs come into effect on April 1, 2018.

Implementation of Pension for Life

The Director General of Service Delivery Modernization noted key points about the implementation process.

  • He advised that the process for applying will be streamlined through My VAC Account.
  • He also noted that the time gap before which the Pension for Life benefits are available is due to government processes, such as going through the Treasury Board submissions to ensure the money is available. Also, there are many calculations and elements to be worked through by VAC staff before implementation in April 2019.

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 groups also has key action items for each theme, and the groups were asked to provide their input and comments. There were no comments forthcoming during the meeting, but members were encouraged to provide written comments through the Department’s Engagement mailbox.

Closing Remarks from Co-Chairs

  • The VAC co-chair of the Care and Support Advisory Group noted the incredible amount of work happening at the Department, which will have tremendous benefits to Veterans. She reminded the groups about the fact sheets available online, and the importance of encouraging registration with My VAC Account. She thanked the advisory group members for the excellent advice provided by this group.
  • One of the two member co-chairs of Care and Support Advisory Group noted that there is still a wait to get the full details of the program, and will ‘stay tuned’ to see how it all unfolds, noting that through this meeting they learned more than they had known previously. The question was raised about a stakeholder summit. The response provided by the meeting chair was that the Minister has committed to a summit, as well as the discussion about the structure of the advisory groups, but no specific timing is available.
  • The other member co-chair of Care and Support Advisory Group noted the progress being made, especially the recognition of the link between financial security and health and well-being.
  • The member co-chair of Mental Health Advisory Group echoed the comments about the details of the programs yet to come, and felt that any negative comments from the Veteran groups are related to not yet having these details. He encouraged a greater information flow as the process is being determined, as the information becomes available. He also encouraged the use of the advisory groups as a sounding board for the information and processes. He hopes that the roll-out of the Budget 2017 initiatives will be clear and not confusing, so as not to detract from the work going forward.

Round Table Comments

  • A suggestion was made for the next summit to have full cooperation between the advisory groups, to save money, eradicate duplicity, and align recommendations.
  • A comment was made that things are moving in the right direction, however the concern that there is still a communication gap for reaching the Indigenous population in rural areas, so that all the good benefits forthcoming will be accessible to those in First Nations communities. He was assured that the Minister has been advised of these concerns, and is attentive to cultural awareness and rural issues.

The group was thanked and the meeting was adjourned.

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