Veterans Affairs Canada

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Veterans Affairs
Anciens Combattants
Canada
Department of the Government of Canada
Veterans Affairs Canada logo.png
Minister Julian Fantino
Responsibilities Veterans
Department Website

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is the department within the Government of Canada with responsibility for pensions/benefits and services for war veterans, retired and still-serving members of the Canadian Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, their families, as well as some civilians.

Creation of Veterans Affairs Canada[edit]

Following World War One, in 1928, the Departments of Pensions and National Health became responsible for caring for ill and injured soldiers returning from that war.[1] Following World War Two, the volume of soldiers returning home made it clear that the Government of Canada would require a department dedicated to serving ill and injured veterans. This first came by changing the department to the "Department of Pensions" and creating Health Canada under a separate Ministry. That same year, Prime Minister Mackenzie King's Parliament passed a motion that officially created Veterans Affairs Canada.

Canada operated a benefits program similar to the American G.I. Bill for its World War Two veterans, with a strong economic impact similar to the American case.[2] A war veteran's eligibility for certain benefits may depend on his/her "overseas" status, defined by Veterans Affairs as having served at least two miles offshore from Canada. In the Second World War (1939–45) Canada did not yet include Newfoundland, which became a Canadian province only in 1949. Thus WWI or WWII veterans who served in Newfoundland (with Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve) are considered by Veterans Affairs to be "overseas veterans" (and as such may be referred to the British Service Personnel and Veterans Agency).

Current Veterans Affairs structure[edit]

  • Minister of Veterans Affairs[3]
    • Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB)
    • Office of the Veterans Ombudsman
    • Deputy Minister
      • Associate Deputy Minister
      • Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery
      • Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services
      • Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Communications and Commemoration
      • Audit and Evaluation
      • Bureau of Pensions Advocates
      • Departmental Secretariat and Policy Coordination
      • Human Resources

International Memorials[edit]

On November 9, 2008, the Honourable Greg Thompson, the-then Minister of Veterans Affairs, attended a Service of Remembrance at the Canada Memorial in Green Park, London, England. Canada recently assumed responsibility for the Memorial, which pays tribute to the nearly one million Canadian men and women who served in the United Kingdom during the First and Second World Wars.

Remembrance Initiatives[edit]

An important program of Veterans Affairs is called Canada Remembers. This is responsible for all war commemoration activities, such as Remembrance Day, and coordinates and funds various "pilgrimages" for Canadian war veterans to foreign battlefields and international ceremonies (e.g. the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands in early 1995, the 60th anniversary of D Day on June 6, 2004, etc.)[4]

The Government of Canada declared 2005 the Year of the Veteran.[5] Its purpose was to teach, remember, thank, honour and celebrate. The image of a poppy overlapping a gold maple leaf became a special symbol during the campaign, on posters, pamphlets, bookmarks and documents.

Issues[edit]

Improper Handling of Medical Information[edit]

In October 2010, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart found that a veteran's privacy had been violated by Veterans Affairs Canada. She found that the confidential medical information of Sean Bruyea, a medically-released Captain, had found its way into the hands of numerous departmental officials, which she said was "deeply concerning" and a violation of the Privacy Act.[6] Some critics alleged that Bruyea's information was leaked as the result of his criticisms of the New Veterans Charter and the way Afghanistan veterans were being treated by the government.[7] This was backed by Darragh Mogan, an executive director at Veterans Affairs, when in an email to his colleagues he said "Folks, it’s time to take the gloves off here."

The Government of Canada apologized for its privacy breach[8] and settled a $400,000 privacy breach suit in November 2010.[9]

New Veterans Charter[edit]

The benefits program administered by Veterans Affairs Canada to ill and injured soldiers was rarely changed since its creation after World War One. The result was a number of out-dated policies that no longer suited the needs of Canada's veterans. This program gave a life-time pension to an individual who was ill or injured due to military service.

In 2005, all parties in the House of Commons passed the New Veterans Charter. This Charter replaced the life-time pension award with a lump sum payment award and used life-time pension payments much more sparingly.[10] The Charter came into force in early 2006 under Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government.

Under the New Veterans Charter, an ill or injured member can receive a lump sum payment of up to $550,000 tax-free, as well as a monthly pension of $9685.[11] Critics have complained that these amounts are insufficient to compensate an injured soldier; they have argued that the government is buying off veterans by giving them a lump sum payment rather than supporting the veteran for the rest of their lives. Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis said that giving veterans a lump sum payment was like "giving a case of beer to a drunk."[12]

In July 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Julian Fantino as the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Fantino quickly indicated that he was open to amending the New Veterans Charter to ensure veterans received the benefits and support they deserved.

In the spring of 2014, the all-party Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs met to discuss updates to the New Veterans Charter. The result was the unanimously-supported report titled The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward, which was tabled in Parliament in June 2014.[13] The committee made 14 recommendations to update the New Veterans Charter to close loopholes and ensure Canada's veterans would continue to receive the support and care that they deserve. In October 2014, the government responded, saying they agreed with the "spirit and intent" of all 14 recommendations and would begin working on the recommendations immediately.[14]

Treatment of Veterans[edit]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper campaigned on ensuring better service from Veterans Affairs Canada in their service of Canada's veterans. In 2007, the Veterans' Bill of Rights was passed, which included a statement that Veterans Affairs Canada must show veterans respect.[15]

VAC Stakeholder Committee Members[edit]

  • Veterans Affairs Canada (the Deputy Minister serves as Chair of the Committee)[16]
  • Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans (ANAVETs) in Canada
  • Department of National Defence & the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Royal Canadian Legion
  • National Council of Veterans Associations
  • Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping
  • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
  • Gulf War Veterans Association of Canada
  • Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association
  • NATO Veterans Organization of Canada
  • VeteransofCanada.ca
  • VeteranVoice.info
  • Veterans UN-NATO Canada
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans’ Association
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]