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Section I – Overview

Minister's Message

The Honourable Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs

As Minister of Veterans Affairs, I am pleased to present our 2006-2007 Departmental Performance Report. We have accomplished a lot in the past year as we continue to pioneer new and better ways to support and care for Canada's Veterans.

We are privileged to care for the brave men and women of Canada who have done so much to support peace and security around the world. VAC serves a diverse clientele, from Veterans of the Second World War and Korean War; former and still-serving members of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and eligible family members (survivors and dependants). In addition, through our remembrance programs we keep the flame of remembrance alive so that future generations will better understand the value of freedom.

In April 2006, we implemented the New Veterans Charter. It marked the most sweeping change to Veterans' benefits and services since the Second World War in 60 years. I am pleased to say that the suite of programs are responding to the needs of our Canadian Forces members and their families as they make the transition from military to civilian life. Funding announced in Budget 2007 provided needed support to Canada's Veterans – young and old, making a significant contribution to improved service to our war-service Veterans and strengthening mental health treatment and family support for our younger Veterans.

This year we made significant progress towards our goal of establishing a Veterans Bill of Rights and a Veterans Ombudsman office, both of which were created and announced on April 3, 2007 by the Prime Minister. In addition, we are continuing with one of the most extensive health services reviews ever undertaken at Veterans Affairs. We established permanent funding for the Juno Beach Centre, our only tribute in Europe for Canada's remarkable efforts in the Second World War. We organized overseas events marking the 90th anniversary of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel and planned the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. On April 9, 2007, tens of thousands of individuals, including 5,000 Canadian youth, gathered in France and in Canada to mark the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. The Government of Canada's signature event in France was comprised of a ceremony of remembrance and the dedication by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the newly restored Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial.

As Minister, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the dedication, professionalism and outstanding work performed by our staff. Employees fully understand that our Veterans are in great part responsible for helping build this great country and for securing our values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. We have a duty to never forget the debt we owe our men and women in uniform, and to never take for granted those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for us.

Signature of Greg Thompson

The Honourable Greg Thompson, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Veterans Affairs

Chair's Message

Victor A. Marchand, Chair, Veterans Review and Appeal Board

I am very pleased to report on the progress of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board in achieving our plans and priorities for 2006-07.

The Board's mandate is to ensure that Canada's Veterans, Canadian Forces (CF) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) members, and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the law. We fulfill this responsibility by providing fair and independent reviews of disability and War Veterans Allowance decisions made by Veterans Affairs Canada, at the request of individuals. In 2006-07, the Board received an increase in such requests over the previous year. This is significant because it highlights the important role of the Board in facilitating Veterans' right to appeal. It also challenges us to find ways to process claims effectively while upholding the principles of fairness and natural justice.

The Board had an exceptional year in 2006-07, delivering a strengthened program of redress to better serve our applicants. More than 7,100 individuals had their claims adjudicated, exceeding the previous year's caseload by 500 and our own target by 600. In addition, the Board issued decisions more promptly with 90 per cent of Reviews and Appeals finalized in an average of 29.2 and 24.1 days, respectively.

The Board continued to act on valuable input received from applicants through a national survey conducted in 2005 and worked to improve overall communications. We enhanced the forecasting and reporting of our workload through much-needed changes to the process for registering claims. Also, we identified strategies for continuous service improvement through regular dialogue with the Bureau of Pensions Advocates and The Royal Canadian Legion.

The Board experienced renewal of its membership in 2006-07, with 12 Members appointed through our competency-based Member Selection Process. A revitalized professional development program prepared these new Members to adjudicate increasingly complex claims. Members and staff collaborated to achieve the Board's commitment to be accountable to Canadians and to provide applicants with consistent, evidence-based decisions supported by law. I have no doubt that the creation of a Veterans Ombudsman and a Veterans Bill of Rights will provide us with opportunities to further improve our quality of service.

In order to build on this progress, the Board will continue to uphold the values of impartiality, excellence, integrity and respect in delivering an effective and independent redress program for our applicants.

Signature of Victor Marchand

Victor A. Marchand
Chair, Veterans Review and Appeal Board

Management Representation Statement

We submit for tabling in Parliament, the 2006-2007 Departmental Performance Report for Veterans Affairs, a Portfolio comprising Veterans Affairs Canada and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

This document has been prepared based on the reporting principles contained in the Guide for the Preparation of Part III of the 2006-2007 Estimates: Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports:

  • It adheres to the specific reporting requirements outlined in the Treasury Board Secretariat guidance;
  • It is based on the Portfolio's approved Strategic Outcomes and Program Activity Architecture structure that were approved by the Treasury Board;
  • It presents consistent, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information;
  • It provides a basis of accountability for the results achieved with the resources and authorities entrusted to it; and
  • It reports finances based on approved numbers from the Estimates and the Public Accounts of Canada.
Signature of Suzanne Tining

Suzanne Tining
Deputy Minister
Veterans Affairs Canada
September 20, 2007

Signature of Victor Marchand

Victor A. Marchand
Chair
Veterans Review and Appeal Board
September 20, 2007

 

Summary Information

The Veterans Affairs Portfolio exists to repay our nation's debt of gratitude to those men and women whose courageous efforts have given Canada a legacy of peace and freedom and have contributed to our growth as a nation. It is comprised of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC or "the Department"), and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB or "the Board"), which operates at arm's length from the Department. The Department's vision is to provide exemplary service that meets the needs of our clients and honours the sacrifice and achievement of our Veterans and clients. The vision of the Board is to be an exemplary leader in administrative tribunals and to demonstrate fairness, competence and excellence in service to Canadians by providing independent, consistent and reasonable decisions that are grounded in law.

The Portfolio provides programs and services to a highly diverse clientele that reflects the remarkable breadth of Canada's contributions to world peace. Our family of clients includes Canada's war service Veterans, Canadian Forces (CF) Veterans and members, past and present members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), their survivors and dependants, certain Allied Veterans and eligible civilians. On a broader scale, the citizens of Canada are also clients. In our efforts to keep alive the achievements and sacrifices of those who serve Canada in times of conflict and peace, VAC reaches out to Canadians and communities, at local, national and international levels. Given that today's young people will play a major role in keeping the legacy of Canada's Veterans alive for future generations, the Department is making a concerted effort to reach out and engage youth.

By exercising our mandates and delivering benefits and services to our family of clients, the Portfolio is contributing to the Government of Canada's social and economic outcomes. The mandates are as follows:

Veterans Affairs Canada's Mandate

VAC's mandate stems from laws and regulations. Among the more significant is the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, which charges the Minister of Veterans Affairs with the following responsibilities:

"The care, treatment, or re-establishing in civil life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces or merchant navy or in the naval, army or air forces or merchant navies of Her Majesty, of any person who has otherwise engaged in pursuits relating to war, and of any other person designated . . . and the care of the dependants or survivors of any person referred to . . . "

Veterans Review and Appeal Board's Mandate

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board has full and exclusive jurisdiction to hear, determine and deal with all applications for review and appeal that may be made to the Board under the Pension Act, the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, the War Veterans Allowance Act and other Acts of Parliament.

Planned Spending and Human Resources for Veterans Affairs

Financial Resources ($ millions)



Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending
3,204.1 3,298.7 3,028.0

Human Resources (Full-Time Equivalents)



Planned Actual Difference
3,758.0 3,695.0 63.0


Departmental Priorities



($ millions) 2006-2007
Planned Spending Actual Spending
Strategic Outcome: Eligible Veterans and other clients achieve their optimum level of well-being through programs and services that support their care, treatment, independence and re-establishment.
Priorities:
  • Enhancing and adapting programs and services to meet the needs of our Veterans, serving members, other clients and their families
  • Implementing a Mental Health Strategy to enhance capacity to meet the mental health needs of clients
Program Activity:
Pensions, Awards and Allowances for Disability and Death; and Financial Support
Expected Result:
Eligible Veterans and others are appropriately compensated to contribute to their well-being
Performance Status
Successfully met
2,065.4 1,932.8
Program Activity:
Health Care and Re-establishment Benefits and Services
Expected Result:
Eligible Veterans and others receive appropriate health benefits and rehabilitation services to contribute to their well-being
Successfully met 1,062.5 1,021.5
Strategic Outcome: Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all those who served in Canada's efforts during war, military conflict and peace.
Priority:
  • Engaging Canadians in community-based remembrance activities with an emphasis on Canada's youth
Program Activity:
Remembrance Programming
Expected Result:
Canadians who commemorate, understand and value the achievements and sacrifices of those who have served Canada in war, military conflict and peace
Performance Status
Successfully met
62.5 59.6
Strategic Outcome: Fair and effective resolution of disability pension, disability award, and War Veterans Allowance appeals from Canada's war Veterans, eligible Canadian Forces Veterans and members, RCMP clients, qualified civilians and their families.
Priorities:
  • Improved program delivery
  • Engaged communication with appellants and stakeholders
Program Activity:
Veterans Review and Appeal Board redress process for disability pensions and awards
Expected Result:
Fairness in the Disability Pension, Disability Award and War Veterans Allowance Program
Performance Status
Successfully met
13.7 14.1

Operating Environment

Veterans Affairs Canada is influenced by a variety of internal and external factors. While fulfilling its mandate, the Department must be cognisant of the: Government of Canada's broader policy priorities, including its vision for Canada; Canada's level of military involvement in operations and conflicts; the changing demographics of our client base and the Canadian workforce; and the need and desire of Canadians to have a public service that is transparent and accountable.

The April 2006 Speech from the Throne reflected Canadians' preoccupation with health care along with the Government of Canada's other priorities of the economy, the environment, and education. As well as continuously striving to improve the delivery of health care benefits and services to our clients, VAC also has an important role to play in the Government of Canada's strategic priorities relating to Canada's role in international security and health care in the 21st century.

In support of Canadian Veterans, the Government's commitments included implementing the New Veterans Charter, conducting a Veterans' health services review, creating a Veterans Bill of Rights and taking steps leading to the establishment of a Veterans Ombudsman. As well, VAC has taken a lead role, working closely with the Department of National Defence (DND), to develop options to resolve the uncertainties about the health effects related to the testing of unregistered U.S. Military herbicides, including Agent Orange, at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown in 1966 and 1967.

In recent years, Canadian Forces members have served in many capacities at home, and throughout the world as part of United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other multinational task forces involved in peacekeeping and peacemaking missions. Recently, the pace of deployments and the number of Canadian Forces members serving in international operations has increased significantly, with frequent and prolonged deployments to war zones. The result of this increased pace and intensity for our armed forces is a corresponding increased need for care and treatment for physical and mental injuries sustained while in service to the nation.

In response to this increased need, the New Veterans Charter was implemented on April 1, 2006. It represents the most sweeping change of VAC programs and services since the Second World War. These new programs and services stand as a model for other countries. They are designed to help our younger Canadian Forces Veterans successfully make the transition to civilian life through rehabilitation and reintegration programs.

VAC is a growing, medium-sized department with a renewed and highly relevant mandate. It has an extensive service delivery network of 38 offices across Canada. The Department, headquartered in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is the only department of the Federal Government located outside the capital region of Ottawa. It has approximately 4,000 employees. Its 2006-07 operating budget was $3.2 billion.

As of March 31, 2007, VAC was providing benefits and services to approximately 221,000 clients. Our client base has been shifting and is expected to change dramatically over the next 10 years. While the Department is witnessing a decline in the number of war Veterans we serve, there continues to be an increase in the number of Canadian Forces clients who are looking to VAC for support and assistance. In fact, forecasts point to increases in the total number of clients accessing VAC programs and benefits in the near future. The following is a breakdown of VAC's clients as of March 31, 2007.

The following is an approximate breakdown of the people served by VAC:

Text Version



Approximate breakdown of the people served by VAC (%)
War Service Veterans 38.9%
Survivors 35.2%
Canadian Forces 22.9%
RCMP 3.0%

Chart Version

Approximate breakdown of the people served by VAC

VAC remains committed to improving the quality of life for older Veterans who served in times of war and improving the quality of life for clients who live with mental health conditions, whether they be older Veterans or younger Canadian Forces (CF) members. The resolve to become a world leader in the treatment of operational stress injuries (OSI) has intensified because of the increase in the prevalence of mental health conditions and a lack of community based mental health services across the country for clients seeking treatment.

As well, the Department continued the work of improving its programs and services. An example is the health services review which is underway. It is designed to identify options for improving programs and services for our aging War Veterans.

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board serves the same group of clients as VAC, specifically those who have been denied entitlement for a claimed disability or who are dissatisfied with their assessment. The following, based on 5,569 reviews and 1,216 appeals decisions finalized as of March 31, 2007, is a breakdown of the people served in 2006-07 by the Board:

The following is an approximate breakdown of the people served by the Board:

Text Version



Approximate breakdown of the people served by the Board (%)
Canadian Forces 71.1%
War Service Veterans 21.9%
RCMP 7.0%

Chart Version

Approximate breakdown of the people served by the Board

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board continued to strengthen its capacity to provide independent reviews of disability and War Veterans Allowance decisions. The Board invested significant efforts in planning and training to equip its staff and members to deal with numerous challenges, including the increasing complexity of medical conditions; the implementation of the New Veterans Charter legislation; and the implementation of the 2006 edition of the Table of Disabilities. The Board continued to bring about innovative and positive changes to its operations to ensure each applicant had a full and fair hearing and received a well-reasoned and timely decision. These efforts sustained the redress program which is responsive to emerging issues and effective in carrying out its mandate.

For generations, the torch of remembrance has been a powerful force, unifying Canadians of all ages, from all walks of life, in communities from sea to sea to sea. Today, demographics and world events have breathed new urgency into efforts to increase Canadians' understanding of and appreciation of the achievements and sacrifices of all who served Canada in times of war, conflict and peace. Time is of the essence. War-service Veterans are in the twilight of their lives. Each day, their ranks diminish, leaving Canadians to mourn the loss of a treasured link to the past. At the same time, the increased tempo of CF operations throughout the world, particularly in Afghanistan, is a sombre reminder that freedom comes at a cost. The responsibility falls to VAC to identify new commemorative opportunities, explore new partnerships and harness new technologies designed to help Canadians connect with their past and move confidently towards the future.

Strategic Direction

Veterans Affairs Canada strategic direction in 2006-07 focussed primarily on two areas under the over-arching goal of improving program and service delivery.

The Department focussed on providing the best service possible to its clients by modernizing and enhancing programs and services. For example, VAC implemented the New Veterans Charter in 2006-07. In addition, the Veterans Bill of Rights and the Ombudsman office were created on April 3, 2007, marking a milestone in the Government of Canada's continuing commitments to meet the needs of Canada's Veterans. The Veterans Bill of Rights is an expression of the rights Veterans have long identified as important. This comprehensive declaration of rights was developed in consultation with Veterans' organizations to strengthen our ability to respond quickly and fairly to the concerns of Veterans.

The Department strove to ensure that the torch of remembrance remained strong by encouraging Canadians, especially youth, to actively participate in remembrance activities. An example is the 90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge which included the participation of 5,000 Canadian youth.

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board's strategic focus was to improve program and service delivery and to provide a fair and independent redress process that ensures all appellants receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the law.

Breakdown Image

Priorities – Veterans Affairs Canada

Enhancing and adapting programs and services to meet the needs of our Veterans, serving members, other clients and their families

The New Veterans Charter (NVC), which came into effect on April 1, 2006, represents the most comprehensive change to Veterans programs and services since the Second World War. The new suite of programs represents the support that CF Veterans and their families told us they need to ease their transition to civilian life. The New Veterans Charter replaces monthly disability pensions with a comprehensive package of wellness programs and a lump-sum disability award. The suite of programs includes Rehabilitation, Financial Benefits, Health Care, Disability, Death and Detention Benefits, and Job Placement programs - all supported by comprehensive case management. VAC's existing suite of programs and services for war service Veterans and RCMP clients are not affected by these changes. Pensions and related benefits for CF members and Veterans which were in effect as of April 1, 2006, are also not affected by this new suite of programs and service.

The new programs and services were developed following the most extensive research and consultations ever conducted by the Department. These consultations included Veterans' organizations, subject area experts, other government departments and CF members. The Department also created an Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Special Needs to ensure the issues and concerns of seriously disabled Veteran clients – with either physical or psychological injuries – and their families, are represented.

The new programs are supported by enhanced case management. VAC Area Counsellors, supported by an interdisciplinary team, assess needs and develop and monitor case plans. This approach supports clients' transition and provides a better quality of life for clients and their families. Each releasing member is offered a transition interview. Interviews are completed to identify clients' needs, and to maximize choices and their opportunities to access Departmental and community resources. To be able to provide comprehensive and consistent service delivery, each Client Service Team must meet a national certification standard. Currently, 20 Client Service Teams in 10 District Offices have undergone a certification review.

After its first year, the New Veterans Charter is successfully meeting its goal of assisting CF members to successfully transition to civilian life. In 2006-07, more than 2,500 CF members, Veterans and their families received assistance; 1,100 received rehabilitation services; 900 Earnings Loss applications were approved (representing $3.5 million for CF members and families as they move toward recovery); and 2,300 Veterans received a Disability Award at a cost of more than $50 million. Disability awards recognize and compensate for the non-economic effects of a service-related disability, including pain and suffering. The award is a monetary, tax-free, lump-sum payment, the amount of which is based on the extent of the disability. Unlike with the Disability Pension Program, clients under the New Veterans Charter do not have to be receiving a disability award to access other programs and services.

To ensure the New Veterans Charter programs are achieving intended results for our CF Veterans and families, VAC has created a comprehensive quality management program. An outcomes measurement strategy has been developed to measure client outcomes in five domains: health (physical and mental); economic support; employment; community integration; and recognition. Clients who enter the Rehabilitation Program will be surveyed in three phases: (1) upon admission; (2) upon completion; and (3) two years following completion of the program.

In Budget 2007, the Government of Canada demonstrated its ongoing commitment to Canada's Veterans by providing additional funding to strengthen services and improve processing times for both pensions and health treatment.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Clients

In a similar vein, we are working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to support a modernized approach to disability management for their still-serving and former members. During the past year, VAC introduced a pilot initiative in the province of Saskatchewan where all discharging members of the RCMP were offered a transition interview with a VAC Area Counsellor to identify needs and provide information. The pilot is expected to be evaluated in the coming months and VAC and the RCMP will determine if this service will be provided in other areas of the country.

In 2006-07, VAC provided programs and services to 6,000 Royal Canadian Mounted Police clients. Under a new Project Charter, the Department and the RCMP will explore how to improve the benefits and services available to former members and still serving members of the RCMP.

War Service Clients

While the New Veterans Charter is helping to better address the needs of modern-day Veterans, VAC is continually working to improve service to Canada's traditional war service Veterans. With an average age of 85, these aging clients require increased support to maintain their independence and to give them a choice in the care setting that best meets their needs. VAC experience has shown that when given a choice, Veterans prefer to remain at home rather than move to a long-term care facility. Spouses and primary caregivers play a significant role in Veterans' ability to do so and are demanding more equitable access to the Veterans Independence Program services of housekeeping and grounds maintenance.

VAC is undertaking a comprehensive Health Services Review. The goals of this review are to move from an entitlement to a needs-based approach while reducing the complex eligibility requirements. An ongoing dialogue continues with Veterans' organizations, Departmental officials and gerontological experts. The Gerontological Advisory Council (established in 1997 to advise VAC on how to address the changing needs of Canada's Veterans) released its report Keeping the Promise: The Future of Health Benefits for Canada's War Service Veterans in November 2006, which will help guide the work of the review.

The Health Services Review will focus on VAC's three major health care programs: the Veterans Independence Program (VIP), Long-Term Care and Health Treatment Benefits.

Veterans Independence Program

The Veterans Independence Program, called Canada's first national homecare program, helps clients maintain their independence through the provision of home and community care. With an annual budget of $270 million, VIP includes services such as housekeeping and grounds maintenance, ambulatory health care, transportation, home adaptations, and intermediate nursing home care. 101,267 Canadian Veterans and primary caregivers were receiving services under VIP as of March 31, 2007.

In support of the Health Services Review, VAC is working with the Government of Ontario to analyse what mix of home care services, including VIP, best support Veterans' independence. The Continuing Care Research Project includes two companion studies. The first study, taking place in Victoria, Ottawa and Halifax, is an evaluation of a Veterans Affairs Canada pilot intervention offering specialized home care services to Veterans on institutional care waiting lists. The second and larger study is a cost and outcomes study in the Toronto-area. That study compares VAC clients in community home care, supportive housing and institutional care environments. The final report on the project is scheduled to be released in the upcoming year.

Long-term Care

At an annual cost of $340 million, VAC supports approximately 10,000 Veterans in long-term care beds, either in a network of community facilities across the country or in larger contract facilities where we have priority access beds for Veterans. This includes Ste. Anne's Hospital, the last remaining federal hospital administered by the Department. Client satisfaction with care in these facilities is high – more than 90 percent.

In 2006-07, work continued on the modernization of Ste. Anne's Hospital in Montral, Quebec. The renovations will provide a safer and more secure living environment to meet specific client needs. The renovations, which will be complete by 2009, include constructing a new pavilion; renovating the main building (the tower); and building a thermal power plant and an electrical sub-station (which are now fully operational). When complete, the Hospital will have capacity for 446 beds.

Treatment Benefits

In 2006-07, approximately 111,600 clients benefited from VAC treatment benefits, at a cost of $266.1 million. Treatment Benefits consist of medical and dental care, surgical or prosthetic aids, prescription drugs and home adaptations; cost of travel to receive these benefits; and treatment allowances paid during periods of acute treatment of a pensioned condition. VAC also covers the health treatment costs of disabled or low income Veterans to ensure they have access to a high quality of care.

The Pharmacy Program is a very important one for Veterans. VAC's pharmacy program strives to help keep VAC clients healthy and independent in their communities. The Department has developed four performance indicators to measure cost effectiveness in pharmacy program management. They include cost savings from the use of generic drugs; average pharmacy professional fee within a service category; unit cost of benefit; and claims processing cost per prescription filled. The first of these indicators (cost savings from the use of generic drugs) is functional. Work continues on implementing the remaining three.

Disability Pensions

VAC continues to provide disability pensions and special awards for disabled Veterans of the First and Second World Wars; the Korean War; any Veteran with service prior to April 1, 1947; and former and serving members of the RCMP. These pensions compensate for disabilities or death related to military or RCMP service. A total of 181,012 clients were in receipt of a disability pension or special award as of March 31, 2007, at a cost of $1.8 billion.

Implementing a Mental Health Strategy to enhance capacity to meet the mental health needs of clients

Due to the increased operational tempo, psychological and psychiatric-related conditions are on the rise among Veterans, still-serving CF members and RCMP. The increase is particularly noticeable among VAC clients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over the past five years the number of clients with a PTSD-condition has more than tripled, increasing to 6,504. As of March 31, 2007, a total of 10,525 clients are in receipt of a pension for a psychiatric condition. Our younger clients with service in Regular Force, Special Duty Area or RCMP represent 69 per cent of those pensioned for a psychiatric condition. Our traditional war service Veterans make up the remaining 31 per cent.

To help meet the treatment needs of these clients, VAC has developed a Mental Health Strategy which complements the New Veterans Charter. One of the unique features of the New Veterans Charter is that it separates injury from receipt of benefits and transition support. In this way, VAC can intervene early with releasing members, and help identify and address outstanding mental health needs.

As part of this strategy, VAC continues to increase its mental health service presence in the community. VAC sponsors a network of OSI clinics and participates in the Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Joint Network with DND and the RCMP. These clinics diagnose and treat operational stress injuries among Veterans. A total of five out-patient OSI clinics have been established across the country. These clinics complement DND's five Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres . Each clinic provides access to a team of mental health professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and clinical social workers. These professionals are specially trained in treating PTSD and other psychological injuries resulting from military service. These teams have access to standardized assessment and treatment protocols developed by the National Centre for Operational Stress Injuries (NCOSI) at Ste. Anne's Hospital. This Centre of Expertise sees field specialists develop and promote best practices through training, continuous education, research and partnerships, as well as expert advice for complex case management and policy development.

In Budget 2007, the Government of Canada provided funding for five new OSI clinics. They will be located across the country to assist CF members and Veterans dealing with operational stress injuries related to their military service. The additional funding will provide $9 million per year to establish the new clinics to ensure that Canadian Forces members, Veterans and their families receive critically timed interventions, social support and counselling services when they face difficult adjustments due to military service.

An additional $1 million per year was provided to support families of CF members through an innovative social support network jointly supported by DND and VAC. The Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) is a very successful DND-VAC partnership. It was established in 2001 to provide one-on-one and group peer support, education and guidance to CF members, Veterans and their families affected by operational stress injuries. The peers, who suffer from operational stress injuries themselves, are selected and trained by DND medical advisors and specialists at Ste. Anne's Hospital. The peers are co-located for the most part in VAC offices. They provide social support to fellow service personnel also suffering from adverse mental health conditions. We have been informed, anecdotally, that their interventions have averted numerous personal tragedies. Their work is helping change attitudes about combat and stigma associated with operational stress in the military, and prove that recovery is possible for CF members and Veterans living with operational stress injuries. Currently, there are 17 Peer Support Coordinators (PSCs) and six Family Peer Support Coordinators (FPSCs) across Canada. OSISS services have been provided to more than 2,500 CF members, Veterans and families. The requirement for this service continues to grow.

In the fall of 2006, Bereavement Peer Support was added to the OSISS program. To date, 55 families who have lost a loved one due to military service have been helped. Additional funding in Budget 2007 will add eight new family peer support coordinators.

VAC is actively recruiting registered mental health professionals across the country to provide care, support and professional counselling services for eligible clients and families in their local community. During the year, work continued with DND and the RCMP to further build capacity.

Strengthening the Role of Veterans Affairs Canada as a Leader

VAC has also contributed both nationally and internationally to the advancement of work in the field of mental health by organizing and participating in conferences and symposiums. The events, which brought together experts to explore trends in the field, included the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference in California in November 2006, and the 2nd National Operational Stress Injuries Symposium in Montral from May 7 to 9, 2007.

Engaging Canadians in community-based Remembrance activities with an emphasis on Canada's youth

A nation's collective memory is the cornerstone upon which a strong, secure and free society is built. Recognizing this, Veterans Affairs Canada has long been committed to keeping alive the achievements and sacrifices of all those, past and present, who have put themselves in harm's way to defend Canada's freedom and values.

Canadians embrace and support these efforts. In 2005, Canada's celebration of Year of the Veteran sparked a national rejuvenation in remembrance. The legacy of that year continues. Departmental research conducted in 2006 confirms that the appetite for remembrance remains strong:

  • More than seven out of 10 Canadians feel it is important to mark Veterans' Week each year.
  • More than one in three Canadians actively participate in Veterans' Week activities.
  • The remembrance sections of VAC's Web site attracted almost 1.7 million visits in 2006, a 90 per cent increase from the previous year.

In 2006-07, Veterans Affairs Canada took decisive steps to build on this momentum. The Department's new community-based initiatives, new partnerships and new technologies provide sound and sustainable leadership for the Government of Canada's Remembrance Policy. Many noteworthy results were achieved:

  • Canada's remembrance programming gained greater international stature and visibility.
  • A new operations division in Europe expanded the overseas "face" and "reach" of Canadian remembrance.
  • Strategies to "modernize" remembrance programming provided targeted outreach to more than a million young Canadians along with the opportunity to better connect with hundreds of thousands of younger Canadian Forces Veterans and still-serving members.
  • Innovative community engagement initiatives, often through partnerships, were a catalyst for building local pride and an awareness of remembrance in every corner of every region of Canada.

International Acclaim

On April 9, 2007, after many months of intense planning, Canadians of all ages, and all walks of life, joined together to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The battle is considered by many to have been a key turning point in shaping Canada as a nation.

The Government of Canada's signature ceremony took place in France. Tens of thousands of people, including 5,000 Canadian youth and 400 Canadian Forces members, joined world leaders to pay homage to the brave Canadians who captured Vimy Ridge 90 years ago in a fight for peace, freedom and hope.

As part of this international tribute, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II dedicated the newly restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial. The memorial that so proudly stands as a reminder of the sacrifices and achievements made during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, is, itself, a national treasure. Its restoration was part of a $30 million project announced in 2001 by the Government of Canada to repair the damage that age and Mother Nature had done to the 13 memorials that commemorate Canada's involvement in the First World War. The restoration of the Vimy Memorial was completed on time and within budget under the careful direction of Veterans Affairs Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, and a team of international experts. The restoration of one of Canada's finest works of art is both a technical and conservation triumph. Newly restored, its dignified presence will continue to offer visitors a safe and peaceful haven to reflect on those who served and died protecting Canada's values.

European Operations Division

For almost a century, the bravery and daring of Canada's military has had a profound influence on the struggle for freedom and peace in Europe. The new European Operations Division, which was established in 2006-07, promises to give Canada a highly visible and well-respected presence in an area of the world where commemoration is actively embraced. Under its direction, the sacrifices and achievements of Canadians will be advanced through commemorative projects, diplomatic partnerships, the stewardship of the grave sites of Canada's War Dead, and the preservation of Canada's European Battlefield Memorials. Collectively, these memorials attract more than a million visitors each year. Departmental experts maintain a permanent presence at both the Canadian National Vimy Memorial site and the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial site. Each summer, the Department also manages a Student Guide Program in France that provides young Canadians with the opportunity of a lifetime to teach people from around the world about Canadian history.

Remembrance through Partnerships

Partnerships at the international, national and community levels are critical to the reach of remembrance. In 2006-07, partnerships with the private sector, Veterans' organizations, non-profit organizations, and all levels of government, breathed new vitality into the world of remembrance.

In February 2007, the Government of Canada committed $5 million over the next decade to help support the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France. The Centre, opened in 2003, represents the hopes and dreams of a dedicated group of Second World Veterans who worked tirelessly to pay tribute to the contributions Canadians made in liberating Europe. Through this funding, Canada will help to support the Centre's operating costs, including the delivery of information and educational initiatives that will benefit visitors from around the world.

Through the VAC Partnerships Contribution Program, non-profit groups across Canada can receive financial support for community-based remembrance projects or projects to help restore local cenotaphs and monuments. The first arm of the Contribution Program is the Community Engagement Partnership Fund. This year, under that Fund, VAC contributed $1.5 million to help support 112 national, regional and local initiatives. As a result, tens of thousands of Canadians were engaged in remembrance projects. In Calgary, alone, through a partnership with the Calgary Military Museum of Remembrance Education Program, more than 60,000 students learned how ordinary people served their country with extraordinary heroism. Specific in-Canada initiatives were also funded to reach out to Canadian Forces Veterans and the Aboriginal community.

The second arm of the Contribution Program, announced in 2005, is the Cenotaph/Monument Restoration Program. In 2006-07, the Program's first full year of operation, 49 communities, representing all regions of Canada, were provided with funding to help preserve and restore their local cenotaphs and monuments. The investment in Canada's most treasured infrastructure totalled just over $530,000. Through the program, physical structures were repaired, inscriptions were restored, walkways were made safe, and landscaping was rejuvenated, so that local citizens could once again take pride in their places of remembrance.

Ongoing partnerships with a family of federal entities, including the Department of National Defence, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Public Works and Government Services Canada, the Parliament of Canada, Library and Archives Canada and Heritage Canada, means that those who are listed in the seven Books of Remembrance will forever be remembered and cherished by their families, their comrades and the millions of people who study Canadian history.

In the Nation's Capital, Ottawa's Winter Carnival, the National War Memorial, and a Veterans' Week Candlelight ceremony drew thousands of participants.

Across the country, in rural and urban centres in every region, partnerships were made with local authorities, schools, non-profit groups and volunteer organizations. As a result, hundreds of meaningful in-Canada events bridged time and geography to link the heroes of yesterday with those of today and tomorrow. During Veterans' Week alone, a record 239 community events were posted to the Department's online Calendar of Events.

In 2006-07, seventy very special Canadians were awarded the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation to recognize their outstanding contribution to the care and well-being of Veterans and/or their efforts to commemorate Veterans.

21st Century Learning

Veterans' Week, held each year from November 5 to 11, is traditionally the time that Canadians unite to say "thank you" to our Veterans. But on any given day, somewhere in Canada, someone is likely to be engaged in remembrance.

In 2006-07, the Department looked at remembrance with fresh eyes, seeking ways to engage youth on an ongoing basis, using a modernized approach that would challenge their minds and touch their hearts. As a result, more than one million Canadian youth learned about remembrance thanks to a myriad of partnerships with our nation's educators, youth organizations, Veterans' organizations and community leaders.

New and innovative learning materials were made available during Veterans' Week 2006 to more than 16,000 schools across Canada. Tales of Animals in War, a suite of programs that included a tabloid newsletter telling stories from the "Pause for Remembrance" clubhouse, captivated Canada's youngest students. A newspaper called the Canada Remembers Times offered senior students a glimpse of what it may have been like to walk in the footsteps of those who served Canada on land, on sea and in the air at various points in history. Students and educators responded eagerly, triggering a corresponding increase in classroom mail orders and Web visits over the previous year.

A unique Canadian presence on the Internet further helped to erase the geographic boundaries of learning. Web partnerships with a host of organizations, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board, made it possible to celebrate and explore Canada's rich cultural and linguistic heritage with virtual tools such as the Vimy Photo Galleries and the Chinese Canadian section of the Heroes Remember Web site. Additional Web features underway and soon to be published include La Force Francophone and the First World War Audio Archives. These initiatives will join the very popular Heroes Remember Web site, where one can watch, listen to and read the personal memories of Canada's service men and women.

The Department worked closely with the Historica-Encounters with Canada Foundation whose mission is to introduce all Canadians to the fascinating stories that contribute to our unique country. As part of this partnership, a national Remembrance Youth Summit was held in May 2006. It resulted in a White Paper that may help to pioneer initiatives to encourage youth to carry the torch of remembrance for future generations.

A national partnership with The Royal Canadian Legion and Scouts Canada resulted in the "Remembrance Trails" project. The development of interpretative trails at six different Scout camps across Canada gives thousands of youth and volunteers the opportunity to learn about events that helped to shape Canada as a nation.

Learning by "doing and seeing" became a reality for 42 young Canadians representing Aboriginal youth, young Canadians involved in Scouts Canada, Historica-Encounters with Canada Foundation and the War Amputations of Canada's "Operation Legacy" program. These young Canadians took part in the official Government of Canada overseas event to France to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel.

There was tangible success through initiatives to modernize its remembrance programming so that more Canadians could better appreciate the sacrifices and achievements of Canada's CF community. CF Veterans and still-serving members, some not much older than the students who applauded them, took their rightful place beside aging Veterans at ceremonies and events across Canada and around the world. Learning tools, featuring 50 years of peacekeeping efforts, also proved popular. This year, 15 CF Veterans were awarded the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation. In the process, many of Canada's younger military members gained a deeper appreciation for their place in the history of remembrance.

Monuments, Memorials and Veterans Graves

In 2006-07, VAC provided $11 million in financial support to ensure that 2,178 qualified Veterans were laid to rest in a dignified manner. The funding is part of a national funeral, burial and grave marker program that is carried out in partnership with the Last Post Fund. Most of the departed Veterans who qualified for this program had insufficient funds in their estate to pay for a proper funeral. For their grieving families, this program, delivered on behalf of a grateful nation, provided much-needed comfort and dignity.

In the same manner, monuments and memorials are silent but powerful reminders of what our Veterans accomplished and sacrificed for us all. To maintain the faith our Veterans placed in our future, we must maintain monuments to their memory and care for them with the dignity and grace they deserve.

At home, and around the world, the Department also continued to work with one of its oldest partners – the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – to maintain the graves of the approximately 112,000 Canadian War Dead who have been laid to rest in more than 80 countries. In Canada, another 350,000 grave sites in some 15,000 cemeteries from coast to coast, were maintained.

In addition to its traditional work, the Commission, in partnership with VAC, has completed "mapping" the grave markers of about one-third of the Veteran grave markers in Canada for which the federal government is responsible. When completed in 2010, this national data base will make it easier to monitor and maintain the markers. It will also help relatives and friends locate the final resting place of Veterans who, because of distance or the passage of time, may be unknown to them.

Priorities – Veterans Review and Appeal Board

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board, through its legislated mandate, provides two levels of appeal of disability pension or disability award decisions and the final level of appeal of War Veterans Allowance decisions.

The Board's primary goal is to deliver an effective redress program through strategic and innovative improvement initiatives. Applicants have voiced their concerns regarding the length of the appeal process, and the Board made tremendous progress in addressing the time lines within its control. To address the volume and age of pending claims, the Board increased the hearing schedule by offering alternative methods for hearings. More than 7,100 applicants had the opportunity to have their claims heard and present their evidence, exceeding the forecast of 6,500 hearings.

In addition, the length of time to finalize the decision following the hearing was reduced for applicants, and the Board successfully decreased the number of claims pending a hearing. The Board continues to work with representatives to fill the capacity available in the hearing schedule, and to encourage them to bring forward their oldest claims and remove abandoned claims. Collectively, these measures will continue to provide improved service to applicants.

The Strategic Plan 2006-2009 describes the Board's priorities in improved program delivery and engaged communication with appellants and stakeholders.

Improved program delivery

The Board was proactive in identifying ways to strengthen its operations to support decision-making and contribute to delivering timely and fair decisions.

In the claim appraisal and management initiative, resources were allocated to pilot enhancements in the pre-hearing documentation. Changes to the registration of appeal hearing claims have been effective in ensuring that cases registered with the Board proceed to a hearing, and in reducing the time frame to finalize decisions. Similar innovations will be considered for the review hearing claims.

Following the Government of Canada's announcement to establish a Veterans Bill of Rights and a Veterans Ombudsman, the Board assessed its requirements for resources and processes to respond to specific requests and recommendations. Individuals have always had the opportunity to raise issues if they are dissatisfied with the respect, courtesy and professionalism of Members or staff. All concerns are taken very seriously and are properly investigated in a timely manner. To formalize this process, the Board developed complaints procedures and a complaint form which are available at www.vrab-tacra.gc.ca. They may also be requested by calling the toll-free inquiries line at 1-800-450-8006.

Six complaints were received prior to September 29, 2006, the date the formal complaints procedures were initiated, and 10 complaints were received under the new process. All issues raised, which varied from wording of the decision to a Member's conduct, have been addressed. This complaint process was not intended to address dissatisfaction with Board decisions. Individuals who are dissatisfied with the outcome of Board decisions should contact their representatives to pursue their appeal rights.

Research was expanded in the area of emerging legal precedents and issues including the New Veterans Charter and the 2006 Table of Disabilities. The Board issued rules of practice regarding exhibits and attachments, reconsideration applications and teleconference review hearings. The Board also communicated its position on transitional issues created when the 1995 Table of Disabilities was replaced by the 2006 Table of Disabilities. Rulings of the Federal Court were analysed to ensure that the guidance given is reflected in the Board's decisions, policies and operations.

A revised professional development framework for new Members was implemented with an intensified training period, scheduled follow-up sessions and mentoring. During the year, 12 Members were appointed to the Board through the competency-based Member Selection Process which was implemented in December 2004. Members received training on the provisions of the New Veterans Charter and new regulations, and attended specialized sessions in post traumatic stress disorder at Ste. Anne's Hospital. Further training and tools are being developed to support quality, consistency and efficiency in decision-making. These initiatives support the Board's commitment to render quality decisions that are based on the facts of the claim, the available evidence, and the applicable legislation.

The Board benefited from its involvement in the introduction of the New Veterans Charter legislation. Working with VAC in the implementation stage was an effective way to approach the transition, and allowed for assessment of impacts, timely training and a smooth transition for the Board.

Approximately 8,950 applications for hearings were received, an increase in comparison to the previous two years. The Board prepared 8,619 pre-hearing documents; however, 1,805 cases were subsequently withdrawn or abandoned by the applicants. More than 240 applicants requested an appeal of a disability award decision under the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, which came into force on April 1, 2006. The following chart describes the 7,132 decisions finalized by the Board. It represents the highest volume in recent years.


Finalized Decisions 2004-2005 2005-2006 2006-2007
Reviews 4,911 4,870 5,743
Appeals 1,756 1,532 1,271
Reconsiderations 194 222 107
War Veterans Allowance 23 21 11
Total 6,884 6,645 7,132

From registration with the Board to finalization of the claim in the Board, the average time for review hearing claims was 203 days, and the average time for appeal hearing claims was 165 days. This includes the time period (which is the shared responsibility of the Board and the appellants' representative) when the claim is waiting to be scheduled. It depends upon appellant readiness and hearing schedule availability.

The Board worked with the Bureau of Pensions Advocates and the Royal Canadian Legion to remove inactive claims, to improve management of claims and to reduce waiting times for applicants. A longstanding issue has been the preparation of pre-hearing documents for claims that are subsequently withdrawn or abandoned. VRAB has collaborated with representatives to identify ways to decrease overproduction. As a result, overproduction has been reduced from 40 per cent to 15 per cent this year. Progress was also made in the registration of claims (which has indicated high pending volumes attributed to the Board). However, a large number of these claims are with the representatives for counselling, and as many as 40 per cent are withdrawn and do not proceed to a hearing. The change in the registration of claims is significant in accurately forecasting and reporting on the Board's workload. At year end, the Board had 3,361 claims pending at the pre-hearing stage - a manageable workload that can be dealt with expeditiously.

On average, 60.7 per cent of the finalized review decisions and 37.5 per cent of the finalized appeal decisions varied a previous ruling. The two factors weighing most heavily in varying a prior decision at the review hearing are the applicant's testimony and additional evidence or information that was not available at the previous level. At the appeal hearing, the applicant may submit documented evidence and written information. 90 per cent of review decisions were finalized in an average of 29.2 days and 90 per cent of appeal decisions were finalized in an average of 24.1 days. This substantially met the public commitment to render a decision 30 calendar days following the date of the hearing.

When all Board redress avenues have been exhausted, applicants may apply to the Federal Court for a Judicial Review. In 2006-07, 11 appellants filed an application with the Federal Court (less than 0.2 per cent of the Board's 7,132 decisions). Of the 14 rulings handed down by the Federal Court this year, seven applications were allowed and returned to the Board for rehearing and seven applications were dismissed. One decision was returned pursuant to a Federal Court Consent Order.

The Board has dedicated Members and staff that provide outstanding service. All efforts are focussed on improving the performance and processes of the Board, helping to strengthen this valuable redress program for Canadians.

Engaged communication with appellants and stakeholders

Individuals have a variety of avenues to contact the Board including telephone, e-mail, fax and traditional mail. More than 7,000 inquiries received a timely response in 2006-07. The Board responded to the information needs of Canadians through regular updates on its Web site. During the year, the Board increased communication with representatives and Parliamentarians regarding its mandate, workload and performance.

In 2006 the Board also released the results of a survey conducted by Environics Research Group in July 2005. A questionnaire was mailed to 1,541 Veterans, members of the Canadian Forces, the RCMP, and spouses or survivors who had a hearing and received a recent decision from the Board. The response rate was 65 per cent. While the majority of applicants indicated they had a positive experience with the appeal process, they also provided suggestions for improving the program. These recommendations were considered and incorporated in the Board's Strategic Action Plan. The complete report of the National Applicant Satisfaction Survey 2005, which contains a detailed description of the methodology and results, is available at www.vrab-tacra.gc.ca.

The Board did not achieve its commitment to develop a communications plan and publish a brochure in 2006-07 due to a lack of available resources. Further plans for information products and outreach were also delayed due to competing priorities. However, the plan and brochure are priorities in 2007-08 as these will guide the Board in its efforts to provide Canadians with clear and concise information on the Board and its area of responsibility within the disability pension and award program.

Link to the Government of Canada Outcome Areas

The Portfolio is contributing to the Government of Canada's economic and social outcomes through the delivery of benefits and services that contribute to the independence, quality of life, social citizenship, and standard of living of Canada's Veterans, CF members, qualified civilians and their families in recognition of their service to the nation.

Sustaining Canada's economy is an essential part of improving the well-being and quality of life for Canadians. VAC's Strategic Outcome "Eligible Veterans and other clients achieve their optimum level of well-being through programs and services that support their care, treatment, independence, and re-establishment" contributes to the Government of Canada's outcome "Income Security and Employment for Canadians". VAC is committed to providing exemplary, client-centred services and benefits that respond to the needs of its clients through the strategic priorities of: Enhancing and adapting programs and services to meet the needs of our Veterans, serving members, other clients and their families; and Implementing a Mental Health Strategy to enhance capacity to meet the mental health needs of clients.

The Government of Canada's outcome "Healthy Canadians" is strongly supported by VAC's Strategic Outcome "Eligible Veterans and other clients achieve their optimum level of well-being through programs and services that support their care, treatment, independence, and re-establishment". VAC's commitment to its clients' health and wellness is actioned through the strategic priorities of: Enhancing and adapting programs and services to meet the needs of our Veterans, serving members, other clients and their families; and Implementing a Mental Health Strategy to enhance capacity to meet the mental health needs of clients.

VAC's Strategic Outcome "Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all those who served in Canada's efforts during war, military conflict and peace" supports the Government of Canada's outcome "A Vibrant Canadian Culture and Heritage". VAC's commitment is actioned through the strategic priority of Engaging Canadians in community-based remembrance activities with an emphasis on Canada's youth.

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board Strategic Outcome of "Fair and effective resolution of disability pension, disability award, and War Veterans Allowance appeals from Canada's war Veterans, eligible CF Veterans and members, RCMP clients, qualified civilians and their families" contributes to the Government of Canada outcome "Income Security and Employment for Canadians" by providing fairness in the adjudication of decisions for disability pensions, disability awards, and War Veterans Allowances.