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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 2007-2008 Departmental Performance Report. This report outlines our activities in support of those men and women who have courageously served Canada in times of war, peacekeeping and military operations. Much has been accomplished as we continue to care for and support them and their families in their time of need, and remember and honour their sacrifices and achievements by keeping alive the flame of remembrance.

With the additional support announced in Budget 2007 and the October 2007 Speech from the Throne, we have taken significant steps to improve services for our clients. As part of the continued implementation of and improvements to the New Veterans Charter, we strengthened mental health treatment and family support for our younger Veterans through the opening of additional Operational Stress Injury clinics. In 2007, we established a Veterans Bill of Rights in April and appointed a Veterans Ombudsman in November. The expansion of the Veterans Independence Program, announced in Budget 2008, will provide housekeeping and/or grounds maintenance benefits to eligible low-income and disabled survivors of traditional war service Veterans.

In co-operation with the Department of National Defence, we offered a one time, tax-free ex gratia payment related to the testing of Agent Orange and other unregistered U.S. military herbicides at CFB Gagetown.

We commemorated some very significant anniversaries. On April 9, 2007, twenty thousand people, including 5,000 Canadian youth, gathered in France and thousands attended ceremonies in Canada to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. At the ceremony of remembrance in France, the newly restored Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial was dedicated by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A pilgrimage on August 19, 2007 marked the 65th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid – a day of valour and sacrifice. The Dieppe Raid resulted in the heaviest single-day Canadian casualties in the Second World War. We also marked the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele with events in July and November.

Our employees are dedicated professionals working in support of our clients, while always demonstrating that they respect and are proud to serve them. Although we can never fully repay the great debt that Canadians owe our men and women in uniform, we will never forget or take for granted those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for us.

The paper copy
was signed by

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 pleased to present the 2007-2008 Performance Report of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) and the accomplishments achieved against the identified plans and priorities.

As an independent tribunal, the Board ensures fairness in Canada's program for disability pensions and awards and War Veterans Allowances by providing full and expeditious appeals for war Veterans, eligible Canadian Forces Veterans and serving members, RCMP applicants, qualified civilians and their families. This unique responsibility is foremost in all areas of our strategic planning, training, and initiatives to deliver results to Canadians.

The year has been extremely busy, and I am proud that we exceeded our objectives by issuing 7,303 decisions to applicants and decreasing the volume of claims pending a hearing. The key indicators which we use to inform us on service quality are the outcome of judicial review applications, the issues raised through inquiries and our complaint process. By all accounts, the Board continues to provide a high quality of adjudication in the disability compensation program, and its decisions are generally accepted as final and persuasive. This performance reflects the dedication and commitment of Members and staff to ensuring applicants receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the current legislative framework.

During the year, the Member complement evolved with new appointments through the competency-based Member Selection Process. All Members participated in specialized tribunal training to prepare for the adjudication of increasingly complex claims.

In responding to the expectations of applicants and the public, communication initiatives included the publication of a brochure to provide information on the Board's role as an independent tribunal and its hearing program, Web site updates and outreach to stakeholder organizations. Through discussions on claims processing issues with the Bureau of Pensions Advocates and The Royal Canadian Legion, the Board worked collaboratively to continually improve service to all applicants.

Overall, the Board continues to adapt and adjust to current and emerging challenges and to ensure fairness, competence and excellence to Canadians in every area of the disability compensation redress program.

The paper copy
was signed by

Victor A. Marchand
Chair, Veterans Review and Appeal Board

Management Representation Statement

We submit for tabling in Parliament, the 2007-2008 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 2007-2008 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 Strategic Outcomes and Program Activity Architecture 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.

The paper copy
was signed by

Suzanne Tining
Deputy Minister
Veterans Affairs Canada
September 5, 2008

The paper copy
was signed by

Victor A. Marchand
Veterans Review and Appeal Board
September 5, 2008


Summary Information

Veterans Affairs exists to serve and pay tribute to the brave men and women of Canada who have unselfishly contributed to global peace and security in times of war and in a variety of peacekeeping, peace enforcement and humanitarian operations around the world.

Veterans Affairs is a portfolio consisting of distinct and separate organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC, the Department); the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB, the Board); and the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (OVO).

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 . . . "

VRAB operates at arm's length from the Department. The Chair of VRAB reports to the Parliament of Canada through the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The 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.

The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (OVO), an independent arms-length organization, was announced and established in 2007-08. The Veterans Ombudsman reports to the Minister who tables the Ombudsman's Annual Report to Parliament (Note: The Strategic Outcome and associated Program Activity for the OVO came into effect for 2008-09. Therefore, while specific funding was allocated for the OVO in 2007-08, expenditures were not reported under a separate Strategic Outcome).

2007-08 Program Activity Architecture for Veterans Affairs

2007-08 Program Activity Architecture for Veterans Affairs

Text Version

Strategic Outcome Program Activity Program Sub Activity
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. (1.0) Pensions, Awards, Allowances for Disability and Death; and Financial Support (1.1)
  • Pensions, Awards, Allowance for Disability and Death (1.1.1)
  • Financial Support (1.1.2)
  • Bureau of Pensions Advocates (1.1.3)
Health Care and Re-establishment Benefits and Services (1.2)
  • Long Term and Nursing Home Care (including Veterans Independence Program community care) (1.2.1)
  • Treatment Benefits and Other Health Services and Re-establishment Services (1.2.2)
  • Home Care and Other Veterans Independence Program Services (1.2.3)
Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all those who served in Canada's efforts during war, military conflict and peace. (2.0) Remembrance Programming (2.1)
  • Remembrance Outreach (2.1.1)
  • National and International Memorials (2.1.2)
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. (3.0) Veterans Review and Appeal Board redress process for disability pensions and awards (3.1)  

2007-08 Planned Spending and Human Resources for Veterans Affairs

Financial Resources ($ millions)

Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending
3,377.9 3,442.6 3,196.5

Human Resources (Full-Time Equivalents)

Planned Actual Difference
3,696 3,859 (163)

Portfolio Priorities

  Name Type Performance Status
1 Enhancing and adapting programs and services to meet the needs of our Veterans, serving members, other clients and their families (VAC) Ongoing Successfully met
2 Implementing a Mental Health Strategy to enhance capacity to meet the mental health needs of clients (VAC) Ongoing Successfully met
3 Engaging Canadians in community-based remembrance activities with an emphasis on Canada's youth (VAC) Ongoing Successfully met
4 Enhancing organizational effectiveness (VAC) Ongoing Successfully met
5 Sustained Program (VRAB) New Successfully met
6 Improved program delivery (VRAB) Ongoing Successfully met
7 Engaged communication with appellants and stakeholders (VRAB) Ongoing Successfully met

Program Activities by Strategic Outcome

  Expected Results Performance Status 2007-2008 Contributes to the following priority
Planned Spending Actual Spending
Strategic Outcome #1: 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.
Program Activity
Pensions, Awards, Allowances for Disability and Death; and Financial Support Eligible Veterans and others are appropriately compensated to contribute to their well-being Successfully met 2,182.6 2,067.9 Priorities 1 and 4
Health Care and Re-establishment Benefits and Services Eligible Veterans and others receive appropriate health benefits and rehabilitation services to contribute to their well-being Successfully met 1,128.7 1,065.5 Priorities 1, 2 and 4
Strategic Outcome #2: Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all those who served in Canada's efforts during war, military conflict and peace.
Program Activity
Remembrance Programming Canadians who commemorate, understand and value the achievements and sacrifices of those who have served Canada in war, military conflict and peace Successfully met 52.9 48.1 Priorities 3 and 4
Strategic Outcome #3: 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.
Program Activity
Veterans Review and Appeal Board redress process for disability pensions and awards Fairness in the Disability Pension, Disability Award and War Veterans Allowance Program Successfully met 13.7 15.0 Priorities 5, 6 and 7

Operating Environment

Veterans Affairs is a medium-sized Portfolio with approximately 4,000 employees across Canada. It is headquartered in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and has an extensive service delivery network of 38 offices throughout Canada. VRAB holds hearings in Charlottetown and across the country. The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman operates in Charlottetown and Ottawa.

The Department supports and cares for Canada's Veterans by ensuring that they receive appropriate compensation and treatment benefits and services. It does this by offering programs and services such as the New Veterans Charter suite of programs, Disability Pensions and Awards, Health Treatment Benefits, the Veterans Independence Program and Long-Term Care. VAC is also committed to ensuring that meaningful remembrance programming continues into the future and that all Canadians, especially youth, value and recognize the achievements and sacrifices of Canadian Veterans and war dead. It does this through remembrance outreach and national and international memorials.

VRAB provides an independent redress process for service-related disability pension and award decisions and the final level of appeal for War Veterans Allowance claims.

In connection with VRAB's redress process, the Department provides free legal advice and representation for clients before the Board through its Bureau of Pensions Advocates.

Among the challenges that we face are a significant change in our client base, improving our programs and services in response to the changing needs of our clients, and having the staff and resources to provide our programs and services while managing these changes.

The dominant factors affecting VRAB's operations in 2007-08 were the volume and age of claims pending with representatives, financial resource challenges and increasingly complex claims.

As of March 31, 2008, VAC was providing benefits and services to approximately 220,000 clients: 36.8 percent were war service Veterans; 35.5 percent were Survivors; 24.5 percent were Canadian Forces members and Veterans; and 3.2 percent were members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). VRAB 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. For decisions issued by VRAB in 2007-08, 17.1 percent of the claimants were war service Veterans, 75.5 percent were Canadian Forces, and 7.4 percent were RCMP.

The average age of Second World War Veterans is 85, the average age of Korean War Veterans is 76, while the average age of Canadian Forces and RCMP clients is 56 and 57 respectively. Not every Veteran receives benefits and services. The Portfolio has almost 81,000 war service Veteran clients out of an estimated population of 197,000, and approximately 54,000 Canadian Forces members and Veterans clients out of an estimated population of 589,000.

Our client base is expected to change dramatically over the next 10 years. Demographic trends indicate a decline in the number of war service Veterans we serve while an increasing number of Canadian Forces clients will look to VAC for support and assistance. Currently, our staff is working with clients on a more intensive case-by-case basis in order to provide them with the right care at the right time. This presents a challenge as staff must deal with the expectations and needs of our aging war service Veterans while at the same time serving younger Canadian Forces members and Veterans who have completely different needs and expectations.

The number of Canadian Forces members serving in peacekeeping and/or peacemaking missions and other international operations has increased significantly in recent years, with frequent and prolonged deployments to zones of conflict and unrest. The increased danger, pace and intensity in operations for our armed forces results in a corresponding need for care and treatment from VAC for physical and mental health conditions arising from their service. The Department is meeting these needs through our key activity of the continued implementation of the New Veterans Charter and the benefits and services it provides.

The Charter, which came into effect in 2006, is the most sweeping program change in 60 years. It follows modern disability management practices, with a significant shift from hands-on delivery to case management. The service we provide under the Charter is not limited to Canadian Forces members and Veterans but also includes their families who are in need of services to help them deal with the stressors related to military life.

Another area of focus is to improve the quality of life for Canadian Forces members (as well as other clients such as our older war service Veterans) who live with mental health conditions. The Department is resolved to be a leader in the treatment of operational stress injuries (OSI), taking into account an increased number of clients with mental health conditions and the need to have community based mental health services across the country for clients seeking treatment.

As our war service Veterans age, they are facing a variety of needs ranging from increased health needs, the desire to remain independent in their own communities, and end-of-life issues. The Department provides programs and services which help them to improve their quality of life and continues to review its programs and services and to identify options for improvements.

RCMP members live and work in a unique culture and face new challenges relating to modern-day threats and conflicts, both at home and abroad. VAC recognizes the need for our continued collaboration with the RCMP to provide services for former and serving members of the RCMP.

The delivery of our programs and services is also influenced by other factors such as: the Government's broader priorities; the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act; and the changing Canadian workforce.

The October 2007 Speech from the Throne focussed on five clear priorities: strengthening Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; building a stronger federation; providing effective economic leadership; continuing to tackle crime; and improving our environment. The Speech also included a commitment to continue to improve support for our Veterans who have contributed so much to defending Canada.

The Government of Canada emphasizes results and values-based management, as well as responsible spending and due diligence. In support of the Federal Accountability Act, the Portfolio is working to strengthen accountability and transparency through managing for results, integrated decision-making and reporting.

The Government of Canada's public service renewal is aimed at attracting and retaining top-quality employees, emphasizing excellence, leadership and teamwork while making human resources management more flexible and responsive to employees' needs. A significant portion of the Portfolio's workforce is eligible for retirement within five to ten years, thereby emphasizing the need for knowledge transfer and retention. In an increasingly diverse Canada, we must also strive to have a representative workforce which includes visible minorities, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities. As part of this renewal and the implementation of the 2005 Public Service Modernization Act, Veterans Affairs integrated its human resource and business planning to more fully integrate our financial and non-financial information. The Department is also committed to the principles of sustainable development and has incorporated this into our decision making process.

VAC has developed partnerships with other government departments and agencies such as the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Heritage, other levels of government, other countries, Veterans' associations and service providers. These partnerships play a significant role in the delivery of our benefits, services and remembrance programming.

Performance Results for 2007-08

Organized by Veterans Affairs' three Strategic Outcomes, the Portfolio established seven strategic priorities for VAC and VRAB in 2007-08. The following section outlines the performance results for these priorities and related program activities. VAC's strategic priority of Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness supports all the Strategic Outcomes and is therefore reported separately.

Strategic Outcome # 1: 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

The major components of the programs and services that are offered to our clients are described in the following paragraphs.

The New Veterans Charter suite of programs represents the support that CF Veterans and their families need to ease their transition to civilian life. It 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 Awards, Death and Detention Benefits, and Job Placement programs – all supported by comprehensive case management. Approximately 7,600 clients received benefits and services under this suite of programs in 2007-08 at an annual cost of $172 million, including $157 million for Disability Awards and Allowances.

VAC provides 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; Canadian Forces Veterans and members; and former and serving members of the RCMP. These pensions compensate for disabilities or death related to military or RCMP service. There were approximately 179,800 clients in receipt of a disability pension or special award as of March 31, 2008, at an annual cost of $1,738 million.

VAC offers three major health care programs: the Veterans Independence Program (VIP); Long-Term Care; and Health Treatment Benefits.

VIP helps clients maintain their independence through the provision of home and community care. It includes services such as housekeeping and grounds maintenance, ambulatory health care, transportation, home adaptations, and intermediate nursing home care. At an annual cost of $303 million, 103,000 Canadian Veterans and primary caregivers (a slight increase in clients from the previous year) were receiving services under VIP as of March 31.

VAC supports approximately 10,600 Veterans in long-term care beds, either in a network of community facilities across the country, or in departmental facilities, or in larger contract facilities where we have priority access beds for Veterans. Ste. Anne's Hospital, located in Montral, is the last remaining federal hospital administered by the Department. Including $54 million for intermediate nursing home care reported under VIP, the total cost for the delivery of long term care in 2007-08 was $344 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. The Department provides benefits that ensure Veterans receive the same level of service across the country and covers the health treatment costs of disabled or low income Veterans to ensure they have access to a high quality of care. At an annual cost of $262 million, 108,800 clients benefited from VAC treatment benefits in 2007-08. The largest Programs of Choice in terms of annual cost were: Prescription Drugs ($123 million); Audio ($38 million); and Special Equipment purchase, repair and rental ($29 million).

In our continuing efforts to improve the programs and services offered to our clients, the Department established the following two strategic priorities and associated plans and initiatives for 2007-08.

Priority: Enhancing and adapting programs and services to meet the needs of our Veterans, serving members, other clients and their families (VAC)

This priority supports the following Program Activities:

  • Pensions, Awards, Allowances for Disability and Death; and Financial Support
  • Health Care and Re-establishment Benefits and Services

Budget 2008 provided funding to expand the Veterans Independence Program to eligible low-income and disabled survivors, providing a maximum of $2,400 for housekeeping and/or grounds maintenance benefits.

In 2007-08, Canadian Forces outreach activities continued to be an area of focus of the New Veterans Charter. The objective of these activities was to ensure that eligible Canadian Forces members and their families are aware of all the available programs that help them transition to civilian society. In some cases, these clients may also receive medical care and treatments.

VAC's Pharmacy Program is a very important component of our Health Treatment Benefits. Three of the four performance measurements developed for this program (average pharmacy professional fee, unit cost of benefit and claims processing cost per prescription filled) have now been implemented. The final measurement, therapeutic effectiveness of the drugs that VAC provides, will be implemented when health records are available electronically.

The Federal Health Claims Processing System is the key delivery mechanism for health claims processing services. An efficient and cost-effective service is essential for VAC and its partners and allows us to focus on client service while devoting fewer departmental resources to claims processing. The Department established a task force in October 2006 to begin the procurement process of a new contract for the Federal Health Care Processing System (also used by DND and the RCMP). It is expected that the contract will be awarded by July 2010 and be in place for July 2012.

Ste. Anne's Hospital is undergoing renovations to modernize and better serve our Veterans. The renovations to the main building are proceeding in four stages, with Phase I (floors 3-6) completed and Phase II (floors 7-10) initiated in 2007-08. Phase II will be finished in autumn 2008 while the total project is expected to conclude by December 2009. When complete, the hospital will have 446 private rooms in a safe, comfortable and functional environment. Given the declining number of eligible Veterans requiring Long Term Care hospitalization, Ste. Anne's Hospital has begun a process to identify key partners and future opportunities that will strategically position the hospital for the future.

To address concerns raised about the health effects of Agent Orange or other unregistered US military herbicide use at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, a one-time, tax-free ex gratia payment of $20,000 has been put in place for eligible civilian and military personnel. Up to 4,500 individuals are expected to receive this payment, with 886 individuals receiving the payment in 2007-08. In addition to this payment, any Canadian Forces member or Veteran who feels they have an illness associated to Agent Orange can also apply for a Veterans Affairs disability benefit.

Through its network of 14 District Offices and an Appeals Unit at Head Office in Charlottetown, the Bureau of Pensions Advocates (BPA) provides free legal advice and representation for clients before the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. BPA began introducing the "Advocates without Borders" initiative in 2007-08. When fully implemented, it will allow work to be distributed among the Bureau's offices without geographic limitations and will reduce turnaround times for clients.

On April 3, 2007, the Prime Minister announced the creation of a Veteran's Bill of Rights, strengthening the Government's ability to respond quickly and fairly to the concerns of Veterans, and committed to create an Office of the Veterans Ombudsman charged with upholding the Bill of Rights and addressing Veterans' grievances that are not satisfactorily resolved through existing redress mechanisms. The Veterans Ombudsman, appointed on November 11, 2007, operates independently from Veterans Affairs and reports to the Minister of Veterans Affairs (who tables an annual report to the House of Commons). The Ombudsman raises issues concerning individual client cases that are subject to the departmental appeal process (excluding those appealable to VRAB) which the Ombudsman deems to merit a review. The Ombudsman also engages in the identification of systemic issues related to departmental legislation, regulations, policy and procedures. The role of the Ombudsman is an integral component of the Government's commitment to ensuring that Canadians receive consistent, fair and quality service.

When appointed, the Veterans Ombudsman decided to start operations immediately in response to the great anticipation within the Veteran community. Since his appointment, the Veterans Ombudsman has been hiring staff, increasing awareness of Veterans issues and the existence of the Office, and responding to over 950 complaints received, of which 95 percent were evaluated for future action. The Veterans Ombudsman has held town hall and information sessions across Canada. The Office of the Veterans Ombudsman is expected to be fully operational in the fall of 2008 with 30 staff in Charlottetown and Ottawa.

In 2008-09 and future years, the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman will be identified under a separate Strategic Outcome and supporting Program Activity.

Priority: Implementing a Mental Health Strategy to enhance capacity to meet the mental health needs of clients (VAC)

This priority supports the following Program Activity:

  • Health Care and Re-establishment Benefits and Services

To address client demand in specialized mental health services that cannot be met by the public health care system, the Department operates one operational stress injury clinic at Ste. Anne's Hospital and funds five others across Canada in Quebec City, London, Winnipeg, Calgary and Fredericton. These clinics provide treatment, assessment, prevention and support services to Veterans and members of the Canadian Forces and RCMP with operational stress injuries.

To provide clients with greater access to mental health services, Budget 2007 allocated $9 million annually for five additional clinics, including the currently operating clinic in Fredericton. Locations are based on factors such as areas with significant numbers of clients requiring specialized operational stress injury services, and the geographical distribution of operational stress injury services across the country (including DND's Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres which VAC clients can also access).

VAC is working with DND to provide a continuum of mental health services to meet the needs of clients living with mental health conditions. VAC's operational stress injury clinics serve Veterans and complement services offered by DND's Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres for serving Canadian Forces members which are located in Halifax, Valcartier, Ottawa, Edmonton and Esquimalt. The Joint Network for Operational Stress Injuries between VAC and DND ensures clients across the country have access to the mental health services they require as close to their own communities as possible.

Budget 2007 also announced $1 million to enhance family support services. This allowed VAC to hire an additional eight Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) Family Peer Support Coordinators. They are located in district offices across Canada and have increased the national network of VAC-DND OSISS Family Peer Support Coordinators to a total of 20.

Strategic Outcome # 2: Canadians remember and demonstrate their recognition of all those who served in Canada's efforts during war, military conflict and peace

The Department offers remembrance programming to keep alive the achievements and sacrifices made by those who served Canada in times of war, military conflict and peace; engage communities in remembrance of these achievements and sacrifices; and promote an understanding of their significance in Canadian life as we know it today.

The Department established the following strategic priority and associated plans and initiatives for 2007-08.

Priority: Engaging Canadians in community-based Remembrance activities with an emphasis on Canada's youth (VAC)

This priority supports the following Program Activity:

  • Remembrance Programming

VAC completed an internal policy review in 2007-08. The primary focus was to ensure that the existing Remembrance Policy continues to reflect the appropriate direction for remembrance planning and programming for the Government of Canada into the future. The review will allow the Department to build on the successes achieved so far and ensure that its priorities and strategies are relevant and focussed on achieving the right results. Follow-up work is underway to develop and implement an action plan.

In 2007-08, the Department supported various partners and/or led various remembrance activities related to specific anniversary events such as the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and dedication of the restored monument at Vimy, the 65th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid and the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (events in July and November).

The 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the dedication of the restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial resulted in an unforgettable tribute to the 100,000 Canadians who so gallantly fought at Vimy Ridge, including the 3,598 who lost their lives. Three Heads of State, including Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, attended the main ceremony, along with approximately 8,000 Canadians (including teachers, parents and over 5,000 youth), an estimated 350 VIPs from numerous countries and more than 130 official delegates from Canada. Approximately 20,000 people attended the main ceremony, with an additional 30,000 attending complementary events. This event is one example of many opportunities in 2007-08 to involve youth in remembrance activities, ceremonies and learning events. Media coverage was exceptional, with a total of 150 accredited media from Canada, France, Britain, Germany and Belgium on-site at Vimy. In Canada, the event garnered 1,338 English language and 100 French language clippings and transcripts and extensive front page coverage. The live broadcast from Vimy was viewed by millions worldwide.

Another major overseas commemorative event on August 19, 2007, co-organized with the French government, marked the 65th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid which resulted in the heaviest single-day Canadian casualties in the Second World War. Of the nearly 5,000 Canadian soldiers, more than 3,300 became casualties, including 913 who lost their lives. More than 1,900 became prisoners of war.

With the completion of the restoration work, the reopening of the restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial to visitors and the highly publicized events in Europe, there was an increased awareness of Canada's commemorative sites overseas. There were approximately 750,000 visitors to Vimy in 2007-08, with a total of 1 million visitors to all 13 monuments – an overall 34 percent increase from the previous year.

As part of VAC's commitment to expand Canadian Forces Veterans remembrance programming, the 2007 Veterans' Week programming was marked by the participation of Canadian Forces Veterans and their inclusion in the 2007 Veterans' Week poster. A large majority of Veterans' week events devoted part of their remembrance message to Canadian Forces Veterans.

Peacekeeping Day is celebrated on August 9th each year. It recognizes and commemorates the achievements and sacrifices of the more than 125,000 Canadian Forces members who participated in overseas peace-support efforts. This day is taking on an even higher profile and creating further impetus for Canadians to focus on the contributions of Canadian Forces members.

By increasing partnership opportunities, VAC provides opportunities for Canadians, especially youth, to be involved in remembrance. In 2007-08, VAC's Partnership Contribution Program supported remembrance programming through the Community Engagement Partnership fund ($1.37 million for 96 non-profit organizations) and the Cenotaph/Monument Restoration Program ($450,000 for 51 projects).

The Department worked with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to maintain the graves of approximately 117,000 Canadian war dead in more than 80 countries. Through an agreement with VAC, the CWGC is "mapping" the 350,000 grave markers of Veterans in Canada for which the federal government is responsible. When completed in 2010, this national database will make it easier to monitor and maintain markers, and will help relatives and friends to locate the final resting place of Veterans.

Strategic Outcome # 3: 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

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board strengthened management practices and responded to recommendations in an Organizational Governance Evaluation and an independent review of disability pension and disability award decision making. By focussing on citizen-centered service, employees engaged in discussions on priorities, change management, improved communications and risk awareness. The Board identified and communicated current and future human resources needs in its Integrated Human Resources and Business Plan 2008-10.

The Board's Strategic Plan Update 2008 identified three priorities which support the following Program Activity:

  • Veterans Review and Appeal Board redress process for disability pensions and awards

Priority: Sustained Program (VRAB)

The Board maximized the hearing schedule and provided timely opportunities to hear applicants' claims. VRAB worked closely with representative organizations to bring forward claims by providing options such as single member review panels, written submissions and video conferences. A total of 7,670 applications for hearing were received and 8,703 pre-hearing documents were prepared; however 1,625 claims were withdrawn or abandoned by the applicants. In issuing 7,303 decisions, the Board surpassed its goal of issuing 7,000 decisions while at the same time substantially reducing the number of reviews and appeals pending a hearing. The Board reviewed and adjusted processes to ensure that claims were dealt with as effectively and promptly as possible.

Priority: Improved program delivery (VRAB)

The Board focussed on responding to the concerns of applicants that the appeal process is lengthy. The Board monitored the volume and age of claims pending a hearing and, working with client representatives, made significant progress in reducing overall time frames (by 21 days for review claims and 49 days for appeal claims, compared to the previous year) through scheduling and work process initiatives. However, even though VRAB offered an expanded schedule of hearings, representatives were not always in a position to present the maximum claims available. VRAB also introduced technology and specific initiatives to give timely information to members and staff which, in turn, facilitated the decision-making process. Ninety percent of review and appeal decisions were finalized in an average of 32.1 days and 27.9 days respectively, substantially meeting the public commitment to render a decision 30 calendar days following the date of the hearing.

A revised Hearing Loss Policy was introduced by VAC in 2007. For applicants whose hearing loss claims were previously decided by VRAB (or one of its predecessors) prior to the revised policy, the Board put a procedure in place which allows those applicants to return to the Department for a ruling.

For new members, the Board implemented a revised professional development framework with an intensified training period, scheduled follow-up sessions and a formal mentoring plan. All members received training on the provisions of the legislation and regulations and conduct of hearings, and also attended specialized sessions in decision-writing and administrative tribunal training. Further training and tools were developed to support quality, consistency and efficiency in decision-making

Priority: Engaged communication with appellants and stakeholders (VRAB)

The Board implemented a strategic communication plan, making significant progress in outreach and information sharing. The Board published its Review and Appeal Hearings brochure in September 2007, meeting the identified need for clear and concise information about the Board and its area of responsibility. VRAB increased communications with applicants, representatives, stakeholder organizations and Parliamentarians.

Enhancing Organizational Effectiveness

This priority supports all Program Activities of the Portfolio.

As part of Public Service Renewal, developing an Integrated Human Resource and Business Plan (IHRBP) is a key commitment for the effective management of our human resources. VAC implemented an IHRBP process in September 2007. Branch and division plans fed into the 2008-09 departmental plan which was posted on the Department's Web site on March 31, 2008. In support of IHRBP, the Department developed a pilot course for delivery to Human Resource Consultants who work directly with managers. In addition, Phase 1 of the Human Resources dashboard (relevant Human Resources data to support IHRBP) was delivered in January 2008. While accountability for their IHRBP rests fully with the managers, results are monitored bi-annually and IHRBP is fully integrated into the departmental planning and reporting cycle. The success of the overall planning process was attributed to key factors such as a mandate from the Deputy Minister and managers with a solid foundation of planning experience. The risk analysis portion of this plan will also be used to update the Corporate Risk Profile.

Led by Public Works and Government Services Canada, VAC participated in a proof of concept project for an Information Technology shared services organization (ITSSO). This project explored options for improved economies of scale in the delivery of services and the dedication of scarce resources to meet program/business delivery and support activities. VAC continues to: seek opportunities to gain economies by sharing resources with other organizations; work with our current partners; and finalize ongoing operational agreements. The Department also made progress on integrating telecommunications responsibilities, although the pace of integration was influenced by the ITSSO initiative.

VAC is moving to Portfolio Project Management and an enhanced Performance Measurement and Accountability Framework. In 2007-08, VAC developed the framework for key performance indicators and started work on Information Technology Metrics to support evidence based requirements.

VAC has appointed a Chief Audit Executive and Chief Evaluation Officer. In 2007-08, the Department laid the groundwork to have a Departmental Audit Committee in place by summer 2008. The committee will consist of a majority of members external to VAC and provide independent and objective guidance, advice and assurance to the Deputy Minister.