Thursday, June 27, 2013

Veteran Watch: Guidance for the Parliamentary Committee on Vetera...

Veteran Watch: Guidance for the Parliamentary Committee on Vetera...: The following letter was written by Harold Leduc and distributed by email.  The letter outlines many challenges that policymake...

Veteran Watch: The Beating of Harold Leduc

Veteran Watch: The Beating of Harold Leduc: Visualize a middle-aged male, back to a desk, he is being pummelled from all sides.   Biting back screams of pain and trying to remain c...

NVC and other problems? - From Harold Leduc

Good day All,

Please give this email the widest possible distribution. 

My mission is to expose you to some little known facts about how the NVC came into being and why we're denied other essential benefits with a view to opening a meaningful dialogue within the veterans community on this topic. A dialogue that will help us collectively reach an understanding of the problems before any further recommendations are made to Parliament. However first we have to get our community house in order so we can effectively apply our collective knowledge, wisdom, energy and above all our understanding of veterans issues so we can help the veterans community to the best of our ability. We must make the concept of 'One Veteran' a reality and give real meaning to the words of the 'Veterans Bill of Rights'.

For those who don't know me, I've also put in a lot of time and energy into advocating for veterans rights like so many of you over an extended period of time and offer this short introduction as background information only. I retired from 22 years service with the PPCLI and Canadian Airborne Regiment. Following release in 1992, I was an executive member of CPVA and it's National President from 1999 until being appointed to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board in 2005. During that time I was involved in a number of projects with VAC, DND, the Senate and Government that brought positive change for CF veterans and their families including: 
- paving the way for the OSISS program and establishing the VAC 1-800 assistance line, 
- establishing the VAC-Canadian Forces Advisory Council to build a suite of programs for all CF veterans including the disabled. 
VAC and the Government recognized my unique understanding of veterans legislation and programs by:
- asking me to consider writing a discussion paper to help VAC meet the needs of CF veterans and their families, 
- appointing me to the VRAB in 2005 (Liberals) and reappointing me in 2007 (Conservatives),
- interviewing me for the position of Canada's first Veterans Ombudsman, an office I helped others create.

The following is written from personal observations, first hand experience and after numerous discussions with veterans across the country. I apologize in advance for the length of this discussion paper because it is long and detailed. It may be easier to absorb in smaller chunks over more than one read before responding. 

I'll stand by my version of the facts while appreciating that others may have different points of view. To that end, I encourage respectful, objective factually supported comments or questions to address my comments and engage in open dialogue to clear the air. 
I understand that the RCL and OVO's recent consultations are aimed at providing the Parliamentary Committee on Veterans Affairs with recommendations this fall on how to address some problems with the NVC through an incremental process; similar in scope to previous approaches that does not seem to address the fundamental problems with the NVC or the denial of other benefits. Is it time to try a new way to approach government? 

I remember a discussion with the Minister of Veterans Affairs on the eve of the NVC coming into force in 2005, where I raised the fact that the NVC falls short on it's promises. The Minister said that the CDS Rick Hillier signed off on it so there should be no concerns. The Minister also admitted that the CDS was not told the the NVC took away life long disability pensions. The NVC was born in controversy.

So if the CDS was duped, who else did VAC dupe in 'marketing' the NVC? There is no question that the NVC brought welcomed and much needed benefits for both CF Pension Act pensioners and NVC lump sum recipients. So why are veterans still complaining after nine years? Why is the veterans community divided over it, not addressing the root problems and not engaging in wider consultation on the greater issues? Why is the NVC less generous to it's lump sum recipients and their families than Pension Act beneficiaries? What can we do as a community to fix the problems? I'm getting ahead of myself.

Were you aware that NVC re-esatblishment benefits were intended to be available to all veterans who had a 'transition' need and not just a 'medical need' as the current policy? I'm certain you will agree that it would be helpful to learn why this and other changes were made without consultation and what went on behind the scenes to get a better appreciation of why the NVC is still controversial.

During the time period leading up to the establishment of the NVC, VAC acknowledged that CF veterans including the disabled were denied re-establishment benefits since 1950 including equal access to benefits like long term care, VIP and Last Post Fund. They also acknowledged that the RCMP and civilians who served overseas were also entitled to veterans benefits but they would get to all of that later because their primary focus was on overtaking the SISIP program and meeting the transition needs of disabled currently serving CF members and their families. How did we make out?

On 23 March 2001, the late Ron Duhamel, Minister of Veterans Affairs provided an inclusive definition of who qualified as a veteran in Canada. The Government's definition of a veteran is a person who held a military occupation code and was honourably discharged [paraphrase]. It is a brilliant definition because it includes veterans past, present and future creating Canada's concept of 'One Veteran'. So why aren't all veterans treated or advocated for equally if that and the following was and is also known: 

All active service veterans are equal under the law
1. in 1999 VAC suggested organizations get in stride with CPVA's research and approach that was aimed at qualifying CF veterans for existing VAC benefits
2. In the early 2000's the Justice Department (JD) confirmed that all active service veterans (WWI, Korea and CF) are equal under the law. 
3. this legal opinion was solicited by VAC following CPVA's presentation to the VAC-CFAC.
4. without a visible legal opinion to contradict the JD's opinion a different standard of benefits for CF veterans was solicited as seen in the VAC-CFAC 2004 discussion paper, recommendation 16, page 6 at the following link
5. VAC did a cost analysis of CPVA's findings to find that it would cost $4 billion to treat CF veterans equal under section 21(1) of the Pension Act alone, not counting the cost of rehabilitation and other programs all CF veterans including the disabled are/were entitled to since 1950.
6. VAC admitted that they have a duty to provide benefits for all CF veteran not just the disabled.
7. the lump sum and denial of other benefits is the result of the represented organization's and other participants ignoring human rights law and the Justice Department's legal opinion. 
8. disabled veterans at the VAC-CFAC table were collecting Pension Act benefits but did not protest the lump sum benefits (media broadcasts). 

Long term care, VIP and Last Post Fund benefits
1. the Government has agreed since the 1990's that CF active service veterans qualify for these three benefits programs including admission to VAC's existing long term care facilities.
2. the ANAVets, NCVA, and RCL were aware but put WWII Allied veterans ahead of CF veterans and their families. The information at the following website refers
3. the three organizations boycotted the VAC-CFAC among other things to force the Minister's hand to qualify the WWII Allied veterans and denying the same benefits for qualified CF active service veterans.
4. the DM VAC at the time advised CAVUNP, CPVA and the GWVA to distance themselves from ANAVets, NCVA and the RCL's WWII agenda.
5. VAC is shutting down the programs in veterans facilities knowing that CF veterans were duped out of them. The ANAVets, NCVA and RCL are watching it happen without intervention.

1. there were no comprehensive studies conducted by VAC, VAC-CFAC or the Modernization Task Force to prove that lump sum benefits were more effective than Pension Act benefits. In fact, they had conclusive evidence to the contrary including the VAC Gerontological report.
2. senior VAC bureaucrats like Darragh Mogan led people to believe that a change from the Pension Act benefits for CF veterans was required because Parliament's  amendment to the Pension Act allowing CF members to collect disability benefits while still serving was putting a strain on the Pension Act money. There is no conclusive evidence to support that position.
3. the NVC is a duplicate of SISP programs because VAC made it clear in the 1990's that they wanted to overtake SISIP. This means that NVC programs are based on a for profit insurance company model rather than the more generous social contract model consistent with the spirit and intent of veterans legislation meeting the test of human rights law.
4. VAC's plan was to become the disability management department for federal government agencies like the RCMP, Corrections, Customs, etc. That is why language on the generous nature of veterans legislation found in places like section 2 of the Pension Act and section 3 of the VRAB Act are nowhere to be found in the NVC.
5. I've witnessed and understand there may be more incidents where the RCL was found advocating with VAC to become service provider for NVC programs while advocating lesser benefits for CF veterans. Evidence is found in VAC documentation.
6. veterans organizations were duped by the Minister into believing that they would have an opportunity to amend the NVC during the normal legislative process of bringing the Bill into force in 2005. The Bill was rammed through the process and the opportunity denied yet none of the organizations agreed to protest. Instead, they went before the Media and Senate committee supporting the NVC without knowing it's consequences.
7. the Justice Department is currently before the courts for not appropriately screening new legislation created under the past Liberal and current Conservative governments for human rights deficiencies as is their duty. The NVC was created during that time and rushed past any government check and balance process.
8. the NVC and Enhanced NVC Act have not gone though the necessary human rights law screening yet the involved organizations and individuals many of whom collect Pension Act benefits support the creation of different classes of disabled veterans despite the issue being challenged in the court. The Legion's 8 May 2013 letter given wide distribution stands as evidence.
9. the NVC is being challenged in the courts by Miller Thompson and Equitas to address the above Charter of Rights concerns. The RCL has a letter of support posted on the Equitas webpage.
10. veterans collecting Pension Act disability benefits are entitled to most rehab and financial benefits of the NVC and Enhanced NVC Act therefore have greater advantage over lump sum recipients. 
11. The Pension Act is always legally speaking as the legislation to compensate disabled veterans and their families. Therefore there was no legal basis for the government to create the discriminatory and problematic Part III of the NVC.her benefits of the NVC
12. the NVC is being marketed as an inclusive legislation meaning that all parts are dependent upon one another. That is simply not true because veterans with 100% Pension Act benefits also qualify for NVC and Enhanced NVC Act rehab and other benefits.
13. veterans organizations and individuals involved in these consultations may be contravening the Canadian Human Rights Act by advocating for incremental fixes to the NVC without addressing the greater Constitution and human rights concerns.

It's difficult to understand why the RCL will threaten to sue people over the respectful use of poppy images but won't sue the government for abusing or discriminating against CF active service veterans and their families. There are obviously good reasons and it would be helpful if they could be explained. The following story is an example 

In light of the above and anything you may wish to add, comments on the following questions are encouraged to get the dialogue going and clear the air:
1. How can veterans representing others at the consultation table justify supporting the lump sum benefits for others while collecting Pension Act benefits for themselves?
2. What do the participants in the consultation groups hope to achieve by not filtering their suggestions and recommendations through the lens of human rights laws, the Veterans Bill of Rights and the concept of 'One Veteran'?
3. Can an organization objectively advocate for disabled while supporting a discriminatory agenda or advocating to become a VAC service provider? Are organizations in a conflict of interest if they take money from the government while lobbying against it?
4. Do the representatives participating in the consultation groups have the authority to represent all veterans and their families or their memberships only?
5. How would the organizations suggest opening communications and consultations between our three social contract partners (the Government, people of Canada and us) to ensure broader inclusive participation in addressing veterans issues?
6. What will the ANAVets, RCL and NCVA do to repair the damage caused by their putting non-Canadian military service veterans ahead of qualified CF active service veterans and their families for access to long term care facilities, equality for VIP benefits and equal access to Last Post Fund burial benefits to level the playing field?
7. Has the status quo worked in addressing the greater problems of the NVC when compared to the actual needs of veterans and their families to date? What can we do as a community to improve how we are represented? 

Don't you think CF veterans and their families have suffered discrimination long enough? Shouldn't we benefit from lessons learned and not repeat the same mistakes that got us into this problem in the first place? Your voice is important to help move the community forward.

We can only hope that your rich, transparent, factual and respectful feedback will expose the root problems to help fix the division and discrimination in the veterans community, make the concept of 'One Veteran" a reality and bring credibility to the words of the 'Veterans Bill of Rights'. 

The bottom line is that all veterans are equal under the law therefore CF veterans and their family's deserve equal benefits. Anything less is not acceptable.

I look forward to your comments and thoughts. Don't miss the opportunity to be heard.


Harold Leduc, MMM, CD.