Vanguard
Opinion

Unraveling Budget 2014

Every Budget is an opportunity for the Government of Canada to address the needs of Veterans and their families. Tuesday’s was no exception.

It contained several announcements for Veterans and their families concerning changes to the Public Service Employment Act and Public Service Employment Regulations to enhance priority hiring of Veterans to public service jobs; additional funding and expanded eligibility to modern-day Veterans to ensure dignified funerals and burials for all Veterans at the lowest income level; and better online accessibility to Veterans Affairs Canada’s online My VAC Account tool. Although it is too early to assess the value of these initiatives to Veterans, my Office will be following closely their implementation and results.

The reality is, unfortunately, that no substantive issues were addressed in this Budget. Here are five that would make a difference:

Let me be very clear, Veterans do not want to be in the media every day, neither do they want to be chasing after and haranguing parliamentarians. Above all, they do not want to have to bare their souls publically about their personal circumstances and plead for change. It is embarrassing and very demeaning to them.

Our Veterans are honourable Canadians. They take pride in their ability to adapt and overcome almost insurmountable obstacles, but since the New Veterans Charter came into existence, they have found that their ability to persevere is not always good enough. So, they go public – as is their right – when every other means of addressing the substantive problems they are facing prove ineffective. They do it not only to address their immediate needs, but also because they know that there are other Veterans out there who are suffering in silence, sometimes in worse circumstances then their own.

Last October, I released my Report on the New Veterans Charter which put forward evidenced-based recommendations that address shortcomings in three New Veterans Charter program areas: financial, vocational rehabilitation and assistance, and family support. It was the first time that recommendations for improvements to the New Veterans Charter were supported by an actuarial analysis that pinpoints exactly where the current suite of New Veterans Charter benefits are failing some Veterans today, and will continue to fail them unless changes are made quickly.

There are no hypotheses or speculations in my report, just evidence-based facts and analysis with recommendations. My report stands on the shoulders of the more than 200 recommendations for improvements to the New Veterans Charter that have been proposed since 2006 through various consultations with Veterans and their families, Veterans’ organizations, expert advisory groups, parliamentary committees, the Auditor General, a Governor-in-Council-mandated independent assessor and audits and evaluations by Veterans Affairs Canada.

The substantive changes required to address Veterans’ needs have been studied to death. The time for study is over; the time for action is now. The sad truth is that unless we as a nation deal with them now, the plight of Veterans in need will not only continue, but worsen.

It is important that we never forget who sacrificed for whom. Our Veterans sacrificed themselves to protect Canada and Canadian values so that we can have this open debate on the Budget today. They chose to serve our country, and were prepared give up their lives in that service, if need be. That deserves special consideration.

Some Veterans are experiencing a ‘rainy day’ now. If we want to change how Veterans perceive the support being provided to them and their families, we need forward movement on these substantive issues. With movement, comes hope, and with hope comes opportunities and trust. We can pay the piper now or we can pay him later but pay we will.

 

Guy Parent is the Veterans Ombudsman (this article was distributed as a press release).

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