Press and Media Releases
Feds urged to approve all veterans' claims in backlog amid COVID-19 fears
Posted on April 9th, 2020
From Brian Forbes,
A sign is placed on a truck windshield as members of the advocacy group Banished Veterans protest outside the Veterans Affairs office in Halifax on Thursday, June 16, 2016. One of Canada's largest veterans' organizations is urging the federal government to automatically approve the roughly 44,000 outstanding applications for disability benefits from injured veterans to help them better deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
One of Canada’s largest veterans’ organizations is urging the federal government to automatically approve the roughly 44,000 outstanding applications for disability benefits from injured veterans to help them better deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The call from the National Council of Veteran Associations, which represents more than 60 veteran groups, comes amid fears about the financial and emotional toll the pandemic is taking on veterans struggling with mental and physical wounds. Veterans Affairs Canada says staff are still processing claims as they work from home and that there are no immediate plans to automatically approve the backlog, which was already a source of frustration and anger for many veterans forced to wait years for support even before COVID-19.
But the COVID-19 crisis presents yet another barrier for veterans to get their applications approved, said council chairman Brian Forbes, who is also executive director of The War Amps Canada and a member of Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s policy advisory group. “It was bad enough as far as the backlog and the delays and the number of new claims (before COVID-19),” Forbes said in an interview “And then when you put the coronavirus on top of it, you’ve got a perfect storm. Things are just not getting done.” One of the issues facing some veterans is that they require a doctor’s assessment of their medical condition before their applications will be processed by Veterans Affairs. Yet many doctors are not seeing patients in person except in extreme circumstances, Forbes said.
Veterans Affairs recently reported more than 18,000 of the 44,000 applications in the backlog were “incomplete.” The federal government has long faced pressure to automatically approve applications for disability benefits for veterans, with Veterans Affairs going back after the fact to conduct audits and verify eligibility. Not only are approval rates for most categories of injuries — including post-traumatic stress disorder — extremely high, advocates warn delays add undue stress on veterans while potentially exacerbating difficult financial and medical conditions. Yet Forbes suggests it doesn’t make sense for veterans to keep waiting months when the government is promising tens of billions of dollars in support to Canadians and companies to help with COVID-19 — much of which is expected to be disbursed quickly and verified later.
Veterans Affairs says the past week or so has seen more employees whose job is to process the disability claims continuing their work from home to ensure veterans are receiving decisions, especially those with the most urgent needs. “Although we are not currently using automatic approvals with audits, we are encouraging decision makers to work more efficiently, using available evidence to reach the fastest decision possible,” Veterans Affairs spokesman Josh Bueckert said in an email. The call for automatic approvals comes as some veterans’ organizations are expressing concerns about the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on the mental and physical health of Canada’s wounded warriors. Veterans Affairs says it has been checking up with former military personnel deemed “at risk” while some organizations are using telephones and video conferences to continue providing therapy, counselling and other support. Yet many veterans suffering from physical injuries are now unable to get physio or rehab because of COVID-19 while the pandemic undermines one of the key messages broadcast to vets suffering from PTSD and other mental injuries in recent years: Don’t isolate yourself. “We have been talking for many years about getting our veterans out,” said Royal Canadian Legion dominion president Tom Irvine, whose branches are helping former service members get groceries, access financial services and stay connected. “It is a concern. There are going to be veterans or members of the Legion that are going to slip through the cracks. Hopefully it’s minimal, but it is a concern. And that is why we’re reaching out on a daily basis.” Irvine also voiced his support for the government to just sign off on the backlogged applications for help.
VETS Canada president Jim Lowther, whose charity provides emergency financial assistance and other services to homeless veterans or those at risk of losing their homes, says the organization has had more calls for help in the past two weeks than usual. A former Canadian Forces member who was previously diagnosed with PTSD, Lowther says many veterans are worried about keeping roofs over their heads while for those suffering from mental injuries, “this is a dangerous time right now and hopefully it won’t last too long.” Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada, says his non-profit has also received more calls for mental-health assistance, which he took as a hopeful sign veterans suffering from mental injuries aren’t retreating and instead are reaching out for help. And while he says person-to-person contact is the “secret sauce” to his organization’s successful therapy services, he was hopeful its forced shift to online and telephone assistance could eventually see it better supporting veterans in more remote communities. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.
Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS THE CANADIAN PRESS LEE BERTHIAUME April 2, 2020 4:03 AM EDT Last Updated April 2, 2020 5:11 AM EDT OTTAWA —
Credibility and Integrity of the Prime Minister In Question with Veterans’ Community - Op-ed
Posted on June 4, 2019
From Brian Forbes,
Given recent tumultuous events with respect to the resignation of two prominent Federal Cabinet Ministers surrounding the conduct of the Government in relation to the SNC Lavalin matter and the significant political concerns emanating from the Vice Admiral Norman debacle, it is readily apparent that the integrity and credibility of the Prime Minister and his Government have been placed in serious question.
From the perspective of the Veterans’ Community, there remains a substantial parallel concern. Not only has the Veterans Affairs Portfolio been negligently de-prioritized in this process, but the Prime Minister has also betrayed a formal commitment he specifically made to Canada’s Veterans and their families during the 2015 election campaign.
In the context of the Equitas Class Action Lawsuit, the Prime Minister made a promise to Canada’s Veterans that should his party be successful, it would not be necessary for the disabled veterans to continue such a lawsuit as his Government would re-establish Life Long Pensions as an option to the Lump Sum Disability Award. It was clearly understood that this commitment would specifically address the basic discrimination that existed between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well-Being Act disability benefits which disparity has been from the outset at the fundamental core of the Class Action Claim.
It remains our position that there is much to do in improving Veterans Legislation so as to address the financial and wellness requirements of Canada’s disabled veterans and their families. This is particularly so with respect to the Pension for Life Provisions originally announced in December 2017 and emanating from Bill C-74 Part IV.
It is self-evident that only a circumscribed number of seriously disabled veterans and their survivors may benefit from the new legislation when compared to the level of entitlement available under the present New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well-being Act - some seriously disabled veterans are actually worse off. However, the greater majority of disabled veterans will not be materially impacted by the legislation in that the new benefits under these legislative and regulatory amendments will have limited applicability.
This fails to satisfy the Prime Minister’s 2015 election commitment to address the inequities and injustices in the New Veterans Charter and continues to ignore the “elephant in the room” which has overshadowed this entire discussion.
As stated in our many submissions to Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and Parliament, the Government has not met veterans’ expectations with regard to this fundamental mandated commitment to “re-establish lifelong pensions” under the Charter so as to ensure that a comparable level of financial security is provided to all disabled veterans and their families over their life course. This financial disparity between the Pension Act and Charter compensation has been fully validated by the recent Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report issued on February 21, 2019 which clearly underlines this longstanding discrimination.
The National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada’s Legislative Program for 2018, unanimously approved by all of our member-organizations at our Annual General Meeting in Toronto on November 23, 2018, states our fundamental position in the following core recommendations:
- that VAC, working together with relevant Ministerial Advisory Groups and other veteran stakeholders, should think “outside the box” by jointly striving over time to create a comprehensive program model that would essentially treat all veterans with parallel disabilities in the same manner as to the application of benefits and wellness policies – thereby resulting in the elimination of artificial cut-off dates that arbitrarily distinguish veterans based on whether they were injured before or after 2006.
- that VAC needs to fully implement the Ministerial Policy Advisory Group recommendations presented to the Minister and the Veterans Summit in October 2016, with particular emphasis on … utilizing a combination of the best provisions from the Pension Act and the best provisions from the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well-being Act, producing a form of lifetime pension in a much more realistic manner in order to secure the financial security for those veterans who need this form of monetary support through their lifetime.
It remained our hope through this period and more particularly the 2019 Federal budget that VAC would be prepared to consider changes to the legislation so as to make the Pension for Life provisions more inclusive prior to its formal implementation on April 1, 2019 and certainly prior to the October election pursuant to the specific recommendations and proposals contained in our 2018 Legislative Platform.
Given the reality of a Federal Election in the Fall, a genuine opportunity still exists for a commitment for meaningful improvement to the Legislation so as to eliminate the blatant discrimination suffered by disabled veterans since the enactment of the New Veterans Charter in 2006. The alienation of the Veterans’ Community in an election year does not make for good politics, particularly given the perceived large swing vote of veterans to the Liberal Party in 2015, largely based on the Prime Minister’s campaign promises.
It will be of significant interest to the Veterans’ Community as to the positions to be adopted by the Government and the Opposition Parties to remedy this longstanding injustice and inequity impacting Canada’s disabled veterans and their families.
If the “one veteran – one standard” philosophy advocated by VAC has any meaning, this glaring disparity between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter/Veterans Well-being Act benefits for disabled veterans requires that the Government seize the moment and satisfy the financial needs of Canadian veterans and their dependants. The new legislation has missed an opportunity to recognize that the longstanding social covenant between the Canadian people and the Veterans’ Community demands nothing less.
Betrayal of a commitment - media coverage
Posted on February 21, 2019
From Brian Forbes,
I am attaching an article published over this last weekend in all major Canadian newspapers entitled “’Betrayal’: Wilson-Raybould’s resignation stokes frustration and anger among Canada’s veterans.”
The piece is written by leading Canadian reporter Lee Berthiaume from the Canadian Press, who has a national byline on all matters affecting national defence and veterans and who has a wide readership in this context.
I have spent considerable time with Lee over the last few months to ensure that our key concern is exposed to the Canadian public in that the Prime Minister has indeed betrayed the commitment he made in the 2015 election campaign to address the veterans’ agenda and the Equitas lawsuit.
There is little doubt, in my opinion, that veterans’ issues will have a prominent impact on the 2019 federal election. It remains my intention to pursue this initiative at this critical time in accord with our NCVA Legislative platform – a real opportunity still exists for meaningful improvement as to the legislation so as to make it more inclusive and address the “elephant in the room.”
As we discussed at our Annual Meeting, given the perceived large swing vote of the veteran community to the Liberal Party in 2015 largely based on the PM’s campaign promises, it is the view of many in the media that the veterans’ vote in 2019 may indeed be a significant factor in the overall election.
Given the political chaos in Ottawa surrounding the recent resignation of the “new” Minister of Veterans Affairs, Jody Wilson-Raybould, it is self-evident that the government has neglected the Veterans Affairs portfolio and should be held accountable in this regard.
I will keep you posted as to further developments.
All the best,
Betrayal of a Commitment to Canada’s Veterans’ Community
by Brian N. Forbes, Chair of the National Council of Veteran Associations and Executive Chair, The War Amps
Posted on October 9, 2018
The Supreme Court of Canada has recently dismissed the Equitas class action lawsuit, thereby closing the door on the legal claim initiated against the federal government on behalf of Canada’s disabled veterans’ community.
The determined and courageous class action representatives were essentially seeking a court order compelling the government/Veterans Affairs Canada to address the financial disparity between disability benefits awarded pursuant to the traditional Pension Act and those benefits granted under the New Veterans Charter (now known as the Veterans Well-being Act).
Notwithstanding the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision, the battle continues, as the dispute has moved from the legal jurisdiction to the political arena in order to achieve a resolution to this longstanding concern...
Click here to read the full op-ed.
Press Release/ OP-ED by Brian Forbes
Posted on February 21, 2018
Veterans Affairs Minister is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts/Government plan for lifelong pensions under New Veterans Charter fails to live up to Prime Minister’s commitment to Canada’s veterans.
Minister Seamus O’Regan is entitled to his own opinion but he is not entitled to his own facts. The Minister has suggested in his recent letter to the Hill Times and in public statements that no real financial disparity will exist between compensation paid to seriously disabled veterans under the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter once his proposals, announced on December 20, 2017, take effect in April 2019. He has concluded in his analysis that only a $50.00 a month discrepancy will arise when comparing benefits under each statutory program.
With all due respect, the Minister is badly misinformed in this regard. A realistic comparison on an “apples to apples” basis reveals that a “significant disparity” will indeed continue to exist. It is essential in this context to recognize that the actual maximum amounts of compensation under each statutory regime will be as follows...
Click here to read more.
The Sandbag Times
Canadian Coalition for Retirement Security calls for pension
Ottawa, ON (August 4, 2015) - Today, the Canadian Coalition for Retirement Security - comprised of 22 organizations and representing nearly six million working and retired Canadians - announced its campaign to push for legislation to protect the earned pension benefits of public and private sector employees and retirees.
Click here to read the media release.
Honour your Promise/Respectez Votre Promesse
Canadians should know they have a say. Share this page and our posts with friends - and go to www.honouryourpromise.ca to learn more, connect more, and share more.
Les Canadiens doivent savoir qu'ils ont leur mot à dire. Partagez cette page et nos publications avec vos amis - et visitez le site www.respectezvotrepromesse.ca pour en savoir plus, participer et communiquer le message.
SUBMISSION TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS RE: STATUTORY AMENDMENTS TO THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER/THE SUPPORT FOR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES ACT
The National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada, May 2015
Click here to read the NCVA's 2015 Submission to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Agent Orange Update- Follow up from Issues 15 & 19
Veterans Affairs Canada
Minister of Veterans Affairs Announces New National Tribute to Mark 75th Anniversary of Canada’s Engagement in the Second World War
Ceremonies across the country honouring SWW Canadian Veterans
September 10, 2014 – Vancouver – Veterans Affairs Canada
The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, today announced a new national tribute to mark the 75th anniversary of Canada ’s engagement in the Second World War and the extraordinary role Canadians played in the Allied victory. Beginning today, all living Canadian Veterans of the Second World War are eligible to receive a limited-edition commemorative lapel pin and a personalized certificate of recognition.
The first presentations will take place later today at ceremonies to be held in Halifax , Québec City , Ottawa , Edmonton and Vancouver .
The design of the commemorative pin and the illustration on the certificate are based on the original “Victory Nickel” which features a flaming torch and a large ‘V’ standing both for victory and the coin’s denomination. The coin was originally in circulation from 1943 to 1945, and was re-issued in 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
- The Second World War marked the first time Canada declared war of its own accord. Though Britain and France declared war on September 3, 1939, King George VI would not announce Canada ’s entry until September 10, 1939, following approval during a special session of our country's Parliament.
- With a population of some 11 million in 1939, Canada ’s contribution to the Second World War was disproportionately large. From 1939 to 1945, more than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served, with more than 55,000 wounded and over 45,000 giving their lives.
- It is estimated that there are approximately 80,000 Canadian Second World War Veterans alive today.
- Canadians who served at least one day with the Canadian forces or with any other Allied force, including the Canadian or British Merchant Navy, either home or abroad, during the Second World War are eligible to apply for the commemorative lapel pin and certificate. Request forms are available online at veterans.gc.ca, and by calling Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) at 1-866-522-2122.
- Today’s ceremonies were held in conjunction with Canada ’s World Wars Commemoration period, which was launched last month to mark the Centennial of the First World War. Between now and 2020, the Government of Canada will organize and support events and initiatives that pay homage to the many Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served during the World Wars and will recognize the enduring legacy of these historical events on the Canada we enjoy today.
- “As Canadians, we have a responsibility to reflect upon our country’s past, and remember those who served to protect the values that we cherish so dearly today. Our government is honoured to pay tribute to Canada ’s Veterans of the Second World War by presenting them with these pins and certificates as symbols of our country’s enduring pride and gratitude.”
The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs
– 30 –
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs Canada
Mock Consultation: How Government Subjects Veterans to an Ugly Political Game
March 11, 2014
For 50 years, veterans have largely permitted government to choose the game, dictate the rules, rig the arena, and select the players on the veterans’ team. If veterans allow this to continue, they...More >>
A national strategy needed for 700,000 veterans
January 16, 2014
Government of Canada Cutting Red Tape for Seriously Disabled Veterans
December 13, 2013
War Amps Commends Gov't For Implementing Recommendations Of The Association's Task Force Report to Cut Red Tape For Seriously Disabled Veterans
December 13, 2013
War Amps To Partner With Department of National Defence In Assisting Amputee Soldiers
November 27, 2013
War Amps & Department of National Defence Memorandum Of Understanding
Questions and Answers - English
Government position on wounded soldiers inhumane
October 15, 2013
Government’s Failure to Implement Plan of Action on Reforming New Veterans Charter Violates Social Covenant Owed to Canadian Veterans and Their Families
October 3, 2013
Veterans traveling to Ottawa to oppose cuts to frontline services
October 2, 2013
Tune into a live webcast to hear what they have to say
Canada’s veterans will be in Ottawa Thursday, October 3rd to talk about why the federal government must not close Veterans Affairs offices they rely on.
The office in Prince George has already been shut down and the government says that by February, offices in Corner Brook, Charlottetown, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon, Saskatoon and Kelowna will be closing their doors to veterans too.
These are the offices that both traditional and younger veterans – including those with serious physical and mental disabilities – depend on for face-to-face frontline services. If the Sydney, Cape Breton office closes, for example, approximately 4,200 veterans and their family members will be forced to drive seven and a half hours to Halifax for frontline services. Many say they can’t because of their age or ailments.
PSAC’s members include the workers at Veterans Affairs who provide these frontline services. These workers – who are speaking at this event too – are worried about what will happen to their clients.
Tune in to hear why veterans and PSAC members say the government should reverse its decision to shut down these offices and to find out how you can help. You can start by sharing the YouTube video being launched at the event.
WATCH THE LAUNCH LIVE at 11:00 am EST on Thursday, October 3.
Share this event on Facebook, Twitter and through all of your networks.
Help veterans stop the closures!
Suppression des services de première ligne : d’anciens combattants se mobilisent
Écoutez en direct la webémission pour entendre leurs témoignages.
D’anciens combattants canadiens se réuniront à Ottawa le jeudi 3 octobre. Leur mission : expliquer pourquoi le gouvernement ne doit pas fermer les bureaux du ministère des Anciens Combattants, qui sont essentiels pour eux.
Le gouvernement a déjà mis la clé dans la porte du bureau de Prince George et compte en faire autant d’ici février avec les bureaux de Corner Brook, Charlottetown, Saskatoon, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon et Kelowna.
Ces bureaux offrent des services de première ligne aux anciens combattants, jeunes et moins jeunes, certains ayant des incapacités physiques ou mentales. Par exemple, si le bureau de Sydney, au Cap-Breton, fermait, quelque 4 200 anciens combattants et leur famille seraient forcés de conduire pendant sept heures et demie pour se rendre au bureau de Halifax afin d’obtenir des services de première ligne. Et plusieurs en sont incapables, que ce soit en raison de leur âge ou de problèmes de santé.
Les travailleuses et les travailleurs qui offrent ces services de première ligne sont des membres de l’AFPC. Et ils sont très inquiets du sort réservé à leurs clients. Ils se feront d’ailleurs entendre à cet événement.
Branchez-vous pour entendre les témoignages d’anciens combattants et de membres de l’AFPC, qui demandent au gouvernement de revenir sur sa décision de fermer ces bureaux. Et vous pouvez les aider! D’abord en partageant la vidéo YouTube qui sera lancée lors de l’événement.
ASSISTEZ EN DIRECT AU LANCEMENT, à 11 h HNE, le jeudi 3 octobre.
Soyez nombreux à partager cet événement sur Facebook, Twitter et dans tous vos réseaux.
Aidez les anciens combattants à mettre fin à ces fermetures!
Free B&B accommodations on Rememberance Day to honour vets and military personnel.
September 20, 2013
See press release:
Federal retirees ready to challenge cuts to benefits - (Kathryn May, Ottawa Citizen, September 15, 2013)
PS unions brace for tough, divisive bargaining - (Kathryn May, Ottawa Citizen, September 15, 2013)
September 20, 2013
Canada’s Duty to Veterans by National Council of Veterans Associations in Canada - (Letter to the Editor, Ottawa Citizen)
In Response to:
Paul Robinson, OpED “There is no ‘sacred duty’ to Canada’s Veterans (Ottawa Citizen August 5, 2013)
August 13, 2013
ACTION ON HOMELESS VETERANS NEEDED NOW: NDP / LE NPD PRESSE LES CONSERVATEURS D'AGIR POUR AIDER LES ANCIENS COMBATTANTS SANS ABRI
August 2, 2013
Government Restores Historical Identity of Canadian Army
July 19, 2013
Canadian Forces Pension Plans
July 11, 2013
Hommage aux gardiens de la paix canadiens / Tribute to Canadian Peacekeepers
The Official Celebration of the National Peacekeepers' Day in Quebec / Célébration officielle de la journée des gardiens de la paix au Québec
First edition of the NEW Defence Connexion e-newsletter!
Ex-vertans Ombudsman Treated for Post Traumatic Stress
Supreme Court rules against pension surplus.
Update from John Larlee, Chair of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, Président, Tribunal des anciens combattants (revision et appel)
Harper Government and Corporate Canada Partnering to Offer Job Opportunities to Veterans
Veterans Ombudsman Releases New Report - L'ombudsman des vétérans publie un nouveau rapport
A Message from Peter Stoffer MP on veterans concerns