OTTAWA, Feb. 22, 2012 /CNW/ - The War Amputations of Canada, as a
founding member of the National Council of Veteran Associations, has
written the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs
Canada (VAC), regarding what it calls the "cone of silence" that has
developed over the Government's declared intention to exercise
substantial budgetary cuts to VAC.
In the letter, Brian Forbes, Chairman of The War Amps Executive
Committee, advised the Minister that this continued silence and the
lack of meaningful consultation with the veterans' community have
resulted in a significant state of anxiety for Canadian veterans and
"It is readily apparent that these reductions involve far more than a
reflection of the diminishment in the World War II/Korean veteran
population. Clearly, the combination of the forecasted staffing cuts
emanating from the VAC Strategic Operational Review, together with a
possible 5 to 10 per cent budgetary reduction in relation to the
Government's Deficit Reduction Plan, will potentially have great
significance to not only departmental service delivery, but also to the
substance of the programs themselves," he said.
Mr. Forbes acknowledged the previous assurances of the Minister that it
is his objective that there will be no cuts to veterans' benefits. He
noted, however, that concerns remain that the Government has not made a
formal pronouncement that VAC will be exempt from budgetary reductions
as has been the case in many Allied countries, including the United
States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
"Should VAC's budgetary capacity be impacted at this time, it is our
considered opinion that the Department will be unable to fund crucial
legislative improvements in order to fulfil its ongoing commitment to
the overall veterans' community," he stressed.
The letter points out that, with reference to the Traditional Veteran,
there remain serious outstanding concerns which include significant
gaps in the VAC Long Term Care Program, inequities in the Last Post
Fund/Veterans Burial Regulations and anomalies in the Veterans
Independence Programs for widows.
"In this regard, it is highly unacceptable that the Government has
failed to take any meaningful action on the recommendations of the
seminal Gerontological Advisory Council Report of 2006, 'Keeping the
Promise,' which comprehensively addressed these deficiencies in the VAC
Health and Long term Care Program," Mr. Forbes said.
"In relation to Modern Day Veterans, the New Veterans Charter,
considered a 'living document' by veterans' organizations, is currently
an unfinished work in progress," he added.
In closing the letter, Mr. Forbes expressed particular concern that a
certain degree of inertia has developed in Veterans Affairs Canada
since the introduction and passage of Bill C-55:
"As you are aware, these legislative amendments were first announced by
your predecessor in 2010, and represent a small fraction of the
recommendations of the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group as endorsed
and complemented by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in the
Fall of 2009. We feel strongly that the major focus for the New
Veterans Charter, therefore, should be directed to the full
implementation of these recommendations which are essential to
addressing the gaps and deficiencies identified in the Charter."
"Given these significant concerns, this is clearly no time to be
suggesting any diminishment in the budget or resources of VAC," Mr.
Forbes concluded. "In our judgement, the financial responsibility and
debt of gratitude that all Canadians owe to Traditional and Modern Day
Veterans should now, and in the future, remain a paramount
consideration in any evaluation of a Federal Deficit Reduction Plan."
SOURCE WAR AMPS
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