War Amps questions "cone of silence" over proposed VAC budget cuts

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 their dependants.

"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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For more information, please contact Communications at 1 877 60MEDIA or communications@waramps.ca.        

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