National Council of Veteran Associations welcomes Veterans' Ombudsman Announcement



    OTTAWA, Oct. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - The National Council of Veteran
Associations (56 member groups) welcomed the news that a Veterans' Ombudsman
will be announced later today.
    NCVA wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on March 20, 2007, expressing
the Council's support for the proposal in the 2007 budget to establish a
Veterans' Ombudsman, which Mr. Harper had also referred to as an objective
during the 2006 federal election.
    "This was a proposal which had been discussed on many occasions with
officials of the Government of Canada and has been on the agenda of the
National Council since it was first raised in a minority report of the Woods
Committee to Survey the Organization and Work of the Canadian Pension
Commission, which delivered its report to the Minister of Veterans Affairs in
1967," Cliff Chadderton, NCVA Chairman, stated.
    For reference, the following is the text of the proposal made by NCVA to
the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs on October 2, 2006:

    
               OMBUDSMAN FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

    The committee is requested to consider the appointment of an Ombudsman to
make final decisions in respect of applications to benefits available under
the Department of Veterans Affairs legislation.
    This matter was the subject of an extensive review at meetings with staff
of the Prime Minister's office, as well as the Minister of Veterans Affairs. A
synopsis of the remarks made by Cliff Chadderton at these meetings follows:

    - There was considerable favourable reference during the recent election
      campaign to the appointment of an ombudsman
    - The public/media appears ready to embrace this proposal, particularly
      because of its simplicity
    - The Swedish word 'Ombud' refers to a spokesperson or representative
      speaking for another person. It is generally considered as a substitute
      for lengthy and/or complicated issues normally handled by tribunals
    - It would appear that the public is expecting some action on an urgent
      basis in this area
    - The minority report of the Woods Committee (the Committee to Survey the
      Organization and Work of The Canadian Pension Commission) was named for
      its Chairman, the late Mr. Justice Mervyn Woods who served as Dominion
      President of the Royal Canadian Legion
    - The minority report was the distillation of many months of work under
      the guidance of a member of the Committee, Judge Walter Lyndall. He was
      a man of Icelandic origin who was acknowledged as a world-renowned
      expert on the Scandinavian application of the role of Ombudsman in
      matters of adjudication and administration
    - The reference in the Woods Committee Report, which was generally
      considered as an alternative to the major recommendations of the
      committee, would be the indication that an Ombudsman had the support of
      Veterans Organizations
    - The Woods Committee recommendation was generally considered to be an
      alternative to the current system of adjudication which involved (a)
      entitlement boards at the first level of appeal; and (b) a review board
      to adjudicate upon more difficult cases and/or provide interpretations
      to the legislation
    - A reference of support was included in the Woods Report as follows:

      In 1963, J.F. Garner, Senior Lecturer in Law of the University of
      Birmingham gave the following interpretation:

           The Council is an advisory and consultative body only, having
           itself no adjudicatory or executive powers, and it is in no sense
           a super tribunal, nor a court of appeal from tribunals.

    - The Honourable Mr. Garner's interpretation is generally considered as
      the most recognized definition of Ombudsman.

    Other considerations reviewed by the Woods Committee were:

    - Time required to establish an Ombudsman would involve the development
      of simple rules of practice and would dispense with formal procedures.
    - The Ombudsman could serve a most useful purpose in handling complaints
      concerning administration. This would be in addition to his primary
      function of adjudication
    - The process of the Ombudsman would not involve an adversary proceeding
    - The relationship with the office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
      could develop into a useful working relationship under which the
      Ombudsman would provide advice
    - An effective but informal relationship could be established between the
      Ombudsman and the Veterans Bureau
    - The Ombudsman could establish effecting working relations with Veterans
      Organizations
    - The Ombudsman would act as an independent agent under the Minister of
      Veterans Affairs
    - The procedure of the Ombudsman would generally be considered as being
      effective once an applicant has exhausted his/her procedural rights
      under the Pension Act
    - The Ombudsman would be empowered to carry out his own investigations
    - The Ombudsman would have complete access to all Departmental records
    - If after investigation, the Ombudsman comes to the conclusion that an
      application cannot succeed, he would be required to send a letter of
      advice to the applicant
    - The Ombudsman may refer an entitlement application to the Commission if
      he considers that it should be reconsidered
    - In the matter of a complaint, the Ombudsman would refer the details to
      the Chairman of the Commission who would undertake a personal
      investigation
    - The Ombudsman will in all instances prepare a report. If the Ombudsman
      considers an application should have been granted or that the action
      taken is not satisfactory, his report will indicate his decision
    - A report would be published quarterly with copies being made available
      to all interested parties including Members of Parliament, Veterans
      Organizations and the media
    - A rebuttal to an Ombudsman's decision would be accepted in the
      legislation
    - The Ombudsman would be considered an agent of Parliament
    - In general terms the Ombudsman should prevail upon the commission to do
      its job. He should not, however, do the job for it
    - After a trial period of two years, the recommendation to establish an
      Ombudsman could be reviewed
    - His appointment should be made by the Governor in Council on
      recommendation of Parliament. He would be a non-political appointment
    - The Ombudsman could be removed only for cause and only by a majority
      vote of Parliament. This would give him the necessary independence and
      protection to permit him to discharge his duties
    - The Ombudsman should be authorized to secure adequate medical and legal
      advice
    - Other considerations:
      Title: to be established under the Minister of Veterans Affairs and
      known as the Ombudsman for the Pension Act.

      Referrals on own initiative: to be considered

      Who may petition: Ombudsman may receive requests to investigate
      applications or complaints

      Refusal to investigate: Ombudsman, at discretion, may refuse to
      investigate or cease to investigate any grievance if he considers that
      it is groundless; a remedy already exists; it is trivial; is not being
      made in good faith or the pursuit of the investigation would not be in
      the public interests or in the best interest of the person aggrieved

      Note: further information concerning the possible appointment and
      operation of an Ombudsman is available in the minority report of the
      Woods Committee.
    

    Note: where masculine is used, it is intended to be gender neutral




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