I would like to thank Paul Franklin for his blog post and sharing his personal story with Canadians, including frustrations related to access to service and benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).
Paul is an outstanding Canadian and an inspirational veteran. His participation in the Soldier ON Relay that culminated on Parliament Hill on the National Day of Honour last year was a testament to his continued passion and drive as a proud Canadian, but more importantly, his accomplishments in the face of adversity serve as an example to other veterans and Canadians as they struggle with their own physical or mental injuries.
I would also like to thank Rick Mercer for using his platform as a celebrity to highlight issues that need to be looked at when it comes to the care of our veterans. I know he does this out of genuine compassion. Rick served as the Honourary Colonel of my old Squadron (423 Squadron in Nova Scotia), so I know of his personal commitment to military families and veterans.
Shortly after my appointment as Minister of Veterans Affairs, I instructed my Department to reduce the complications related to applying for benefits or updating their file in relation to ongoing services or benefits from VAC. This is a critical part of the new vision we are imparting into the department as part of the Veteran-centric approach to service. Any administrative process that serves to delay or complicate support need to be fixed or eliminated. Even more importantly, if an administrative hurdle or form actually goes so far as to impact the overall wellness of the veteran, there is something seriously wrong because everything VAC is structured to do is to help ease the burden of transition for a veteran after their service injury.
Several weeks ago, when I learned about the potential requirement for a veteran who has lost a limb to have to continually verify their injury I asked for this to be examined to ensure such a procedure never takes place. I also reached out to Paul to try and learn more about the specifics of his situation. To date, my department is ensuring that this is not a requirement from a VAC administration requirement and we are determined to work with third party insurance providers to ensure that such requirements are not part of the process facing the veteran either.
I am committed to ensuring that we work diligently to reduce the administrative burden placed in front of veterans by my department and to ensure we get processing times reduced to alleviate some of the stress upon the veteran that is inherent from the process of waiting. VAC will strive for service excellence with the viewpoint of the veteran and their family at the heart of our moves to cut red tape and complexity in dealing with our department. Striving means that we will never be satisfied and should always be looking to do better. By sharing his frustration in his blog, Paul is helping all veterans by making us do better.
Per Ardua ad Astra,
Erin O'Toole, P.C., C.D., M.P.
Minister of Veterans Affairs
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