New Veterans Affairs plan aimed at addressing concerns in ombudsman's report
Fighting through red tape can be frustrating.
Bureaucratic barricades are all around us each and every day and in many cases, serve a very useful purpose. Regulation and proper process certainly has a place in a civil, organized society such as the one Canada has created.
But for a war veteran applying for disability benefits, red tape and delays for much-needed services is a frustration Canada's civilian population would just as soon like to see avoided, or at the very least, improved upon.
With that in mind, news of the Minister of Veteran Affairs, Steven Blaney, and his launch of the Right to Fairness Implementation Plan to cut red tape for Veterans applying to Veterans Affairs Canada for disability benefits has to be viewed as a positive development.
According to Veterans Affairs Canada, the plan addressed the recently issued ombudsman's report, "Veterans' Right to Disclosure: A Matter of Procedural Fairness," which was the third in a series of four reports on procedural-fairness issues related to steps in the disability-benefits process.
The report noted a few flaws in the process, and stated the current process is procedurally unfair. First off, the ombudsman found veterans and serving members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP have the right to know what information is being considered by decision makers, and should have the ability to challenge that information and provide their own information.
Secondly, the report stated administrative practices should not stand in the way of veterans' and those currently serving from the right to participate in the process and have a fair hearing. It went on to mention while disclosure of information may require more time, it could also serve to reduce the need for appeals and reviews.
Four recommendations were made in the report, which included providing applicants with a copy of records and all other information considered by those making the final decisions on applications, clarification of how required records will be obtained and by whom, informing applicants of the intent to retrieve records upon receipt of the application and that those records be sent in their entirety to adjudicators.
The minister, in a press release, stated that while 70 per cent of first applicants receive favourable decisions, ways to improve the system are always welcome. Ensuring a fair outcome to veterans, who have sacrificed a great deal to the benefit of Canada and in certain cases other nations as well, is the least our government can do as thanks for their years of service.
Procedures must be followed, and those who have served in the Canadian Forces will be the first to understand that, but making sure our veterans are treated fairly should be a top priority, as the issue of disability benefits is an important one.
The hope is the proposed changes are enacted quickly and efficiently, and veterans will receive the help they require, in as timely a fashion as possible. There will be cases in which a negative decision is still rendered, but at least steps are being taken to ensure the process is much more transparent and fair to all.
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