I will call the meeting to order. We are continuing with our study of hiring veterans for public service positions.
Colleagues, before we get into the meeting itself, there is a housekeeping note. For our second panel, which will start appearing at 4:30 p.m., we have three individuals by video conference, but that will be a 45-minute session. I would like to reserve the last 15 minutes of this meeting for some committee business.
With that brief introduction, I'd like to welcome all of our guests who are here in person.
We also have, via video conference from Windsor, Ontario, Florin Corcoz. Thank you for being here as well.
We'll start with Mr. Corcoz by video conference. All of our panellists have brief opening statements. I don't think any one of them exceeds five minutes in duration. That should leave us plenty of time for questions.
Without any further ado, Mr. Corcoz, the floor is yours.
We don't seem to have audio on our end. Just give us a moment and we'll try to rectify that situation. While we're working on the technical difficulties from this end, we will start with Mr. Ticknor.
Mr. Ticknor, thank you for being here. The floor is yours.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you ladies and gentlemen for having me. I appreciate it. Hopefully, I can represent our veterans as best as possible and with integrity.
I have two briefs. I will try to be quick to get through them.
As a priority hire status and a veteran, and the sergeant-at-arms, chairman of voluntary resources and executive committee member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 350, I find it is necessary to address some major problems with the hiring process of CX-01 correctional officer positions in relation to veterans and other candidates.
I propose that a veteran who has already been successful at the Canadian Armed Forces Military Police Assessment Centre, the acronym for which is MPAC; who holds a police foundations diploma with a high GPA; and who is a priority hire status should not, without reasonable excuse, be denied an immediate offer of employment as a CX-01 correctional officer and be sent to Kingston, Ontario, for a correctional officer course. The candidate should also bypass some of the training in Kingston in relation to the already gained skill sets the candidate earned while being in the Canadian Armed Forces.
The reasoning is that the candidate has already, at this point, gone through an aptitude test at the local military recruiting centre, which is valid for life, and earned a high aptitude score to be considered as a military police candidate. The candidate has also undergone a full background check, medical and physical fitness tests, and has completed the requirements for priority hire status.
The candidate has completed MPAC, a three-day testing period for MP candidates where judgment, memory, integrity and other factors are assessed by the selection officers present. Keep in mind, I am not allowed to reveal the types of testing for confidentiality reasons, as I am not legally permitted.
These tests are credible and state of the art, more so than the 90-minute, 100-question multiple choice of either one of five options: ineffective, somewhat ineffective, not effective or not ineffective, somewhat effective, or effective, for the CX-01 correctional officer SJT, situational judgment test, which is ineffective at properly measuring SJT. The test is so subjective and vague at determining a proper SJT and is inappropriate compared with the far more credible and significantly more thorough three-day MPAC.
I recommend true or false questions, with less grey areas of subjectivity, coupled with scenarios to actually see how a candidate may or may not act in a certain situation for the SJT, situational judgment test. Those who have passed the MPAC should obviously bypass the correctional officer SJT and be sent immediately to the correctional officer course in Kingston, Ontario, and bypass some of the courses for already gained skill sets that the candidate earned while being in the Canadian Armed Forces.
It would be highly inappropriate to not make the needed changes on the SJT in the CX-01 correctional officer test, and highly discriminatory for those veterans who qualify, as listed above, for the policy to go unamended.
Mr. Chair, may I present the second brief?
My name is John Colin Hewitt. I was named after my grandfather, Colin Bruce, a World War II pilot, and his father, a Boer War veteran. I grew up seeing my mother look at my father wearing his uniform in that indescribable way a woman's eyes convey the look that a man will live and die for.
Thank you for hearing me speak today. Let me begin by commending all the past and present casualties of war and the suicides. Your valour is not lost on us. We understand why you have done this.
To begin, I am not a war veteran. Let me tell you a bit of my story that led me into the priority process. I will skip right to my injury. I was injured in para school in Trenton, Ontario, during crash week. I landed badly, felt a sharp pain in my back, and at lunch I was locked up and sent to the hospital, carried away on a stretcher. I was given some muscle relaxants and I ran immediately back to school to complete my para course. I did not know then but I had herniated a disk in my back that hit my sciatic nerve. I jumped nine more times with pain increasing. Finally, on a rucksack march, my legs went numb and I dropped. An MRI showed the injury and I was put in JPSU.
At that time I only had a grade six education and learning disabilities to boot. I hired a specialist for a month to reteach me grade one. By the end of the month, I was up to a college reading level. From there, I completed high school and all the prerequisites for college. While awaiting release, I did two years at Lethbridge College. I had to drop two courses because of the workload, which was so intense due to my lack of education.
I entered into the priority system only to find that my school was only transferable to Parks Canada, which was exempt from the priority system. I was able to land a seasonal job as a park ranger. When the job ended, I was desperate for work, so I went back on the tugboat. I had severe pain. I found out about the VAC rehab system. I did not want to be provided for but I had a new baby at this time so my wife was off work. Out of desperation, I took a job with the Coast Guard as a labourer. I ended up in the hospital on the Alaska border and was flown home. My wife went back to work early while I looked after our baby so I could recover and get some money to live.
Veterans vocational rehab was approved by this time, and there was an assessment done. Once again, I went back to work as a labourer at DFO. Once again, the pain was overwhelming, even with cortisone shots. I saw a doctor and he said to me, “No more labour jobs.” My back was screwed. I needed back and knee surgery.
At this point, after reading an investigative report into veterans committing suicide after war due to systemic problems, I decided to get a psychology degree. It took me three or four tries to upgrade my English for the psychology program, while going through back and knee surgery, a divorce and a constant fight against the Veterans Affairs system that said I was too young for this injury. Their doctor said my back was getting better—the opposite of what my doctor said.
Then it struck me. I knew why veterans were committing suicide. I was outraged. Why would VAC say these things? I went to an officer at the Legion who had experience dealing with Veterans Affairs. He said, “You know this is an insurance company, don't you?” Now it all made sense to me. I decided to fight back, get a lawyer and gather evidence but the doctors would not write me letters confirming the degeneration of my injuries, stating, “I do not deal with insurance agencies.”
VAC finally left me alone when I was scheduled for surgery. After surgery, I finished upgrading. My prerequisites were entered into the psychology program, and once again, I was attacked for my learning disabilities. I was told a degree would take me too long. The final blow was an intelligence test the day before my psychology finals. All along I knew their intentions. They found my verbal abilities were well above average, but my math and spelling were well below average, disqualifying me from funding and pushing me back into labour.
I was done fighting. Without going into detail, I woke up in an ambulance, having been brought back to life. My dreams were crushed, my faith in Canada, myself and humanity were gone. Desperate, I started volunteering at a disability centre to gain some entrance-level administration experience, knowing I needed to preserve my back so I could play with my son in the future. I took a typing course, again began to apply for positions in the priority system and was denied, denied and denied.
I fought back, phoning everyone I could and demanding answers. I had no choice but to fight until I broke through.
I'm now at Service Canada. Here, I found what I can only explain as people accepting me for the way I am and empathizing with and understanding my past troubles. The manager quite frankly was too good to be true in terms of my diminished trust. He placed me beside a fellow PPCLI veteran who took me under his wing. The team leader was an ex-DND employee who spearheaded a mental health community and set up a decompression room. I had miraculously landed in a dysfunctional veteran's paradise.
I'm well behind my colleagues, and I have a feeling of constant guilt and pain that is always present, but they tell me every day that I'm worth it and to take a walk when I need to. They say, “When you get sore, we're behind you, no matter what.” What they have done for me brings tears to my eyes. It will take me a long time to get my well-being back, but I have time.
I told them that I was excited to share this news, and they told me that I was lucky to be at this office. Quite frankly, other veterans would not get this support in some of the other places, but with this, I digress.
Honourable chairman and committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
I am a retired naval officer. I work for DND, but I worked for VAC for three years. My evidence is as an individual from the perspective of a middle manager who was tasked to operationalize the , or VHA.
Back in July 2015, the VHA amended the Public Service Employment Act. Medically released personnel are now eligible for either statutory or regulatory entitlement, dependent on whether their release was or was not attributable to service. They have five years to activate their entitlement, and when it's activated, they have priority for five years or until they accept indeterminate employment with the public service. Serving members and all veterans have preference for external processes for five years from date of release. They also have mobility, which means they are eligible to participate in internally advertised appointment processes for up to five years after date of release.
I am very pro-VHA, but clearly to the layman it is complex. With the VHA, many armed forces members and veterans believed that upon retirement, they were automatically entitled to a public service job. This is not the case. When hit with the reality of public service hiring, some became bitter and felt betrayed.
As well, the VHA creates a complex space between the Public Service Commission, Veterans Affairs Canada and Canadian Armed Forces mandates. The Public Service Commission's mandate is to promote and safeguard merit-based appointments to protect the non-partisan nature of the public service. They are all about fairness and transparency. VAC's core mandate extends to the care, treatment or re-establishment in civilian life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces. Finally, one of the seven basic armed forces professional development objectives is to prepare retiring CAF members for the transition to civilian life. You have three departments whose mandates touch in this complex space, with no clear lead department, no MOU and confused clients. This is probably why this committee has been assembled.
Veterans Affairs Deputy Minister Walter Natynczyk talks to a lot of veterans and service members. He understands their concerns, and in an effort to close the seam between the departments, he took the initiative to create the veterans in the public service unit, or VPSU. You've heard about the VPSU's award-winning accomplishments from the Veterans Affairs director general of HR and other veterans. Its lines of effort are to influence two audiences—one, the veterans of today and tomorrow, and two, the public service hiring managers. There is a service delivery arm made up of veterans who understand the Veterans Hiring Act, have experienced the public service hiring process, and connect and relate with their clients as brothers in arms. To influence hiring managers, a strategic initiatives arm has, one, created an interdepartmental working group; two, leveraged GCconnex to share best practices; and three, completed outreach and connection pilot projects.
As the VPSU concept matured, I did internal stakeholder engagement at Veterans Affairs Canada. This is where I started to get a sense that operationalizing the VHA was going to be a difficult journey. I was challenged by HR professionals and hiring managers alike to justify the expense and resource drain of the VPSU when veterans are not an employment equity group. The answer, obviously, is that most veterans are not an employment equity group but the Government of Canada and Canadian people think they deserve enhanced public service hiring consideration—thus the VHA.
To improve, this will require continued education and accountability of our HR professionals and hiring managers. I have worked collaboratively with the Public Service Commission. I am confident they have the expertise required to address this issue. However, holding hiring managers accountable is an individual department's responsibility. I suggest that the way to do this and maintain transparency and fairness is for deputy ministers to, one, follow Veterans Affairs' lead and consider their department's mandate; two, consider the value that veterans represent; and three, establish reasonable aspirational hiring goals.
Then hold the hiring managers accountable for their actions. How can this be done? Well, I heard VIA Rail's president speak at a career fair. He said he has every director who screens out a veteran report to him and explain why and how that veteran could not be accommodated. When it comes to veteran hiring, I think public service directors and DGs can learn from his style of leadership and accountability.
When I left VAC, the requisite memos to cabinet and Treasury Board submissions were being considered to fund the VPSU. Up to that time, the VPSU had been funded through the DG of HR's funding envelope, and she was creative and innovative in making it work. I hope this can-do attitude continues, but I am concerned.
One of my last meetings while at VAC was to listen to legal counsel explain how they were having trouble aligning what the VPSU was doing with Veterans Affairs' mandate. To me, it's an obvious match. I hope they've figured it out, especially since a significant portion of VAC's evidence to this committee related to VPSU accomplishments.
In sum, there are two primary audiences: veterans who need to be mentored through the process, from skills translation to application, interview and immersion into a brand new culture; and appropriately monitored public service hiring managers who need to be educated about the veteran labour pool.
Sir, thank you very much.
Finally, colleagues, we will have, by teleconference from Windsor, Mr. Florin Corcoz.
Mr. Corcoz, can you hear us? Are you receiving any audio? It looks like we're trying to get a connection here, colleagues.
Failing that, we will continue to try to reach him by teleconference, but I don't want to delay the proceedings any more than we have to, so we'll go immediately into questions.
Colleagues, we won't be able to get two full rounds in, but I think we'll still go with the seven-minute rounds. That will allow three questions from the government, two from the official opposition and one from the NDP.
For the first seven-minute intervention, we have Mr. Peterson.
Good evening, everyone.
My name is Florin Corcoz. I am a veteran of the Canadian Forces, a former naval engineer.
I joined the Canadian Forces in January 2010, and I was voluntarily released in October 2013 from the full-time position, and in May 2014 from the reserve, a part-time position.
I am here to explain my experience in applying for job opportunities within the public service. I am a professional engineer with a licence in Ontario and Alberta. I received my bachelor's degree from a Romanian university. Additionally, I graduated with an M.B.A. from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in May 2017. Emory University is considered one of the top 20 American business schools.
I applied for 10 jobs open to the public and to nine internal jobs. The list of jobs can be seen in the addendum to the memo I submitted this morning. I applied for jobs that required managerial skills, such as senior project manager, project manager, change manager and director. From a total of 20 jobs, I was able to have two written exams, but I didn't pass to the next level, an interview.
Additionally, I had some supplementary questions for a job as a regional regulatory compliance manager opportunity from the hiring manager, but I wasn't selected for an interview.
I passed the IT field test related to HR, to the next level of every single application, receiving the message that my application had been retained. I would be contacted directly if I were to be further assessed.
None of this could have been possible without help from a veterans adviser, Jen, who helped me a lot in updating my resumé and sharpening my interview skills.
Also, I was able to have a job interview for a DND engineering position in the Toronto area, but I applied by sending my resumé to an email address. My military experience didn't seem to have any impact and the focus of the interview was on my civilian experience only.
In conclusion, military experience and/or training received in the military doesn't seem to be a helpful selection criterion for the hiring manager, unless you are medically released. I say “medically released” because this is another type of application for jobs in the public service.
That is my statement.
Thank you, gentlemen here in Ottawa and Mr. Corcoz in Windsor.
Welcome to the House of Commons, Mr. Corcoz, and on behalf of all Canadians, thank you for your duty in achieving what we are today.
I'd like to begin with you, Mr. Grant. Earlier you said that there was a lot of disappointment among veterans when they apply for the government program designed to give them access to the public service. Expectations are very high and, of course, there are disappointments. The program may generate more disappointment and frustration than assistance.
Should we, in your opinion, tell people right from the outset that there are no guarantees with that program?
My situation is interesting. For me, personally, I'd rather go to the public sector when it has to do with housekeeping in DND affairs—for reference, medically releasing somebody.
In my situation, my boss was the top military police on base. That being said, he wanted me out. There was an assault causing bodily harm done by one of his subordinates. It was covered up, even though I had two witness statements and my impact statement. I suggest that he colluded with the medical authorities on base. I collected collateral information from documents that were, I suggest, systematically removed from my file, documents that show that I was an outstanding soldier. One of them was with regard to a medal that I received for doing the Nijmegen March, an 165-kilometre march overseas with weight on my back for four days. That was removed. It's no longer part of my file, but I kept copies of it.
The medical authority had the tenacity to say, “Apparently, Corporal Ticknor did well in his transcripts.” She had the clearance level to check my transcripts, but did not say, “Confirmed his transcripts with a GPA of 3.87 in police foundations.” She made it sound as if I was imagining it. I'm glad that you caught that one.
Also, her whole assessment was based on her attacking my relationship with my wife. We've been together for eight years now. She's working to get her Ph.D. at Brock, and I'm at Brock as well. She was a physiotherapist in Dubai when this was going on, and there's collateral information to prove that as well. She based all these assessments on “He says this”, “He claims this”, “His thinking is very rigid” or “It appears he has thought disorder, delusional disorder.”
When she finally found out that my wife was bona fide legit, she changed the argument and immediately said, “He has religious delusions.” She then said that I failed the chaplain school. I received a letter that was permanently removed from my military file from the head of the chaplain school, who is actually an expert in religious affairs, not a layman in the matter. His appreciation letter I have—this collateral information—to prove the dishonesty.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much to all of you for appearing today and providing us with your opening statements.
Mr. Grant, you talked in your opening statement about the three different cultures at play—DND, VAC and the Public Service Commission of Canada.
My father served when I was very young. I spent three years of my life living in Lahr, West Germany—from 1982 to 1985. It was a pretty amazing experience. I come from a riding that is basically a stone's throw away from CFB Esquimalt, so I have a lot of active serving personnel in my riding and also a lot of veterans because the climate on Vancouver Island is pretty agreeable.
I'm sure you'll agree with that, Mr. Hewitt.
I've grown up with that, but in my adult life.... I don't think many of us get to experience what the military culture is all about. I had an amazing experience in 2017 when the Royal Canadian Navy invited parliamentarians onto the base to go on board one of our frigates. I went on board HMCS Vancouver. They took us for a three-day trip out to the western test-firing ranges. We got to see every aspect of how that ship works, how the entire crew works together as a team and all of the skills that are on display in making that ship operational every second of the day.
I think that I can speak for all of my colleagues who were on that trip together when I say that we walked away with a very different understanding, but a very beneficial understanding, of just how it all works. I know that there was reference made to the fact that human resources specialists and managers of VIA Rail spent a day in military training.
I'm just wondering if the three of you could provide some feedback on whether that kind of experience might be beneficial for people in the Public Service Commission to find out a little bit more about the military culture and also to see first-hand the leadership training that's on display—you know, the fact that you have to be able to think fast in certain situations to make those decisions quickly.
Can I circle back to the first part of your question?
The Public Service Commission owns the Public Service Employment Act, and that was amended by the Veterans Hiring Act. When I said that they're all about transparency and fairness, they are. They want the staffing of the public service to be crystal clear.
There was some talk in prior panels about setting quotas. I would suggest that the public service would cringe at the use of the word “quota”, so what I would recommended is having the deputy ministers in Transport Canada and the Coast Guard look at this. They have jobs where there's a pretty good correlation between military skills and civilian skills.
They can say, “Veteran hiring is important for the Government of Canada. What does it make sense for my department to have as a complement of veterans?” and then set that aspirational goal. I think the Public Service Commission would be happier with an aspirational goal set by a deputy minister than hard quotas. That's the department saying, “We've looked at what we do and we think that this is what we should strive for.”
Mr. Grant, last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming some veterans to the committee. They told us that they understood the current needs, and the need to make room in the public service for minorities, visible minorities, women and LGBT groups, and so on.
One of their comments, which was surprising but entirely congruent with reality, was that they were four white heterosexual males in their fifties, and they did not fall into any of these categories.
What do you think about that?
This is a very touchy one.
We all want to see balance, equality, gender equity. We want LGBT people, who were mistreated for centuries, to have their place in society, and that is quite legitimate. That said, the veterans who came to testify here were four white men in their fifties, English-speaking native Canadians, born here from families that have been present for several generations. They added that they were heterosexual.
What can they do to obtain positions in the public service, despite the fact that through certain measures, the public service is trying to bring in women, visible minorities, new Canadians and LGBT persons?
There is so much happening when you're releasing. I was on a release and I couldn't believe how much was happening. There is so much information thrown at you at the second career assistance network seminars. You do a transition interview at the release centre, and then you're just catching your feet as a civilian. I know that the director of transition services in the Canadian Armed Forces gives comprehensive briefings and Veterans Affairs gives comprehensive briefings, so there's a layered thing happening there.
With regard to programs, again, I'm pro-VHA. I'm drinking the VHA Kool-Aid, but when you look at it, in the five years you get from your date of release or when your priority is activated, you can leverage all kinds of things.
First of all, if you're on medical release that gives you time to get yourself right, get yourself job-ready. You can leverage the education benefit and go back to school. You can leverage career transition services to get your resumé up, your interviewing skills up. You can leverage the veterans in the public service unit to help you if you want to get a public service job. There are a lot of resources. I just think we have to continue pushing the word out to veterans and those considering transition that they're there.
—you've run out of time, which is always a problem in these committee hearings, particularly when we're having the testimony that you've provided.
First and foremost, let me say thank you for your service to your country, to all of you here present, and to Mr. Corcoz, who perhaps is still with us by teleconference. What I would ask is that if you have additional information you think would be of benefit to this committee, please submit any recommendations or suggestions to our clerk. It will help us form part of the final report, our final study.
Mr. Ticknor in particular, you indicated that you had many other pieces of collateral information—I think that is the way you put it—that you would like to submit to us. Please, sir, feel free to do that through our clerk. Even though you didn't get to it personally and in public testimony, it will form part of our final study and our final report.
Thank you very much for hearing me.
My name is Thomas Harrison, and I'm a chief warrant officer currently serving on my way out on a medical, 34 years in. I'm in education transition right now and that predominantly triggered me to talk to this committee.
In my year and a half worth of looking for work in the federal government I'm finding that I am very unsuccessful. I have it fine-tuned down to education. We have a lot of skills, but we don't have degrees. Can I go into a university class? I am doing university right now and excel absolutely, but I don't have that degree. I'm in six pools right now. I've been turned down in one and I have been retained in five, but I've been retained for the last two years without a whisper, as we say in the army: crickets. That's all I hear is crickets.
I'm not doing this search with a priority referral number, and I think that's significant. I think that any veteran has sufficient skills to be employed in the federal government one way or another, and shouldn't need a priority referral to get in the door. We have the skills. We work with the Canadian government every day.
I'm very disappointed in the process. Some of the tasking is certainly skewed towards a civilian approach, and I totally get that because the bulk of the recruiting is coming from civilian society. However, when we're doing things like judgment testing, we in the forces use very much a direct method. We use firm, fair and friendly in conflict resolution. When you start using those types of skills that you've learned over 34 years and put it into a judgment test, you can fail considerably in the judgment test because that's not what they're looking for. They're looking more for friendly and go to the supervisor all the time, not self-help, stuff like that.
In summary, my main point for being here is that I think all veterans have sufficient skills to stand alone and be employed within the federal government. However, a lot of us are getting screened out or just put in the queue never to be phoned again, and that's where I stand and that's why I'm here to talk to you today.
Hello. I'm Ed Simmons, a veteran of the Canadian regular army. I was invited to participate in this discussion about hiring veterans in the Canadian government. This was and is very important topic to me, along with finally being able to voice my opinion. The next step in the process was to send forms to be filled out. These forms triggered an anxiety, making me regret agreeing to participate. The fear of filling out forms has been torture for many years, dealing with Veterans Affairs. Now that the Legion has stepped up and understands my fears, I might have a chance. I think veterans would be better able to understand.
In 1961, I answered an ad for Canadian army recruitment. Age and education only put one foot in the door. After a long interview, physical and psychiatric background check, I was told to report for duty. The first day we were told to expect 50% attrition. There were close to 52 of us who made it through that phase of the training. The extreme discipline and training resulted in personal strength that would guide me in all future decisions.
After years of training, extreme emphasis on work ethics and accomplishing any mission, I felt the investment our government made in me had paid off. On completing my service with security clearance, training and all other skills, I didn't see a future in the military for me. With honourable discharge papers in hand, I approached the federal government for work and was turned away with no explanation. At the time, I considered it a horrible waste of an extremely large investment. If military efficiency and determination to achieve goals were applied to government departments, we would not have year-long backlogs, as in Veterans Affairs.
After living through the military experience, I believe government would benefit greatly from investments they have made in veterans. The veterans would benefit by having a way to continue to serve the country they love. In my opinion, a win-win situation is best for all. I hope these thoughts will have some impact on future hiring.
Thank you very much.
Hello, and thank you for inviting me today.
My name is Alex Perry. I have served in the military for 17 years, with a mix of six years in the reserve and another 11 years in the regular force. I received a medical release effective May 8, 2018.
These have been my obstacles to reintegration and finding employment in the public sector. I have listened to your past sessions and I have created my own list of shortcomings. I also hope to provide clarifying information on past questions you've had for other witnesses.
I was given a DND case manager whose services ended when my contract expired, while VAC's case manager would not see me until I was 30 days from release. To my knowledge, they shared zero information with each other. Going forward, members should be put in touch with a VAC case manager as soon as they know where they are going to be released.
The burden to seek information about retirement or release is placed on the member. SCAN seminars are held annually. There is no set schedule for when they are run, and they run on a first-come, first-served basis. If you sign up for it and it's full, that's too bad and you won't get a chance to do it again. Priority should be given to those with early release dates.
As it stands, the release timeline is six months. It doesn't correspond with the application to school or with the commencement of classes. This should be extended to 12 months, with a nine-month vocational rehab to be used at the beginning of school or at the end of it, according to the member's wishes.
The SISIP LTD VAC rehab program is a 24-month program where CAF members are able to return to school with the option to leave six months earlier to begin school in their vocational rehab. One of the most important rules is that a CAF member must finish what they start—as in, the program of school—which limits veterans to only obtaining a diploma. In the few months that I've searched for employment, the majority of public service positions have required a degree. As alluded to by this committee, veterans are seeking more than entry-level positions, but they are unavailable to due to the lack of education.
The education and training benefit that VAC came to speak to you about does have its limitations. A member cannot be on the VAC rehab program while applying for the education training benefit, which results in the loss of the 15% top-up in pay. It used be called the earnings loss benefit, but they've renamed it with the new rollout of benefits. You also lose the support of your case manager from VAC. You lose medical benefits as a result of that, too.
The service number that we're issued in the Canadian Forces should act as our federal employee number, like the PRI number. This would enable us to apply for public sector positions while we plan our departure from DND. Also, security clearance should not disappear the day you leave the forces. These two changes would greatly expedite the hiring process and give hiring managers the ability to fill vacant positions much more quickly.
I was able to secure a position with VAC in my hometown as part of a field placement with the college program I attended. I saw the biases that employees have towards veterans first-hand when I was asked—repeatedly and by numerous individuals—why I wasn't messed up like the rest of them, or how I had come out so normal. Simply walking into a VAC office and being greeted by two-inch, bomb-proof glass sets a tone for every veteran walking into each location. At times, staff appear nervous and unsure of how to approach some members upon their entry into the office, therefore leaving those members not fully supported. The bias is that veterans are unstable, crazy and ready to explode at any moment. This came from the department tasked with aiding veterans. I can only imagine what the rest of them think about us.
Colleges and universities already have prior learning assessment and recognition—PLAR, for short—but the burden is placed on the member to provide all supporting documents, which we get in course reports throughout our career. To ask a veteran to save things for 20 of 30 years is a little ridiculous.
Some provinces are beginning to recognize the military driver's licence as an equivalent, allowing these qualified members to simply provide the appropriate documentation and be given the corresponding class of civilian driver's licence.
It has appeared to me that this committee is trying to find an easy fix to the problem—a one-size-fits-all approach—but that can't be done because every member who is leaving the military, whether it's voluntary or medical, has their own unique set of circumstances.
It's a good idea. Our MOC, our occupation trades, have been trying to do that for a long time.
By trade, I was a supply technician, a logistician. However, when I got to chief warrant officer, I went to a totally different occupation. It's the chief warrant officer occupation. The only two trades that I know that are very transferable right now with Red Seal are our mechanics and our truckers, as I mentioned earlier.
If you were able to take a logistician and say, you can be in procurement, you can keep contracting, you can do administrative services, that would be fantastic. It would be helpful. It would help streamline the process and it would help give a little bit of levity to the veterans—knowing where they can go, left or right.
That was the first day that I entered the military. It's when I started. When I left the military in 1966, that's when I approached the federal government and Veterans Affairs and asked for assistance. I asked if I could get a job with the federal government.
As I stated in my letter, I do have anxiety when it comes to forms. I've done pole climbing, jumping on and off moving tanks, you name it. I've done that without fear and I have no issue at all with it. However, when I approached the federal government, I was just dismissed. Again, when I asked Veterans Affairs for help, I was told, “Go away, don't bother us, you weren't here long enough.”
The damage to my feet and lower legs has been an issue ever since. It wasn't until about 20 years ago that Veterans Affairs allowed me to put in a claim. I have a large filing cabinet full of rejections, paperwork, changes in this, changes in that, files and forms, you name it. Dealing with the federal government, Veterans Affairs and other sectors, has been nothing but a nightmare for me—and it shouldn't be.
I believe people that have been through the military would better understand what's going on. They would have a better focus. They have been trained extremely well and they know how to deal with people and how to goal orient. The commands were always, “You will” and then the command. It wasn't, “Okay, fill out this form, fill out that form, take your time, and we'll get back to you in a year.” It was to be done now, but dealing with the federal government, it's the opposite effect.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Mr. Harrison, I'd like to start with you. I live in the Cowichan Valley, so it's really nice to see that map of Vancouver Island behind you. It makes me feel close to home.
I found your testimony to be something that we really needed to hear, the fact that you're still going through your medical. You've outlined the skills you have as a regimental sergeant major and the fact that you've interfaced with colonels, generals, and yet, you're still struggling.
Can you please illustrate, for this committee, some of the skills you had to be employed on a day-to-day basis in that position? We really need to hear that, and that's a hole we definitely need to address.
Absolutely. Certainly, there was resource management—anything from deploying records, transportation, supply needs, suicide intervention. You're on there 24-7 with your BlackBerry. You're at the hospital or at the jail dealing with your troops.
There was conflict resolution, but not only to do with troops. Generals and colonels are also human beings with emotions and you're trying to talk them down off the ledge here and there. There is lots of liaison with different levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal or other countries.
There are, as we call them, dog and pony shows. Out of nowhere, city X wants to see the whole battalion. Just organizing that, doing the road route, the planning, the fuel and the safety behind that, doing a live fire with your troops, the safety briefs....
You're watching. You're accountable for absolutely everything. There is harassment and lots of conflict management and resolution. You use a lot of critical thinking skills on your feet, coming up with the best solution, based on your experience and common sense. It does get frustrating, but—
Thank you for getting that on the record. I certainly hope we cite that in our report to the government.
Mr. Perry, before I became a member of Parliament, I spent seven years doing casework with all manner of constituents who had problems with various federal departments. A large number of them were veterans, so your testimony about DND and the hand-off to VAC is not new. It's existed for many years and still, for the life of me, I can't figure out why we have not simplified the system yet.
I hosted a town hall for veterans a couple of years ago. Every person who came to the mike complained about the fact that once you leave DND, you have to pick it up, run with it yourself and organize everything with VAC. I'm just astounded we're still having this problem.
I don't have much time, but you said in your opening statement that you're concerned that we might be approaching this as a one-size-fits-all, but we need individual approaches. Is there anything you can add about what that means in practical terms, maintaining a need to take that individual approach to veterans?
I'll give you two minutes.
Thank you all for being here. We've been studying this because we realize that there is a problem with transitioning veterans into civilian life, and we were wondering what the status was of the priority hiring.
You have told us what we have heard repeatedly, that there is a disconnect between the military.... You know, if I were in Afghanistan and I needed help, I would come to you. The Public Service Commission doesn't understand your skill sets and that's where there is a problem.
The reason I say that—and I was chuckling to myself—is that when I first came to Canada and I had a university degree from London, England, they told me that my equivalence was grade 12. I thought, “I did Cambridge and Oxford. What are you talking about, saying grade 12?”, so I can see where you're coming from, but I think that is because there's probably a great deal of ignorance of what you do.
With the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs and PSC, I think the responsibility should really be with the Canadian Armed Forces, because it is the one that trains you. It has a curriculum that is probably far superior to that of a university degree.
I think you were thinking that we were trying to find a solution, a one-size-fits-all. We're not. We're listening. We're in a listening mode and asking what it is that we can do.
Trust me; I don't know what a warrant officer does, but you do something that's so great that I wouldn't even know what to do with it. I think if we could find a way in which universities and colleges, who get their money because you have to pay to go to college, agree to the equivalence provided by the military—the military has to take the lead—would that work so that your qualifications would be equivalent to a university degree? What are your thoughts, all three of you?
That's a good suggestion, because I think our analyst can take that suggestion and put it in our report, and we can forward that.
When you talk about "them", perhaps the PSC—the Public Service Commission, which comes under this committee as well—should have a training session. I have been to Cold Lake, Alberta, to do the military part of it. All MPs are invited to do it so that we understand what you are doing.
Maybe that would be right, but how many human resources managers can we send? Perhaps we can bridge the gap—because there is a gap in understanding—in some very innovative ways, rather than the staid ways. When you talk about federal governments, sometimes people mix up MPs as government. MPs are there on a temporary basis. The bureaucracy stays full time.
If we can get ideas from you, whether you think about it now or later, I think that would be extremely important for us. That's my suggestion.
Mr. Perry, six months before you leave the military, do they give you enough tools to say, “I'm a medically released veteran and I will be going from here to there.” Do they give you enough tools to work with so that you can transition in a smooth manner?
I'm sorry, we're completely out of time.
To all of you who attended today, whether you're in person or by video conference, I want to thank you for your attendance. Again, to underscore what every member of this committee believes and feels, we want to thank you for your service to your country.
Should you have further suggestions or recommendations—we heard some very good information today—and you want to have that information transferred to our clerk, I would encourage you to do so directly. The information you provide will help form part of our final report. I strongly encourage you, should you have any further recommendations, to contact our clerk as quickly as possible.
With that, gentlemen, once again, thank you, all.
We will suspend now, colleagues, for a couple of minutes to get ready to go in camera for some committee business.
We are suspended.
[Proceedings continue in camera]