Interventions in Committee
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Bernard Butler
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Bernard Butler
2017-05-01 16:53
—so in the original presentation, it actually didn't look quite so challenging.
The second comment I would make, of course, is that not every veteran is eligible for all these benefits. This chart shows the situation if you qualified for every single benefit that was out there, including those that may well be duplicated through other departments, potentially, as the ombudsman referred to, with vocational rehabilitation programming, the SISIP program, and our own ELB program. It takes on a bit of a different look.
With that, what I would say more specifically is that in the minister's mandate letter, he was, in fact, charged to reduce complexity. That is one of the initiatives that the minister and the department are very much focused on right now. As you may well be aware, the department has just now concluded quite an exhaustive service delivery review. In that review, there was extensive consultation with veterans, stakeholders, and others. The image conveyed by that was certainly validated in some respects. What veterans have been telling the department is that they need more support—some of them, not all—to help navigate systems, and that they also need a system that does not require them to take the initiative to ensure that they have access to each and every benefit.
In other words, we describe it as a bit of push-pull system. Instead of the veteran constantly trying to pull eligibility out of the department, we are going to move in a direction where there is more push. I'll give you a simple example. In our clientele, we basically identified three categories of veterans. There are those veterans who have complex needs. They need a lot of support. It may be because of mental health issues. It may be because of physical problems. It may be the complexity of their family context. For those folks, they need case managers.
There is another category of veterans who really don't need much help from the department at all. They may come to us one time. They may have eligibility for one particular benefit, and other than that, they're doing quite well.
There is a middle ground of clients who don't need case management services, but they do need guided support. We've been in the process right now of running a pilot where we have our veteran service agents actually providing more hands-on, direct support to that group. As we move out into the future, what we hope to see as part of our service delivery review model is more and more engagement by the department in supporting veterans' access to the benefits that they need, particularly those who fall in those case management and guided support categories. Also, we are looking now at ways and means of trying to simplify the array of benefits that are offered.
There is an irony in this, and I think the irony is that more and more benefits come online. We've seen a host of them with budget 2017. All of them are very important, and all of them help to meet gaps and address needs that are emerging. The fact of the matter is, however—and this would be my personal assessment—that the more individual program elements you create, the more you are at risk of adding complexity because you have to have separate eligibility criteria for each one. Eligibility criteria for the new education benefit, obviously, would be different than eligibility criteria for a rehabilitation benefit. I think that creates the challenge for the department to find ways and means to make the benefit suite simpler.
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