Health Assessment Process for VeteransPublished on 4 April 2017 Your Question Period by Senator Joseph Day
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Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Thank you, Your Honour and colleagues.
Mr. Minister, thanks for being here. I want to tell you about our group of independent senators. When we became independent Liberal senators, one of the initiatives we undertook was to call upon any member of the public who would like to have a question posed to a representative of the government, that they should get in touch with us, and we would have the question answered.
I have for you, sir, a question from Mr. Stuart Mills of Bass River, Nova Scotia, a lovely part of the world. Before I ask the question precisely, let me elaborate a bit to set the context.
You’ll understand that veterans, if they’re suffering from a physical disability or a mental disability, like post-traumatic stress, have difficulty and many more challenges getting in and out of the house, and some of them can’t leave the house. At the end of their career in the military, they’re being asked by Veterans Affairs to prove their disability over and over again. I think that’s what he’s getting to in this question:
Why, when we as veterans are released medically, do we continually have to fight with Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of Veterans Affairs to prove that our injuries during our time in the service were in fact caused from the soldier’s time in service?
Hon. Kent Hehr, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: Senator, I appreciate the question. I’d like to start by congratulating Senator Smith on his new role as leader of the Conservative Senate. I can see he’s going to serve this nation with a great deal of pride and honour in that role. I thank you for serving in that capacity.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Mr. Hehr: As for your question, Senator Day, I think it’s a good one. We have to better reflect as to how we can take existing medical information available to us at Veterans Affairs Canada so that a veteran can have his medical records proceeded with and his benefits applied in a reasonable fashion.
I think it was wise of the Prime Minister to make me Associate Minister of National Defence. Part of that role is to close the seam for us to ensure that, when a man or a woman who has served this country so bravely and boldly releases from the military, that they release with their medical records intact, that they release with a diagnosis, that they release with their pension cheque in order and the benefits that are due and owing to them in place, as well as a diagnosis that we can readily go back to and deal with.
However, I can also say that, as a department, since we’ve come into power, we are taking a broader approach to this. We know that many ill and injured soldiers come to our department years after service to ask for an interpretation of whether their illness or injury stems from their military service.
Through my deputy, Walter Natynczyk, we have adopted a practice of giving soldiers a “benefit of the doubt” approach, where if a claim comes in, we look at the situation and the service records and we give it that lens. It is almost a “tie goes to the runner” approach, or even better, because the men and women who have served this nation deserve that approach. We can say we’re getting quicker with our processing times and in terms of providing an answer to people when they have a disability claim through our department.