Sheila Fraser to audit New Veterans Charter
Auditor General Sheila Fraser appears at Commons public accounts committee hearing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday Dec. 7, 2010. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, December 8, 2010 10:30PM EST
The auditor general of Canada has agreed to launch an investigation into the controversial New Veterans Charter, CTV News has learned.
In January, Charlottetown Sen. Percy Downe requested that Sheila Fraser launch an audit into the implementation of the charter.
"The transition from the old system of veterans' benefits to the New Veterans Charter is a tremendous undertaking and requires serious attention," the Liberal senator said in his request to Fraser.
"I hope you will recognize the importance of this issue and agree to audit the implementation of the New Veterans Charter in order to determine if Canadian veterans and their families are receiving improved benefits and services that adequately respond to their individual needs."
In a response to Downe this week, Fraser agreed to the request and said her audit team responsible for Veterans Affairs "is planning to conduct an audit that will examine aspects of the (New Veterans) Charter."
She said the report on that audit is planned for the fall of 2012.
Fraser added that the issue of veterans' affairs "is an important one for this office."
The New Veterans Charter was introduced by Paul Martin's Liberal government in the spring of 2005. Back then, it passed with all-party support, but the changes did not come into effect until the following April when it was enacted by the Conservative government.
An independent study commissioned by the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman took aim at the lump-sum payment system, which is part of the new charter. Many veterans have complained that it gave less money to soldiers wounded in Afghanistan than older vets have been entitled to.
Stung by criticism from Canadian Forces vets, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn announced in September a series of measures to address some of their concerns, including an additional $200 million over the next five years for those unable to work because of injuries.
Last month, Blackburn increased benefits for disabled military veterans with a $2-billion support package that includes a minimum, pre-tax income of $40,000 a year for those who can no longer work and for those in rehabilitation. The changes would also allow vets a choice in spreading out their lump-sum disability award from Veterans Affairs over however many years they'd like.