Meeting with Veterans Ombudsman Craig Dalton – Marriage Over 60 & Survivor Benefits

RCMP VETERANS’ ASSOCIATION

Meeting with Veterans Ombudsman Craig Dalton
May 1, 2019 

This is a general broadcast being sent to all members of the Association.

Veterans:  At the end of this report, you will find a proposed letter to Mr. Dalton that you may consider signing and sending to him (via Canada Post or email), asking that he support RCMP Veterans by petitioning the Government of Canada to treat RCMP Veterans fairly, and afford us the same resolution to “Marriage over 60”, and equitable increase of survivor benefits from 50% to 70% as the Government has extended, or will extend to military veterans.  You may wish to write a letter in your own words, which will have even more impact.  Please give consideration to sending a letter or communicating with Mr. Dalton’s office.  He is in a position to assist us.  Thank you.   Steve Walker – President

On May 1, 2019, the Board Executive met with Veterans Ombudsman (VO) Craig Dalton in Ottawa.

Mr. Dalton was named in November 2018 to replace Mr. Guy Parent who served as VO for seven years.  Shortly after his appointment, Mr. Dalton named Governor & Past President Al Rivard to sit upon his Advisory Council to represent the interests of RCMP Veterans.  Mr. Rivard extended an invitation to Mr. Dalton to meet with the Association’s Board Executive when the opportunity next presented itself.  Mr. Dalton was pleased to accept the invite and agreed to meet members of the Board, together with Directors of the RCMP Veterans’ Association Foundation at the Canadian Police College on May 1.

Mr. Dalton shared his perspective, plans and priorities for the five years ahead

  • Mr. Dalton is meeting with the Veterans community to hear their issues directly
  • OVO has a narrow focus and mandate
  • It is not the job of OVO to critique the Prime Minister / Minister of Veterans Affairs
  • It is not an organization mandated to advocate on the broad range of Veteran issues
  • Presently, 75% of calls into OVO relate to issues outside the organization’s mandate
  • OVO is an advocate for ensuring that procedural fairness is applied in every review of Veterans’ issues
  • OVO makes recommendations but cannot compel the Government to act
  • Since the establishment of OVO in 2008, they have made 74 recommendations, and 62 of them have been accepted
  • Many of the issues that were clearly identifiable at the time OVO was created in 2008 have been addressed
  • Mr. Dalton is focusing on systemic issues 
  • Historically, the energies of OVO have been focused upon facilitation and mediation
  • Mr. Dalton wants to increase the capacity of OVO to investigate Veterans’ complaints
  • Mr. Dalton identified areas for key focus by OVO as
  • Financial security of Veterans relating to (i) financial health, (ii) transitioning out of service with a sense of purpose and (iii) transitioning to safe and affordable shelter
  • Health Support: Veterans face challenges in getting proper health support on departure from service.  OVO is involved in a review of health benefits afforded to Veterans by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC); an anticipated 2 – 4 year study
  • Women Veterans: Acknowledging the incidence of sexual harassment and trauma that serving women have endured and that both the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP have both historically had organizational culture that catered to men, Mr. Dalton wants to hear from women veterans
  • Reserve Veterans: Reservists have often been treated as second class citizens.  Mr. Dalton wants to hear more of their experience
  • Transition: Transitioning out of the military has been difficult for service personnel.  The average length of time that Canadian veterans spend in Vocational Rehabilitation (learning new skills for the job market) is 3 years.  It is 1/2 that time in other countries.  Mr. Dalton wants to study what Canada needs to do to better prepare Canadian veterans for life after service. 
  • Engagement with the Veteran Community: Mr. Dalton is working to identify the Veteran organizations in Canada to better understand “Who’s Who”.  At the time of the meeting (May 2019), OVO had received 65 calls from RCMP Veterans.  He expects there are issues affecting or uniquely relevant to RCMP Veterans that have not been identified.  He is hoping that engagement with RCMP Veterans will illuminate this.
  • Mr. Dalton will engage his Advisory Council to reach out into the Veteran community
  • He is interested in learning more about the experience of Veterans living in remote communities, to hear about their experience in accessing services, and how their remoteness affects the quality and timeliness of the service they are afforded

The Board Executive raised the following issues affecting RCMP Veterans with Mr. Dalton;

  • Marriage over 60: Non-eligibility of spouses of RCMP Veterans to receive pension benefits after the death of the Veteran, if the Veteran was over the age of 60 at the time of the marriage
  • Increasing the survivor’s benefit from 50% to 70%: The need to increase the survivor’s benefit from 50% to 70% to provide survivors sufficient financial resources to live with dignity following the death of their veteran spouse
  • Both of these issues are within the Prime Minister’s mandate letter for resolution by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, but neither of them were included in the mandate letter for the Minister of Public Safety.  Consequently, although the Government of Canada has committed to resolving these issues for military veterans, there is no corollary resolution for RCMP Veterans, even though they affect RCMP Veterans and their spouses in exactly the same way.
  • The Board advised Mr. Dalton that the Association has written to and spoken with the Minister of Veterans Affairs respecting this matter, and written to the Minister of Public Safety without satisfaction or any resolution.  The Minister of Veterans Affairs has deferred to the Minister of Public Safety as RCMP falls under his purview, but the Minister of Public Safety has not responded in substance to request for support, and solicitation for assurances that RCMP Veterans will be appropriately and equitably included in any resolution to these issues.
  • The Federal Budget of 2019 (March 2019) established a Veterans Survivors Fund with $150M over 5 years ostensibly to achieve resolution for “Marriage over 60” and “Increasing Survivor Benefits from 50% to 70%”, however this fund is not available as presented to RCMP Veterans / surviving spouses of RCMP Veterans
  • The Board presented the exclusion of RCMP Veterans from resolution of these issues by the Government of Canada as discriminatory and unfair, and consequently falling directly within the mandate of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman for attention and resolution
  • Mr. Dalton acknowledged that on the basis of the discussion as presented, examination of the issue on the basis of fairness may be merited.  He encouraged individual RCMP Veterans who are affected by Marriage over 60 and and RCMP Veteran who will be affected by exclusion of entitlement to any increase in survivor’s benefits to write his office directly, to present their case and concerns.
  • The Board also raised (i) non-eligibility of RCMP Veterans for Veteran beds allotted for military veterans in community hospitals / care facilities; (ii) lack of eligibility for RCMP Veterans to the Veterans Independence Program (VIP); the program providing funds to military veterans for home maintenance and other services to assist military veterans to live independently and remain in their homes and communities longer.

As note above, please find attached a proposed letter that you may wish to sign / personalize and send to Mr. Dalton’s office via Canada Post or via email.  Efforts to gain the attention of the Government of Canada to resolve these issues in a fair and equitable fashion for RCMP Veterans have not been successful to date.  Mr. Dalton’s credo is “Fair Treatment, Fair Process, Fair Outcome”.  He can assist us.  Please consider writing him.  If you have personal stories relating to Marriage over 60 that you are prepared to share with Mr. Dalton, these direct accounts are important to relate and certainly will have greater impact.  I strongly encourage you to take the time to communicate your personal views or to use this attached proposed letter to communicate with Mr. Dalton.  Thank you for your considerations.

Click here for the proposed letter

Mr. Dalton’s postal address is:

Mr. Craig Dalton
Veterans Ombudsman
Office of the Veterans Ombudsman
P.O. Box 66
Charlottetown, PEI
C1A 7K2

Mr. Dalton’s email address is:

ovo.info.bov@canada.ca

You can also write directly to Mr. Dalton’s office in response to the petition he offers below at this link.

https://www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/eng/blog/post/391

Thank you for your considerations.

Steve Walker
President

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software