Government of Canada
Veterans Review and Appeal Board. www.vrab-tacra.gc.ca

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Role of Members

The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is a quasi-judicial tribunal which operates independently from Veterans Affairs Canada and provides avenues of redress for applicants who are dissatisfied with a disability compensation decision. The role of the members is to fulfill the Board’s legislated mandate by hearing, determining and dealing with all applications made to the Board by Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, serving or released members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and their families. The applications may deal with matters of entitlement to a pension or award, assessment of the extent of a disability, or specific special awards. Members have the jurisdiction to affirm, vary or reverse the decision being reviewed or appealed; they are not bound by the previous decision.

In fulfilling this role, the members:

  • make a full and fair examination of the information available prior to and at the hearings;
  • conduct hearings where they listen to testimony and arguments and weigh all the evidence;
  • interpret and apply the legislation based on the evidence presented; and
  • render written decisions which give the reasons for their rulings.

Appointment of members

Members of the Board are appointed by the Governor in Council through a transparent process; they are not public servants. All members must meet pre-defined experience and education criteria and be assessed against competency-based selection criteria to ensure they have the skills and abilities to do the work of a member and to maintain the confidence of applicants in the appeal system.

The Board’s membership is dynamic and strives to include a cross section of experience and education including medical, legal, military, police, public service and other life/work experiences. All members receive specialized training on legislation, administrative law, the weighing of evidence, military issues, medical conditions, the conduct of hearings and decision writing.

The work of members

Review hearings are usually conducted by two members; appeal hearings are conducted by three members who were not involved in the review hearing decision.

The members:

  • must, at all times, be impartial, objective and free of bias;
  • prepare for hearings by reading the documented evidence;
  • conduct review and appeal hearings in the official language of choice of the applicants;
  • convene hearings in one of approximately 30 locations across Canada - in person, by videoconference or by teleconference;
  • listen to the testimony of applicants who are permitted to give oral evidence at review hearings;
  • consider new evidence submitted at the hearing;
  • weigh all evidence to determine whether there is sufficient credible evidence to support the claim;
  • interpret and apply the legislation based on the evidence presented;
  • conduct a thoughtful analysis of all the available information in reaching a decision, considering both the favourable and unfavourable evidence (i.e. testimony, documentary evidence, medical evidence);
  • deliberate the merits of the claim;
  • make each decision based on the merits of the claim, bearing in mind the requirement to resolve any doubt (must be reasonable and must derive from a careful analysis of the documentary and medical evidence) in favour of the applicant;
  • write clear reasons for decisions within specified and short time frames; and
  • may, on occasion, request independent medical advice relating to a claimed condition.

The role of questions at review hearings

  • Prior to the hearings, members carefully review the documentation related to the case and determine what questions they need to ask at the hearing to clarify all the details of the claim.
  • The purpose of questions is to better understand the claim.
  • The questions are not meant to be negative, or to oppose the claim, but rather to assist the members in understanding the evidence they must consider to render a fair and reasonable decision.
  • During the hearings, members listen to the testimonies of applicants and arguments presented by the representatives, and may request clarification of discrepancies between oral and documented evidence.

The conduct of members

All members must adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct for Veterans Review and Appeal Board Members with respect to:

  • integrity and independence, collegiality, decision-making, conduct during proceedings, bias, discussion of cases, professional development, contact with media and government, disqualification and reporting, administration, gifts and benefits, and post-appointment activities.

Values and ethics

Members must comply with the Ethical Guidelines for Public Office Holders and Guidelines for Political Activities of Public Office Holders. The guidelines are available on the Governor in Council Appointments Web site at www.appointments-nominations.gc.ca. Opens a New Window.

Conflict of interest

Members are also subject to the Conflict of Interest Act (Opens a New Window), and must submit to the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, within 60 days of appointment, a Confidential Report in which they disclose all of their assets, liabilities and outside activities. More information can be found on the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s Web site at http://ciec-ccie.gc.ca. Opens a New Window.

Notes

This is not a legal document. For precise, legal information, please consult the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act and its related regulations on the Board’s Web site www.vrab-tacra.gc.ca or phone 1-800-450-8006 toll free.