Plain Language Explanation of “Benefit of the Doubt” in Decisions

As part of its commitment to provide applicants with clear decisions in plain language, the Board has a clear requirement that Board members explain how they have applied Section 39 in every case, and has developed a new, plain language explanation of the “benefit of the doubt” clause (Section 39 of the VRAB Act) for all decisions, as follows:

The Panel has reviewed all of the evidence and has also taken into consideration the Advocate's submissions. In doing so, the Panel has applied the requirements of section 39 of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act. This section requires the Panel to:

  • (a) draw from all the circumstances of the case and all the evidence presented to it every reasonable inference in favour of the applicant or appellant;
  • (b) accept any uncontradicted evidence presented to it by the applicant or appellant that it considers to be credible in the circumstances; and
  • (c) resolve in favour of the applicant or appellant any doubt, in the weighing of evidence, as to whether the applicant or appellant has established a case.

This means that in weighing the evidence before us, the Panel will look at it in the best light possible and resolve doubt so that it benefits the Applicant/Appellant. The Federal Court has confirmed, though, that this law does not relieve applicants/appellants of the burden of proving the facts needed in their cases to link the claimed condition to service. The Board does not have to accept all evidence presented by an Applicant/Appellant if the Board finds that it is not credible, even if it is not contradicted.1

1 MacDonald v. Canada (Attorney General) 1999, 164 F.T.R. 42 at paragraphs 22 & 29; Canada (Attorney General) v. Wannamaker 2007 FCA 126 at paragraphs 5 & 6; Rioux v. Canada (Attorney General) 2008 FC 991 at paragraph 32.

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