Role of Members
The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that provides avenues of redress for Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP members, and their families who are dissatisfied with a disability benefits decision from Veterans Affairs Canada. To offer a fair appeal process, the Board in an independent organization that operates at arm’s length from Veterans Affairs Canada.
Board Members function as independent, administrative tribunal decision-makers for the Board’s two levels of redress (Review and Appeal), as well as for War Veterans Allowance appeals and applications for Compassionate Awards.
They are mandated to provide fair, impartial quasi-judicial hearings and decisions on disability benefits. 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.
Board Members are appointed for various terms, work on a full-time basis, and are assigned to hearings by the Chair of the Board. The work requires extensive travel across Canada where travelling 3 out of 4 weeks would not be uncommon. Members operate in a high volume and fast paced work environment focused on respectful hearings and quality decisions written in plain language to ensure Veterans and others receive the benefits they are entitled to under the law.
The Board's Membership
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;
- review and analyze 100 pages or more of medical and service related documentation and prepare for 5 hearings per day from Tuesday through Friday as well as write 10 decisions weekly;
- 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 23 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;
- ask questions at the hearing to clarify all the details of the claim;
- 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);
- 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 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.
Conflict of interest
Members are also subject to the Conflict of Interest Act 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.
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.
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