Acting Chair's Update on Progress for Veterans - 2015
As we look forward to the holiday season, I would like to provide this update on progress made towards the Board's priorities for Veterans.
We published our second Annual Report in late July. This document is an excellent source of information about our program and the work we did last year to improve the appeal process for Veterans and their families. Please share it with anyone who is interested in the Board's appeal program.
I am pleased to note that the Board has made significant progress on its commitment to publish more decisions. As a quasi-judicial tribunal, the Board is bound by the open court principle which assumes that public confidence in and understanding of decision-making requires openness and transparency. Publishing decisions is important because it allows Veterans to see how the Board applies the law in cases similar to their own, and shows Canadians that the Board is fulfilling its obligations.
We are now publishing on the Canadian Legal Information Institute website all Appeal decisions (i.e. from the second level of redress) and Review decisions as workload permits. The Board voluntarily depersonalizes these decisions before publishing, in keeping with best practices from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
The Board continues to look for ways to further integrate technology into the hearing process, to make it faster and more efficient. The goal of this project is to speed things up for applicants by eliminating the time spent mailing decisions and other documents between the Board's administration office in Charlottetown and hearing locations across Canada. We are currently reviewing our operations and developing the processes to pilot paperless hearings in the next fiscal year.
Consistency in Decision Making
Like all courts and tribunals, the Board strives for consistency in decision-making by supporting its decision-makers through ongoing training, quality review of decisions, and performance feedback. Recently, the Board renewed its professional development program for Members and is now using WebEx to integrate relevant training into monthly meetings. Our annual training seminar (next in March 2016) gives me another opportunity to emphasize our commitment to fairness by encouraging common interpretations and standards throughout our decisions.
Reducing Time frames for Hearings and Decisions
The Board is always mindful of its legislative requirement to be as expeditious "as the circumstances and considerations of fairness permit." We have demonstrated our commitment to a timely process by establishing service standards for the time within our control, and meeting these standards for the vast majority of cases. In 2014-15, the Board:
- met its 16-week service commitment (from when a hearing is scheduled to the decision issued) in 95% of cases; and
- met its 6-week service standard (from hearing to decision issued) in 80% of cases.
We know there is room for improvement and so continue to focus on reducing timeframes through new and flexible scheduling practices, and close monitoring of our work.
Today, more than half of our members have a military, RCMP/police, or health care background in recognition of the people we serve. We are always in need of bilingual members, and support the new Government's commitment to gender parity in appointments. I have had the opportunity to brief the new Minister of Veterans Affairs about the Board's appointment needs and look forward to welcoming new members in 2016.
In 2016, we are committed to providing Veterans and their families with the best possible service. For regular information and updates on the Board's activities, please follow us on Twitter.
Please accept my very best wishes this holiday season.