The Royal Canadian Legion is strongly supporting a special report by Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent calling on the federal government to issue national identification cards for all veterans.
“The Veterans Ombudsman proposes the issuance of a national veterans identification card as a means of facilitating the department’s efforts to establish contact and proactively communicate with veterans. The requirement to renew the cards on a periodic basis enables Veterans Affairs Canada to maintain contact with veterans and inform them of changes to programs and services,” says the report to Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, released Dec. 11.
Titled Honouring And Connecting With Canada’s Veterans: A National Veterans Identification Card, the report says, “There is no official card issued by the Government of Canada that clearly identifies eligible former members as veterans, either for commemorative purposes or for the purpose of providing benefits and service… It would be an additional way for the Government of Canada to thank them for their service and to recognize them not only for who they were but for who they are: veterans!”
In voicing the Legion’s support, Dominion President Gordon Moore said in a news release, “The Royal Canadian Legion has stated this requirement since 2008. The implementation of a veterans identification card will not only restore recognition to our veteran community, it will provide a means for the government to reach out to veterans and their families in every community across Canada.”
The report says there are a number of official documents veterans may possess such as a Certificate of Service which is a large document with an official seal attesting to years of service. VAC also issues a health identification card to clients receiving treatment benefits from the department. Also, current and former members of the Canadian Forces, current civilian employees of the Department of National Defence and immediate family members can apply for the Canadian Forces Appreciation Program Card. Operated by the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services, the card is used with valid photo identification to confirm eligibility for benefits such as discounted fares on Via Rail.
However, there is no official card issued by the government that clearly identifies eligible former members as veterans.
The report says that using available technologies, VAC could personalize the card, indicating the benefits and services the veteran is entitled to as well as being used for discounts and other services offered by industry partners. “This multiple functionality would eliminate the need for veterans to carry more than one card, something they have clearly expressed no desire to do,” the report says.
The card would also allow the government to build a database identifying all the estimated 750,000 veterans in Canada in order to keep them informed of programs and services.
The Legion has noted that the report does not specifically address the surviving spouses of veterans and calls upon them to be included in the database since many benefits would also be available to them.
The report carried an annex discussing options for implementing a card system with estimates ranging between $4.5 million and $5.2 million.
Speaking for the department, VAC spokesman Simon Forsyth said, “We thank the ombudsman for his report and we will work with DND to review its contents. However, due to the current fiscal climate, any changes resulting in new expenditures will only be made after careful consideration.”
Apart from recommending the card, the report also goes on to urge the minister to work with the ministers of National Defence and Public Safety to amend the current definition of a veteran to include members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“RCMP members, side-by-side with their military counterparts, have historically protected Canadians at home and abroad, while often being put in harm’s way. Yet, they have never been formally recognized by the Government of Canada as veterans,” the report says.
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