John Larlee, chairman of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, appeared before the Senate Sub-Committee on Veterans Affairs in early November and among other things spoke about why the board’s decisions are not made public.
Short answer: it’s costly.
Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent has suggested VRAB decisions be made public so veterans can better judge odds of success of their own appeal based on what the board has decided in similar cases.
But VRAB is a pretty lean organization, Larlee told senators. Its 24 members located across the country, supported by 85 full-time support staff positions, finalized 4,513 review and appeal decisions last year. There is no extra budget to cover cost of publicizing decisions, which must first be stripped of identifying personal information in order to meet requirements of the Privacy Act.
Veterans Affairs Canada makes about 40,000 decisions each year about disability benefits and awards. The VRAB is the body to which veterans appeal those decisions. VRAB first reviews the case and makes a recommendation. Veterans still dissatisfied may ask for a VRAB appeal. And if they’re still dissatisfied after that, they may request the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review.
Larlee told senators VRAB is working on posting decision-making resources on its website by early 2012. “It will give interested parties greater access to our decisions and is realistic in terms of our budget,” he said, and will strike a balance between openness and individual privacy.
Larlee’s appearance can be viewed on the senate committee’s website.