2021-2022 Operating Context
The Board is a micro-organization with a small, dedicated staff. The Chairperson, appointed by the Governor in Council, is the Board’s Chief Executive Officer and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Veterans Affairs.
The Board can have up to 25 full-time Members (including the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson). Members hear Veterans’ cases brought forward for redress. They then decide whether the evidence meets the requirements of the legislation to award new or increased levels of disability benefits.
The Board’s operating environment is directly influenced by the unpredictability of the nature and volume of applications. A good indicator of how many applications the Board is likely to receive in a given year, is the volume of Veterans Affairs Canada’s (VAC) disability benefits decisions from the previous year. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the Board’s workload, largely as a result of VAC’s Service Excellence initiative to reduce the disability benefit application backlog and improve the delivery of services and programs. In 2021-22, the Board received 6,436 applications. This represents a 36% increase over the previous year, and a 168% increase year over year since 2018-19, creating challenges for the Board to provide Veterans with timely hearings and decisions as the intake of applications exceeds the Board’s funded processing capacity. To ensure Veterans and their families obtain access to the disability appeal process, and ultimately benefits, more quickly, the Board continues to explore opportunities to address workload pressures and resource requirements for a longer-term perspective on the delivery of the Disability Review and Appeal program.
Even though the Board’s caseload is primarily correlated with VAC decision volumes, it can fluctuate from year to year due to other factors. One factor is that there is no time limit to bring forward an appeal, so Veterans can request an independent review of their VAC or VRAB decision at any time.
The Board relies on its Members and staff to provide Veterans and their families with a fair and timely appeal process. As a small tribunal, it faces unique challenges in workforce management and makes ongoing efforts to maintain knowledgeable and skilled Members and staff to deliver its program.
Board Members are Governor-in-Council (GIC) appointees selected from a pre-qualified pool of Canadians. As the membership is dynamic, it is both a challenge and a priority for the Board to maintain a balance of experienced and new Members for expertise and knowledge transfer. The Board’s capability to effectively deliver on its mandate hinges upon an adequate complement of Members appointed through the open and transparent merit-based GIC selection process.
Due to the complex and changing environment under which the Board operates, the Board must ensure there are adequate resources in place, with the necessary skillsets and competencies to meet the organization’s evolving operational goals. The Board faces significant operational pressures to support the increased hearing capacity resulting from the new Board Member appointments. Key priorities for the Board continue to involve communicating with the Minister on the Board’s appointment needs, recruiting strategically to respond to organizational resource and skill needs, and focusing on learning and professional development by investing time and resources in learning activities and providing Members and staff with developmental opportunities.