House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence Report “Caring for Canada’s Ill and Injured Military Personnel”

Ottawa – June 24, 2014

On June 12, 2014, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence released its Report Caring for Canada’s Ill and Injured Military Personnel. The report makes 32 recommendations to improve the care and support provided to ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) military personnel and their families and has a noticeably strong focus on improving the health care and support provided to personnel who suffer from operational stress injuries and physical injuries. I was pleased to see that nine of the recommendations deal with improvements in two areas that are of particular concern for Veterans – transition support to civilian life and support to families.

This is the third report released by Parliament in the past three weeks that deals with Veterans issues.  The other two were the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs’ Report on the New Veterans Charter The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward and the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs Report The Transition to Civilian Life of Veterans. I do not recall ever seeing this many parliamentary committee reports published in the same timeframe on the need to improve support to Veterans and their families. Without a doubt, this sends a very strong message to the Government of Canada that support to Veterans and their families is inadequate and needs immediate attention.

Of the 60 recommendations made in these three reports, 37 directly affect the transition of Veterans to civilian life and support to families. This is significant because it validates the appeals made over the past several months by the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, Veterans advocacy groups, and Veterans across Canada to resolve long-standing deficiencies in how Veterans and their families are supported as they transition from military to civilian life.

The following excerpt from the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence Report encapsulates some of the challenges faced by transitioning Veterans:

When ill and injured CAF members are medically released from the armed forces, this transition period can be very challenging. A number of the ill and injured CAF members we met in Petawawa and those who testified before us stated that they felt a great deal of anxiety during this transition period... Following our visit to Petawawa, we realized that when joining the CAF, these young individuals did not expect their military careers to be cut short by injury or illness. Accepting this could be extremely difficult. Another source of anxiety comes from not knowing what medical coverage and benefits will be covered by VAC before being released from the armed forces.

Many of the recommendations in the three Parliamentary Committee reports are about addressing this anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the transition from military to civilian life. I have said before and it is worth repeating: If Government takes the necessary action and properly supports Canada’s ill and injured Veterans so that they can successfully re-integrate into civilian life, it will help them achieve what every Canadian strives for – a good job, financial independence, a reasonable quality of personal and family life, and best possible health. If their medical condition does not allow them to return to work, then these Veterans will be confident that they will receive the support they need to live their lives with financial security and dignity. Above all, taking action will clearly demonstrate that the Government of Canada is committed to fulfilling its obligation to properly care for and support ill and injured Veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much on behalf of Canada.

Guy Parent

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