Highlights of a Stakeholder Engagement Meeting Sponsored by the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman Kingston, ON – March 28, 2016

The views expressed in this summary are those of individuals and do not represent the views of the Veterans Ombudsman and his office.

Highlights

  • The Ombudsman opened the session by emphasizing the need for consultation and dialogue with the Veterans' community to better understand their concerns. He presented the Office's plans and priorities and outlined some challenges faced by Veterans, in particular the complexities of benefits and service delivery and the gaps in services to families. He underlined that fairness was a guiding principle of his Office's work and stressed that his Reviews and Reports are all evidence-based.

Participants were asked to provide their comments on Veterans' issues in their communities.  Here is a sampling of some of the issues raised:

1. Families

  • What constitutes a family and the challenge that a family is defined by many different bodies differently was discussed.
  • DND only began considering parents as family members with Afghanistan.
  • Children of serving members should also be considered; particularly in regards to reintegration into new schools and communities.
  • Families seem to be an after-thought. They served their time too, but they do not get a pension.
  • RCMP's stance is that they hired the member, not the family.
  • Are same-sex relationships recognized in the definitions of families?

Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent reconfirmed the importance of supporting family members in their own right, and highlighted the OVO's work on support to families through our recent release: Support to Military Families in Transition: A Review, and Twitter Chat.

2. Transition

  • The cumbersome transition process and reintegration into civilian life and a new career were discussed.
  • There is a lack of information on what is available to a member in transition, and this can become confusing and frustrating, particularly if one is denied benefits. A serving member should get a VAC account number when they first sign up. As they release, there should be someone available to assist with applications for benefits and provide information.
  • When transitioning to civilian life and career, it would be helpful to be paired up with someone who has transitioned successfully; Veterans who have made a successful transition could be engaged to assist others to do the same.
  • The possibility of creating a Veterans' ID card was asked about.

Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent discussed his Office's 2012 release: Honouring and Connecting with Canada's Veterans: A National Veterans' Identification Card and agreed that an ID card would be useful.

3. Service Delivery

  • The process of applying for benefits is cumbersome, and often Veterans and their families become frustrated and give up. If there was someone to look over their initial application, it would benefit both the Veteran and VAC if it was submitted correctly and completely the first time.
  • The idea for VAC to reach smaller communities was discussed and one option raised was mobile offices.

Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent mentioned that local Legions are also available to assist Veterans in communities across Canada.

4. RCMP

  • It was a concern that RCMP serving members do not have an Ombudsman or somewhere to go with concerns. Some concerns were expressed about health care benefits having changed significantly and not being homogenous. Unlimited sick leave is not an option; but it has shifted to Short-Term Disability and Long-Term Disability.
  • Retirement from the RCMP was also a concern, as retirement courses can be scattered and irregular, and there is no VAC presence in such courses when members need access to important information about their transition. It was noted that RCMP members can now access IPSCs to help with this. The Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) representative noted that OSISS and the Legion will both support RCMP Veterans and their families.
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