My Last Remembrance Day*
I do not write much about the work I do on Parliament Hill, today is different. After working with veterans for 4 of the last five years this is the last Remembrance Day working with the shadow minister for Veterans Affairs. This has given me the honour to cross Canada and talk with Veterans in 8 provinces.
Walking up Elgin Street I joined the queue of hundreds, probably more, drawn to the National War Memorial for the National Remembrance Day service. While I thought of those that died in battle, my thoughts were with the many veterans I have had direct contact with while working on the Veterans Affairs file.
The struggle for a return to civilian life for veterans who have injuries that they cannot escape, seen and unseen, begins with the transition from active service to a veteran. There are veterans who struggle during most of their lives as a veteran. The systemic challenges are sometimes too big for one person to manage. The issues faced are far too big and the details they need to embrace bog them down. Transition is not easy, easier for most than others, but our veterans suffer from PTSD and other chronic mental/brain injuries. These injuries cannot be defined by paperwork and regulations and their benefits should not be held back because of it
I have worked with many Veterans, worked with the Legion, Veterans Affairs Canada, The Minister’s Office, the Veterans Ombudsman’s Office, and National Defense to resolve the simplest and most complicated of case files. From the top down everyone in these organizations want vets to have the help and benefits they need. I’ve never had a bad experience from anyone in these organizations, but fixes are needed.
Veterans Affairs Canada needs to react faster to the new complicated medical needs of veterans. Transition is not easy; the government has not responded as fast as the needs change. There have been over 20 reports written by government, parliamentarians, and ombudsman offices on reforming the transition our of active service in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Canadian government needs to act on its own to address PTSD Service Dogs standards, the mental health, and the effects of medications, like mefloquine on veterans and their families. The days of waiting for other countries to do the studies are over.
More than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces fought in Afghanistan, they are young and soon they will be the largest cohort of Veterans for a generation that will need the assistance of Veterans Affairs Canada. Just as war was modernized in the Afghan War, we need to modernize the transition, care, and treatment for these veterans. Modernization means humanizing the system and becoming the service provider that is needed. VAC needs to look at the hard case files better and learn to accept the grey not just the black and white as the reality of our veterans. More work is needed to adjudicate benefit claim within the 16-week threshold and more attention is need to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB), who sits on the board and how often it sits. This is just a start.
Veterans Affairs Canada and their workers do much right, it needs to do better on the hard cases.
No, his is NOT my last Remembrance Day, it is the beginning of using Remembrance Day to remember those that came home. For many of them their struggles have only just begun.