Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New announcement: Here’s hoping Julian Fantino is a man of his word

Here's hoping Julian Fantino is a man of his word

Published on August 29, 2013

Something other than who smoked what 10 or 20 years ago – though if you're keeping score on that front, so far it's Shea: no; Ghiz and Trudeau: yes.

Anyway, moving right along – today we're writing about Julian Fantino, our newly appointed minister of Veterans Affairs.

What can you say about a man like Fantino?

A career cop and administrator, the guy deserves and probably has a medal for his pre-politics public service career.

A quick Google search of his name reveals that his career as the top cop in Toronto, then Ontario has not been all sunshine and bunnies – but overall he retired with his reputation intact. No small feat for such a high profile public servant.

On Tuesday, Fantino told a group of veterans at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #17 in Wellington, that he was looking forward to working with them in the future.

But he sure didn't go out of his way to sugarcoat his promises.

Times are tough economically, he told the crowd, and the government can't afford to give anyone a completely free ride – even our honoured veterans.

He also committed to consulting with vets, helping soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan find work in the private sector and to personally work hard on these and many other issues.

It all sounds good and more power to him. Here's hoping he sticks to those promises.

But he's got a tough job ahead.

Our new veterans need more than just career changes. Some need continuous and life-long mental and physical therapy.

Left untreated, many of their afflictions could manifest into more serious issues down the road – and our soldiers deserve better than that.

According to a recently released Canadian Forces report, nearly 14 per cent of members who served in Afghanistan have been diagnosed with a mental disorder linked direct to their service.

According to the report, eight per cent of personnel deployed between 2001 and 2008 were found to have post-traumatic stress disorder, while about 5.5 per cent of that group had another kind disorder.

There were more than 30,000 people in the study.

Those are staggering numbers.

They should not be ignored, or pushed aside, not even when times are tough economically.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Harold Leduc MMM CD looking for commenst on the Veteran Ombudsman

Good day all,

For the widest possible distribution and discussion throughout your networks please.

-The current Government's introduction of the Veterans Bill of Rights is evidence that veterans rights are abused.
-Government lawyers in the recent Equitas court hearing established that the current Government are the abusers.
-They used the work of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (OVO) and Legion advisory groups to undermine the lawsuit.
-For the first time since WWI, the organizations failed to effectively protect veterans rights, in response this Government established the OVO.
-The current Veterans Ombudsman (VO) is silent as veterans are publicly humiliated, stripped of benefits, military disabilities aggravated and rights abused.
- Discussion among veterans show a growing dissatisfaction with the VO's performance .

The VO has an obligation to ensure veterans are treated fairly in accordance with the Veterans Bill of Rights.

1. Comparing performance to mandate, do you believe the VO is fulfilling his obligation to veterans? Why or why not?

2. If not, then what should the veterans community do about it?

Your feedback is important if the veterans community is to take it's rights seriously.

In solidarity,


The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New announcement: Ombudsman to probe ‘failing’ military support for injured war vets

Ombudsman to probe 'failing' military support for injured war vets

By Chris Cobb, OTTAWA CITIZEN August 26, 2013 8:02 PM

OTTAWA — Canada's military ombudsman has launched a probe into the national network of support units created almost five years ago to help mentally and physically injured troops.

The probe comes less than a month after the Ottawa Citizen reported that the network of 24 support platoons have deteriorated due to overcrowding, chronic staff shortages, staff burnout and the filling of key positions with unqualified personnel, many of whom are on the eve of retirement.

Ombudsman Pierre Daigle decided to launch a review following the Citizen's coverage and a specific complaint sent to his office, spokesman Jamie Robertson told the Citizen Monday.

Investigators plan to contact all the units and if they find a pattern of systemic failure, could launch a full-fledged investigation, said Robertson.

"We will be trying to find from the people who work there what is happening on the ground," said Robertson. "We want to get good information from all levels."

Investigators typically interview less senior staff away from their units and keep their identities secret, he added.

The support units operate under the umbrella of regional Joint Personnel Support Centres and are intended to help the ill and injured troops — mostly Afghan war veterans — either reintegrate into the armed forces or be prepared for civilian life, which is most often the case.

A key requirement introduced in 2006 is that all troops, irrespective of their military job, meet the "Universality of Service" standard, which in effect means being fit enough to fight.

The Opposition NDP have said that the "Universality of Service" introduced by the Conservative government is unfairly restricting many war veterans from resuming their military careers and leaving the service with a pension.

While posted into a support unit, troops will either work on base, learn trades with local businesses or take college courses. Most receive some form of mental or physical therapy and all are supposed to report regularly to their supervisors, who in turn are required to produce regular reports on the ill and injured under their supervision.

Former senior non-commissioned officer Barry Westholm, who resigned to protest the current state of the JPSU system after more than four years overseeing the unit's vast Eastern Ontario region, told the Citizen that his constant efforts to get extra resources and fundamental changes were all rebuffed by DND senior brass.

"I couldn't collect a paycheque to be part of that anymore," he said. "We asked them to go to war and they went. They got beat up over there and now they want to get better. But we've set a trap for them. We're saying, 'Come on, it's here. But it's not."

Westholm and numerous others confirm that the some units are failing so badly that ill and injured soldiers are left to their own devices while overworked staff attempt to keep up with their work.

There have been at least two recent cases of support unit staff burning out and becoming clients of the system.

DND insists that the staffing levels at the support units are "adequate" and that the welfare of ill and injured troops is a priority.

According to DND, JPSU is currently "offering direct assistance' to about 5,500 ill and injured Forces members and 533 families of soldiers killed while on duty.

Ombudsman spokesman Robertson says the JPSU review should be complete by early fall.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: Veterans Ombudsman Calls for Improvements to Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Aug 26, 2013 (Marketwired via COMTEX) -- Guy Parent, Canada's Veterans Ombudsman, released today a report entitled Investing in Veterans Vocational Training. The report examines the delivery and adequacy of Veterans Affairs Canada's vocational rehabilitation and assistance services and presents recommendations to ensure that Veterans Affairs Canada maintains its commitment to effectively re-establish Veterans into civilian life.

"Successful rehabilitation and vocational training are integral to the success and self-actualization of Veterans and their families," said Mr. Parent. "Access to programs for those interested in re-establishing into a career in the trades is comprehensive; however, Veterans interested in pursuing university-level education or attaining a professional designation do not share the same access to programs. Veterans should have the ability to self-actualize in the profession of their choice."

Since 2007, the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman has received in excess of 100 complaints about Veterans Affairs Canada's Rehabilitation Program, which administers medical, psycho-social and vocational rehabilitation services to former members of the Canadian Forces who have been medically released or have service-related injuries hindering their ability to work and transition from military to civilian life. Through further research, the Office identified areas of concern with the current vocational rehabilitation and assistance services provided by the Department as part of the Rehabilitation Program.

For example, under current regulations, the maximum tuition allotment of $20,000 creates a barrier for eligible Veterans to complete a University undergraduate degree, as the 2012-2013 average cost of doing so is $22,324. In addition, approved training is often limited to programs that build on the applicant's existing skills, experience and training, rather than allowing them to pursue occupations in line with their current motivations, interest and aptitudes. Inadequate performance measurement to monitor the subject matter and level of training applicants are receiving and their subsequent employment also makes it difficult to monitor and measure the program's success and improve its services.

"Former Canadian Forces members are a well-trained and highly skilled population that has a great deal to offer to the Canadian workforce and economy. They should be given the appropriate post-release training to self-actualize in the profession of their choice. In doing so, there can be significant benefits to both the Government of Canada and to Veterans and their families."

The full report with its four recommendations is available online at

Lucille Hodgins
Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

SOURCE: Office of the Veterans Ombudsman


Investing in Veterans' Vocational Training

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sent to Canadian Veterans Ombudsman by Kenneth H Young CD

Kenneth H Young CD

Sent to Canadian Veterans Ombudsman

Dear Mr. Guy Parent,

I was somewhat upset when you first stated that you and your office were not going to take on individual Veterans issues, but were going to instead try to look for and deal with Systemic issues within the system where Veterans are concerned.

Although you are delegated to Veterans issues as the Veteran's Ombudsman, I believe that many of the issues Veterans face today begin long before they become Veterans, either in Parliament or DND and although magnified and accentuated when a soldier become a Veteran, they actually are only a continuation when they get into the hands VAC and VRAB.

Both VAC and VRAB cannot give or even contemplate awarding a pension for a condition which Ottawa has not given the OK or DND has admitted to and therein lies the problem. Some examples of this are CFB Gagetown and the defoliation chemicals used there, Depleted Uranium, Burn Pits, the Suffield Volunteers, Gulf war Syndrome, Anti-Malaria drugs and the list goes on seemingly for ever.

The largest such trickle down systemic which started within the ranks of the Bureaucrats moved on to Parliament where the Serving soldier was not allowed an opinion and was never asked, but who was stuck with the consequences once he or she became a Veteran, was the switch to the New Veterans Charter, and the erroneous Lump-sum kiss off.

However putting this all aside, and with all of the stories of little or no care being given to Veterans one has to have a deep look at the whole system. As it stands right now, Ottawa, DND, VAC, VRAB and even the so called legal aid advocates are working together to systematically reduce the after cost of war. Although this may well be politically and financially good advice for Ottawa, it is not only bad for Veterans but also increases the likelihood of Ottawa committing our young to yet another armed conflict.

For the reasons stated above I submit that the whole system is now slanted against the Veteran, and I believe that you cannot get any more systemic than this.

Kenneth H. Young CD.

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New announcement: Our Duty - Denial of Social Contract

From: Our Duty []
Sent: August-17-13 2:29 PM
To: Jeff Rose-Martland
Subject: Denial of Social Contract

NOTE: I have BCC'd some individuals who need to read this but don't want to be part of a massive email chain. To those people: I apologize for contacting you, but this is absolutely critical. This should be the only email you receive unless you reply.

NOTE: This email has not included, to my knowledge, any media or politicians, only veterans and advocates. Please respect the sensitive nature of this email and DO NOT add any outsiders.


I know you have been following the lump-sum class action suit, but to refresh your memory....

On 24 July, Harold Leduc noted:
They based their argument and it's now a matter of public record in a court of law that the Government feels:

1. Veterans are essentially no different than any other citizen collecting other social benefits (welfare, unemployment, etc) and we are owed nothing more.

2. There is no 'Social Contract' between veterans, the Government and the People of Canada despite it being written throughout legislation and in CF publications.

3. That if citizens (Veterans in the case of the NVC) don't like the Government's laws, we are free to replace the Government through an election.

You must all take careful note of those statements. They transcend mere legal wrangling - they are the official position of the Government of Canada as presented by Crown attorney. Such arguments in a case like this necessitate Government approval, not just by the Attorney General, but also by the PMO. These are not law references, but official policy statements. The Government of Canada has stated that it doesn't owe you or serving members anything. Entitlements will, therefore, be presented as some sort of gift or benefit, delivered from a condescending hand, not out of moral or legal obligation.

Regardless of how the class-action suit proceeds, you can expect that this will be government's new approach: shifting away from "entitlements" through "benefits" into "nothing more than the average citizen". As we've seen with Harper downloading RCMP medical to the provinces, among other moves, I expect the long-term plan will be to move all veteran and in-country medical expenses to medicare and disability pension to CPP. THAT is what those arguments hint at.

At this time, you need to do two things:

1 - Unite against those arguments
2 - Appeal to civilians

Issue #1, Unity:

I appreciate that there are many complex issues relating to organizational unity and that, perhaps, it is impossible to achieve. That is beside the point at the moment. Government considers you all one demographic. Civilians consider you all the same. Maybe you are not, but in this, perception is reality.

Government has struck at the foundation of volunteer national service: the social contract. Government says it doesn't exist. If no one comes out strongly to prove them wrong, then the contract WON'T exist, regardless of what you were told upon enlistment or how many papers and bits of legislation say otherwise. From Government's standpoint, silence equals agreement.

Therefore, regardless of your feelings on a national unity organization, you must all act against Government's claim. If you cannot form up under one umbrella, then at least find common cause in this issue and send out statements denouncing the Crown's argument.

Issue #2, civilians:

There is a tendency in the veteran-government debate to ignore civilians. It should always be remembered, by both sides, that Citizens are the employer of BOTH. As such, the public are the ones to which you must appeal.

The social contract is not with Government. It is between those who serve and the people of Canada. Government can argue what it wants if citizens are not involved. However, if citizens declare that the social contract DOES exist, government does not have a legal leg to stand on. While judges generally do not consider public opinion, in this case, they will have to - the social contract is unwritten but at the heart of the argument. It exists if both sides say it does. If the public - or a significant portion - declares there is an obligation between the people and those who served, the Crown's case collapses.

Therefore, whatever personal contempt you might feel for civilians, you need to get the public on board to win this fight. That means talking with them and not blaming them.

As those who recently attended the Military Minds weekend can attest, public support IS there. Citizens love and support those who have served; they just don't know what to do to show it. When an event appears, they turn out in droves, even with no promotion. If Citizens are shown what they can do, now, to support veterans, most will be glad of the opportunity.

To that end, I have created a petition whereby Canadians can declare the social contact exists. If significant numbers sign (1% or more of the population), the Crown's case collapses AND future Government moves towards eliminating benefits to veterans are headed off.

Our Duty is pleased to take the lead in this initiative, but we cannot do this alone. Everyone needs to unite to declare the social contract real and valid. While I will be promoting this petition, I hope you will join in and do the same. There are 1 million active duty and veterans; 1 in 33 Canadians. Every one of them has friends and family. So promote, beg, plead, cajole, anything you have to, but get their names on this document. I will be pushing the civilians and enlisting other Citizen groups to help.

The petitions are found here:



Everyone, please carefully consider your next move on this issue. If you lose on the social contract, you will lose on all future issues. Government will have no reason to sit down with any of you for any reason.

Jeff Rose-Martland
Our Duty

Our Duty is a citizens' organization dedicated to ensuring Canada's veterans receive proper pension and benefits.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Monday, August 12, 2013

New announcement: Veteran walking to raise money for PTSD service dogs

Veteran walking to raise money for PTSD service dogs

Retired Sea King helicopter navigator Medric Cousineau hopes to raise $350K
CBC News
Posted: Aug 12, 2013 2:28 PM AT
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2013 2:26 PM AT

Retired Sea King helicopter navigator Medric Cousineau and his service dog, Thai, will be in Saint John on Tuesday. (Facebook)

A Canadian Armed Forces veteran from Nova Scotia is on a campaign to raise money and awareness for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Cpt. Medric Cousineau and his service dog are walking through 50 communities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, with a goal of raising $350,000.

The retired Sea King helicopter navigator, who has been suffering from PTSD since risking his life in a daring rescue operation off the coast of Newfoundland in 1986, hopes the campaign, Paws Fur Thought, will buy 50 service dogs for 50 veterans in need.

Cousineau says his life has dramatically improved since he got his yellow Lab, Thai, from the Royal Canadian Legion two years ago.

'Before I had gotten her, I had so severely isolated from pretty much everyone and everything.'—Medric Cousineau

"I had no idea of the magnitude of the change," Cousineau told CBC News. "Near the end, before I had gotten her, I had so severely isolated from pretty much everyone and everything," he said.

"I have a 10 by 12 garden shed and I pretty much lived out there because I had one door and one window and I could watch them both."

Cousineau credits Thai's skills for his recovery.

"Everything from covering my back in public so that people won't touch me from the backside because I have severe hyper vigilance issues. She also deals with dissociative recall," he said.

"She can sense the change in my blood chemistry and if I wander off, it triggers a change. She can smell it and she interacts with me to get me to stop going where I was."

Cousineau, who estimates he is walking the distance of a half marathon every day, is scheduled to be in Saint John on Tuesday.

He will stop and talk to people and accept donations along the way, including some cheque presentations from local organizations.

There will also be a Hot Dogs Fur Service Dogs BBQ at the #69 Legion on Wilson Street from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m.

The campaign, which started in Eastern Passage, N.S. on Aug. 1, is scheduled to wrap up in Ottawa on Sept. 19.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New announcement: Broken soldiers, broken system (JPSU)

Broken soldiers, broken system

Much-admired military unit for Canadian veterans has fallen into disrepair with lack of resources

By Chris Cobb, Postmedia News August 10, 2013

Read more:

The Canadian military created its Joint Personnel Support Unit almost five years ago to give hope and help to the flood of physically and mentally injured soldiers coming home from Afghanistan and those still damaged from previous missions. Eight regional JPSUs would oversee 24 troop support centres and dozens of smaller satellite facilities scattered across the country. The ill and injured would be assigned to support platoons.

The 24 new units, or integrated personnel support centres, would be holistic and offer well-staffed programs that would support and enable troops posted into the unit to get proper medical mental health treatment and the chance to resume their careers or, more likely, be "transitioned out" into the civilian world with sellable skills and jobs to go to.

It was all very appealing to Barry Westholm, a veteran with three decades of tough soldiering under his belt and the emotional scars to show for it.

Westholm was a member of the Canadian Airborne Regiment when it was disbanded in 1995 and had also served in Cambodia, Syria and Haiti. He was back at CFB Petawawa as a master warrant officer in 2007 when he began seeing young soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

"They had all aged from when I'd last seen them," he recalls, "and a lot of them were coming back with injuries. It wasn't uncommon for me to have them crying at my desk. There was no system to support them."

Westholm joined the JPSU system in February 2009 as the first regional sergeant major and senior non-commissioned officer of the vast eastern Ontario region that includes Petawawa, Ottawa, Kingston, Trenton and North Bay.

Under a previous system, barely one per cent of troops made it back to work in the military but JPSU and its network of support centres was initially able to push that to almost 20 per cent.

"It's been a fantastic achievement," adds Westholm, "but equally important is how we've transitioned some people for the civilian environment as opposed to the previous 'goodbye, it's been nice to know you.'

"People had a place to go where they would be treated with respect and cared for," he says. "They get training, take courses and even work part time in the civilian environment to get used to the rhythm. So they leave with a useful tool box."


But increased demand, burnt-out and departed staff and lack of resources means that many of the support units have gone from good to bad to worse to dysfunctional, according to Westholm and several other serving and retired Canadian Forces members. Documents obtained by Postmedia News confirm their assessment.

The trend, they say, is a reflection of the federal government's lack of commitment and a persistent refusal by the upper crust of Canada's military to provide the resources and innovation necessary to cope with an overwhelming demand that only seems likely to increase as military personnel who served in Afghanistan emerge from the incubation period that typically precedes mental breakdown - and countless others who will no longer be able to hide the mental illnesses they fear will meet a prevalent stigma and end their military careers.

Frustrated at the persistent refusals from superiors for extra help, 50-year-old Westholm quit his job earlier this year and circulated his twopage resignation letter to a range of influential government and military people, hoping for a reaction that never came.

"I couldn't collect a paycheque to be part of that anymore," says Westholm, who says he jumped before he was pushed after being told that JPSU brass wasn't interested in reading any more memos begging for increased resources.

"We were overwhelmed and had senior medical staff telling us that a wave (of mental illness) was coming. So I said we have to get busy to prepare for these troops. They said 'no way.' I thought that if I cc'd enough people someone would say 'hey, what's going on?' "


Retired brigadier-general Joe Sharpe, a respected voice on military mental health, says Westholm's concerns are wellfounded.

"I maintain a lot of contact with soldiers across the country and I see us falling back in the trap where the public perception comes first and the soldiers come second," he says. "In the early 1990s we went through budget cuts and were abandoning soldiers right, left and centre. Senior leadership today is focused on resources, media and public perceptions. It's a recipe for disaster."

Cpl. Glen Kirkland, a severely injured Afghanistan veteran who testified at a parliamentary committee hearing in June about his struggle to get adequate coverage for his ongoing medical treatment, is officially assigned to JPSU at CFB Shilo, Manitoba - a unit he says is hopelessly failing its ill and injured.

"It's a coffee shop and a ridiculous waste of manpower," he says. "I'm considered one of their bad soldiers because when I got to JPSU, I'm like 'I can't sit here and rot, I need to do something with my life.' I went out and got a university education and got a trade.

"They should be teaching guys to get out of the system and not be patrons at a coffee shop," he adds. "They don't need sergeants and warrants, they need baristas."

The JPSU needs a different structure with more committed and qualified staff, says Kirkland, who has been building a career as a real-estate agent while awaiting his release.

"Something needs to change because guys are going there to rot," he says, "The sergeants and warrants charged with running the system have done their 30 years. They aren't necessarily suited to the job. You ask them 'do you like your job' and they'll say 'no, I don't like my job because I have to deal with whiny soldiers all day.' "The army doesn't look after its injured soldiers," he says. "If I had worked at Walmart I would have been looked after better.


Nadia Pardy, who was posted into the JPSU system at Petawawa because of physical injury when JPSU was in its infancy, says she fared well at a time when the unit was fully functioning.

"When you spend the largest part of your adult life in the forces it becomes a part of who you are," she says. "Many of us do not know how to go forward and start over when it was never in our original plans. Injured and disabled soldiers, sailors and airmen need support in finding a purpose and gainful employment outside the Canadian Armed Forces. I do not see how they can downsize the support when the number of members needing the support is steadily increasing." The JPSU decline also contravenes the federal government and DND's much-touted "Taking Care of Our Own" policy signed last year by former chief of defence staff Walt Natynczyk.

According to DND, support units across Canada are currently "offering direct assistance" through JPSU to 5,418 ill and injured members and 533 families of soldiers killed while on duty.

But the eastern Ontario region support system is in trouble - a situation flagged to Westholm in an email two years ago from a Kingston colleague.

"I am currently unable to stay ahead of the curve and am not able to complete the bulk of the tasks that are expected of me," said the colleague. "I find my involvement with our most severe cases takes a huge chunk of my time."

The situation in Kingston has deteriorated since then, says Westholm.

"There are 82 people posted to the support platoon in Kingston and only one military JPSU person there to take care of them," he says.

He has had similar appeals for help from Ottawa and Petawawa where unit brass have admitted that the current system is unworkable and ordered fast-track structural changes.

In an email written three weeks ago, Petawawa's integrated personnel support centre commander Capt. Kevin Lamorie told his staff that "due to current manning levels" the ill and injured will not be assigned to a specific commander but to whomever is available, and more administrative work will be done by the unit's client service representatives, whose primary tasks since the system's inception has been helping the injured troops. In his email, obtained by Postmedia News, Lamorie warns that the measures will be in place until at least September and thanks staff for their patience "during this extremely trying time for the IPSC."

The Petawawa sys tem, equipped to cope with 30 ill and injured, are currently dealing with almost 200, says Westholm.


"In Petawawa they are in 100 per cent scramble mode trying to keep it together," says Westholm. "It's a desperate situation."

Jan Stroud, a clinical social worker who treated many Afghan veterans at CFB Petawawa before leaving last year, says the new directive is a clear signal that the situation at the base support unit is dire.

"It tells me they're not even hiding any more how serious it is," she says. "Not only are soldiers not going to get what they need but they are going to be put in a queue and it will be by gosh or by golly what's going to happen to them."

Client service representatives - formerly dealing directly with ill and injured troops at Petawawa - are becoming administration clerks, she adds.

"They are exceptional people and would go to unbelievable lengths to get soldiers what they need. They provided a safe haven for soldiers where they could talk about their problems and challenges."

"There were people who had to clean out the vehicles soldiers had died in," says Westholm. "Or the post office clerks who had to intercept the mail going to the deceased or send effects of the deceased back home. Yesterday he or she had given you a parcel to mail and you were talking to them at your wicket and today they're gone and you're holding their stuff in your hands. It would have an effect on anyone."

And those who experienced combat are often doubly afflicted.

"If you have a traumatic physical injury you could be mentally injured, too," he says. The military's director of casualty support management, Col. Gerard Blais, agreed to an interview with Postmedia News but it was cancelled three hours before it was due to take place. Blais has headed the JPSU system since its inception. In a written response issued through a public affairs spokesman, Blais described staffing at Joint Personnel Support Units as "adequate" but "challenging in the current environment" due to a government-imposed hiring freeze.

"A number of mechanisms to address the issue of staffing these positions are currently being examined," said the spokesman, who offered no specifics.

Westholm says it makes no economic sense for the government to squeeze JPSU: "If it's money you're worried about, these people leaving with jobs are not on the dole, not in the health care system and not alcoholics, drunk on the side of the road. They are making a wage and paying taxes."

The current operating budget for the support system is $19.4 million, roughly the same as last year.


"The intent is right but the execution is terrible," says a serving soldier posted into a support unit in another part of Ontario, who spoke on condition Postmedia News didn't use his name.

"I just go into a little crack and live there. We're scattered all over and never line up together. I've never had a review of any sort. I check in once or twice a week to give a wave and show I'm still alive and that's it.

There is no close monitoring. And if anybody needs close monitoring, it's the guys here.

"There is no real sense of leadership or direction," adds the soldier. "It's become a waiting room to get out of the military and isn't a great place to be. It's definitely understaffed, with one person in charge of 30 or 40 people."

A soldier working on JPSU staff at another Ontario base says a slew of his colleagues are burned out or leaving to continue to collect their pensions, which they can't do if they stay working in the military, according to new federal Treasury Board rules.

"We're losing a lot of good people and a lot of corporate knowledge," says the soldier who asked that neither his name nor base be published. "The staff is working 16-hour days, six days a week. If JPSU were 100 per cent resourced it would be excellent but right now it isn't working.

"This unit was stood up to take stigma away from the ill and injured," he adds, "but now we're almost back where we started."

Amid stories of staff burning out and developing their own health issues - including at least one who suffered an emotional collapse and became a JPSU client - Westholm wrote his two-page resignation letter.

"JPSU is the lowest priority," says Sharpe, who works closely on military mental health issues with Sen. Romeo Dallaire.

"I worry about it as a citizen and as a veteran," he says. "I worry about what some of the young guys will end up doing if you create an environment where the ill and injured feel they can't make their voices heard. And I know dozens of them.

"What we need is an environment where veterans who have a mental injury or a leg blown off by an IED have an entitlement, not a need to go begging," he added.

JPSU's decline is a failure of leadership, says Sharpe.

"The obligation is on the government - an implied covenant that if you're injured you'll be taken care of."

Westholm agrees. "We are helping the people who paid the price," he says. "We asked them to go to war and they went. They got beat up over there and now they want to get better. But now we've set a trap for them: We're saying 'come on, it's here' but it's not."

How the JPSU works

The Joint Personnel Support Unit is intended to work like this:

Mentally and physically injured and ill Canadian Forces members who can no longer function in their own units are eligible to be posted into the JPSU support platoon, usually on a medical officer's recommendation. Key to their futures as military personnel is meeting the requirements of "Universality of Service," a series of criteria that all Canadian Forces members, irrespective of their jobs in the military, must meet to show they are capable of meeting the rigours of combat duty.

Troops are posted to support platoons, an organization located within integrated personnel support centre (IPSCs). There are 24 IPSCs across Canada.

The vast majority of troops - around 80 per cent - are transitioned out of the military. Before the JPSU, this number was 95 per cent. The rest return to duty, some in their former careers, others in less-demanding trades. The support platoons are a structured military unit in which an injured person is assigned a section commander whose job it is to monitor progress, provide leadership and guidance, and adherence to the rules.

Troops are rarely, if ever, brought together as one group.

Depending on the severity of their injuries and their medical restrictions, troops will work either at a unit on a base, with local businesses or take college courses. Most are receiving some form of mental or physical medical treatment and some addiction counselling. They are required to report regularly to their supervisor. Reporting methods (phone, email, in-person) often depends on place of work, medical restrictions and record of reliability.

Those who don't report on time - a common occurrence among high-risk, mentally injured troops with addiction problems - are tracked down immediately and given necessary help. There is no limit for how long a person can stay in the JPSU system, but three years has been the average.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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Great News: You now have access to (VIP) Benefit Information in My VAC Account

Great News: You now have access to (VIP) Benefit Information in My VAC Account

You now have access to your VIP benefit via My VAC. You can register to My VAC Account here:

Also recently added: Submission of Canadian Forces Income Support, VIP and Career Transition Services online submission.

I strongly suggest that you register. Every few months more and more features are made avail to us. Its not perfect but VAC are very collaborative with the suggestions vets have made and are send via CVA to senior VAC Staff.

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: There is no ‘sacred duty’ to Canada’s veterans

There is no 'sacred duty' to Canada's veterans

By Paul Robinson, Ottawa Citizen August 5, 2013

'Seriously wounded soldiers should enjoy no special status or privilege with regard to medical care," writes Michael Gross of Haifa University, who is probably the world's leading authority on military medical ethics. "Once they cannot return to duty, the critically wounded lose their unique entitlement to scarce medical resources and, therefore, should compete equally with similarly injured and sick civilians for care."

Mike Blais, the president of the group Canadian Veterans Advocacy, would no doubt disagree. According to Blais, the government has a "sacred obligation" to veterans. A class-action lawsuit currently underway in British Columbia will determine which view prevails in Canada.

The lawsuit was launched by veterans of the Afghan war who argue that the Veterans Charter, put in place in 2006 to regulate financial assistance to injured soldiers, violates the Canadian Charter of Rights. The "honour of the Crown", they claim, imposes an obligation on the federal government towards ex-service men and women which goes beyond what is in the Veterans Charter. Against this, lawyers for the federal government have called for the dismissal of the suit, claiming that the government does not in fact have any extraordinary obligation towards veterans.

The veterans' position is emotionally appealing. They invoke a sense of shame and indignation at the idea that those who have risked their lives for their country might want for the basic necessities of life. One's natural response is to feel that they deserve better and that we do have a special duty to help them. It is not surprising that many find the government's position untenable. The Ottawa Citizen declared firmly in a recent editorial that "we owe them that obligation. Always."

However, there are both practical and principled reasons for being cautious about asserting any such open-ended commitment.

From a practical point of view, no system of government welfare can operate on the basis laid out by the Ottawa Citizen: "Support for soldiers is, and should be, about helping them unconditionally when they are down and need our help." This would be a recipe for widespread abuse and irresponsibility. Any welfare system must have some set of criteria about who is eligible for aid and in what circumstances, and those applying for aid must meet those criteria and not simply be given benefits they do not need or do not qualify for. Perhaps the Veterans Charter does not do this well — and that is a different argument — but we do have to have something like it. We cannot simply dole out taxpayer's dollars "unconditionally." Encouraging soldiers to expect that we will does them a disservice.

As for principle, we must bear in mind that Canadian soldiers in the present era are volunteers. They accepted the terms and conditions of their service willingly, which makes it difficult to claim that the state has an additional obligation to provide special benefits on demand. If soldiers are not being presented with a properly informed choice when they join up, that must be corrected at once — but again, that is a different issue.

It is true that many soldiers do incur serious injuries because of their service and do require a large amount of assistance. The Canadian state certainly does have an obligation to help them. But this is not unlimited.

To illustrate this point, in an article titled Why Treat the Wounded? Michael Gross asks us to imagine a scenario in which three people suffer identical head injuries: a man riding a motorbike and wearing a helmet, who through no fault of his own is struck by a speeding car; another man, also riding a motorbike, but not wearing a helmet, who runs a red light and hits a car; and a soldier injured in battle. It is not obvious in this scenario why the state has a duty to give the soldier better medical treatment than it gives to the bikers.

In fact, in a country like Canada with state-run medicine, it has an obligation to attempt to give all of them the best treatment it can. This obligation is related to their need, not to either the merits of their cases (since both bikers require equal care) or their professional backgrounds. As Gross rightly says, it is "the principle of medical need that governs their care," not their identities.

Putting any social group on a pedestal is risky. It may lead to a culture of entitlement, and even within our democratic system it may become difficult to challenge the group in question. Canada does have a great obligation to its veterans, but not a "sacred" or unconditional one.

Paul Robinson is a professor at the University of Ottawa.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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Friday, August 9, 2013

New announcement: Tories' Empty Tribute to Canadian Soldiers

Tories' Empty Tribute to Canadian Soldiers

Government honours those killed in Afghanistan, but treats living vets like second-class citizens.

By Nick Fillmore, 31 Jul 2013,

A travelling tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in Afghanistan is coming soon to a provincial legislature near you.

Former defence minister Peter Mackay unveiled the temporary display in Ottawa on July 9. It will be open to the public and remain on Parliament Hill through Remembrance Day, before heading off on a two-year journey across the country to visit provincial legislatures and then on to Washington.

The memorial, featuring plaques of the 161 Canadians killed, will be a welcome gesture, no doubt, for some grieving friends and families.

Others will react much differently. Although the traveling tribute appears to be straightforward, in reality it carries with it a heavy dose of hypocrisy regarding the Conservatives' real objective of the tour and their treatment of military veterans. The main goal of the memorial is not so much to honour those killed but to instill into Canadians the idea that the Tories command a modern-day fighting machine ready to join with others to defend "freedom" wherever necessary.

'It's an insult and a disgrace'

"The faces you see etched here are of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in... creating a more secure environment for Afghans," claimed MacKay at the tribute's launch, propagating the big lie about Canada's effort in Afghanistan.

In truth, the estimated $18.1 billion the Harper government will have spent fighting the Taliban, the 161 deaths, and more than 2,000 Canadian injured did nothing to improve the lives of the Afghan people. The situation in Kandahar province, where Canada did its fighting, is just as bleak as when we arrived.

The fact that MacKay's bureaucracy could not even get the launch of the tribute right is a sign of the government's lack of respect for the families of those killed. The tour wasn't scheduled to leave Ottawa for weeks, but the military bureaucracy, in a rush to make the announcement as soon as possible after Canada Day, failed to adequately notify many of the families so they could attend. Many families missed the event.

"It's very upsetting," Jane Byers, the mother of a private killed by a suicide bomber who was in Edmonton at the time of the launch, told the CBC. "This monument is like a shrine to the families... This last-minute crap is not cutting it. It's an insult and a disgrace."

The majority of the men and women completing training before being shipped off to Afghanistan probably had very few life experiences. However, life on the battlefield has been a living hell. Some stats:

At least 50 members of the forces committed suicide as a result of their terrifying experiences in Afghanistan. (Interestingly, only three of those who killed themselves are honoured as part of the memorial. Several families criticize the government for moving so slowly to complete the formal death investigations.)

Almost 14 per cent of those who served were diagnosed with a mental health disorder, but some say this doesn't reflect the larger extent of the problem.

A total of 5.5 per cent developed other depressive disorders.

A 2011 military study estimated that eight per cent of personnel deployed to Afghanistan were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) within five years of returning home.

Cutbacks leave vets in the lurch

A straight-faced MacKay told those present in Ottawa that the memorial was "to honour the bravery, the dedication, the valour and professionalism of the civilian and military personnel who have fallen in Afghanistan."

This is hypocritical at best. MacKay has been up to his neck in establishing new, unnecessary austerity measures that are making life miserable for many of the veterans who survived Afghanistan and other warzones.

Until two years ago, the Harper government was fighting a ruthless legal battle to deny 4,500 disabled veterans of much-needed pension money. The disabled veterans had to file a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa to stop it from clawing back a portion of their monthly Veterans Affairs disability pension. Finally, the court sided with the pensioners, and the government has had to replace the funds.

Families of a number of mostly infirm veterans at a 500-bed veterans' centre in Toronto have complained that austerity-driven staff cutbacks have led to patient neglect and abuse, such as head injuries, severe bed sores, and patients being left in their own excrement.

In addition, many poor veterans are denied the money required to pay for their burial. Between 2006 and 2011, the Last Post Fund, which had adopted more stringent eligibility requirements as a result of Harper's very selective austerity program, was turning down 67 per cent of the applications for support.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are closing nine Veterans Affairs Canada district offices across the country. This leaves veterans and their families without access to in-person services in many communities, including vitally needed counselling. Veterans have to rely on phone or online assistance. By 2015, Veterans Affairs will have cut 800 jobs and there are plans to shut more district offices.

The Department of Defence has been chopping away chunks of expenses for months, claiming that severe austerity measures were necessary to meet its budget objectives. Records show that the department has a whopping $2.4 billion it has not spent for the budget year ending March 31, 2013. The department says that when all the bills are paid and adjustments are made, the surplus will not be so large. What will be the extra amount then? Perhaps $1.5-billion?

So why have the veteran with pensions been so badly nickel-and-dimed?

At first I thought the problem was government incompetence. But I don't think so. This devious Conservative game of budget manipulation, intended to downsize and destroy government as we have known it over a number of years, is mean-spirited and heartless.

This time they are fighting their battle on the backs of poor and injured veterans -- the parents and grandparents of those new recruits that the Conservatives so gladly shipped off to the desert lands of Afghanistan.

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