Veterans Affairs Canada Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Special Needs
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In the Fall of 2005, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) established an Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Special Needs to consider the unique perspective of special needs' Veterans as part of the Department's ongoing consultation effort. Special needs' Veterans are defined by VAC as those Veterans of the Canadian Forces (CF) with significant levels of disability and correspondingly high levels of need for support and treatment. The VAC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Special Needs, better known as the Special Needs Advisory Group or SNAG for short, was also established to serve as an appropriate portal that will allow access for special needs' Veterans and their families to have their issues identified and heard.
SNAG is national in scope and all members participate and collectively represent their particular area of expertise and/or experience. In order to provide comprehensive and balanced recommendations, the Advisory Group is comprised of special needs' Veterans, health professionals who treat those injured and academics.
The group's membership includes:
- five CF Veterans with special needs (have personally experienced the effects of significant service-related injuries, ranging from serious physical injuries to Operational Stress Injuries/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- three health professionals (two psychiatrists and one specialist in physical rehabilitation)
- one senior ranking military official from the DND-VAC Centre for the support of injured members, injured Veterans and their families; and
- one advisor on family needs
The immediate objective of SNAG was to obtain input on the development of the regulations from those people who may have the greatest apparent re-establishment challenge, e.g.; those with serious levels of disability and corresponding levels of high need for support and for treatment; from the specialists who provide treatment and services for these Veterans, and from the families of Veterans with special needs.
Recognizing that a process of "ongoing improvement" is the best way to ensure that clients' needs continue to be met, the long term objective of the Advisory Group is to provide ongoing advice to the Department on the responsiveness of its policies, programs and services as they pertain to special needs' clients. In this way, benefits and services will continue to evolve as the needs of Veterans change over time.
The Advisory Group provided the Department with an initial report in late February 2006 comprised of their observations and recommendations based on both input received and their deliberations on the extent to which the New Veterans Charter (NVC) programs meet the needs of special needs' clients. They also identified variations that would better respond to those needs as well as any significant gaps in the programs and services under the NVC. VAC will continue to work with SNAG as it considers and responds to recommendations and advice provided by the Advisory Group.
In formulating these recommendations, the SNAG has been provided with briefings by VAC, National Defence and performed face-to-face interviews with several special needs' Veterans and their families to obtain their input and feedback on the NVC. As well, in November 2005, VAC contracted an independent consulting firm to conduct ten focus groups in each of five geographic locations (Victoria, Edmonton, Ottawa, Quebec City, Halifax); one with special needs' Veterans and one with family members of special needs' Veterans. The final report on feedback from the focus groups was distributed to the SNAG in early February 2006.
The Advisory Group met on four occasions during the 2005/06 fiscal year and will continue to meet on a quarterly basis in the future.
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