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Salute! - June 2022

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Engagement

Accessibility matters at VAC and VRAB

An image showing an arrow piercing a wooden barrier.

The results are in, and they are clear: accessibility matters to you.

Between 17 November and 14 December 2021, 209 people contributed to an online consultation on barriers to accessibility at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB).

Some accessibility barriers you identified included:

  • uncomfortable seating
  • poor ramps
  • inaccessible parking
  • difficulty accessing online forms
  • difficulty logging into VAC’s website
  • complex language, and
  • difficulty finding and understanding information related to VAC’s policies, procedures and programs.

Some suggestions you provided to remove these barriers included:

  • presenting online materials in larger and better contrasting typeface/font
  • making closed captioning available where possible
  • providing more street-level entry with adequate parking/stopping spaces nearby
  • training opportunities on trauma-informed support
  • making steps and instructions on VAC’s website more clear
  • adding voice-to-text features where possible.

Your feedback will help us plan current and future work, including VAC’s and VRAB’s first Accessibility Action Plans, which will be published by December 2022.

The consultation recap was posted on Let’s Talk Veterans on Thursday 2 June 2022, during National AccessAbility Week held from May 29 to June 4. 


Wait times for disability benefits: what you told us

A man and a baby on his knee in front of a laptop computer at a desk.

Thank you to the 853 serving and former members of the CAF and RCMP, families and others who shared their experiences and thoughts on wait times for disability benefit decisions. This feedback was invaluable.

As part of our strategy to address wait times for disability benefits decisions, we committed to engaging directly with Veterans about their experiences. In Spring 2021, we launched a three-week consultation on Let’s Talk Veterans so we could better understand applicants’ perspectives, improve the application process, and create new tools to help our decision-makers process applications faster.

We heard from Veterans and serving members of the CAF, family members, RCMP Veterans and others who support the application process.

Your input has helped lead to six recommendations:

  • Increase awareness and promote the benefits of My VAC Account to apply online.
  • Train and collaborate with those who assist Veterans in filling out applications.
  • Make the application steps clear, concise and easy to understand.
  • Build a more comprehensive tool to track application status by breaking down the progress into more detailed steps.
  • Confirm that an application is complete earlier.
  • Make the process more digital.

You can find more details on Let’s Talk Veterans.


Take part in a study on chronic pain

Poster for online study on pain and mental health in Canadian Military Veterans/Serving Member and their children (ages 10 to 40) showing family of four.

The Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans invites Veterans, serving members and their children to take part in a new study on chronic pain.

Chronic pain can run in families. While many children are resilient, pain can sometimes be transferred from parent to child. This University of Calgary study will examine this process and seek ways to manage chronic pain transmission to future generations.

Who can participate: Canadian Veterans and serving members, along with their children aged 10 to 40 years.

For more information or to take part in the study, please contact the research team directly by emailing them or by calling 403-210-7846.


Commemoration

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ military service

Black-and-white photo of Mi'kmaq Spiritual Elder and Veteran Noel Knockwood.

The late Noel Knockwood, a well-respected Mi’kmaq Spiritual Elder and Veteran will be the feature in a vignette on APTN’s Indigenous Day Live on June 18.

A residential school survivor, Mr. Knockwood joined the Canadian Army in 1951 at age 18 and served in the Korean War. After six years in the Canadian military, he earned a degree in Sociology from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, NS, and taught at universities in the Maritimes. From 2000 to 2005, he served as the Sergeant-at-Arms for the province of Nova Scotia.

We celebrate his contribution to the defence of Canada as well as the contributions of Indigenous people before him and since.

Learn more about Noel Knockwood on our Remembrance page.

Learn more about First Nations, Inuit and Métis people’s proud tradition of military service at Indigenous Veterans–Veterans Affairs Canada.

If you attend the live event at The Forks in Winnipeg, drop by the Veterans Affairs Canada booth to say hello and ask any questions about VAC’s benefits and services.


Veteran story

Raymond Goodchild: A peacekeeper serving his community

Corporal Raymond Goodchild standing in front of a building while serving with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, 1980.
Goodchild assisting with the United Nations peacekeeping mission, Cyprus 1980.

June is Indigenous History Month – a time to discover the stories of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Veterans and service members.

When Corporal Raymond Goodchild arrived in Cyprus as a UN peacekeeper, he was ready to help any way he could.

"I was always ready to go, jump into action, whatever they needed.”

His job? Patrolling the Green Line, a buffer zone stretching across the island and separating the two opposing sides.

Read his story and be inspired.


Do you feel that? Winter is coming…

Poster for Invictus Games coming to Canada in 2025.

After a long-awaited hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, close to 30 Veterans and active service members put their skills to the test at the 2020 Invictus Games, in The Hague, Netherlands.

To add to the excitement, Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, announced Canada as the host of Invictus Games 2025. The Government of Canada has committed $15M in funding to support the Games.

To be held in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, these Invictus Games will be the first to incorporate winter adaptive sports, in addition to some of the core sports from previous years.

The Invictus Games are a powerful reminder of the extraordinary courage and perseverance of all those who have been injured or become ill through their time in the military.

See you in 2025!


Canada remembers D-Day

Historic black-and-white photograph showing troops of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade going ashore in Normandy, France, on D-Day.
Troops of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade going ashore in Bernières-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, 6 June 1944. Photo: Gilbert Alexander Milne/Canada. Dept. of National Defence

Every year on June 6, we remember the brave Canadians who fought on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy.

Seventy-eight years ago, Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy during the Second World War.

The D-Day landings marked a turning point in the war: the beginning of the liberation of western Europe. Thousands of brave Canadians were killed or wounded in the fighting that followed.

We remember them.


Protecting the Juno Beach Centre

Canadian Veterans at the D-Day commemoration at the Juno Beach Centre, Normandy, France.

As has been reported in the news media, a condominium development has been proposed near the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France. The Centre, Canada's Second World War Museum, honours the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers who fell at Juno Beach in 1944 as they fought to return freedom and democracy to Europe.

In April, Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay and several Members of Parliament visited Juno Beach to see first-hand the impacts the proposed condominium project would have upon the Juno Beach Centre. While there, the Minister met with members of the Juno Beach Centre Association, the Mayor of Courseulles-sur-Mer, Les amis du Centre Juno Beach, and officials representing Canada in France. It was clear that all share the goal of finding a solution to the condominium development situation in a way that will commemorate our shared history moving forward.

Minister MacAulay then met with the Minister Delegate to the Minister for the Armed Forces in charge of Remembrance and Veterans in the French Government. The Ministers resolved to work together to seek a favourable outcome to solve the neighbouring dispute that could negatively impact the operations of the Juno Beach Centre and to protect this historic site.

In May, the Prime Minister and the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, discussed the significance of Juno Beach to the people of both nations. The leaders committed to protecting the important landmark so that future generations will remember the sacrifices made there on D-Day.

As the most important monument and museum outside of Canada dedicated to Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Juno Beach Centre proudly highlights their sacrifices and achievements, and the government is working to ensure that the integrity and solemnity of the Juno Beach landing site are respected.


Programs and services

Veterans Transition Network helps Veterans with support of the Well-Being Fund

As a result of the 2021-2022 call for applications, 36 projects will receive $11.3 million from the Veterans Affairs Canada’s Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund (VFWF). These project focus on issues affecting Veterans and their families during post-COVID-19 recovery, such as homelessness, retraining, employment and health challenges. The VFWF also supports equity-seeking groups such as women and LGBTQ2 Veterans.

In May, funding was announced for British Columbia’s Veterans Transition Network. Their Transition Skills Course, offered across the country, helps Veterans transition to life after service and cope with the challenges of COVID-19. The focus is on skills such as communicating with family, emotional regulation, trauma education, symptom management and goal setting. This course uses the same clinical curriculum as the long-standing Veterans Transition Program, but in a format modified to reduce the risks associated with the pandemic.

Since 2018, the VFWF has provided financial support to private, public and academic organizations to improve the lives of Veterans and their families.

There will be more announcements to come in the months ahead. In the meantime, you can consult the full list of recipients.


Coping with events in Ukraine

If the conflict in Ukraine causes stress for you, you are not alone. Many Canadians feel the same. Veterans, especially those who have served in similar situations, and their families may find the news particularly distressing. Even though the conflict is happening half a world away, events there can still be a powerful reminder of one’s own difficult military experiences and bring up strong emotions.

If you are struggling during this time, talk about it with your friends and family. There are also professional resources available now.

  • The VAC Assistance Service: Call 1-800-268-7708 to speak to a mental health professional for psychological support. Free and available 24/7 to Veterans and their family members.
  • Peer support: Reach out to the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS), a peer support or family peer support worker who understands operational stress injuries and can offer needed support.
  • PTSD Coach Canada mobile application: Use this app to learn about and manage symptoms that can follow operational stress.

Check out additional mental health and wellness resources.

If you, a friend or family member are struggling, here are some common reactions you may notice and positive strategies for coping:

Common reactions

  • feeling frustrated, sad, helpless, or angry
  • experiencing an increase in symptoms of anxiety, depression or those related to PTSD
  • having more disturbing military and homecoming memories
  • questioning the meaning of your own service
  • feeling the need to be vigilant, or to prepare for the worst.

Positive strategies

  • Stay connected. Spend time with people who best understand what you are going through, and who can give you a sense of security, calm, hope and happiness.
  • Practice self-care. Look for positive strategies that help you manage your emotions. Listening to music, exercising, practicing breathing routines, spending time in nature or with animals or journaling may help you manage overwhelming or distressing emotions.
  • Be patient with yourself. Understand that you need time to recover.
  • Stick to your routines. It can be helpful to stick to a schedule for when you sleep, eat, work or other daily activities.
  • Limit media exposure. Limit how much news you take in if media coverage is increasing your distress.
  • Seek help if you need it. Talking to someone about what you are experiencing can help you feel better.

Learn more about how to cope with current events in Ukraine.


VAC Assistance Service: How it works

If you are looking for professional mental health support, the VAC Assistance Service provides Veterans, former RCMP members, family members and caregivers with free, short-term psychological support from a mental health professional.

You can call the VAC Assistance Service 24/7 at 1-800-268-7708. Your call will be answered by a mental health professional. If your situation is urgent, they will provide immediate support over the phone. Otherwise, they will make recommendations for support and refer you to a local mental health professional for in-person psychological support. If you live in a remote area where access to in-person services is limited, you can access support by telephone.

You can also use the online chat service (password: canada) if you don’t need immediate support and would like a referral to a local mental health professional. The chat option is available Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Eastern Time), excluding statutory holidays.

All calls and chat messages are answered by bilingual Canadian mental health professionals, who have at least a master’s degree in a relevant field (counselling, social work or psychology), and training in crisis and suicide intervention.

You can receive up to 20 hours of confidential support for issues that affect your well-being, including work-related issues, health concerns and more. You do not need to be receiving other services from Veterans Affairs Canada to access this service.

Read more about the VAC Assistance Service.


Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines

Poster for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

It’s important to get a booster dose as soon as you’re eligible, even if you have had or may have had a COVID-19 infection.

Over time, protection from the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine decreases. By triggering more antibodies and other parts of the immune system, a booster dose can improve the immune response and help increase protection against infection and severe illness from COVID-19.

Book your booster dose now.


New training course for healthcare providers who care for Veterans

Introduction to Trauma-Exposed Professionals is a new training course for healthcare providers who work with current and former members of the CAF and RCMP, public safety personnel, and their families.

Wounded Warriors organization logo

Developed by Wounded Warriors Canada in collaboration with the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families (formerly the Centre of Excellence on PTSD), the training highlights the unique work environments of those who serve in the military or work in public safety, and how to support their mental health needs.

The course will be made available for free to 500 Canadian healthcare providers who care for Veterans and their families.

If you or someone you know is a health professional who treats Veterans, please share this resource with your professional network. Veterans are also encouraged to share the guide with their primary care provider.

If you need support for your health and well-being, learn more about VAC’s physical and mental health services.


A Veteran who was medically released offers a poem to readers of Salute!

The Enemy Within

My earliest memory was living abroad, on a plane to Lahr, arriving in fog.
My family and father, all so excited, I had never seen anything quite like it.
Tanks, planes and bunkers abounded, so impressed I was, simply dumbfounded.

I joined the cubs, cadets and reserves, I found my career, a life I deserved.
So proud of my uniforms, many pics taken, tours I served, loves and family forsaken.
Medals and badges placed on my chest, told every day I was one of Canada’s best.
I loved the traditions, the pride and my team, I had it all or so it would seem.

One day it all came to an end, attacked not by our enemy but Canada’s friend.
The army had been all that I knew, I understood duty and loyalty to crew.
Nothing prepared me for the enemy within, no amount of training or battles we win.

I was destroyed, life loved was all done, I reached out for help but there was no one.
I walked away, no friends or resources. Tried many trades, took many courses.
37 years I just couldn’t get it. I could not fit in, choices were regretted.

The life I deserved was taken away by an enemy found within our own ranks today.
No one can fix the damage that’s done, victims denied unless you were one.
Today my medals don’t mean a thing, my comrades, service and memories that sting.
Today my comrades are those that know, the enemy within is Canada’s worst foe.

The VAC Assistance Service is available if you need professional mental health support.


Do you know other Veterans, family members or others who would benefit from the information in this newsletter? Feel free to share it with them.


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