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Record of Discussion – Care and Support Advisory Group

Wednesday September 30, 2020
Location: Microsoft Teams

In attendance:

  • Mary Boutette, The Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre (Co-chair)
  • Major (Retired) Bruce Henwood (Co-chair)
  • Debbie Eisan, Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones
  • Captain (Navy) Marie-France Langlois, Director, Casualty Support Management, Canadian Armed Forces
  • Percy L. Price, NATO Veterans Organization of Canada
  • Marie Andrée Malette, Canadian Caregivers Brigade

Regrets:

  • Sylvain Boulliane,VeteransCanada.ca

Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs Officials:

  • Andrea Waselnuk, Policy Advisory, Stakeholder and Events

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) Officials:

  • Mitch Freeman, Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management (VAC Co-chair, Care and Support Advisory Group)
  • John Stavert, National Contract Manager
  • Sylvie Thibodeau-Sealy, Director, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach
  • Patrick Lynch, Senior Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach
  • Kathryn Doyle, Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach

Presenters:

  • Danica Arsenault, Director of Rehabilitation and Financial Well-Being and Business Intelligence Unit, Service Delivery
  • Kathy Norrie, Senior Director of Strategic and Enabling Initiatives, Service Delivery
  • Peggy Nash-Butt, Acting National Rehabilitation Consultant, Service Delivery

Observers:

  • Laura Kelly, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman (Care and Support Advisory Group)

Opening Remarks

The Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and co-chairs welcomed the members. The meeting included round table introductions. Mitch Freeman, Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management was introduced as the new VAC co-chair. Appreciation was extended to the former co-chair, Faith McIntyre, who has taken the role of Director General, Communications. The Care and Support Advisory Group last met formally as a group in November 2019. There is quorum for today’s meeting. Group acknowledged September 30th, Orange shirt day and read passages of the importance and significance of this day. Orange Shirt Day is a valuable opportunity to remember and honor our Indigenous Veterans who went through one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history and continued to wear the uniform for this Country.  The significance of Orange Shirt Day, allows time to reflect on the ongoing impact of the residential school system and the resilience of the survivors and their families. This day is an opportunity to learn and better understand the unique experiences and needs of Indigenous Peoples and our Indigenous Veterans. The group also highlighted that November 8, is National Aboriginal Veterans Day. 

Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program (RSVP)

The A/National Rehabilitation Consultant, delivered a presentation on the Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance Program (RSVP) Procurement Project.

The national contract with Canadian Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Services (CVVRS) expires in June 2022, providing an opportunity to examine the Rehabilitation  Program to make improvements to program delivery. By undertaking a new procurement approach which includes, calling for clearer performance standards, incentives and penalties for meeting contract deliverables, better defined outcomes and increased industry engagement, VAC aims to streamline and improve rehabilitation services for Veterans and their families. The new contract will examine innovative ways to deliver the Rehabilitation Program and better support Case Managers while ensuring requirements of the program are met.

Discussion

  • The discussion lead to many topics from members. VAC has posted a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for the new contract. Copies of the presentation and the draft RFP were provided to members. It was noted that 150 questions and feedback came in from the industry, which will be incorporated into the final RFP.
  • Time was spent discussing the updates to the program under RSVP, which included RSVP clients will be case managed and CAF LTD will remain as the first payer.
  • Discussion took place around the importance of having an evaluation committee that is diverse to the needs of our Veterans, including members with Indigenous expertise. Cultural training should be a consideration for companies applying for the contract. In direct response to the conversations of this group, the company who is awarded the contract, VAC will ensure that GBA+, Indigenous, and cultural sensitivity is a priority.
  • Concerns were raised about a disconnect with Blue Cross Medavie and their clients.
  • Members wanted to ensure that Case Manages are kept current to allow for sound advice and recommendations about entitlements, programs and services that are available to releasing Veterans.
  • Concerns were raised from the members around continuity of care during the transition from the current program to RSVP. The need for clear communication with the Veteran community on RSVP and its relationship with CAF LTD to ensure Veterans really understand how this program works.

Veterans Emergency Fund

VAC Co-Chair, Mitch Freeman provided an overview on the Veterans Emergency Fund (VEF). The efficiency of the fund has improved. With the impact of COVID-19, we have seen an increase of usage of the fund in the first few months. Since June the usage of the fund has lowered back to a steady rate. VAC is working on evaluating the fund to examine the types of usages to ensure gaps are not being missed. VAC is currently going through the evaluation to review how it is being used and working towards stabilizing the fund.

Discussion

  • Questions spoke to the possibility of identifying gaps in the funding program. As the Veterans Emergency Fund is the only program that receives a direct call from the Case Manager, there is an opportunity to see if there are other VAC programs that could be helpful. Members asked for greater detail as to where the funds are being allocated.

Veteran Homelessness

VAC Co-chair, Mitch Freeman provided a verbal update on Veteran homelessness. VAC is collaborating with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) on addressing Veteran homelessness. Funds were implemented to support the most vulnerable Canadians, including Veterans, as well as a community emergency fund which allows aid to those who need it quickly. VAC has been working closely with community partners, shelters and organizations to identify homeless Veterans. The Veteran well-being fund has approved 12 projects.

Discussion

  • Discussions on Veteran homelessness linked in to the Mental Health Advisory Group. Leading to the inquiry of available programs to support the potential risk that COVID-19 has on the opioid crises and impact the crises has on Veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Guided Support

VAC Co-chair, Mitch Freeman provided a verbal update on Guided Support. Currently 1,800 Veterans are assigned to Guided Support nationally. VAC is currently doing a review of the process which involved pulling samples to review practice and assess how the program is working. One important focus for VAC around the transition from Case Management to Guided Support is to ensure there is a process in place to confirm that each Veteran is ready to transition into guided support and has the opportunity to be asked if they would like to transition.

Discussion

  • Discussions spoke to the concern that VAC also has to look at those Veterans coming off guided support and ensuring they have the opportunity to be asked.
  • One member spoke to the benefit of having staff, case managers, and Veteran service agents trained in sexual misconduct.

Treatment Benefits and Benefit Grids

The VAC Co-chair, Mitch Freeman gave an overview of the treatment benefits and benefit grids. He opened up the floor for discussion to gather feedback on the treatment benefit and benefit grids and how members found the usability.  

Discussion

  • Much of the discussion spoke to Blue Cross Medavie and their service. Many members expressed concerns around the additional proof and re-assessments and inquired if VAC is aware of their conditions and the guidelines they follow for assessments.
  • As a result of COVID-19, VAC explored ways in which we can get our Veterans the help they need during these unprecedented times. COVID-19 has impacted some Veterans wherein they may need help in ways they didn’t need prior to the global pandemic. VAC looked into ways that would open up programing and aid to make programs and funding easier to access.
  • Discussion took place around the VAC website page of the Treatment Benefit Grid. It was found to not be as interactive as it should be. For example, the chart does not recognize ‘wheel chair’ but rather ‘wheelchair’. If there are changes to eligibility criteria those changes are not passed on to existing clients.

Veteran Survivor Benefit.

Timing did not allow for discussion on the Veteran Survivor Benefit. Discussions and updates will be provided during next scheduled meeting.

Way Forward

The group decided to focus in on the future focus of the meetings. The group proposed quarterly meetings with Co-chairs meeting monthly.

With the news of Captain (N) Langlois’ retirement, discussion around the need for a replacement took place.

Meeting adjourned.

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