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Record of Discussion – Care and Support Advisory Group

Wednesday November 20, 2019
Location: Boardroom 1403, 14th Floor
66 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario

In Attendance

  • Mary Boutette, The Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre (Co-chair)
  • Major (Retired) Bruce Henwood (Co-chair)
  • Debbie Eisan, Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones
  • Sylvain Bouliane, Veterans Canada (.ca)
  • Captain (Navy) Marie-France Langlois, Director, Casualty Support Management, Canadian Armed Forces

Regrets

  • Percy L. Price, NATO Veterans Organization of Canada
  • Marie Andrée Malette, Canadian Caregivers Brigade

Veterans Affairs Canada

  • Faith McIntyre, Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management (Co-chair, Care and Support Advisory Group)
  • Patrick Lynch, Senior Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach
  • Arnold Drysdale, Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach

Presenters (videoconference):

  • Kirsten Johnson, A/Director, Re-establishment, Financial Well-Being, and Business Intelligence
  • Mary Banman, Manager, Strategic Policy
  • Chantal Basque, Manager, Treatment Benefits Renewal
  • Lynne McCloskey, National Manager, Long Term Care Program
  • Beth Smith-Cooper, National Program Manager, Treatment Benefits
  • Tabitha Stubbs, Area Director, Field Operations Division

Observer

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

Opening Remarks

The VAC and member co-chairs welcomed the members. The meeting included round table introductions. The Care and Support Advisory Group last met formally as a group in June 2019. There is quorum for today’s meeting. A new minister will be announced today with a mandate letter being provided to the Department in December. An update was provided on Marriage after 60 in that the Budget 2019 proposed an investment of $150 million over 5 years, starting in 2019 20, to establish a new Veterans Survivors Fund to better support Veterans who married over the age of 60 and their spouses.

The group reviewed the record of discussion and were informed that this is posted on the VAC external website. One area that was highlighted was the Women Veterans’ Forum and based on a successful meeting, the department announced the creation of the Office of Women and LGBTQ2 Veterans. Updates from follow ups within the Record of Discussion were provided at the end of the day.

Advisory Group Work Plan

The group discussed the items listed on the Advisory Group Work Plan for the Care and Support Advisory Group. They acknowledged that there were a number of these items that would need to be done in partnership with other advisory groups.

Discussion

  • The group felt that some elements of the Veteran Homelessness work plan should be led by the Mental Health Advisory Group. Also of note on this topic is the aging Veterans are not always in urban areas to access resources being offered (e.g. Indigenous Veterans).

Veterans Emergency Fund

The A/Director, Re-establishment, Financial Well-Being, and Business Intelligence delivered a presentation on the Veterans Emergency Fund

As a follow up from discussions at the last presentation done in June, the presentation outlined the definition of what constitutes an emergency, the measurements and data collection of the program, as well as the next steps for the Veterans Emergency Fund.

Discussion

  • Questions on the number of declines were asked and that the bulk of these are from Veterans wanting help with their income tax bill, or their cell phone bills, and that there are other ways to manage these.
  • A dashboard has been created and, although still in the preliminary stages, is allowing the team to view important trends within the data. Confirmation was obtained that 4.8% of all claims are related to dental.
  • Concerns were raised around the communication being done around the Fund and general awareness of its existence. The group felt that this wasn’t being communicated to those who are in need (specifically to the Indigenous Community).
    • Team will follow up with the Communications team to ensure that this is being communicated properly (i.e. Fact sheets, social media) and share links to the fact sheets and other available materials with CASAG members.

Veteran Homelessness

The Acting Manager, Strategic Policy provided a verbal update on Veteran Homelessness. The presentation outlined the current situation as the group received a presentation in June on this subject. A Private Member’s Motion M-225 (Veteran Homelessness in Canada) was brought forward in the House of Commons. The non-binding motion stated that:

  • the government should set a goal to prevent and end Veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025
  • a plan to achieve this be presented to the House of Commons by June 2020, led by ESDC with support from VAC

Discussion

  • Future engagement with stakeholders is vital to put concrete actions in place and the group was very interested in how they can support this initiative.
  • The Back in Step video, (https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/video-gallery/video/11288) which VAC created to help Royal Canadian Mounted Police identify homeless Veterans, was discussed with focus on broad circulation for first responders.
  • General outreach and awareness of VAC programming and services were noted as needed with suggestions of business cards or other materials being widely available including at homeless shelters.

Guided Support

An Area Director, Field Operations Division, delivered a verbal update on Guided Support based on feedback at the prior meeting in June. Currently 1,580 Veterans are assigned to Guided Support nationally. There are two streams: 1) Veterans who are followed through Guided Support for one year after case management; and 2) Veterans who have a high level of service need for a defined period of time (e.g. Long Term Care). Most Veterans assigned to Guided Support fall into stream 1.

During the last CASAG meeting, a suggestion received was to consider having an info sheet to share with Veterans when they are being offered Guided Support, this is a planned next step.

Discussion

  • There was discussion around Veterans who are followed through Guided Support for one year after case management and a question about whether they want to be disengaged sooner. A model of opting in or out was suggested as well as a model with a point of contact.
  • A question was raised regarding the gender breakdown for the 1,580 Veterans who are currently on Guided Support.

Treatment Benefits

The Manager, Treatment Benefits Renewal, delivered a presentation on Treatment Benefits which provided an overview of their work aimed at improving delivery of the program. Their success can be attributed to a five year cycle which ensures that all Programs of Choice (POCs) are reviewed at least once every five years.

Discussion

  • Update was given on list of providers and how this is managed by the contractor. The list is available on the portal which is accessible to VAC staff.
  • Advisory group members noted barriers in regards to accessing treatment providers based on geographical location and for Mental Health services in general.

Long Term Care

The National Manager, Long Term Care Program delivered a presentation on Long Term Care which provided an overview of supporting Veterans in Long Term Care. The findings and recommendations on the Evaluation of the Long Term Care Program and the Intermediate Care Component of the Veterans Independence Program were discussed with the Acting Manager of Strategic Policy to inform the members of the work that is ongoing within this program.

Veterans Independence Program

The National Program Manager, Treatment Benefits and Veterans Independence Program (VIP), delivered a presentation on VIP which provided an overview of how the program is designed to support Veterans in their homes. The presentation focused on how the program responds to a Veteran’s changing needs across their life span. The findings and recommendations were discussed to inform the members of the work that is ongoing within this program. It was clarified that the maximum of 59 personal care days was only for those individuals in receipt of Attendance Allowance.

Way Forward

Prior to the group discussing the plan for the following day, the VAC co-chair provided an update on a few items that required follow up from the June meeting:

  • My VAC Account
    • System outages in the future will be listed as a page alert
      1. Within the payments and benefits tab, there is a withhold tab – currently no explanation. The short term solution is to provide additional generic detail (not personalized) on the Current Benefits screen to indicate that a letter describing the withhold tab has been sent to the Veteran. The longer term solution will provide a box outlining the withhold information. Timelines are now being assessed for this work.
    • Advisory Group members inquired as to the next phase of the wait time tool that was launched at the stakeholder summit last fall. Work is ongoing to provide for a more individualized tool. Members requested to be advised of progress.

In February of 2018, the policy around the fifths entitlement changed.

The Department's new directive is to award partial entitlement (4/5ths) when it has been determined that a disability:

  • has resulted from a non-service-related injury or disease that was aggravated by service (aggravation); or
  • was partially a consequence of a service-related condition (consequential aggravation).

The group decided to focus in on items 7-15 within the work plan for discussions on the next day. The member co-chair challenged the group to think about smart technology when it comes to assisting Veterans in the future. It was also raised that it would be beneficial to discuss with Indigenous leaders on ways to engage with Indigenous Veterans.

Meeting adjourned.

Day two included an in camera session for the members along with a VAC staff member as a departmental resource contact.

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