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Record of Discussion – Advisory Group on Families Teleconference

May 5, 2017
1300 – 1530 (EDT)

In Attendance

  • Sergeant (Retired) Alannah Gilmore (Co-Chair)
  • Namita Joshi, True Patriot Love Foundation
  • Dave LeBlanc, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans Association
  • Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Chris Lindford
  • Laurie Ogilvie, Military Family Services
  • Russell Mann (for Nora Spinks), The Vanier Institute of the Family
  • Yvonne Burke, Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association
  • Ray McInnis, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Brigadier-General (Retired) Bill Richard

Regrets

  • Tamara Kleinschmidt, Trenton Military Family Resources Centre
  • Jenny Migneault, Advocate
  • Karine Villeneuve, Operational Stress Injury Social Support, Department of National Defence

Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

  • Ben Charland, Stakeholder Relations

Veterans Affairs Canada Officials

  • Faith McIntyre, Director General, Policy and Research Division (Co-chair)
  • Michelle Morrison, Special Projects Coordinator, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach

Observer

  • Amanda Jane, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Welcome and Opening Remarks

The teleconference began with opening remarks from the Co-Chairs. Also the Stakeholder Relations Official from the Minister’s Office was introduced to the group. The agenda items and highlights of the discussion are provided below.

Update on Online Caregiver Program

Saint Elizabeth Health Care (contracted by Veterans Affairs Canada) provided an update on the development of the online caregiver tool, as a follow-up to the input provided by the Advisory Group at the face-to-face meeting January 26, 2017. Several changes were made to the tool based on the Advisory Group input, as well as feedback from other Veteran caregivers identified by Advisory Group members. The tool will be ready for testing by caregiver participants over the summer months, with a fall launch planned. It was noted that the ‘caregiver coaches’, who will be accessible by telephone appointment through the online tool, will have military and Royal Canadian Mounted Police cultural training. The Advisory Group member associated with the COPE (Couples Overcoming PTSD Everyday) program offered to connect users of that program with Saint Elizabeth, as possible participants during the testing phase. Members of the Advisory Group also volunteered to participate.

Budget 2017

A review was provided to the Advisory Group on the initiatives announced in Budget 2017 related to Veterans and their families, which will be implemented on April 1, 2018. It was noted that several of these will require legislative changes and approval from Treasury Board prior to implementation. The specific items discussed were the following:

  • Veterans' Education and Training Benefit
  • Enhancing Career Transition Services
  • Caregiver Recognition Benefit
  • Eliminating Vocational Rehabilitation Time Limits for Veterans' Survivors and Spouses
  • Expansion of the Veteran Family Program across all Military Family Resource Centres
  • Centre of Excellence on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Related Mental Health Conditions
  • Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund
  • Veteran Emergency Fund

In general, the feedback from the group was positive, with the following points emerging:

  • The Advisory Group members offered to provide assistance to the Department with the development of details surrounding the Caregiver Recognition Benefit.
  • It was suggested that the six Advisory Groups meet collectively to build on previous recommendations and collaborate on work going forward.
  • With regards to the proposed Veteran Emergency Fund, it was suggested that the Royal Canadian Legion and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police be consulted on their emergency funds, to avoid duplication and to provide a fund that is complementary to other sources of emergency funding.
  • Regarding the proposed Veterans' Education and Training Benefit, it was clarified that this will not transfer to a Veteran’s spouse in the case that the Veteran is not able to use it. Spousal education and training is available through the existing Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance in certain circumstances. As part of Budget 2017, the Career Transition Services program will be redesigned (effective April 1, 2018) to provide services to serving Canadian Armed Forces members who complete basic training and eligible Veterans, survivors, spouses and common-law partners.
  • Regarding the proposed Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund, it was agreed that stakeholder input is important for working out details surrounding this fund, to ensure it has the best value, and does not duplicate other sources of funding.
  • In general, the Advisory Group noted the need to have more information provided about existing programs, especially what is specifically available for families.

On April 1, 2018, these 8 programs came into force. Learn more about these new and enhanced benefits and services.

VAC Assistance Service

At the previous meeting on January 26, 2017, Advisory Group members shared their feedback on the Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Service. As a follow-up to that discussion, at this teleconference meeting, the National Manager from Veterans Affairs Canada’s Mental Health Services Unit provided clarification around the name of the service and its logo. The following points were highlighted:

  • It was agreed that in the next round of publications regarding the service, there would be ‘tag-line’ wording added to the title, to clarify what the service offers, and to whom it is targeted.
  • It was noted that the Pastoral Outreach Program and the Bereavement Services are now accessed from the same toll-free phone number as the Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Service 1-800-268-7708.
  • The Mental Health Services Unit is looking into options to help the mental health professionals who deliver the local counselling services become more knowledgeable about Veterans and their families.
  • It was suggested that a short article be produced by the Mental Health Services Unit, which could be printed in the Legion Magazine, and other such publications, to improve reach to those who could benefit from this service.
  • More information about the Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Service.

Next Steps and Closing Remarks

There will a face-to-face meeting in July or early August. The Co-Chairs thanked the group for the on-going work and the teleconference concluded.

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