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Veterans Affairs Canada Advisory Group on Families

May 21, 2020: 13:00- 15:00 (EDT)

Participant List

Advisory Group on Families Members (7)

  • Sergeant (Retired) Alannah Gilmore (Co-chair)
  • Tamara Kleinschmidt, Canadian Armed Forces, Military Family Resource Centres
  • Dave LeBlanc, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans Association
  • Ray McInnis, Royal Canadian Legion
  • Jenny Migneault
  • Nora Spinks, Vanier Institute of the Family
  • Karine Villeneuve, Operational Stress Injury Social Support

Regrets (4)

  • Namita Joshi, True Patriot Love Foundation
  • Yvonne Boudreau
  • Laurie Ogilvie, Canadian Armed Forces, Military Family Services
  • Brigadier-General (Retired) Bill Richard

Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs (1)

  • Andrea Waselnuk, Policy Advisor, Stakeholders and Events

Veterans Affairs Canada Officials (3)

  • Kim Andrews, Senior Director, Strategic Policy, Research and International Collaboration (Co-Chair)
  • Christina Clorey, Senior Analyst, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach
  • Sylvie Thibodeau-Sealy, Director, Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach

Presenters (8)

  • Rhonda Nicholson, Caregiver Recognition Benefit (Policy)
  • Debbie Barry, Caregiver Recognition Benefit (Policy)
  • Kirsten Johnston, Caregiver Recognition Benefit (Service Delivery)
  • Beth Smith-Cooper, Program of Choice 12: Mental Health Supports to Family Members (Service Delivery)
  • Dennis Manning, Program of Choice 12: Mental Health Supports to Family Members (Service Delivery)
  • Danica Arseneault, Program of Choice 12: Mental Health Supports to Family Members (Service Delivery - Rehabilitation)
  • Tammy MacWilliams, Program of Choice 12: Mental Health Supports to Family Members (Service Delivery - Rehabilitation)
  • Trevor Nicholson, Program of Choice 12: Mental Health Supports to Family Members (Policy)

Observer (1)

  • Laura Kelly, Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Opening Remarks

The VAC and member co-chair delivered opening remarks and thanked everyone who could make it on the call. The member co-chair apologized for the delay between meetings.

Members provided updates on their areas:

  • Military Family Resource Centres are now providing virtual programming. This has expanded participation, as clients can do programming virtually from their homes. Military Family Resource Centre staff are continuing to check in with their client group. In Trenton, Veteran populations and their families are coping well.
  • The member for Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans Association noted that their organization is continuing to advocate for Veterans and connecting with people in their area.
  • The Royal Canadian Legion member stated that staff continue to work in the Legion offices to access the Client Service Directory Network (CSDN), 2-3 times a week. Call volumes have decreased, although there are more benevolent requests.
  • Vanier Institute of the Family is on week 12 of conducting polls with families across the country. Survey of youths age 12-17 found that most are doing well. Further research will look into "de-containment" efforts during the pandemic and how will this impact systems, looking specifically at military families.
  • Operational Stress Injury Social Support reported no new updates at this time, except that the group now falls under the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group.

Caregiver Recognition Benefit

Veterans Affairs Canada Program Policy delivered a presentation on the Caregiver Recognition Benefit.

Discussion:

  • A member questioned whether VAC has reviewed unfavorable applications for the Caregiver Recognition Benefit and examined why applicants are being declined. VAC noted that there has been a file review as part of the evaluation of the Caregiver Recognition Benefit; members noted an interest in viewing the evaluation once it is published. The draft of the Caregiver Recognition Benefit evaluation should be going to senior management in June, 2020.
  • There was discussion on whether or not there should be a method to confirm the need for a caregiver from a professional perspective, however, a member noted the original intent of program was to be as non-bureaucratic as possible.
  • The topic of expanding the eligibility for the Caregiver Recognition Benefit and making the benefit less restrictive and more adaptive was discussed.

Program of Choice 12: Mental Health Supports to Family Members

Veterans Affairs Canada Service Delivery (Health Care Programs) delivered a presentation on the Mental Health Supports to Family Members.

Discussion:

  • A member asked whether RCMP Veterans are eligible for Mental Health Supports to Family Members services. If an RCMP Veteran has a relationship between their entitled condition and the need for mental health services, they would be eligible for POC 12 mental health services. This includes supports for family members, should the Veteran's treating health professional indicate that it will have a positive impact on them.
  • A member noted that the updated guidelines on Mental Health Supports to Family Members were not communicated to Veterans via a media release. VAC advised that updates were provided to Medavie and frontline staff.
  • A member stated that if individuals applied for Mental Health Supports to Family Members services and were turned down, they should be advised it has been expanded. VAC noted that as part of the implementation of the new guidelines, they are reviewing applicants who were turned down and reaching back out to them.

Wait Times

The group had a brief discussion on wait times, although it was noted that this is outside the scope of the Advisory Group on Families, unless it affects the morale of the family. There was interest in having more information on potential COVID-19 disability benefit claims on the My VAC Account. .

Review of Advisory Group on Families Work Plan

The group reviewed the Advisory Group on Families Work Plan.

  • It was noted that Engagement of Families and Communications and Outreach should remain on the plan to ensure Veterans and their families are aware of services. A suggestion was made to disseminate more information from VAC via My VAC Account (e.g. updates to the Mental Health for Families Members changes); however, My VAC Account is operational versus the website which is informational.
  • A member suggested adding the Budget 2019: Marriage over 60 Survivor Fund item to the work plan.
  • The Veteran Family Program group should continue to be on the work plan. The Military Family Resource Centres currently have a pilot project underway to help families access healthcare. Advisory Group on Families members are interested in the results of this pilot and its relevance to the Veteran community.

Discussion of 2020 Recommendations to the Minister and Next Steps

The agenda item on recommendations for the Minister was pushed to a future discussion.

Next steps for the Advisory Group on Families include viewing VAC's Caregiver Recognition Benefit Audit and Evaluation Report when it is completed; meet with the Advisory Group on Families every quarter to check-in, and to use videoconferencing (e.g. MS Teams) for the next meeting.

Closing remarks

The VAC and member co-chair thanked everyone for their participation on the call. The meeting was adjourned.

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