Record of Discussion – Advisory Group on Families

April 25, 2016
1330 – 1530 (EDT)
Teleconference (Charlottetown, PE and Ottawa, ON)

The Advisory Group on Families was established to provide advice to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and support him in his mandate to improve support and services to Veterans with a focus on families. The Terms of Reference and the scope of the group will be discussed at the first face-to-face meeting.

The Advisory Group on Families will also contribute to the Department’s objective of striving for service excellence, being Veteran-centric and closing the seam between the work of Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces.

Each member contributed to a discussion on potential areas of focus for the Advisory Group on Families. Several themes emerged during the discussion:

Transition

  • Address the challenges of navigating Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada programs and processes such as what is available through Veterans Affairs Canada’s Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance program and the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP).
  • Explore ways to bridge Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada programs more effectively; Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada have similar programs but with different names.
  • Improve access to and sharing of information between Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada during transition.
  • Consider the Veteran and family as one unit during transition. There is nothing in the current system specifically for families.
  • Address the challenges facing transitioning families, including culture shift, isolation, loss of community, connectivity, identity, and relationships.
  • Focus beyond medically releasing Veterans and their families to consider the families of Veterans who released 5–10 years earlier.

Communication/Knowledge

  • Consult with Veterans and their families when decisions have to be made, e.g. financial, treatment, employment. Use Advisory Group on Families to benefit from members’ knowledge.
  • Adopt a holistic approach to the Veteran to include his/her family and community.
  • Inform, educate and listen to the family needs.
  • Provide more face-to-face proactive outreach, interaction and communication with Veterans and their families.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of the New Veterans Charter legislation in relation to families and identify where there are gaps.
  • Leverage partnerships with civilian community organizations that support families.
  • Educate Canadians on the role of the Canadian Rangers and understand the link to families.

Research

  • Members identified the importance of research to assist them in making future recommendations, for example on:
    • impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Veterans, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, first responders, and the family unit; and
    • new treatments and programs to improve outcomes for Veterans and their families.

Other

  • Provide/propose definition of family.
  • Consider widows, divorced, single members, and the family members that take care of Veterans in policy and program decisions.
  • Recognize the contribution of caregivers and the value in capturing data/statistics on the number and contribution of caregivers.
  • Recognize the importance of families vis-à-vis Veterans; need more than financial recognition.
  • Explore the impact of suicide on families.
  • Articulate the role families play in service delivery and highlight the need for improvements to turn around time for decisions, to access to case managers for Veterans, and decreased complexity of forms.
  • Consider the addition of an identifier on provincial health records (e.g. health card) of Veteran and/or military family member.
  • Provide a Veteran identification card and Veteran family member identification card.
  • Identify the support required for family members in light of the implementation of Government’s mandate to increase the number of Canadian Rangers in the North.

Forward Agenda and Next Steps

  • Veterans Affairs Canada to identify what was previously done to address issues related to families and what is currently being worked on.
  • Advisory Group on Families to propose gaps and what needs to be addressed in relation to families.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada to brief at next meeting on Departmental Programs and Services and the transition process.
  • Propose areas requiring research or information.
  • Develop Advisory Group on Families’ action plan.
  • Nomination of Co-Chair at the face-to-face meeting:
    • Members were asked to send in their nomination for co-chair to the general mailbox for Stakeholders.
  • Plans for a face-to face meeting in early June in Ottawa.
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