PACP Committee News Release
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Standing Committee on Public Accounts
Comité permanent des comptes publics
For immediate release
VETERANS AFFAIRS CANADA NEEDS TO ENSURE VETERANS HAVE TIMELY ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
Ottawa, May 6, 2015 -
OTTAWA – Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), in conjunction with the Department of National Defence, needs to ensure that Canada’s veterans have timely access to mental health support from its programs and services, according to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts’ report presented today in the House of Commons by Committee Chair David Christopherson.
Approximately 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Canada’s veterans, as well as members still serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, are not immune to mental illness. For eligible Canadian Armed Forces veterans, VAC pays for services not covered by their provincial or territorial health plans, such as specialized psychological care, residential treatment and some prescribed medications.
In its Fall 2014 Report, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) released a performance audit that examined whether VAC facilitated timely access to services and benefits for veterans with mental illness. The audit also looked at joint initiatives and the transfer of military records with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as information on reviews and appeals by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.
The OAG concluded that VAC was not doing enough to facilitate timely access to mental health services and benefits delivered through the Disability Benefits Program. VAC did, however, facilitate timely access for veterans to mental health services and benefits delivered through the Rehabilitation Program.
The OAG acknowledged that VAC had put in place important mental health supports, including Operational Stress Injury clinics, a 24/7 telephone service and the Operational Stress Injury Social Support program. The OAG also noted that VAC could do more to provide outreach to family physicians and veterans’ families, and VAC needs to improve its ability to demonstrate that its services are effective in meeting the mental health needs of veterans.
In its report, the Committee notes that VAC and the Department of National Defence are taking a number of actions in response to the audit. The Committee expects that the departments will continue to make every effort to ensure that veterans have timely access to needed mental health support, and recommends that they provide the Committee with a progress report by 31 March 2016.
Committee members from the NDP appended a supplementary opinion to the report.
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