Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you for inviting me to present today.
I'm going to focus my remarks primarily around veterans who have been ill and injured, opportunities for employment programs that exist currently within government, and then some programs that we fund external to government.
I'll start off by giving a bit of a background on True Patriot Love. Some of you may know who we are as an organization, but I'll give a quick background on that. Then I will move on to talk about some work that we did in leadership at the Veterans Transition Advisory Council, which was a council that , when he was the minister of veterans affairs, asked us to assemble. Through that I will talk about some survey work that we did of employers around their attitudes toward hiring veterans and then speak specifically to what we perceive to be some of the challenges regarding employment and where we think things should go.
True Patriot Love is an organization that started in 2009. There was a small group of us. Originally it was going to be a fundraising dinner that we did to raise money for the Military Families Fund. We raised about $2 million in one night and recognized that not only was there a need, but there was a huge opportunity and a willingness to give from corporate Canada.
We've been around for about six years and we've raised about $20 million, which we disburse to community-based charities across Canada that support military families. We don't run programs per se, but we raise money which we disburse, similar to how the United Way functions.
Our main areas of support are mental health and rehabilitation. We fund many counselling programs not just for injured soldiers, but also for their families. When a soldier suffers an operational stress injury, the whole family suffers. We also fund counselling programs in addition to that, where we look at children and young adults who are struggling at school or in new communities. Because they move frequently, they are often in need of support.
We also fund physical health and rehabilitation; so think adaptive ski programs and some very adaptive sport programs. We fund home and vehicle modifications for injured soldiers. The government does do some of that, but to give you an example of the kind of things we do, if a soldier lost a limb in Afghanistan and they come back, the government will pay to retrofit the soldier's existing vehicle. If that vehicle is too small to put a wheelchair and a ramp in it, we will pay for a new vehicle for the individual and the government will then retrofit it.
The other area that we fund is general family support. We do quite a bit in the area of supporting children in the military with special needs. This need has grown to about $750,000 a year. What happens is when children have special needs, like autism, and they move from one base to another, they go to the bottom of the public waiting list because it's all overseen by the provinces. Oftentimes they won't make it to the top of the waiting list before they need to move again. We were finding that families were taking out second mortgages on their home to pay for important therapy. That's a huge area of funding that we focus on. We also pay to send children to camp. Where there's been a recent injury, death, or deployment, we give military children the opportunity to go and spend time with other military children who may be going through some of the same things.
That's a general background on True Patriot Love.
A couple of years ago, Minister Blaney, when he was the minister for veterans affairs, asked True Patriot Love to put together what was called the Veterans Transition Advisory Council. I did send this document in advance and I want to make sure everybody has a copy of it. The purpose of the Veterans Transition Advisory Council was to look at systemic barriers that were preventing veterans from making a transition to meaningful employment. The reason I say meaningful is that we discovered quite early on that the issue isn't unemployment; it's more underemployment.
We assembled, with the support of Veterans Affairs and eventually with support from the Department of National Defence, a number of companies to help us look at the barriers. We also included other representation from charities across Canada that were in this space. Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence also have seats on this advisory council.
What I thought might be of particular interest to this group was a survey that we did of human resource departments across the country. It's the first-ever survey that has been done in Canada of this sort where we were looking at the attitudes of people doing the hiring in companies towards hiring veterans. There's been a lot of work done on this in other countries, like the U.S., but nothing had been done in Canada.
We did a quantitative survey of 850 corporate HR departments in Canada. What we found was interesting. We found that 45% of Canadian employers think that promoting the hiring of veterans reflects well on their company. We'd like it to be higher than 45%, but there's at least still 45% who believe that. However, 73% of Canadian employers admit that their organization does not have a specific veteran hiring initiative. When we prodded even further, we found only 4% of those who didn't have one have any intention of ever putting one in place.
We also found that only 13% of HR departments have been trained on how to read a military resumé. One thing we found especially interesting was that 46% believe having a university degree is more important than years of military experience. When you prodded that question and asked, what could a veteran do in order to help himself or herself get a job in the civilian world, education ranked the highest. The feeling with that was if you looked at their years of service, it wouldn't qualify essentially as the kind of training or internship that they were hoping to see and that they would need in order to bring veterans into their companies.
We have that going on and we're in a situation where employers, while their intentions might be good, don't really know how to go about hiring veterans.
We get calls as an organization quite frequently where somebody or a company will say to us, “We want to hire veterans. Where are they? How do we go about finding them?”
There is a program named MET, the military employment transition program, which is run by Canada Company in partnership with the Department of National Defence. That's very hands-on in terms of matching up employers with veterans. However, it's only able to handle so much volume, and on top of that, they don't deal with the ill and injured population at all.
The report that you have is our interim report, which ended up being presented to . When we presented it to the minister and asked for further direction, he asked us to look specifically at the ill and injured veteran population to see what could be done in that area, because that was an area where when it came to employment the feeling was there was the most concern and the least amount of supports available to them.
We, the Veterans Transition Advisory Council, spent some time looking at that issue in particular. We did a survey of the programs that are already out there through government, through both Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence. We certainly found that pretty much every employer indicator showed that medically released veterans are worse off than veterans who aren't medically released.
Clients who have been medically released experience 15.1% unemployment compared to 7.6% unemployment for the total veteran population. Also, their income and their skill relevance tend to be lower. In one sample size that Veterans Affairs looked at, they saw a 29% decline in income and a 63% decline in earnings in a three-year post-release period for ill and injured veterans. Data show that only 8% of the medically released are unable to work, which means that the remaining 92% present a significant opportunity for employers, because these 92% have served and obviously have a tremendous skill set.
One of the issues that you are probably aware of as a committee—although I find that when I am speaking to our donors, corporate employers, they find it surprising—is that only veterans who are clients of Veterans Affairs are eligible for VAC services, which isn't the majority of veterans. You are able to access the support in VAC, whether it's support for employment or other types of support related to illness, only if you are a client. Only 30% of medically released veterans are clients of VAC, so 70% of medically released members of the armed forces aren't clients of VAC and are out there on their own.
There is a program called CanVet, which is the official service provider for Veterans Affairs to provide vocational rehabilitation for veterans. While this is a good program in terms of helping veterans prepare resumés and think about where they are going with their career, the one thing that we think is lacking is that the people who work at vocational rehab and who are providing the advice to veterans aren't going out and connecting with the employer population. It's one of those things where you go into a classroom setting, work on your resumé, and get advice on how to do job interviews, but CanVet isn't making any outreach to employers to prepare them for the fact that there may be some veterans coming their way who are interested in jobs.
Really, the only alternative within Veterans—
I was talking about the CanVet program. Really, the deficiency we see there is that there's no outreach made by CanVet staff to potential employers.
By comparison, there is a program outside of government that I want to draw your attention to. It's run by an organization called Prospect, which is located in Edmonton. They are a national organization. They originally came about after the Second World War when there was a need to reintegrate veterans into the regular workforce. Following the Second World War when that need decreased, they took on the mandate as an organization to help groups of people who were under-represented in the workplace, such as, immigrants, women, and people with disabilities, to get employment.
Given their original mandate, they have started to take an interest again in the veteran population. They did a pilot that's been going on now for about a year and a half or two years with the joint personnel support unit out of the Edmonton base. I don't know if everybody knows what the joint personnel support unit does, but essentially they have what's called a return-to-work program. If you're a serving member and for whatever reason are unable to perform your regular duties, you go to the JPSU, and they work with you on either bringing you back inside the military, back to the job you had, or another job within the military, or they help you transition out.
What ended up happening with the JPSU in Edmonton was they contracted with Prospect and started up what was called the forces at work program. Originally this program, for about the first year and a half, was funded by the Military Families Fund. You probably all know what that is. It's a quasi-charity that exists within the Department of National Defence.
Coming out of that, the results they achieved were astounding. From the first pilot they had 121 referrals—these are ill and injured veterans—of which 88% were accepted into the program. There was a placement rate of 85% of those veterans: 70% were placed into paying jobs within three months; 88% were placed within less than six months. Of all those who were placed, 96% said they met or exceeded their career goals. Also, there's been a 95% retention rate in terms of keeping them in their jobs.
Now, what's different about Prospect as, say, compared to CanVet, is that their approach engages the employer from the get-go. Prospect has a database of 700 employers in the area that they work with on a regular basis for placement. They also work with 31 industry associations across Alberta.
Partly what makes this program so successful is the post-placement follow-up they do. Not only do they engage the employer and prepare the employer for the employees they are about to receive, but they also do a considerable amount of work with both the employer and the individual who's been placed following the placement. For example, I've heard stories like these from Prospect many times. There might be somebody who is dealing with some mental health issues and is driving into the office and thinking, “I don't know if I can handle this today. I'm not feeling well today. This isn't a good day for me.” Well, the person can pick up the phone and call somebody at Prospect who will talk them through what they are feeling, help them with their coping strategies, and get them into the office.
It's turned out to be quite a good program, but unfortunately, the Military Families Fund doesn't have money for this program anymore. When their funding ended with the Military Families Fund, we were approached by the chief of military personnel. He approached me and said, “Would you consider looking at this program for funding? We've been quite impressed with the work that they've done.”
We've looked at it. As an organization, we have agreed to provide them with $250,000 this year so that they can continue their Edmonton project.
Our goal though is to provide them with seed funding over the next three years so that they can bring their program national and so that soldiers who are ill and injured across the country can benefit from this and move into meaningful employment.
One of the important reasons for bringing them national is not only does it benefit more veterans, but also, as we understand it, once they establish a national presence, they may be eligible for government funding. They may be eligible to become an official service provider for either Veterans Affairs or the Department of National Defence.
It's our hope that we get to that point. In terms of all the different programs we have seen out there, we do believe that this one is the most promising for dealing with this vulnerable population.
I'm happy to take your questions.
We don't fund individuals. If somebody were to come to us and saying that they need funding because their child has special needs, we aren't set up to do that kind of evaluation. In that case we would provide the money to the Military Families Fund, which has staff who have certain criteria for determining eligibility. They also have a good sense of the need across the country in that particular area, so they can figure out a fair way of distributing the money such that they don't give it all to one person with nothing left for anybody else.
As to our process for funding the various charities, we have a couple of specific funds. One is called the Bell True Patriot Love fund. It's a partnership that we have with Bell Canada whereby every year we provide a quarter of a million dollars to community-based mental health programs that support veterans and their families. These can be anywhere in the country. We put out a call for applications. We go through all the military family resources centres. We put it online. We have done advertising in some of the military magazines. Any organization, provided they have charitable status, can apply for funding for that.
I would say that about half of it ends up in programs through the military family resource centres. There are other programs completely outside of this that receive funding too. We're always looking for more of these to come in, because we think it's an important area to fund. So there's that.
We also have a program with Scotiabank. It's a similar type of program. The focus there is specifically upon ill and injured veterans—less on the family piece and more on the veteran. We fund some of the adaptive ski programs through that program. We also do some of the mental health programs through it.
There is an Outward Bound program for veterans. There is the Veterans Transition Network, which is a program run out of UBC around the country now. There's the Prince's Operation Entrepreneur. We have set applications for those. Then generally speaking, we also run a general application process at some point during the year, when anybody can submit. The criteria are online, and there is a form to fill out. Usually it involves some telephone conversations too, just to get a better sense.
We try to work hard, because many of these are small organizations and don't have a lot of resources to put together applications. We're quite happy to work with the organizations on their applications too, to help make them successful.
Thank you for coming this morning and thank you for the great work you're doing for the people who serve our country.
Before I ask you a question, I think I should clarify something regarding Mr. Valeriote's comment about money being left over, $1 billion or whatever that wasn't used. In the budgetary process, the money has to be allocated for services. Those services that are demand-driven and statutory services have to be provided. Therefore, either you have money left over or you're short. In the case where you have money left over, it has to go back to the treasury. In the case where you're short, you have to ask for more money and you have to get more money because statutory services have to be provided. Therefore, there was no money that wasn't used because government decided to save it; it was just part of the budgetary process that exists. I think we should clarify this; otherwise, it will leave the wrong impression that we're cheating veterans.
The question I have is to follow up on Mr. Valeriote's question on Monster and the application process.
A lot of large corporations and companies use computer systems to scan resumés. Therefore, unless the resumé is written in a certain format, it will never get to a live person. This creates a situation where you almost have to learn a new language in order to be successful. You may have the required skills, but if they're not presented in a certain format, the resumé will go into the garbage after the first scan.
Are you working, maybe in collaboration with some other organizations or by yourself, to address the problem and to help veterans make sure their resumés are in the right format?
That's all I need, Chair.
Thank you very much. I was reflecting on some of your comments about post-service employment. I'm wondering if there's any work that's been done on identifying, for example, a target population among those who leave the military.
Here's what I'm thinking. I myself was in the military and I know many military members who might have been in for 25 years, for example. They leave with a 50% pension and their thinking is not that they want to find a job that pays exactly what they were earning or more than in the military. They're thinking that they might want less stressful employment, something that's a little less demanding. They'll take less salary because it's supplemented by their 50% pension. If that's not taken into consideration, it can skew the numbers on a broader study that would say, “Oh, he or she has found employment, but look, the salary is less than what they were earning in the military.” It's by choice.
I would say the same, in general, regarding people who leave on a voluntary release later in their career. Let's just say someone voluntarily releases at five years. After five years of service they're much younger and yes, they might face very different challenges than someone who voluntarily releases at 20 years whose thinking is, “Well, I've been in the military for so long and I'm freely choosing to leave the military.”
I'm wondering if those kinds of considerations were made, as far as you know, in terms of some of the statistics you've provided.