Great. Thank you, Mr. Chair, committee members, and all those joining us here today.
It is a pleasure for my colleague Tim Patriquin and I to be here representing the members of the Treble Victor Group and participating in this important discussion.
The Treble Victor Group, or 3V, is a network of ex-military leaders working in business, government, and the not-for-profit sectors, who support one another in their post-service careers. We assist one another through mentoring and advice, networking, and speaking events, while consulting with corporations and other organizations to establish programs for those transitioning from the military. While not representing ill or injured soldiers specifically, we simply note that our organization comprises some 250 former military leaders with many different backgrounds and experiences, all at different stages in their careers.
We recognize that all veterans transition out of the military at some point. Many, if not most, seek engaging and meaningful careers post service. Our members believe that when considering a national approach to veterans, a great country like Canada needs to ensure the following: that we honour our heros who have served in times of war and peace; that we look after our ill and injured soldiers, seeing them through recovery, rehabilitation, and a return to fulfilling work; and that we tap the amazing talent that the nation has developed in its military services. Our organization is particularly interested and experienced in the latter point as it seeks to collaborate with businesses and organizations throughout Canada to leverage the skills, capabilities, and experiences of those with military backgrounds.
Why is it imperative to tap the talent available from transitioning veterans? First of all, Canada has invested heavily in developing and building the skills and capabilities of these citizens who are drawn from all regions of the country and all walks of life. Second, many of the strengths developed through military service are highly sought after in the business community, often-referred-to soft skills such as leadership, managing diversity, initiative, and the ability to deal with ambiguity and rapid change. Finally, evolving demographic, economic, and competitive demands require us to mobilize all talent available in the population to address looming labour and talent shortages.
With this in mind, we would like to share with you a number of insights that 3V members have gained from their own transition experiences. The first is that transition takes time. Our own experience would suggest that a well-planned and executed transition from the military can take at least two years and often much longer. The implications of this are clear. If veterans, injured or otherwise, do not spend time and effort preparing for their post-military career while still in uniform or while convalescing, a last minute move will likely not prove successful for them or their new employer.
Second, our experience with transitions has demonstrated that there is almost always a brief conversion or ramping up to a particular industry or job. Thus jobs that have a training and development component at the outset, whether some of the excellent generalist programs run by some corporations or, for example, sales roles that have common courses for all new hires, seem to be well suited to transitioning veterans and result in considerable success for all.
Finally, we have learned that a successful transition of military personnel often requires an active sponsor or a highly supportive organization. Although Canada's military is highly regarded by Canadians and business leaders, the transferability and relevance of military experience is not so well understood. Too often, someone with military experience, while perhaps interesting and impressive in person, may seem like a hiring risk in comparison to and in competition with candidates who have done a particular civilian job before.
However, success breeds success. Once given a chance, our veterans usually perform remarkably well and are quickly integrated into new organizations, teams, and ways of doing things. Not surprisingly, organizations that have had some successful hires begin to employ many more veterans, and ex-military recruitment programs become a meaningful part of their talent sourcing.
Nonetheless, veterans require sponsors and someone willing to give them a chance. The reality is that there are just not enough of these champions in the business community today. All of this is to say that while many business leaders and hiring managers are sympathetic to those with military backgrounds and regard them well, there are some barriers preventing successful transitions. We wish to underscore that despite such challenges, veterans are not looking for sympathy. They are simply looking for meaningful employment to launch their post-service careers.
What can be done to help improve the situation for our veterans and enable Canada to make better use of those with military backgrounds?
Our organization has three recommendations. First, transition needs to begin well in advance of release or completion of rehabilitation. Transitioning veterans must be encouraged to consider and be provided resources to support their post-military employment plans a number of years before hanging up their uniforms. Transition support needs to be much more than resume writing and pension briefings, and should be structured to provide both resources and time for education upgrading or skills development.
Second, a particular emphasis needs to be placed on the educational aspects of veteran transition. Veterans should be provided with sufficient funding to pursue post-secondary education or training during, or on completion of, their terms of service and efforts to grant equivalency certifications based on military service and qualifications should be accelerated. A veteran will certainly appear to be much less of a risk if they, at the very least, have similar education and qualifications to others competing for civilian jobs.
Finally, we believe that clear goals should be set and formal partnerships established with corporate Canada. The highly successful 100,000 jobs mission south of our border demonstrates what can be accomplished when a specific goal is set and when corporations understand how supporting veteran transitions can benefit their own businesses. We note that Canada Company, closer to home, has established a goal of 10,000 jobs for veterans and this is achievable with appropriate support from the business community. Once common goals are committed to, we believe there is an opportunity to establish structured apprenticeship, on-boarding, or ramp-up programs with businesses across Canada to support transitioning veterans funded in part through relevant grants or tax incentives.
In closing, we do not believe that veterans want either charity or special treatment, but rather they seek the opportunity to use the skills and experiences they acquired in the armed forces as a springboard to a post-military career. We ask that you consider ways to support veterans well in advance of their transition date, while working with Canadian businesses to establish specific programs to convert qualified veterans to successful members of their organizations. Doing all of this properly is important to our veterans who will continue to enjoy meaningful work, while contributing to the continued success and vibrancy of Canadian society.
We very much thank you for the opportunity to present to you today and look forward to questions and further discussion.
Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, on behalf of Wounded Warriors Canada it's our pleasure to appear once again before this committee and to be part of the very important discussion on the continuum of transition services for our ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members.
By way of introduction, my name is Phil Ralph, and I serve as the national program director of Wounded Warriors Canada. I also serve, and have for the last quarter century, as the padre of 32 Combat Engineer Regiment in the Canadian Forces. I'm pleased to be joined today by David MacDonald, Wounded Warriors Canada's national partnerships director, a still-serving reservist with the Royal Regiment of Canada.
To briefly introduce you to our organization, Wounded Warriors Canada is a non-profit organization that helps Canadian Armed Forces members, be they regular force, reservists, or retired, who have been wounded or injured in their service to Canada. Through a wide range of national programs and services we help find solutions where gaps have left our veterans and their families in need. Currently our primary focus is on mental health and particularly the staggering impact of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Overall, our mandate is to help any veteran in need as they transition to civilian life.
At Wounded Warriors Canada, we work every day with Canadian Armed Forces members who are awaiting medical release and those who have been released and have subsequently made the transition to Veterans Affairs Canada. The realities of medical release are extremely daunting. For starters, their military careers are coming to an abrupt end and at a minimum they are now faced with a very challenging transformation in their professional lives.
While SISIP aids financially in the transition, it's merely temporary financial support. What's more, individuals who are medically releasing are injured and often remark that the experience in moving from the Department of National Defence to Veterans Affairs Canada has not been seamless. It is encouraging to hear the Minister of National Defence and Veterans Affairs minister recognize and speak openly about the needs for improvement in this important area.
As l am sure you have heard from previous testimony at this committee, from a program and service delivery standpoint there are gaps that exist in supporting transitioning ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members. It's through the identification of these gaps that Wounded Warriors Canada works diligently to ensure that the hard-earned funds of our donors are allocated to best make a difference.
To provide just a few examples of our programming this year, we will fund the recently launched COPE program, which stands for Couples Overcoming PTSD Everyday; the Ontario provision of the veterans transition program; innovative PTSD animal-assisted therapy through our partnership with Can Praxis, the nation's leading couples-based PTSD equine therapy program; our Tribute to Your Service events to address the gap that exists in supporting family members that stand beside and behind our Canadian Armed Forces members each and every day; VETS Canada to help move our homeless veterans from the streets or shelters into affordable housing; and we are in year two of a 10-year, $400,000, Wounded Warriors Canada doctoral scholarship in veterans mental health research in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research.
Our spectrum of care, as we like to call it, is targeted toward ensuring that our returning veterans suffering from a range of personal, health, and financial issues are supported as they transition to civilian life.
Recently we have identified a critical gap that exists in terms of support available to family members who live in environments where, for example, PTSD and operational stress injuries are present in the home. That is why our organization is taking a family-centric approach to operational stress injuries. We are seeing tremendous outcomes as a result.
Notwithstanding the gaps that exist, as mentioned, it is extremely important to note that there are effective resources within both departments to assist our transitioning Canadian Forces members and veterans. Our organization works in conjunction with those who provide care to Canadian Forces members including health services, operational stress injury social support or ACIUS, unit chaplains, casualty support management, and military family services, among other resources.
All in all we seek to encourage members to avail themselves of the programs and services that are provided within DND and VAC, and those that exist independently through funding support organizations like Wounded Warriors Canada.
It is also important to note that since our foundation, we have paid particular attention to the well-being of our primary reservists. Anyone affected with operational stress injuries face a number of obstacles and challenges on their road to recovery and their transition to civilian life. That said, within the Canadian Forces, these challenges are particularly daunting for members of the primary reserve.
The often unspoken reality is that for members of the primary reserve, whom Canadian Forces leadership have spoken of as being essential to their ability to accomplish their mission in Afghanistan, return home with little support requisite to manage the transition to civilian life.
Those who have provided 30% of the effective deployed forces return to a civilian society ill-equipped to appreciate, recognize, or deal with their needs. Further, should they seek access to programs that are in place, they often feel abandoned due to the realities of time and space coupled with the pressures of trying to provide for themselves and their families as they have transitioned back to class A service.
In summary, we consider ourselves to be a grassroots charity, interacting, listening, and responding as best we can to the needs of the men and women who bravely serve our country. From day-to-day interaction with our veterans and their families, we would be remiss if we did not offer some practical suggestions as to where the CF can work more effectively to address the needs that exist. For example, we need to eliminate long administrative delays for the receipt of awards and compensation. SISIP needs to be broader in its coverage definitions, particularly in the area of education, both in terms of programs offered and duration covered. We need to improve retraining and resources available to support workplace transition for those being medically released. Finally, the shift from the pension system to a lump sum payment as part of the new veterans charter is commonly brought to our attention as a policy position requiring review.
ln closing, we thank the committee for the invitation. We remain at your disposal should you have further questions now or at any time moving forward. As a closing remark, I just want to note that we have available copies of our annual report for the committee members, which they can take with them. They can see an overview of all the activities that Wounded Warriors Canada engages in.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
To all of you, thank you very much for coming today. On behalf of all of us, thank you for the tremendous work that you do in helping the heroes of our country, but just as importantly their families as well.
In my dealings with certain veterans—it may be a shortfall or just fundamental ignorance on everyone's part in this regard—when an individual with PTSD goes into a private sector job, that company or that small firm is unaware of what triggers the PTSD in certain cases. Many times the individual.... I am dealing with one fellow now in Nova Scotia who unfortunately lost his private job because they couldn't deal with him. They didn't know how to deal with it. When I spoke to the manager, he said, “Well, we had no training or awareness of how to deal with veterans with OSI or PTSD.”
I would like some assistance or guidance from either one of you in this regard. How do we get the information out to the private sector and those jobs out there that these veterans are coming in...? We tell them they are heros and team leaders. They are successful, focused, and everything else, but they have OSI or PTSD. They'll hire them, but then unfortunately it doesn't work out for them, and the guy feels like a failure again. He is out of the military. He couldn't get a private job. Now what does he do? He feels kind of hurt by himself, and he feels he let himself and his family down.
What advice or guidance can you give us in this regard in order to help the private sector, and the medical sector as well? Many doctors in the regular system don't necessarily like dealing with men and women of the service with post-traumatic stress because the forms are complicated and long, and it's quite backlogged. I just need some advice from you on how we can go forward on these issues.
Again, thank you very much for the great work that all of you do.
Yes, I can understand your question quite well. Coming from a personal point, I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 due to injuries I sustained overseas. I have been in that position where I've been in a corporate job where they didn't quite understand what was going on. For a veteran who's going through an OSI or PTSD and ends up losing his private sector job that he fought so hard to get, that's obviously a devastating blow.
Despite all of the documentation and all the work and all the knowledge we have surrounding PTSD, we are miles away from truly understanding what's going on in that person's head. There is a general level of ignorance—this is the best way I can say it—in society to truly understand. The stigma surrounding PTSD is...and I've been talking to groups about this. They always say the same thing. I put the exact case of what happened to me up on a PowerPoint presentation without actually revealing who I am, and I always get the same thing. They say, “Oh he's going to be suicidal. He has addiction. He's going to be angry”, and all those things: depression, abandonment issues. I don't have any of those. I don't suffer from any of those issues or anything like that. I was suicidal at one point in my life due to my PTSD, but I don't have addiction. I'm not depressed or anything like that.
It centres around the stigma of what we think PTSD is. The start of trying to solve that issue would be a general education platform for corporations and employers to understand that when they hire a member who might have PTSD, it's as simple as.... I was lucky enough when I moved into my corporate job with TD Bank. Right in the interview they asked the standard question, “Do you have anything that would prevent you from doing your job, or do you have any special needs that you require?” I was lucky enough to be okay with admitting this, and I flat out said, “Well, I have PTSD.” Instantly I thought,“Oh, God”, because I've actually lost jobs in the interview phase by admitting that. They had the best answer. They were like, “Okay. Do you need a dog? Do you have any special...?” I just said, “Well, I just maybe need the occasional break or two more than I would get in the day.” They said, okay, no problem. They made note of that, and it went to HR and it was disseminated down.
But was there any formal education program in that bag? No. Maybe HR could have supplied something to them to explain that if you have someone who has PTSD...just a simple education document on what PTSD is, because a lot of employers don't understand what it is. They think of it as a mental illness, and unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there who think that this guy is going to snap one day and possibly go on a shooting rampage in the office. It's not that at all. Unfortunately, the media has portrayed it that way, as we see too often on TV. That's not the case.
I think it starts with communication and an education program.
Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing before us today.
You know, I'm a civilian. I have no military background whatsoever. I come from a community, Guelph, where for most of us the closest we get is watching the 11th Field Regiment leave the armoury and go out on exercises, and that was rare and very exciting for us.
I try to understand PTSD. I can't get close. I remember doing some international aid work, of which I do a lot. Back in 1999 I went into the jungles of Honduras for three weeks, worked with the poor, went looking for food, covered with flies, lived in very poor circumstances, came home, and I had trouble going back to work. That was just after three weeks that I had trouble going back to work. I couldn't even go into a grocery store, to Zehrs, and look around because I was overwhelmed with the choices we had. If that was my experience after three simple weeks, I cannot begin to imagine what it's like for people coming out of the forces, having faced far more perilous circumstances.
Having said that, I don't think we fully understand the impact of PTSD, and one or some of you have said that. Knowing that, I want to ask Mr. Ralph this question. You talked about providing support for families, and spouses particularly, in trying to help those families. You obviously know Jenny Migneault. I've talked to her on a number of occasions. She is a persistent person. She is passionate about trying to, I guess, make more robust our response to families in which someone suffers from PTSD.
She talked about having, for instance, weekends where they actually have retreats and can work with the spouses who can help those who are suffering with PTSD. You work with the spouses so that they know how to handle it, you take the pressure off the doctors, you take the pressure off VAC, and that kind of thing.
You guys seem to know what you're doing. With that in mind, can you tell us how the government could better help you? It's not fair, I think, to put it all on bureaucrats and on the government to understand all of this. Why not contract out services to people like yourselves and Jenny who want to work?
Absolutely. In an ideal world, anyone joining the armed forces would be thinking long term. At a certain point I'm going to retire. I either retire with a pension, stop working, and do volunteer work, or I do a second and possibly third career—the earlier, the better.
As we've said, our own experience is that it takes a couple of years to do a successful transition. For the people we have seen who've ended up in really fulfilling work that they enjoy and stay with, it takes a couple of years to do that. Why?
If you spend a lot of time in the military, you may not even be aware of the options you have when you leave. Do you want to work in a forestry company or financial services, or do you want to be an entrepreneur? It takes a while to figure out all the options out there and what is really attractive to you. Once you've started to do that, how do you set yourself up for success? You can't really do it the last day you hang up your uniform, saying, I'm going to start a company tomorrow. I suppose you could, but it's likely not going to be as successful as if you had put in better preparation, time, and effort, and maybe even education, skills upgrading, and training.
Our advice to people we encounter who are in uniform but are looking at getting out even in a couple of years is that this is not too soon to start thinking about that and setting yourself up for success. You'd say the same thing for someone in the civilian world. If somebody was in banking, or if someone was a lawyer and wanted to get into the business world, that's hard to do overnight. You need some time to actually transition from one industry, sector, or job to another. It's the same for vets.
It's important to note that currently for Veterans Affairs.... You asked whether they might be able to come into play with DND. I can say from my personal experience as a reservist that there's no way to go but up.
When I first came home, there was no Veterans Affairs representative waiting for me. I didn't know the process. There was no one there until I finally talked to someone four years later. Having no representation there, I can say that there's definitely room to have someone there right now like that.
To get back to the question of where to start the process of having that career transition, there's no reason we can't start right at the basic training level, put an hour or two into the training assignment to start the career transition and the skills training right there.
One reason it takes so long to transition afterwards, when you have joined the military, rather than doing it the other way around, is that you literally get beaten into you what it's like to be in the military. You start talking military, you start literally exuding and living military. Then, when you come out and you meet an employer, you'll explain, “I'm a sergeant with an AWACS course and Task Force 308 experience.” This doesn't mean anything, unfortunately, to that corporate hire. You may have a CEO who is going to hire a thousand veterans a year for the next 10 years, but then it gets down to the HR level and they don't understand.
You can teach that veteran to talk corporate and to get that skills transition, but if you don't teach corporate Canada to speak a little military and to understand.... It's a two-way street. Right now we're only teaching the one way, and it's hitting a roadblock on the corporate side. We need to do it on both sides.
It's important to know the landscape and to know what's out there. It's a good question. It's been alluded to a number of times concerning cooperation and overlap, etc.
I think there's a kind of a myth that there is a whole bunch of overlap. The things we do are unique, and when we don't have a resource that addresses the particular need of a veteran who comes to us, rather than reinventing the wheel, knowing what's out there, there is cooperation in that area in regard to referring him to an organization that does have the resource.
Cooperation doesn't mean melding all the organizations together and making one big bureaucracy, because we know what happens with bureaucracies sometimes. Our funding and our programs are unique and very targeted. The landscape of what Treble Victor Group does is very different from what we do, so if we have a veteran who is in need of their services, instead of saying that we have to keep him and do it ourselves, we say, “Here you go.”
That's the level of cooperation, knowing what's out there, knowing the resources, doing what's best for the veteran and for their family, and using the available resources. If it's our program, wonderful. If it's somebody else's, fantastic.
Do you see the discrimination?
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Pierre Lemieux: He picks on me. It's all the time.
First of all, I want to thank you for coming here today. It's very educational for us as committee members to plug into you directly and to hear what you're doing on the ground to support veterans, and also, I think, to help Canadians support veterans. I think Canadians want to support veterans. They sometimes don't know how to go about it or what organizations are active, so your outreach is really important.
I wanted to ask Wounded Warriors about your program, the Can Praxis PTSD equine program. I had somebody ask me about it just this week. The person was a potential service provider, someone who said that they had heard about it. They obviously had read an article in the paper about equine therapy for veterans.
I wanted to ask you a little about the program, particularly, though, in terms of access. How would a veteran access the program? How would veterans find out where it's offered and how would they get access?
The second thing is that if there's a service provider, an equine organization or a farm with horses that are trained for therapy, etc., how would they let you know that they are available to assist with this program?
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you.
Before we begin, I would like to thank you for your unwavering support of veterans and their families. The recent announcements by the are narrowing the gap in areas of the new veterans charter that you identified in your June 2014 report, “The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward”.
The announced changes do not encompass all that is needed for veterans but they have kick-started the renewal process, and your leadership played a big part in making that happen. As veterans ombudsman, I thank you and look forward to continued progress.
I have read all of the testimony to date from your hearings on the transition of our servicemen and women from military to civilian life. I find most of it focused on individual services and programs. While that is important, I believe that it is of equal importance for you to look at transition from a holistic, veteran-centric and strategic perspective.
The complexity and confusion of the transition process, accessibility to programs and services, and the eligibility requirements are evident in the testimony to date. In order to make meaningful recommendations we need to understand the transition process, issues, and requirements. This is why my office has joined together with the office of the ombudsman of National Defence and Canadian Forces to identify the hurdles experienced by our medically releasing CAF members and to suggest some solutions.
As I see it, a key transition issue that has been overlooked by almost everyone is the impact of military culture and ethos. From the time a young man or woman joins the Canadian Armed Forces, everything is mission-oriented. Every detail of his or her life is looked after in order to accomplish the mission.
Our servicemen and women are known for their can-do attitude, for making the impossible possible, and for protecting the weak and the vulnerable. We need to make the transition process mission-oriented and CAF should provide ongoing support to members throughout the transition process. That will give our releasing members a positive, focused experience that will generate hope.
Our joint systemic review began in early 2014 as a result of the well-documented need to ensure that the transition process be as seamless as possible. The goal of this joint effort is to identify and recommend ways to streamline processes and support services for transitioning members and their families.
During the initial phase of our review, we mapped the transition process and experience of medically releasing a regular force member from the time a permanent medical category is assigned until the member is integrated into Veterans Affairs Canada. In the course of this work, over 50 recommendations and responses from recent House of Commons, Senate, and Auditor General reports have been reviewed.
There are five core issues to a seamless transition that our team has noted to date: governance, program-centric service delivery, financial aspects, families, and communication.
Within governance there is no integrated CAF-Veterans Affairs Canada accountability framework with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. We have two departments supporting transition with each operating within their own accountability framework. This results in duplication of effort, gaps, and inconsistencies across groups and geographic regions. There is no single, central tracking, monitoring, or follow-up system for all medically releasing CAF members. There are no integrated CAF-VAC service delivery standards to measure successful transition outcomes or criteria to evaluate the transition process.
For program-centric service delivery, the programs and services for medically releasing servicemen and women need to be veteran-centric. At the moment they are not. There are some specific areas of concern. Within the CAF-VAC there are at least 15 key organizations, each with their own business process, often delivering transition services in silos.
Currently both CAF and VAC case managers work independently with no formal coordination or monitoring. Resource constraints, including the number of available CAF and VAC case managers, result in interview delays and inconsistent service standards across the country. Today approximately 10% of all medically releasing members are deemed to be complex cases and receive an integrated transition plan.
All medically releasing members should have the opportunity to plan and coordinate their transition.
There are two primary vocational rehabilitation programs: service income security insurance plan, SISIP, and VAC's rehabilitation program. Each program has different eligibility criteria, different assessment requirements, and different benefits. A third-party review is needed to make an informed decision prior to any changes.
VAC must be engaged earlier in the transition process to ensure benefits and services are in place at release. Currently, VAC's initial engagement begins with the transition interview after receipt of the release message, generally within six months of the release date. That is too late.
Available services at the joint personnel support unit and integrated personnel support centres are not consistent across the country, and the partners are not always co-located under one roof to provide the veteran-centric, one-stop shop. Importantly, only those medically releasing CAF members with significant medical employment limitations are posted to the JPSUs.
Individual consent is a barrier to seamless transition as consent is required from each service provider to share information. Without it the service provider cannot share information, nor engage in substantive discussion about transition needs.
Concerning the financial aspect, the 2013 “Life After Service” study identified that those who had a medical release experienced a 20% decline in post-release income. This stresses the importance of ensuring benefits and services are in place at the time of release to alleviate the financial strain for vulnerable CAF members and their families. The current 16-week delay of the Canadian Forces first pension payment is problematic, as many CAF members do not have sufficient financial resources available to compensate for that delay.
Now, let's turn to support for families. Transition services and programs are not easily available or accessible to spouses and children. If spouses work outside the home or have childcare responsibilities, they may not be available during regular work hours to participate in the integrated transition plan interview.
Relative to communication, as others appearing before you have also emphasized, the volume of information a member receives during transition is currently overwhelming and may contribute to what is already a stressful and confusing situation for an injured member who may not be leaving the forces voluntarily.
There is currently no single point of contact or face-to-face navigator to advise, assist, and monitor the development and implementation of a transition plan. Some CAF members are not aware of the IPSCs and services offered, while others are still reluctant to access them. Unfortunately, as attendance at the SCAN program is not mandatory and occurs late in the release process, members may not be well prepared for their transition.
In conclusion, a successful transition for a medically releasing serviceman or woman is key to financial independence, quality of personal and family life, and improved health.
The goal of our joint project is to build on the mission-oriented military culture and ethos, and work toward ensuring that through clear communications and an integrated approach transition, services and benefits will be ready at the time of release.
I hope that our final product will be as useful to you and the veterans community as was my 2013 report on the new veterans charter. I believe that with a focused effort, leadership, and vision, we can create a world-class transition experience to integrate medically releasing personnel, veterans, and their families into civilian life. They have so much to offer Canadian employers due to the skills, experience, leadership, and personal attributes they acquired through their military service. Investing in their successful transition is not only good for veterans and their families, it is also good for business and good for Canada's economic prosperity.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Great, thank you for that.
I wanted to also mention something else. We've had a number of witnesses and I know you've been reading through all the transcripts. We had SISIP come and SISIP brought with them a lot of information about the programming that they offer. One of the comments that they did not make, but which I asked about afterwards—and that's kind of why I want to raise it right now—was their accidental dismemberment insurance policy.
When a soldier is injured, I think there is a fairly good understanding about the disability award, which is roughly $300,000 or up to $300,000 depending on the nature of the injury. It is delivered by Veterans Affairs. What's not always understood is that all soldiers, serving soldiers, are paying into SISIP. One of the benefits that SISIP offers is the accidental dismemberment insurance policy, which will pay up to $250,000. This is not to be confused with the disability award for accidental dismemberment, which could include for example, the more seriously injured veterans or serving members, the loss of a limb, the loss of eyes, that type of an insurance policy. The access to concrete tangible benefits in terms of an injury has two components to it. It has the SISIP component of up to $250,000 and the disability award of up to $300,000.
I'm wondering if you have a comment on that. Is that good? Have you had many complaints about that, or have you found that veterans appreciate having up to a maximum of $500,000 worth of compensation for a more serious injury?
Thank you for that question.
I think families are very important. They are not issued by the military. People have families. It is just recently that National Defence has realized that young soldiers have parents. If you get injured when you are 18 or 19 years old, they will be mostly the ones looking after you as caregivers. Yes, families are important. There is not enough being done at this point in time, although there are some movements afoot to bring some improvements there.
I think what is also important is the fact that, even for the healthy veteran, the family's transition is a challenge. I am not too sure that National Defence and VAC have the release and transition process in place for the healthy veterans. Certainly it is a good place to start and realize that the family is there. There is quite an impact on the family when you leave the forces.
I served for 37 years, and I moved every three years. We really had no anchor town anywhere or that sort of thing. To go from that kind of a lifestyle—and it is not a job; it is a profession and a lifestyle—to a completely new world is quite challenging, quite daunting. Imagine if you have psychological or physical injuries on top of that. It's even worse.
The involvement of the spouse in the transition process needs to be mandatory. Of course, it is always an individual's choice, but certainly people have to be encouraged to bring the family into the transition process. I believe that our research and the review that we are doing right now with DND will probably bring that to the forefront as well.