My name is Colin Fraser. I'm the member of Parliament for West Nova, which encompasses the southwestern part of Nova Scotia and contains 14 Wing Greenwood.
Prior to going to law school and becoming a lawyer and then getting into politics, I worked at Vimy Ridge in France as a tour guide. Since that time it really has become a passion of mine to learn about the important contribution that the Canadian Forces have made in our history, and it's our obligation to make sure that those who serve our country so valiantly, the men and women, get taken care of properly.
That's why I'm so pleased that the first thing we're doing as a committee—and I am honoured to be on this important committee—is to undertake a study of service delivery to see how we can improve the way that our men and women in uniform, who become veterans afterwards, are treated by our government and to make sure that we're doing the absolute best job we possibly can.
I'm pleased that everyone could be here this evening. We certainly welcome all of your thoughts and opinions and look forward to hearing constructive criticism so that we can put forward recommendations to the government and try to move forward in a way that responds to the needs of our vets.
Thank you very much for being here. I certainly welcome all of your comments.
Good evening, everyone.
Thank you very much for being with us tonight. It's an honour to have you here.
My name is Alupa Clarke, and I'm the MP for Beauport—Limoilou. It's a riding in the beautiful Quebec City, the oldest city in Canada. I'm also the official opposition critic for Veterans Affairs. I come from a military family. My father was military, my brother went to Afghanistan, and I just released last November.
My goal, and our goal, is really to be able to see what has happened since 2006 with the new Veterans Charter, how the system improved or did not improve the situation for veterans, and to make sure that we make a report that will put forward new changes to the NVC so that veterans have the delivery of service they should have. I also think it's very important that we take a look at the internal workings of the department to make sure there's a culture that's open to veterans.
These are some of the subjects I would like to hear about tonight, if you have anything to say about them. Thank you very much for being here. I very much look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Thank you very much for being here. I appreciate your taking this time to come and talk to us.
I'm Irene Mathyssen, and I'm the member of Parliament for London—Fanshawe. I am also a vice-chair of the committee. I'm a member of the New Democratic Party caucus.
Unlike others on the committee, I have a long history with this particular committee. I've been an MP for ten and a half years. What has become very clear to me in those intervening years is that we've had lots of discussions, lots of reports, and lots of witnesses, and still we haven't been able to arrive at the solution to what are, I recognize, very complex problems, but the solutions are there.
I am eternally optimistic, despite ten and a half years of being an MP, that if, this time, we listen carefully and have the courage and the political will to make happen the things that should happen, we can get there. I'm determined that this is what I want to do, and no matter how much longer I have in this job, I want that to be part of what I and this committee accomplish.
Thank you again for being here.
I'm going to read a statement I prepared. It may be easier instead of my going off on a long-winded, antagonistic rant.
To members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, thank you for this opportunity to provide a statement regarding service delivery to veterans by Veterans Affairs Canada.
My name is Walter Callaghan, and I served in the Canadian Forces from March 2001 until my medical release in August 2010. I suffer from chronic pain due to a severe back injury and struggle daily with the psychological distress symptomatic of my post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. Currently despite my injury, I am a Ph.D. student in medical anthropology at the University of Toronto, with my research focused on the subject of the experience of PTSD.
Despite being classified as permanently disabled several years ago, I still have to face constant paperwork to obtain approval for treatment of my condition. As an aside, I received a huge bundle of paperwork this morning that I have to fill out once again. It's aggravating.
I was taken off the rehabilitation program in January 2015 because my pension condition was deemed to have “reached the maintenance stage”. In other words, no further improvement was expected. The letter I received notifying me of this also stated, and this is a direct quote from the letter: “As your participation in the rehabilitation services and vocational assistance program is completed, your earnings loss benefit under the financial benefits program is no longer payable”.
In effect, I was told that because my injuries were permanent and that no further improvement was expected, I was no longer eligible for a key benefit. However I was not informed of the extended earnings loss benefit, which I was eligible for, because I was deemed permanently injured. This lack of information caused extreme anxiety, something that I think most of you have heard or can understand, is to be avoided when you have PTSD.
However, I would suggest that even having had access to the rehabilitation program in the first place makes me one of the lucky ones. I say this because I managed to get VAC to approve my claims for benefits, albeit it was a lengthy and arduous fight to obtain those approvals: it took four years for the back condition to be covered, and seven years for the major depression; and they're still not acknowledging the PTSD despite numerous reports and clinical material on it that have been sent to them.
Instead of the benefit of the doubt being applied, many veterans, especially those like me who served in the reserve force, face an adversarial bureaucratic system that amounts to little more than an insurance-minded scheme of denial by design.
A key example of this is that reserve force veterans almost immediately have their claims questioned as to the connection of their injuries to military service on the basis that the medical reports that are submitted with their claims are predominately written by civilian doctors. This being because reservists are largely unable to access doctors within the Canadian Forces, instead being required to use the civilian medical system.
Judgments frequently made by Veterans Affairs Canada in denying these claims is that the very nature of the supporting documents having been completed by civilian doctors indicates that the injuries are due to non-service incidents, because if the incidents were service-related, then a military doctor would have signed off on the documents.
Even when claims are finally approved in favour of the veteran after lengthy appeals and reviews and reapplications, they are generally done so at a lower level on the fifth scale, with the argument being made that the injuries weren't fully due to military service; that there was some factor from our non-military life that played a role in our injury, even when there is nothing to indicate this. This is particularly prevalent in cases of operational stress injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Associated with this and aggravating to veterans with PTSD is the challenge of malingering or non-compliance when the veteran chooses treatment modalities other than pharmacotherapy. The reality is that the side effects of pharmacotherapy are often worse, both subjectively and objectively, than the condition for which they're being prescribed. When the veteran, in consultation with their clinical team, decides to opt for alternatives to being drugged up, this seems to be an immediate red flag for Veterans Affairs Canada, which then challenges the severity and even the reality and authenticity of the veteran's injury.
This argument has also been used to deny initial claims for benefits, asserting that since the veteran is not on medication, then the veteran does not have a claim condition or that a condition is not severe.
Given that many veterans, again especially reservists, are required to pay out of pocket for any medications prescribed until their claims are approved, and with the awareness that the initial diagnosis, if it can even be called that, is done through a very brief assessment, frequently by a non-specialist medical doctor, generally not a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, it should not be at all surprising that many veterans, particularly with an operational stress injury, do not have the extensive records of pharmacotherapy when applying initially to VAC for benefits.
These systematic forms of denial by design impact the physical and psychological health of far too many veterans. In the cases of PTSD or other operational stress injuries, these denials tend to occur at a time of increased vulnerability, when the veteran has finally reached out, likely while in a state of near crisis. To have the authenticity of one's claims questioned at such a time does little more than aggravate the level of psychological distress, potentially increasing the severity of that psychological distress to the point that suicide occurs.
In the end, it doesn't really matter what programs or benefits are available if the veteran cannot access them. It is incredibly problematic that a key barrier to access is this failure by Veterans Affairs Canada to operate under the auspices of benefit of the doubt instead of relying on an insurance-minded bureaucratic culture of denial by design.
Thank you for listening to me.
To follow that presentation is going to be very difficult, but I'm presenting, actually, from a different perspective. I've tried to be a service provider to veterans, and people like Walter. I just want to talk about my experience going forward so that it may help other service providers.
My background is that I have an MBA, but I am also accredited in an area called logotherapy, which is based on Viktor Frankl's meaning base. I'm not sure if a lot of you are familiar with him, but he wrote probably the most famous book on that, Man's Search for Meaning. It was all about his experiences as a prisoner in some of the worst concentration camps in World War II. It talked about how if people had a sense of purpose, something to look forward to, they were able to survive the worst suffering. I've applied that theory as well. I've been a patient at the Mayo Clinic, and I've experienced the world's best case-management system, which puts our own medical system to shame. I used both of those combined to work with the homeless, single mothers, and also with people with severe mental health issues to get them employed.
Part of the committee that I created for those with severe mental health.... We had an integrated approach, so we had at least 10 or 12 organizations involved. The goal at the end was to absolutely work with the client to be able to move a client forward. I was asked by some of the veterans' case managers there to come and work for veterans. That's my background.
Going forward, I applied to what's called the MDC service delivery model. I don't know if you know of that. I hear a lot of talk in your meetings about the JPSU service stream. This is a separate service delivery stream. Multidisciplinary clinics, I think, is the long term for it. It's a great idea. What it does is it allows us to combine the medical and the psychosocial together, which I think is wonderful. That's similar to the JPSU site. What it does not allow, though, is employment. I think that's a critical aspect for going forward. Whether it's part-time, full-time, or even if it's unpaid, volunteer, it's critical, from my experience, that people have a reason to get up in the morning, to have some value to contribute.
I've been at this for two years. I went through the political stream first, and the politicians said that I was duplicating my service. I then went through the bureaucratic stream, and I was told that I couldn't do my service, which was to do that three-pronged approach, providing the medical, the psychosocial, and the employment, similar to the JPSU stream. They didn't allow it, and the reason that they didn't allow it—if you speak to the bureaucrats—is because the employment services are offered under the new Veterans Charter, and the MDC service agreement is provided under the old Veterans Charter.
Now, I found that interesting, because the old Veterans Charter obviously started many years ago. This new MDC agreement was started about three years ago, which is after you moved into the new Veterans Charter. So there's a little bit of confusion as to why you would set up a new funding stream based on an old charter that—I think I hear—you're trying to eliminate. That's one suggestion or thought I'd bring forward to the committee.
The second is that when you look at the employment services, they're being offered under the public works department. From what I gather, there's really not many criteria, because there are no outcome measures. I've heard that from the top. I've heard that from the bottom line and front line. I've also heard it sideways, from the ombudsman. So in terms of my question, when you choose to have a service agreement with employment agencies, if you're not basing it upon client results, why are you giving exclusive contracts to organizations that are not having to come back to you and prove their client results?
I hope I haven't confused you.
I looked at a Veterans Affairs report on rehabilitation that came out in December 2014, in which they measured how many of the veterans in the rehabilitation stage got jobs. The number had increased to 28%. So 28% of your total are the people who got jobs. That was an improvement from 20%.
To give you a standard, in the civilian population in Ontario now, employment contracts have about an 85% success rate. That to me is extremely high, but it's also looking at the fact that they keep those jobs for now six months as opposed to three months. In the civilian population we're looking at higher standards.
I hear around the table how some of you have had veteran experience. When I think back, I was ignorant when I started this. I was told by some veterans of how great the veterans are who got world-class training. Looking at the history of Vimy Ridge, I didn't know enough about the Canadian contribution. General Currie at that time told 40,000 of his troops the night of Vimy Ridge that each soldier had been given their purpose, information, and I believe a map. The importance of it was that each person had a purpose. They knew exactly what they were doing. It was the first time in history, I believe, any soldier, forget even Canadian, had been given this sheet.
The role of purpose, the role of feeling valued, is something that I think has been lost in a lot of these service providers. I think it's focused a lot on what we call performance measures. I have submitted to the committee a briefing that was all about an outcome-driven and meaning-based approach. It can be applied through the JPSU stream. When I first started, it could be applied as one stop, separate from and outside of the defence department and the veteran, but funded by the veterans department.
I'm not sure how far to go. I was expecting two minutes.
I'll just cut it off there.
Thanks to both of you for your presentations.
Hopefully throughout this we can hear a little bit more from you, Brenda, and you can expand on your comments. I look forward to hearing more. Hopefully, the questions will prompt some of that.
Walter, we've heard throughout this about the medical incidents that are not reported, especially in our reg force. When they're not reported, they never happened. You alluded to that a little bit in your talk. I'm wondering if you can expand on the reporting mechanism that you recall was available to you at the time.
I assume with the reservists it was the same thing, or were the forms different? Were they the same forms, whether you were a reservist or reg force, with that same concept that if you fell and hurt yourself, and you didn't report it, then it never happened?
The form is the same. It's the CF 98, as I recall. That's for reporting any incident that causes injury. In general those are only used for physical injuries. With psychological injuries, it's not that you're on the field, you see something, and it's “Oh my God, I'm hurt”, because that's not there.
For the physical injuries the forms are exactly the same. The problem is that especially with the operational stress injuries, those occur generally a lot longer after the offence. There's no real ability to go back and say it was this or that incident. On top of that, the idea that we can actually track these back to a single incident only applies in certain forms of PTSD. There's this misconceived idea that all PTSD is identical. There are so many different causative mechanisms to it. When you have one that's coming out of the extended wear and tear of seeing one thing after another, or from being in stress for long periods of time, you can't identify that single moment, which makes it almost impossible to actually utilize the CF 98 in the first place. For the physical injuries we have the reporting mechanism.
In the case of reservists, when we're doing our weekend exercises, which is what the majority of our work involves, or when we're doing our training nights, and we get injured, we don't want to leave our guys, and so we don't necessarily report it. A number of times, when I was with 25 Field Ambulance reserve unit here in Toronto, I had to drag people away and say, “No, sorry, you're injured. We have to treat you.” There was an avoidance. When the weekend or the training night was over, and they went to see their GP, there would be no CF 98 reported from that unless the member came back and said, “By the way, here's a doctor's report.” It becomes such a quagmire that a lot of it's not even there.
I'll speak first to the idea of the single incident. There should be a mechanism in place to figure out which med techs, the corporals, master corporals, and sergeants in the medical service, are actually on site when something happens. That would be one way of tracking that. You may have a potential down the road, as this person was involved.
It is the same with the small-level hospital sites that we set up, the medical reporting centres, and the field hospitals when we're out on exercise. Having an idea of who was actually out there and then tracking that back, having some mechanism of knowing that an incident occurred, someone was injured, that these medical techs, people in the medical service, were handling it or were there and present, could be one way of generating that kind of material.
With regard to the sustained, long-term form, the wear-and-tear form of an operational stress injury, I don't think there is any real way of tracking that, because there are situations that don't bother us.
In my case, it's more the knowledge of soldiers that I recruited, trained, or commanded who were injured. That's what tore me down. How do you record that? There's no mechanism to go I was involved in training this person and they went off a year later and got hurt. I know this, and I turn around and start having intense guilt moments.
There's no way of recording that in any form within the Canadian Forces. It became a situation where I was questioned as to whether it was really that bad. “Well, yes. It damn well was that bad.”
No. It was something that was kept under wraps. My service was from 2001 until 2010. When my demons started surfacing in 2005, I did approach some people in my unit to say, “Hey, this is happening. I need help,” and the first officer I approached said, “I have that too. Don't let anyone else know or you'll be out of the military faster than you can finish this sentence.”
When things got worse, there was still no conversation going on. I turned around, thanks to an incident with General Dallaire. He kind of kicked me in the ass to actually seek more help. I went through the civilian system at first but I ended up having problems in the military workplace. I ended up going through CAMH here in Toronto to get a psychiatrist.
Of course, I ended up leaving my civilian job at the time because I could not function, and it eventually had to come out that I was having problems. I was immediately stripped of my platoon. Right after that, I was shifted to a desk job. Funny enough, suddenly the computer at the desk disappeared. Then the chair at the desk appeared, and then the desk itself disappeared, and it became a never ending Kafkaesque circle of “Yeah, we're kicking you out as fast as we can”. Thankfully the padre in my unit fought back on my behalf, but to my knowledge there was not a single briefing moment on what PTSD was prior to my release in 2010. I understand that it's changed since. Also, the commanding officer of my unit turned around and tried to keep me active and involved, and seeing that I was becoming very knowledgeable about operational stress injuries tasked me as a special projects officer; that was the title. Normally the situation is that they don't know what to do with you, but in this case it was more like “Study up on this and brief me”. Unfortunately I never managed to get the full thing finished, and then I was out the door.
Yes. Class B and class C get some care through the military medical service, but even that, especially for follow-up, once you're injured your class B, pseudo-fulltime, contract tends to end. The class C guys who went overseas, if they got injured badly enough that they needed a lot of care, were being repatted here. It gets complicated whether or not they will receive continued care through the military service, or have to go to the civilian service.
Even as a class B, when my back injury occurred during a training course at CFB Gagetown, I was stripped from course and shipped back to Toronto three days after the injury occurred. No imaging was done at the base hospital. They never took me into Fredericton to a civilian hospital to do imaging. Instead they just doped me full of morphine, gave me a whole bunch of anti-inflammatories, and eventually shipped me back, and said I should go back to my unit.
There was no provision of military medical care once I was back here. I was immediately shunted out to the civilian service, so there's a very brief record from the medical service indicating that I was attended to at the base hospital, that I had complained of back pain, but that's it. The diagnosis of the back injury came from a doctor up at Sunnybrook, and that is being used by Veterans Affairs, and that's why it took four years of fighting because a civilian doctor said I was injured on this military exercise. What does a civilian doctor have to do with the military? Why are they doing this? A medical doctor out of Gagetown should have written this document.
The way the system worked and the way I was shunted back so quickly created a situation where there was no medical doctor originally signing off on it. On top of that, the medical doctors here in Toronto, whom I was eventually able to access because of the temporary categories that I had to be placed on because of the injury, didn't believe the injury occurred.
Could you please write those concerns to the committee and send that through the clerk? Thank you very much.
Madam Northey, I'd like to hear what you have to say concerning the effectiveness of VAC. I think it might be true that they're not plan-centric, outcome driven.
I would just make note of this brainstorming here, so you know. There is the law that has services and benefits. On the other side, you have the veterans who are recipients of these delivery services or benefits, and you have VAC in the middle.
I'm mean I'm just going out there to try to find solutions. When I meet with VAC employees, they're all good people. I might say bad things right now, but it has nothing to do with the people working there.
Sometimes it seems that the ministry is more of an organization there to deal with the restraint budget and to allocate, in the most restrictive manner, the allowances and benefits and the service delivery. It seems it is that instead of being an organization which has to make sure that the people who most need it will receive the benefits and services and that they reach out to the most possible number of veterans.
In a way, its logic is more serving the state than it is serving the beneficiaries, who are the veterans. I think that's what you're saying.
I think what I'm trying to say is that this is not even just about VAC or DND. I speak as an executive director of a social services health field, and I've also done some workshops across Canada about an outcomes-based model, so I speak from the point of view of a cross-section of agencies that were output driven. People don't understand what “output driven” means, or even what “performance driven” is. People think performance means outcomes. There's a lot of confusion about language.
Let me put it in a very simple form. A lot of organizations are based upon.... I hear from Walter, and it's funny: in the report, they said that access had improved immensely in Veterans Affairs. I'm not really sure on that end. I'm just reading reports. What government tends to focus on is the number of participants. What I've heard is that we offer the most services of any NATO country. The question I would ask, as a follow-up to that, is not about how many services you're offering, but about how great those services are that you are offering. That's the point that's always missed.
As for what the focus should be when you talk about a client centre, if I can be indulged just a little, I'd like to talk about my experience at the Mayo Clinic. I was very lucky to be able to experience it, but it relates a bit to PTSD, which is that grey area.
I had some symptoms of inner ear dizziness. It was diagnosed. I also had some other issues, such as flushing of face. They couldn't define what it was. It was a grey area. I went from doctor to doctor. One of them closed the door and said, “You know what, we're going to test you for cancer.” Another one said, “We're going to test you for MS.” In terms of the anxiety, I understand what the veterans are saying when they're waiting. The anxiety level increases even though your diagnosis at the end of the day may not be so great....
At the end I was tested for one thing in a pure scientific test. I was told that I had a carcinoid tumour, for which there is no cure. I was going to be dead. The doctor I went back to with this test said, “It's all in your head.” I thought, how can you make up a science thing and it's all in your head? We tested again, and it turned out that it was negative. He said, “You see, it was all in your head.”
My family doctor at that time said it was disgraceful and that I needed to do one more test to make sure, because I had the symptoms. Luckily, I was able to get to the Mayo Clinic. Let me talk about this experience so that you understand. I think it would be wonderful to be able to put that in the JPSU site going forward.
They asked me what my symptoms were and said they wanted to know because they wanted to know whether or not they could cure me. Well, that was interesting. I mentioned my symptoms and heard back in a couple of days. They said, “All right, Ms. Northey, we don't know if we can cure you, but we will make sure we can manage it so you can work again, and we will do that in three to five days.” I thought, right, I've been going at this for a year and a bit, and they say three to five days, come to our site....
I showed up. When I arrived, I had a team leader who was a doctor. That team leader explained all this through manuals. There was not a lot of software at that time. With the manual, they said, “All right, Ms. Northey, here is a list of all the people you're going to see today and here are the locations, and you just need to show up.” That's what I did on that day. I had appointments booked for me by the team leader, who could be a case manager. They could be called a team leader and they could be called a navigator.
I went to these appointments. My sheet with my information didn't go by software. It got sent through this fancy kind of departmental bullet. The package did not follow me as a patient. I did not carry those files. It went indirectly, but it got to the next appointment. The information was opened up and the doctors read through all the previous notes, so they were not asking the same questions. They were not wasting my time and not wasting their time. It was all written down in terms of further tests that needed to be done.
Once I'd gone through it, the team leader summed it up at the end of the day by saying, “Here's what they have said, here's what's left to be done, here are the results of the tests we have to date, here's tomorrow's schedule, and off you go.” This went on for three days. After about a day and a half I started smiling. I didn't know why. I could still be dying, but the thing is that I started to relax. Somebody was paying attention. Somebody with expertise was managing my process. I found that the symptoms.... Anyway, at the end of the day, they said, “Ms. Northey, your symptoms have actually left.” It ended up that they were right: it was in my head for part of that, because I thought I still had the dizziness. It was because of the anxiety that it was prolonged. He said, “We can give you these drugs to manage it. In two months, though, you're going to be fine.”
In two months, I was fine. In that interim period, however, I struggled with one of the tests and I was quite sick. I put a call in thinking I was going to have a secretary or receptionist. I got the key doctor; he was paged. He was thought to be the best doctor in the Mayo Clinic for this area. He personally called me back and said, “It's okay, we'll see you in the operating room.”
I come back and I look at the homeless situation. I look at people with mental health issues. I hear poor Walter's story, and I hear this from the civilian side. Hospitals are not geared for long-term crisis care. They're geared to the short-term. They're fantastic at doing that, but the resources, including CAMH, don't have the outpatient services to help people with mental health issues. CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, is being looked at as an alternative to taking a lot of the drugs, which would help resolve the situation of people like Walter.
All that information, all the research, is there. The problem is, it's all in all these different spots all over the place and we don't access it. The Privacy Act comes into play. People do not want to share, so when you send somebody from one organization to another, the first organization doesn't have to share the information with the next one.
Going back to the Mayo Clinic, that was a critical link. Information could be shared from one physician to the other, making a team approach more likely. Drummond, in his Ontario provincial health report, wrote about the doctors being the quarterbacks. We need to create a system where there's a quarterback for every single veteran or soldier leaving. Who's paying what, this is something that should be worked out in the department. It should not be the client's issue to resolve. This way, clients can relax—they know somebody is paying attention, somebody is managing. It's all based on the first conversation, in which they hear your expectations, and they tell you theirs. At the Mayo Clinic, they told me they were going to be able to manage or solve my problem in three to five days.
Just imagine if we were able to offer that kind of service to our veterans and soldiers. All this paperwork would become the department's role. It should not be the client's role to manage the paperwork on top of managing the anxiety surrounding the problem.
When I was taking pharmacotherapy for the psychological issues and for the back injury, Veterans Affairs was the one that the pharmacies turned to. Veterans Affairs paid the pharmacies. This, however, only occurs once you actually have a diagnosis and the claim is accepted by Veterans Affairs. Until the claim is accepted, Veteran Affairs doesn't pay crap.
So it gets a little problematic there. I've long since gone off meds. Because of the nature of my demons, I ended up developing an opioid dependency, so I ended up going off pain meds quite some time ago. Damn near killed me. Of course, Veterans Affairs and the military said, “Here, have some more meds.”
I ended up going off the psych meds because the side effects were even worse than waking up every morning wanting to kill myself. Living in a fog, though, was worse yet. Some days I didn't even know what my bloody name was. So I ended up going off meds. Since I went off meds, I know the system has changed. Now the coverage is being farmed out to Medavie Blue Cross, I believe. I had one veteran contact me this morning, going up and down the walls, freaking out because Blue Cross and Veterans Affairs were not willing to pay for the meds they'd previously approved to treat his condition. These meds cost upwards of $100 a day.
Even when we have the claims accepted, we're still being denied. There's some magical list out there that we're not always able to get. The list is with Veterans Affairs, and we used to be able to look at it. The guy from Canadian Veterans Advocacy, Sylvain Chartrand, was excellent at digging up all this material, which allowed us to see what was being approved. With the shift over to Blue Cross, it seems to have become a bit of a black hole. It's not until we put something in that we're getting told whether or not it's covered.
Did that answer your question fully?
Mr. Callaghan, thank you for your service.
Ms. Northey, thank you for creating that context because, in your description of your experience at the Mayo Clinic, it very much seems that there is a solution there.
One of the things that the defence ombudsman recommended was that we start from scratch. We take this very convoluted system and we simply start from scratch and build something that works. One of the things that bothered me, and I never really got an answer that I could understand, was the fact that DND does the analysis. You go to the doctor if you're a reservist or if you're a member of CAF and that individual takes note of what's going on with you.
When it comes time for the benefit piece, those medical reports are transferred to VAC. I was assured that VAC had the expertise to look at those medical reports and make a good decision. It struck me that if I'm going to a medical specialist, they shouldn't just be charting what is going on with me, they should be making observations and be able to submit a clinical report based on their expertise. There seems to be a gap there.
Walter, did you feel there was a gap and were you thrown into an adversarial situation in your struggle to get what you needed?
As a reservist, I was not really able to access the military medical system. With the back injury, going through my GP, he's the one who turned around and sent me up to Sunnybrook to an orthopaedic specialist who took one look at me walking in the door and said I had done something to my back. She could tell just from looking at the way I was walking. She worked everything up. Again, because all that came from the civilian sector, the military was saying that I had a back injury, they didn't really know what to do with me, so I was put on light duties.
That's the official stuff that exists in my military medical records, which of course was then sent over to VAC. They then said that it all came from a civilian doctor. The military doctors weren't saying that it's due to military service. They were making no mention of it at all other than acknowledging that there is some physical limitation. It gets screwed up.
The psychiatric part ended up going through my GP. He made the referral to CAMH because here in Toronto it's pretty much the only way of getting a psychiatrist. I ended up waiting a period of time, but a few people who I knew were in slightly higher positions of power pulled some strings and got me fast-tracked into CAMH.
Again, because I wasn't being seen by a military doctor, all the reports coming out were asking what this really meant on top of that. In an effort to protect me from the system itself, the military, those who were aware were trying to hide my diagnosis for me, so that if I was not immediately ejected...That's why, even though my demons started surfacing in 2005-06, I managed to stay on until 2010. The moment that things shifted and people became aware that I had these diagnoses, my days were numbered.
The moment of people finding out, certain people at the higher level finding out that I had depression, had PTSD, the PCat system was initiated and very shortly after that my medical release notification came in, even though I was finding a way of functioning.
Having said all that, there's also this weird disconnect that's occurring with Veterans Affairs where when we're being medically released, it states in our medical releases the nature and the reasons why we're being released. Yet, we're still having to fight with Veterans Affairs frequently after our release to get those benefits, to get claims done.
Especially with the OSIs, those can be so discombobulating that sometimes when you end up full on facing your demons, you don't know what day it is. Trying to figure out that you should apply to VAC before you're released, sometimes that's not happening. VAC is not simply taking those release documents and saying that there is obviously something there. If the military is releasing them for injuries, they should be given the benefit of the doubt, they should be put into the program, given the care they need, and then they can start questioning once people have stabilized, and then ask, especially on the OSIs, where the actual source of it is.
I've got other issues with how psychiatry even tries to figure out causation. That's actually the topic of my Ph.D. thesis, so we may not have time to go into that.
It is both. The stigma is also still real. There have some been some shifts in it depending on what trades and what units you're looking at. There's still quite a bit of stigma in the infantry and the combat arms, but within the service trades the stigma seems to have alleviated a bit, but there's still that issue of, am I polluted, am I sick, am I diseased? The language itself creates an actual level of statement. The fear of being termed weak, or incapable, or not capable, especially with the hyper-masculine identity that all soldiers have, becomes a thorn that causes more harm.
On top of that there is a liability issue that's occurring and there's also—as I was alluding to in my previous response—this fear of losing their job, of losing your place in life, your meaning. This has to do with the whole thing of the universality of service—which I know you guys have heard about before—that the moment you're not able to be deployed, that's it, you're out the door.
Knowing there's a psychiatric condition, you're likely to be put on meds that are going to mess with your mind, which creates a liability issue, which in turn invokes the issue of universality of service; or, if you're not on meds, you're going to be on long-term therapy. My psychotherapy has been going on for several years and we're still just scratching the surface of the hell that occurred. If you're stuck in a position of requiring ongoing treatment for longer than six months, you can't be deployed, and therefore you breach the universality of service and you're out the door.
On all these levels there's a self stigma, there's a societal stigma, there's a liability issue, there are all these things. It's not one single thing that's actually causing all of it; it's this interwoven mesh that, especially when you're in crisis, makes it that I can't do that, I can't continue, but I need to continue, I can't reach out for help or it's all going to end.
Email. The VAC thing and the 1-800 number thing do not work. Give us the ability to contact our case manager by email.
I do understand, from talking with my three different case managers, that one of the reasons behind not letting veterans contact their case managers directly by email was that, especially with people when they're in moments of psychological distress, sometimes they can be overbearing, make demands, and just hound the hell out of their case managers. I am aware that it happens.
However, we should actually have the ability to have that immediate contact or on a weekend to type up an email because I had forgotten this or I had heard about that and send it off. Okay, they work Monday to Friday, so you're not going to get the response until Monday. However, as a veteran, at least you know you've reached out, asked that question, and can track when they come back to you. If there's something that comes after 5 p.m. on a Monday, it's like, “Oh my God, what's going on? Why hasn't this happened?” or “I suddenly need this”, then the very next day you're going to get a response.
The way it happens right now with My VAC is that half the time you cannot get into the system in the first place. I've never managed to actually get into that system. The 1-800 number, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.... Give us email.
I served in the Canadian military from October 2, 1986 to August 3, 1995. I joined the military a few months after I graduated high school, shortly after my 19th birthday. Barely a month after my 21st birthday, I was sitting over in Iran, only days after the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran ended. I saw the horrendous end result of war and in 1995 I found myself wanting to leave the military. I left the military with an honourable discharge. I had knee problems and I found out later that my lung problem originated in the military.
Since leaving the military, I've gone through homelessness, I've gone through a whole bunch of different stuff. When I went to Veterans Affairs and applied for my pension the first time in 1996, I ended up getting 5% for my knees. Since that date I now have 30% for both my knees. I was told at that time, in 1997, don't apply for anything else, that I would never get it again.
Since that time my health went downhill severely. At the end of 2006 I was put on the earnings loss benefit. Since that time they sent me for rehab. They decided that they were going to throw a medicine ball with me. I explained to the person they sent to do this with me that I had two bad shoulders and please not to do this. After three or four times of telling her no, she persuaded me to do it. At that time I heard a loud snapping sound in my shoulder. I tore my right shoulder right there.
You have to excuse me. One problem I have is that I don't get enough oxygen in my brain at times. I basically have between 50% to 74% breathing capability, so sometimes my mind will go in and out on me.
Even though I have these problems, I did talk radio from 2007 right up until November 23, 2010. I've also done the occasional video interview from 2011 right up to now. In 2014, I formed Veterans in Politics Canada and I go out and do the occasional interview.
I was told about a year and a half ago by my case worker that they had removed me from the earnings loss benefit, and they put me on the permanent impairment allowance. Because of the health problems I have, they say I may never work a full-time job again in my life.
I'm sorry. Sometimes my mind goes in and out on me. I do apologize for that.
One of the problems that I'm noticing with doing all these interviews—we did an interview with Retired Major Mark Campbell, who tragically lost both his legs over in Afghanistan; one with retired Master Corporal Paul Franklin; and with David MacDonald and others who have been injured—is that Veterans Affairs at times has not done everything they could have done to help the veterans. The lump sum payment has really come up short. A lot of the veterans who are hurt right now should be getting the monthly medical pension.
I agree that the new Veterans Charter is vastly different from the old veterans charter, but it's a living entity that we have to constantly improve upon. It's nice to see there is a standing committees like this that is listening to people and their input and everything.
I was going to say a whole bunch more stuff, but I'm sorry, my mind just went out on me. What I'm trying to do is to show people who have health problems and have disabilities to never to give up, and even with Walter here, I say never give up, because we have to show the rest of the world and the rest of Canada that other changes are possible. We also have to be proud of people who served in the military. The veteran community is an important part of what Canada is.
With the clawbacks, there is a slight issue of how SISIP and VAC work on this as well, and what stage of the rehabilitation programs you're at. My understanding, as it is right now, is with the rehabilitation program, so long as you're on it, you're able to make a certain amount of money, up to a certain tier, then it starts getting claw backed. The initial amount is 50¢ on the dollar, then once you hit a certain amount, it's dollar per dollar.
Now, again, one of these issues that does not tend to get talked about is where the reserves fall in with a whole different ball game, a whole different kettle of worms of it being messed up.
Prior to 2012, with coming in, which changed our deemed salary from $2,000 to $2,700, regardless of the stage of rehabilitation that we were at, we were able to work with an offset of 50¢ on the dollar. That allowed us to make up that gap, because the way the ELB, the earnings loss benefit, and SISIP's long-term disability work is that it's 75% of your salary, or the deemed salary in this case. The way that the 50¢ on the dollar offset worked was that it actually allowed you to make up to that amount, to make up that 25% difference. Then you started getting dollar for dollar docked off.
You could actually get back up to that level, and it was an incentive to go back to work. With the changes that occurred with in 2012, when they shifted us up from $2,000 to $2,700 as a deemed salary, the way that SISIP turned around and managed this change, and the way that VAC managed this change, the 75% of $2,700 was $2,050. It was more than the previous deemed salary. They turned around and argued. I actually have correspondence from a former minister of Veterans Affairs under the previous Harper government, trying to go, oh no, this is actually what we mean to do. You're losing all of this because, well, your 75% is above the previous deemed salary. This increase that we gave you under Bill C-55, that makes up the difference that you could have actually made, the offset amount.
I don't want to swear. I nearly swore, I'm sorry about that. It did create an adverse situation for me. In it's current iteration, because only shifted things last year, and I only finally got approved for the increase, the addition of ELB on top of the LTD—that whole confusing thing—I have not had employment income since that came into effect. I've been a Ph.D. student. I do occasionally get the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant. When I previously did that, it was docked dollar for dollar, thanks to the Bill C-55 change. I have not had a TA shift since Bill C-55 occurred, so I don't know yet whether I'm going to be docked dollar for dollar. The indication that I've had, because I'm also no longer on the rehabilitation program, is that I will automatically be docked dollar for dollar.
Did I make a confusing situation more confusing?
I've gone through just what Walter talked about. I've seen that.
When I was serving in the military, there was this form of “suck it up”. I saw a lot of the people who used to go to the MIR because they had health problems be called “MIR commandos”. We need to stop that. The fact is that a lot of people get injured in the military, and they can prove it, but if they're not allowed to go to the MIR because of the fact that everyone else will call them MIR commandos, then when it comes to pension time people will go, “Oh, that's not service-related.” We need to get away from that.
At the same time, I'd like to suggest that Veterans Affairs create a platform whereby other veterans and people getting out of the military can come together and share what's happened to us. We can see that we're not alone. One of the biggest things I'm noticing out there, when I'm talking to people....
Take Glenn Cumyn, the person who started Heroes Hockey Challenge. His father, Jim Cumyn, served 35 years in the military. When he started talking about serving over in the Suez Canal, he started crying during the interview. That right there tells me it's time that we come together. Let's get all of us veterans together, sharing our stories, and let's create that community. Let's start the conversation. That's one way I can see that would help to finally bring the healing.
I just drew a graph. There are two aspects, I think, in the outcomes. The first aspect is that when a client signs up for any program or service, what has to be asked is “What are your expectations as a client of this program?” The second aspect that has to be clear is “What is the purpose of this program?” The client signs up based upon that. For example, if it's to get a job, “Am I getting a job?” If it's to become stable or to have a greater family reconnection, then in the end, the outcome, should be establishing not if they have completed the program, which is an output, but rather whether the purpose of the program has aligned with the outcome. When you look at an outcome, if you're talking about veteran-centric programming, a true outcome has to look at the client's perspective right from the beginning.
I did an exercise with a lot of organizations, and I said let's assess your mission statements, which in the charity field is critical, because it tells what exactly the purpose of your organization is. I will tell you that at least 50% of those organizations were not aligned with what people thought, and it was an eye-opener. If you look at some of the veterans who are coming in with PTSD, with anxiety, or with any other form of depression, then you have to be clear on what the purpose of that program is. It's the outcome, the end result, that measures that purpose. If there's an alignment, you've reduced anxiety. It's like an experience I had at the Mayo Clinic. They told me what that outcome was going to be, and it reduced my anxiety.
An outcome is not based on number of programs served, it's not based upon the number of people who have completed the program, and it's not based on the number of people enrolled in the program. Those are all good, by the way, and that's not to say that these are bad measures, but at the end of the day, if you're going to a doctor, what is your outcome? You hope to be cured, and you hope to have some way to manage your future. If the doctor just says, “Well, thanks for coming out”, and if you haven't been given me any solutions, then how are you going to feel? That's typical of a lot of the service organizations across Canada, and it's not just with veterans and DND. Unfortunately, it's widespread.
I think that's one of the things that cause frustration for veterans and also cause stress for those working for the department, case managers. We've kind of built this house and then put all these additions on it, but they don't necessarily have doors to get from one addition to the other or windows looking out.
The veterans aren't the only ones who are frustrated, and they're frustrated because sometimes their case manager can't get them through the whole house. I'm just using that as an analogy. Then we see burnout in the staff as well and less impact there.
I want to go back. You talked about this idea of having a purpose as being very meaningful, and I wanted to relay an anecdote about a conversation I had recently with someone who does therapy. They were telling me that they had tried a pilot project in which they had a group of veterans who volunteered with some World War II vets. By having a program with that objective, and I don't know that they have the numbers to prove this yet, but at least anecdotally, veterans who had been suffering with extreme PTSD, after just three months of being in a program from which there were outcomes and through which they had a purpose, saw that reduced to mild and they were functional.
It doesn't always have to be a huge complicated program. It can be as simple as, as you said, setting the outcomes, having a purpose and then having sine leadership to guide you through that such that you're confident that what's being done and managed is for you. I think those are just great points that have come from your testimony and some of the other things we've heard recently, so thank you.
I have one knee that 25% of my cartilage was removed from in 1989. The other knee was run over by an MLVW. The rear tire hit it. Also, Veterans Affairs sent me for one of those psychological reassessments. I've been sent for two. At the second one, the psychologist told me that I don't have PTSD but I have really bad anxiety because I'm frustrated that I can't do what I used to be able to do. I can't go out that much.
Veterans Affairs bought me a scooter so I can get out with it. But because of the health conditions I have, I'm just trying to do what I can do. I'm just trying to tell people that they're going to get frustrated at times. They're going to get angry. Yes, I do swear like a sailor. I admit that. But at the same time, I'm just trying to inspire other people because I feel....
When I did talk radio, I did it at co-op radio, it was just down in East Hastings, the poorest postal code in Canada. I used to walk down that street and I'd see people shooting up. I'd see some of the most talented people in the world. They were on the streets. Everyone has a story to share. I saw Canada crumbling right there because we weren't there to help out the people. I've seen the same thing within the veteran community. There's so much that needs to be done. There are so many talented people. They're just looking for an outlet. They're looking for something to bring them out. I'm just trying to inspire people.
I also wanted to add that I've gone through about seven or eight caseworkers because of moving. I've dealt with the Vancouver office and the Hamilton office and now the Toronto office. The way I was treated in the Hamilton office, I felt was probably one of the most appalling ways you could ever treat anyone who served in the Canadian military. What happened? I don't wish to get into it, but I do hope it's changed because an awful lot of us veterans have been treated pretty badly there.
The Toronto office has made up for it. Basically I am very grateful for the caseworker that I was working with, Sonya Wakefield. At the same time, I realize I'm no longer working with a caseworker because I'm on PIA.
It depends on what form it is. There are some forms where there is confusion even with the doctors about whether they are able to bill VAC. With the SISIP forms, are they able to bill SISIP? Depending on which form it is and on the doctor and their awareness, you end up getting a different answer. If you're using a walk-in clinic, a lot of walk-in clinics have never dealt with Veterans Affairs before and don't know what they can submit a bill for and what they can't submit for. There's not always that much direction.
I didn't look through the forms that I got this morning too closely because they were a little bit overwhelming, but I don't recall actually seeing any instruction to the doctors on whether or not the doctors could file for reimbursement to VAC or if I may end up being on the hook for that. It's not always that clear, and this also creates some barriers. We're not sure if I am going to have to dish out $100 for a doctor to fill out these forms that SISIP is demanding yet again, even though they've already classified me as permanently disabled, or is my doctor able to actually submit it to SISIP for coverage? It's not always clear, and this is for SISIP and VAC. So maybe that's something that needs to be worked on.
A really minor point, but perhaps a sign of how things have shifted, is that while SISIP gives us prepaid envelopes when they send out documents and ask us to send them back, Veterans Affairs does not. We have to go out and get our own bloody stamps. It's such a minor thing, but sometimes you have difficulty getting out of the house on any given day or there's a time limit on getting these forms back, and you can't make it to a store to get a stamp and you're at risk of having benefits cut because you can't manage that day to get to the store and get a dollar stamp. It's an artificial barrier that's almost.... It's disgusting.
I do want to go back to the previous question you asked Reginald about the different forms of connection that veterans can get. There is no end of social media groups on Facebook and other platforms that are devoted to connecting veterans with each other. Some of the best peer support ones are on there. Send up the Count, run by Brian Harding and his colleagues, is one of the most fabulous, outstanding methods of peer support that actually gets us drawn in and get us opening up.
Jamie MacWhirter with PTSD Buddies is going across Canada right now trying to get even more word out on there. It's another peer support group that is actually working.
The Legion—and this comment is going to result in my getting hate mail—has perhaps run out of time. Part of the reason they are not seen by the young generation joining up is that we are not made to feel welcome. We have not been made to feel welcome for quite some time. The changes that occurred.... The way the World War II veterans were treated by the World War I veterans is a similar story. The way the Korean War veterans were treated by the World War II veterans is a similar story. But the problem here right now is that it's not the peacekeeping veterans and the Korean War veterans and a handful of World War II veterans who are treating us badly when we try to go in, but the sheer number of people who have never served who are in positions of power and who make us feel so unwelcome that we turn around and ask, “Why the hell should we be part of this?” With social media, we don't need brick and mortars groups. We are able to connect.
I use social media for a lot for my research and I'm in connection on a daily basis with soldiers and veterans from all over the world. I don't need a Legion to do this. The Legion is more of a barrier.
Effectively what I mean by denial by design.... I'm sorry, my tongue is getting tied in knots. I've dissociated several times already because of all this.
By denial by design, what I mean is that the very system itself is operating in a manner that is purposely trying to find any and every reason to deny benefits, to deny applications, to not grant the benefits, the claims, or the treatment. They're trying to use any possible reason.
Instead of the giving the benefit of the doubt, which is how Veterans Affairs is supposed to work, all things being equal—well, things are never actually equal—if there's any doubt at all, we should be believing the veteran. If there's any problem at all, if there's any question that can't be easily resolved, we should be believing the veteran. Instead, the moment any doubt or unanswered question comes up, that becomes the thing that gets targeted, the thing that Veterans Affairs drives into the wall to say, “Sorry, you're not getting your claim approved. You're not getting this benefit. You're not getting this treatment.”
That's what I mean by denial by design. It is an insurance-minded scheme that is purposely meant to limit financial liability and to not actually pay out.
Veterans affairs should not be operating as an insurance company. The moment we start doing that, there goes the sacred obligation, the words that I know all of you have heard before. The moment you act as an insurance company or under insurance company principles, boom, the sacred obligation, the social obligation, is the first thing that's dropped on the floor and scrounged into the dog poop.
To me, ultimately, the worst one is the denial by design, which is why I focused on that in my statement. There were so many other aspects I could go after.
One that does occur, and I have given conference papers on this, is the way we use some of the language on operational stress injuries. This is associated with the stigma as well. When we refer to it as “mental illness“ or “diseases of the brain”, this itself is a stigmatizing form of language that ignores what has actually happened, which is that we have been hit with an injury.
Fundamentally, what is the difference between someone who has had a limb blown off and someone whose sense of self has been so fractured that their life seems like it is coming to an end? This is my challenge toward the very way that psychiatry, and the industry of providing support and care, has become dehumanized in a way that, through its biomedical drive and through the principles it uses, dehumanizes the patient, dehumanizes the person who is injured, and in a way almost blames them, or that is how it is perceived by many of us with operational stress injuries. We are being blamed as not being worthy enough.
“Oh look, you caught the flu of the mind”, is almost what it feels like. “Hey, it's okay. Just take some time. You'll get over it.” It is this idea of illness instead of an injury. We can learn to cope. We can learn to come back. We can find new ways of being with these injuries. When we talk mental illness, it immediately implies a cure. When those cures don't happen, that strikes us even harder. When we come in expecting that CBT will help us, it is only good or takes 6, 10, 12, 20 weeks take effect, and yet three years later we are still scratching the surface. It is not a cure. It is a way of coping.
The very language that we use—that Veterans Affairs and psychiatry use—turning around and implying mental illness, creates a situation of expectations of “outcomes”, to use the wording that Brenda used. Those outcomes can never actually be met. That cascades further. When we keep having those dark, demonic moments, we are not able to come out of them.
We end up blaming ourselves, but then we end up wondering, is it really real? Then other people turn and go, “Oh, you are not better yet. Are you really that sick? Are you faking it?” Then you add in the pharmacotherapy, which is the first line. When those don't work.... I also referred to the way you end up on one drug and you need another drug to treat the symptoms of the first one. It is the Pfizer wheel of death. You need drug after drug after drug just to handle the side effects, and it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse, with the expectation that we are going to be cured.
Even if the medications are working immediately on the symptoms, it is not curing. All it is doing is masking the distress that is happening. It zombifies us. It does not actually help.
You can tell that is one of my really passionate areas of....
I want to quickly go back to the conversation Walter had with Mr. Clarke.
One problem I've seen is over-medication of veterans. I am a living example of what can happen. I was so over-medicated that my liver started shutting down on me. I don't take any medication at all at this time, even for the pain and all the rest. One thing I'd like Veterans Affairs to look into is to make sure, with the medication, that there are no serious side effects before they start prescribing stuff.
Getting back to this question of the caseworkers, yes, I've gone through a lot of caseworkers. In Vancouver there was an awful lot of turnover. I started in 2007 right up until, basically, the beginning of 2012, when we moved to Ontario. We moved to Niagara Falls first, and then we moved to Toronto in fall 2012.
However, when we moved to Hamilton, and basically from the beginning of 2012 right up until we moved to Toronto, one problem was that the caseworkers weren't really willing to work with me or other veterans.
Then, here in Toronto, I found that one caseworker I was finally given, Sonya Wakefield, went out of her way to do stuff for me. I've heard of so many other veterans that she's helped. To me the turning point would be 2012, when I finally got put in contact with Sonya Wakefield here in Toronto.
My experience with the office they have in Toronto is very good. I've never been able to directly talk to the caseworker. I've always had to phone the 1-866 number and do it that way, or go into their office, and then basically talk to whoever is on duty at that time.
Yes. There is only one simple answer. It's not quite that simple, but it is in a way.
When you are trying to find a new way of being, trying to find that new purpose, you're being told, “Well, if you try to do this, we may cut your benefits off. We're certainly going to claw your benefits back.” When you're challenged with that much more—and I speak primarily about PTSD when I make these comments, just so that's really clear. It is what I researched. It is my primary daily problem. When you're trying to find that new self, trying to find the purpose to be, and you're effectively penalized for trying, that demoralizes someone to begin with.
There is the difficulty of getting back up to pre-injury levels. Especially as reservists, we weren't paid every single day. Our pay was based on when we actually went in, except for the reserve force disability compensation program, which gets really complicated in another way in the last few months of our time in. When you're livelihood is based on how much you're able to work and then you're finally released, and finally you have some level of financial stability, you try to turn around and find a new thing to do, a new you, and that immediately challenges your financial stability. It is a barrier.
There's also a thing on what work even means, and I alluded to it briefly in an earlier side comment. There are a lot of forms of unpaid labour, a lot of volunteer-type work. If you're caught doing that, I do know veterans who have had their benefits cut: “Oh well, if you're good enough to do this, then you're good enough to go back to work.”
I've had this challenge thrown at me about my Ph.D. work. I cannot live off the small little fellowship that I get from U of T. I require my benefits to actually live. Those benefits allow me to focus on my research. With the nature of academic work, especially being a Ph.D. student in anthropology, I don't have set hours. I don't have set things that if I don't show up on a given day I'm at risk of being fired. The nature of that environment is fundamentally different from the labour market.
On top of that, being in social sciences, the previous Harper government made nasty comments that we're not going to “commit sociology”. I don't want to think what they might have said about anthropology. However, the nature of our social science is such that we are much more understanding and accommodating of each other's issues, challenges, and barriers. My PTSD does not directly impact my ability to do academic work. I'm able to do this because I set my own hours. Deadlines are more of a suggestion than a hard requirement.
When I do get the opportunity to teach, I prefer teaching the first and second-year courses. There are a lot of students. I actually get a thrill out of teaching, about lecturing. To be clear, I kind of like doing that. However, if I have a bad day where my demons are biting my ass so hard that I can't even get out of bed, there are colleagues I can turn to and go, “Hey take over for me today. I'll pick up some other day when you want to do that conference. I'll cover for you on that day.” The barriers are not there.
I cannot function in the normal work world. The set times, the requirements, and the constant threat that if you're not meeting a standard you're going to be fired, immediately get the hackles up. One thing that a lot of veterans with PTSD have—almost anyone with PTSD, but especially veterans—is anger, which goes back to our training itself.
That was long-winded. I'm sorry about that.
On behalf of the committee, I'd like to thank all three of you for your input tonight and your service to your country.
Also, if you do wish to submit anything after you get home, you can send it to the clerk via our website. Also, for any colleagues who want to submit briefs, the briefs section is open till September 30. Those briefs can be up to 3,000 words long, but they don't have to be 3,000 words. If you have any colleagues or know of anybody who can't make it out or can't make the deadline for any of our meetings and they have comments, please encourage them to present a brief to the clerk. It will get to all of us.
Again, on behalf of the standing committee, thank you very much for the time you took out of your schedules tonight.
We need a motion to adjourn.
Mr. Colin Fraser: I so move.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Fraser.
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.