Thank you very much for the introduction. Let's hope that clear picture holds.
I'll begin briefly by introducing myself and the work the Veterans Transition Network does, which I think will help contextualize the questions I can address and the input I can provide.
Thank you very much for the invitation to provide testimony today.
The Veterans Transition Network is a registered Canadian charity, which delivers the veterans transition programs. Our organization is just rounding its fifth year. It was incorporated in 2012, but the program we deliver has been around for about 20 years. It was initially developed at the University of British Columbia by a collection of counselling psychologists and physicians based there. The program was created with the intention of helping current and former members of the Canadian Forces to identify and overcome barriers to transition back into civilian life. The first pilot program was run in the late nineties, and for the next five years it was researched and developed at UBC with support from the Royal Canadian Legion, the B.C. Command, and it's been delivered continuously since that time. The program that we deliver probably reached its stable configuration in the early 2000s, and from that time it was continually delivered through the University of British Columbia with support from the Royal Canadian Legion.
In 2012, the Veterans Transition Network was incorporated, first as a not-for-profit but now as a registered charity, with the mission of bringing this program across Canada to all those who need it.
Since that time, we've expanded into seven provinces across Canada where we're delivering continually. We now deliver programs for men and women of the Canadian Forces in English and French.
The past five years have really been about building an operational and a clinical infrastructure across Canada to scale up our ability to deliver these programs as the requests continue to come in.
I'll speak a little bit about the work that our program does. It's delivered in a group format. It's a group program delivered in a retreat style. It consists of 10 days in total, but it's split up into three workshops or what we call three phases. The first two phases are four days long, the final phase is two days long, and there's a two- to three-week break between each.
There is a very purposeful design to the program, with the idea that each phase or each workshop is focused on specific issues that the individuals who are attending may be facing in their transition.
During that time, they work to develop skills and insights into what they may be struggling with in their transition. They rehearse skills, and then at the end of each phase, they set goals for applying those skills and working to overcome barriers in the time between those days on the program.
They go back to their day-to-day lives for two to three weeks with certain goals in mind that they have set with the group. They work on applying the new skills that they've learned in the program, and then they come back in the next phase, reporting on what's working and what's not, and picking up new skills and insights, continuing to work through that transition.
The total program takes place over about a four- to six-week period, and during that time, they'll do roughly 100 hours of clinical work in a group setting.
I'll talk a little bit about our research. A very important part of growing this program across Canada has been collecting the outcome research to demonstrate that the program is safe and effective.
Currently, we have a research team at the University of British Columbia headed by Dr. Dan Cox, who is conducting outcome research for our program. We measure immediately before and after, and at three months, 12 months, and 18 months post program.
We now have a large enough sample size to know that our data is significant and that we're seeing significant and lasting change. We're seeing large reductions in symptom clusters around post-traumatic stress, things like anxiety, depression, and hypervigilance. We're seeing an increase in self-esteem, and we're seeing a very large drop in suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts.
Roughly a third of the individuals who enter our program are experiencing suicidal thoughts on either an occasional or a frequent basis, and that number drops by 80%. Eighty percent of them are no longer experiencing suicidal thoughts a year and a half after the program is complete, which is the last point we measure.
As I said, our mission over the last five years has been to expand the reach of this program, which means raising a lot of funding, training a lot of clinicians across Canada, and working to really put the message of our program and its availability out there to the veteran and military community.
In 2012, when we were incorporated as a registered charity, Veterans Affairs Canada reviewed our program, reviewed our research, and accepted us as a service provider. We have been working as a service provider for the past five years with Veterans Affairs Canada, and we're paid on a per-client basis for Veterans Affairs clients who come to our program and whose claim would extend to cover the program, which roughly makes up about a third of our clients.
For the other two-thirds of the men and women who are taking our programs, we're paying out of pocket. We're partnered with various provincial commands of the Royal Canadian Legion across Canada. A number of corporations such as Boeing and London Drugs provide us with funding, and organizations such as True Patriot Love have been an enormous help in getting these programs off the ground and getting them funding. That really covers the background on our organization.
In terms of the questions—I've reviewed the questions that were sent out for the witnesses—I think that given the focus of our organization, I'm probably best suited to answer questions 3, 7, and 8, with regard to transition and with regard to how not-for-profits and community organizations can work with Veterans Affairs.
That's something we've been working to do quite a lot of over the last five years.
My name is Mark Fuchko. I served for 12 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. I did two tours to Afghanistan.
In March of 2008, while conducting an operation in Kandahar province, the vehicle I was driving struck an improvised explosive device. When the bomb went off, I remember seeing a giant red flash, hearing a ping, and I looked down. My right foot was actually sitting in my lap. At that time, I knew I was in deep trouble. I thought I was going to die for sure. I had to tourniquet my right leg. I thought I was paralyzed because I couldn't move my left leg. I reached forward to tap my left leg, and my tibiofibular immediately came out of my trousers. I had to tourniquet that leg. I was essentially trapped in my vehicle for roughly 40 minutes before my team members managed to get me out—a whole grip of top-notch first aid—and save my life. That's why I'm here talking to you today.
I have faced many barriers and challenges to transition. A lot of them are related to certain programs and the time frames that were offered. I'm currently in an after-degree program in education at the University of Calgary. It has been a very difficult and long road to get this far, not just mentally but physically, and in dealing with the apparatus of the system to provide that transition.
To go over a handful of the questions, there's a lot of information in here that I can only provide anecdotal evidence of issues that my friends have faced. There are a few that I can discuss, mainly the JPSU and the decision to go there.
I know the committee would like focus on those questions later, but some of the issues that I have faced personally are the issues with time frames. Going through, there's a certain window in which a member has to make a step towards transition to actually access these programs. That is incredibly difficult, especially when you are recovering from mental or physical wounds. You might not be in a headspace that allows you to participate in these programs because you're not ready. It's just too overwhelming. It can be quite challenging.
The other thing is that a lot of members come into the military, and depending on their educational level need to have these opportunities to say, upgrade their education or get to a certain level. That's primarily because their educational background wasn't at a level that they needed to get to when they left.
I was fortunate. I had a really, really supportive chain of command. I was posted to The Military Museums in Calgary, Alberta, which is my hometown. That was fantastic. I had support from my family, from the local community, and from the soldiers I worked with.
The other key thing was that the joint personnel support unit was integrated into the museum in Calgary. There was a close proximity to what I was doing. My chain of command was really supportive and knew the apparatus quite well. They were able to guide me and ensure I got the maximum benefit that was available to me.
One of those things was that I had to go back to do an upgrading program. I had to upgrade a class. After I took it, the institution I was at decided it was no longer a requirement for the program, so I lost a semester there. I could have been working on other items and moving forward in my education.
With regard to other programs I had access to, I came from the reserve force, so I was not entitled to a full range of benefits for education training. I was only given a 50% benefit to pursue post-secondary education. I think there were some challenges within the JPSU itself that didn't always see me getting a reimbursement for such programs. A lot of times, I had to foot the bill for my own education training.
I was very lucky, because I was able to pack in as much as I could before I transitioned to SISIP. SISIP supported me quite well. They gave me the student sponsor letter, everything I needed essentially, so I could finish the last two years of my undergraduate program.
Moving forward, I was connected with CVVRS, that's the Canadian veterans vocational rehabilitation services. That's where I was approved to move into the after-degree program in education. That is an undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary. They looked at the skills I had. They looked at my health and everything else. They said, okay, well this is a job that this individual can reasonably pursue. It was one of the areas that came up that I could probably be proficient at. I could get a job. I could move forward and do these things.
To get there, though, has been incredibly challenging. During this whole process, especially once I left the military, once I engaged with Veterans Affairs, my benefits have been constantly—quite regularly, actually—threatened to be ceased. There is the absurdity that I have to prove that my legs are still missing, the fact that my doctor has to fill out voluminous reports with X-rays, surgical reports, everything, to indicate that my legs are still missing.
I am a bilateral amputee. I'm awaiting surgery for a severe hip injury that I have. That will be taking place in May. Veterans Affairs has deemed that I have to wait to have this surgery before they can make a ruling on my disability yet again.
I have brought this up with every single person I could in government who would listen. I've been thanked for my service until the cows come home and the thanks have essentially become meaningless from certain members in the Canadian political system. I don't need to be thanked for my service. I have everyday Canadians thanking me for the stuff I've done. I have volunteered for charities. I've done all sorts of work and yet to hear the news the other day that—it's rather distressing as a veteran to hear this. What more can they do? There's a lot more that needs to be done and that needs to be moved forward.
I'm starting to get a little emotional here because this has just been such a grind, over the last several years. The fact that I have to prove that my legs are missing. The fact that there was a signature of mine missing on a piece of paper from Veterans Affairs, which led to an arbitrary letter sent to me that all my benefits would cease in days, and saying that I was not abiding by the terms of my vocational rehab. I had applied for the program.
I've been going to medical. I have physiotherapy quite regularly. I'm coordinating with my family doctor. I had to get a new family doctor because my doctor cut his services or perhaps my case was too onerous because I was constantly in there, just to get this proof and this validation for Veteran Affairs, so I could carry on with these transition programs.
Thus far, I've enabled myself to move forward and get the maximum benefit I can, but it has been an incredible challenge. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for individuals who didn't enjoy the support I did from my chain of command or the knowledge of the system that they had, so they were really able to guide me through that.
I fear that a lot of soldiers, especially injured ones or ones who don't necessarily have serious injuries, get left out in the cold because they're just not getting the opportunity. The window is too narrow for them to access these services. Given the fact that I regularly have to prove that my legs are missing, what chance do other individuals have who do not have a visible injury?
For me, it's been quite difficult. I really thank you for the opportunity to testify today. There's a whole list of questions here that I look forward to answering for each and every one of you, should you have them. I think I could probably leave it at that and pass it on to the other witnesses today.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. It's always a pleasure to be here. I'll be talking about transition through a family lens. I'll share with you some of the findings on the work-to-retirement transition and how it applies, or not, to military and veteran families.
As you've heard me say before, family is self-defined. It's dynamic and diverse, but family does play a significant role in transition. There are three characteristics, which you've heard on several occasions, that are unique to military veteran families. They experience relocation, separation, and risk like no other. When it comes to transition to retirement, the relocation stops. You have to make a decision about where you want to land. The separation stops. Now you have to figure out if and how you're going to live together. And three, the risk drops. That changes the way in which you engage with the world. It changes your emotional state.
When military members retire, they have to find where they're going to stay. Most of us when we retire have a pretty good idea of where we're going to be. We have lots of lead time to prepare and to develop relationships; for the military, not so much. Furthermore, we don't have to worry about some of the unique characteristics of being a military family, such as how other people are going to see us or think about us.
Military and veteran families are the only families in Canada who actually identify themselves—as a “military” family. You never hear about someone being part of a “mining” family or a “banking” family. You're just part of a family. When you're in the military, you're part of a community. It's more than just a job. It's your identity. It's your community. It's your sense of belonging. You have common experiences and shared interests. That makes transition for this group very different.
Historically, there were lots of supports on and around base. Now you're more likely to be living off base and more likely to have a spouse or partner in the paid labour force than ever before in history. Living in the community changes the dynamic around transition. What we once knew and understood about transition, even in the seventies and eighties, we can't necessarily apply to experiences today. In most careers when you retire, you've been doing that job, or that kind of work, or you've been on a career trajectory, for 35 or 40 years. In the military you may retire after a few years or a few decades. A lot of the research that's done on retirement transitions outside of the military can't always apply either. When most Canadians retire they're in their sixties. For men and women, the average age of retirement is around 63. If you're self-employed it's 69. For the military, retirement age tends to be significantly younger. A lot of people who are trained to support people going through transitions don't have this particular skill set.
The other thing that makes it unique is that when most people retire, it's by choice. For some in the military it's by choice, but for some it's by circumstance—for example, the medical release story that we just heard from Mark. If a third of veterans have difficulty transitioning, two-thirds of those who do are those who are medically released, because not only are they dealing with transitions, they're also dealing with the adjustments that are outside of their control.
I want to highlight eight key areas where military veteran transition happens, areas that need to be considered as we develop evidence-based programs and policies. To give them to you in no particular order, they are financial, physical, emotional, social, professional, psychological, familial, and, for some, medical.
To make a smooth transition with respect to the financial aspect, the literature shows that financial literacy is critically important. Most people get that financial literacy outside the military from financial advisers. A spouse or a partner may be getting that from a community-based service or a banking or financial institution that has no concept, understanding, or even awareness of the realities of retirement from the military.
Financial literacy programs and services that are military specific, like SISIP, are available, and when they're effective, they can help smooth the transition.
The physical aspect refers to where to live, your health and well-being, and how you're going to make adjustments. You may have been in the military and had a very physically active job. Now you're retiring, and you have to re-engage.
The emotional area is really about attachment, belonging, and grief and loss. To make that a smooth transition, there needs to be high self-awareness and self-regulation.
The social aspect is a big part of the military transition, because the connections you establish when you're in it are very different from the connections that you may have access to outside of the military. Making, keeping, and nurturing new relationships on top of everything else you might be dealing with—as Mark so eloquently described—can be very challenging, both for military members and their families.
Professionally, they have to decide whether they're going to get a new job or be in a new role or take on new responsibilities, whether they're going to participate in the marketplace with self-employment or the labour market, and all the transition stuff you've already heard about.
The psychological is by far the biggest piece of transition, regardless of what your employment status is as you move to retirement, but particularly for military. When you choose a military career, it's not just a job. It's not just a career. It gives you purpose. It gives you a sense of direction. It's meaningful. You're making a contribution. You're making a difference to individuals and others, and in some cases the world. It gives you not just a reason to get up in the morning, but a sense of identity and a sense of well-being overall. Part of the transition, psychologically, is to leave that identity and move on to a new one, which isn't as tightly defined or necessarily as well respected.
As for the familial one, roles have to be redefined. Relationships need to be re-established and renegotiated. Routines need to be reinvented. All of that is fairly standard with retirement, but if you're doing that in your sixties and into your seventies, that's a bit different from when you have preschoolers or teenagers in the household, and it makes it even more complicated. We need to take that into consideration.
There's the medical aspect. You're more likely to have circumstantial retirement and have to deal with illness and injury, physical and mental, as well.
Then there's work after retirement. For many of us who retire from a job or a career, when we leave one job we may choose to remain in the paid labour force or continue to work in some way to bring an income to our families. We're certainly seeing that across the country. For most, you can decide whether you want to work for the same organization or in the same profession, or try something completely new.
The options for military are very different. You can't go back and be in the military. You might be able to go into reserve, but it's not the same kind of retirement option that the rest of us have. Most retirement advisers don't have the level of awareness or cultural competency to be able to support people in military families who are transitioning to retirement. It becomes really challenging, especially if you're retiring as a result of circumstance, not choice or design, because you have to come up with a whole new set of dreams, goals, and aspirations. You have to deal with the new financial reality. You have to deal with the bureaucracy. You have to figure out how you're going to expend the energy you have, and a lot of it goes to understanding the systems and services.
The key areas are predictability, autonomy, and self-realization. If those three things are in place and supported, then transition to retirement is much smoother. Most of our programs, policies, and supports are directed at one or two of these things, without understanding the broader connection.
A big piece, particularly for those who are medically released, is the shock, the grief, the loss of the job, the career, and the dreams. We don't have a lot of supports for that unless it's more medicalized through psychiatry or psychology, but there is very little that embraces and involves the entire family.
When we think about imposed retirement and about all of the adaptations and adjustments that families need to go through, the thing that makes it particularly challenging—and I'll leave you with these thoughts—is the ambiguity of what comes next. There are a lot of unknowns for military families when they retire: continuous adaptation to not just retirement but to a whole new way of living, a whole new way of being. The third one is adjustment on all of those eight points, and last, and probably one of the most challenging, particularly if you relocate outside of a community that has a high proportion of military families, is assimilation, so assimilating into society. Those are ambiguity, adaptation, adjustment, and assimilation.
If we have a better understanding of the process and how it's the same and different from others going through transition, then we can create a platform for increasing successful transition.
Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure to be here. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you for that question, because that's something I was going to try to state myself, but you have really just laid it out for me. You're exactly right. This is something that we're really trying to do as an organization, find veterans and even service members who are in the process of release and connect with them earlier.
We know that a number of the individuals who reach out to ask for our help do so when they're losing their spouse, when they're disconnecting from their family, or when they are going down the road of potentially feeling suicidal. That's reflected in one-third of our participants, those thinking about suicide on either an occasional or a frequent basis. We are catching a lot of individuals much later than we would like.
In terms of the range, we see individuals, about 15% to 20% of our participants, who are in the process of releasing or are active in the military, so they're still in. The majority, about 80% of those who participate in our programs, are veterans, and they range all the way from just released to.... I think last year we had a World War II veteran attend our program.
There's a huge range of when we're reaching people. Absolutely, our goal is to reach them earlier. One of our hopes—and certainly we've been working on this for quite some time—is that we would like to be a service provider to the Department of National Defence as we are with Veterans Affairs. We could reach these individuals earlier in this transition, as they're transitioning, or just after they've made or started to make that transition and are realizing that they are struggling with some of these issues.
In particular, Nora talked about the issue of identity in the transition. That's one we work very closely with, and I can't agree more with her statement. The transition from military to civilian life is not finding a new career. That's wrapped up in it, but it is finding a new identity and a new sense of purpose. Often that does not meet the diagnostic criteria of a medical or a psychological condition, and so—
When the organization was incorporated and we wrote our five-year strategic plan, which we just came to the end of last year and we're now entering our next strategic plan, one of the main missions was that the organization would always draw funding from Canadians, from corporations, from the charitable sector, essentially because a part of our mission statement was that it is not just the government's responsibility, but also Canada's responsibility to care for these individuals because they have served us. That's certainly something we're going to continue to do.
It's great that the funding from Veterans Affairs Canada is accessible. It's been a huge part of helping us grow across Canada, but a lot of our difficulties in dealing with Veterans Affairs as a service provider are very similar to what Mark has spoken about in terms of the accessibility.
We know that the support is there. In my previous work I've had contact with many fantastic case managers who are well intentioned and want to do well for their clients, but they are hamstrung by a very bureaucratic system that requires a lengthy process to generate a pre-authorization for someone to attend our program.
Two weeks ago a veteran called who wanted to attend our program. It was starting in two weeks. He approached his case manager and essentially the case manager told him there was no time to generate a pre-authorization within two weeks, so he couldn't go. The veteran became quite distressed. We called him back and told him that regardless of what happened, we were going to put him in the program whether it was on Veterans Affairs' dime or on our dime from the money we raise from the public.
About 50%, maybe fewer, of the veterans who have a claim with Veterans Affairs that would extend to cover our program do not get an approval in time for their attendance to be funded. That's been a big difficulty for us.
Whenever Veterans Affairs' funding may be available for a veteran to take our program, we do our best to get that funding because that means more of the community funding that we raise will go to more programs and to more individuals who have not approached Veterans Affairs, which again is about two-thirds of our force clients.
In terms of assisting our organization if anything can be done to make that approval process easier so we can turn more of these potentially funded clients into funded clients, that would be enormous in helping us expand our reach and provide more of the funding from the community to those who haven't been to Veterans Affairs, because there is a lot of need there. When we don't get these approvals turned around, that limits our ability to help veterans.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and committee members. It's my pleasure to appear here before you once again. Thank you for the invitation.
My name is Debbie Lowther, and I am the chair and co-founder of Veterans Emergency Transition Services, VETS Canada. I'm also the spouse of a 15-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, a man who served this country proudly for 15 years before his career was cut short due to injuries both physical and psychological. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2002 and was released in 2005. Together we founded VETS Canada in 2010.
VETS Canada is a volunteer-driven registered charity with the aim to provide immediate on-the-ground support to veterans who are in crisis, at risk of becoming homeless, or already homeless. We have more than 800 volunteers working tirelessly across the country, who to date have responded to more than 3,000 requests for assistance. In 2014 we were awarded a contract with Veterans Affairs Canada, making us their service provider in the field of outreach to veterans in crisis.
The majority of our volunteer base comprises still-serving members and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP, who are equipped to provide peer support to the veterans we are assisting. We've learned that peer support is a key component in a successful transition, not only from a crisis situation to a more stable life but also from military service to civilian life.
This past year our organization conducted an informal research project in which we asked a series of questions to a number of the veterans we had assisted. One question we asked was what reasons they felt contributed to the crisis situation that led them to need our assistance. We learned that the top three reasons were financial instability; health concerns, both physical and mental; and lack of social support. What surprised us was that, overwhelmingly, more people identified the lack of a social support network as their biggest obstacle. One veteran made a comment that resonated with me. He stated that when he was serving he felt that he was a member of a family, and when he took off his uniform he became an orphan.
Because of the large number of veterans we've had the privilege to assist and the large number of veterans in our volunteer database, we are in a unique position to hear many stories of transition from life in uniform to civilian life. One thing that we often hear is that the members were not ready to release, whether that was due to an injury that cut their career short and left them mentally unprepared for their release; or perhaps they weren't financially prepared for the long wait time to receive their pensions; and they were certainly not prepared to deal with Veterans Affairs, which can be a cumbersome process.
We've been talking for a long time now about a seamless transition and closing the gap. While improvements have been made, there's still a long way to go. It's our belief, one that we know is shared by others who have come before this committee before me, that a member should not be released until he or she is ready. All documentation should be in order so that they receive their pensions in a timely manner. They should be connected to Veterans Affairs, and applications for VAC or SISIP benefits should be completed. Even something as simple as finding a family doctor would be a good thing to have in place.
While our organization's mandate is to assist veterans, we sometimes receive calls from still-serving members who are struggling. Some will contact us saying that they'll be releasing soon and they know that they will need our assistance when they do. If those members are in a situation where they need assistance from us, they should certainly not be releasing.
In April of last year we were contacted by five serving members looking for assistance; one was homeless, living in a couch-surfing situation, and was about to be released—a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces who was homeless. That is not acceptable, but what is also not acceptable, more unacceptable, is that he was on his way out. That member's transition was already doomed to be unsuccessful.
Serving in the Canadian Armed Forces is not just a career; it's a unique culture. When members take off the uniform they struggle with loss of identity and they lack a sense of purpose. We have assisted many veterans who were successful in gaining civilian employment upon release but were not successful in maintaining it, as they had difficulty adapting to less structured environments.
We put forth great effort and resources to train our men and women who join the military, most of whom have just barely entered adulthood. They endure rigorous training, where they are moulded into soldiers, sailors, airmen, or airwomen. They are taught to rely on the person to their left and to their right. They are told what to wear and when to eat, where to be and when to be there. They are trained to follow orders. At the end of their careers, should we not put forth just as much effort to help them integrate into civilian lives—for lack of a better term, perhaps an exit boot camp? We know the value of peer support, and veterans have told us that social support is important. Perhaps releasing members should be paired with a peer or a mentor, someone who has already transitioned, who can provide that support and guidance.
Many veterans transition successfully on their own, and many need additional support to do so.
At the end of their careers, I think veterans just want to feel that their service and their sacrifice meant something. I think the very least that we can do to show them that it did is to support them as they move into the next phase of their lives.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Chair, and members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to address you in this inquiry on barriers to transition.
If I let any of my “Californianisms” slip, and that becomes a barrier, please make that apparent. My wife tells me I'm not great at taking social cues. I think that makes me exciting and she also tells me that it's not the same thing as being fun or enjoyable.
In January 2008, a fellow airman and I were walking back from a mission briefing at Kandahar when we encountered about 300 of your CAF forces on a long dirt road returning from the airfield. Armed only with your guidons and your Canadian flag, you were still very formidable. The most powerful thing about that force, however, was its silence. That would not be remarkable, if they were marching in formation. However, they were not. Instead, they were simply walking together closely and with an undeniable resolve.
My fellow airman and I ceased our own conversation because we knew that the loss of a fellow comrade is the only thing that could mute your senses in such profound and lasting ways. Your forces were on their way back from a ramp ceremony at the airfield where they loaded the remains of one of your fellow countrymen onto an aircraft for their final repatriation.
I have not had the opportunity to formally and personally acknowledge that loss. I know our governments have had that exchange, but I'm here to tell you, as a fellow airman and soldier, that my battle buddies and I felt that loss very deeply.
In that light, it's a privilege to offer my perspective, as an ally, combat veteran, and disabled-veteran-turned-social-worker, to participate in a shared effort to repatriate the health and souls of the men and women who are still with us here today, regardless of the flag under which we served.
I spent the last 15 months of my 20-year career in the Air Force doing medical and mental rehabilitation for a mild traumatic brain injury, back and neck injuries, and post-traumatic stress. In November 2016, the Air Force medically retired me and I have since dedicated my time to try to intentionally shape the post-war legacy of OIF and OEF veterans. I believe that legacy is one of continued service to humanity, especially for marginalized groups, given the wisdom that only the physically injured and invisibly injured can hold. I think the preceding witness, Mark, is a perfect example of that. I'm not sure who wouldn't want a man or woman like that on his or her team.
As this committee knows, resourcing, educating, and coordinating those services is a messy business. It's like trying to weld Jell-O. It's frustrating, but it deserves our very best and concerted efforts.
Last September, CIMVHR impressed upon me the depth of talent that your nation possesses in research and academia and you're simply some of the nicest people I've ever been around. My network has since established working relationships with members in Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg. These combined efforts continue to speak into that silence for the injured and uncover the resolve that I sensed from your CAF members back in 2008 in Kandahar to help through that transition.
If it pleases the committee, upon my return to the United States, I can give you in-depth answers to any of the questions that we can't cover in this session, especially for those American equivalents to your JPSU, VAC, and DND. My work study at the University of Southern California's centre for innovation and research on veterans and military families availed me of their military transition theory and the five elements for collaborative impact that drive a Los Angeles veterans collaborative. However, my cursory research tells me that many of the pains and challenges that you all face align with what we face as well.
I'm eager to answer your questions and I'm honoured to be here. Thank you.