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Results: 1 - 15 of 472
View Peter MacKay Profile
Mr. Wilfert, I would encourage any and all input from this honourable committee in any studies you undertake. I agree with you that the priority has to remain the men and women in uniform, and the services provided to them.
I was proud this weekend to announce another of the joint personnel support units, which I know you're familiar with. They are really designed to bring together all of the various support services and programs available to the men and women in uniform, veterans, and their families, and make them more accessible, more readily available, and more easily understood, and to also increase things such as mental health care professionals. We still have a goal to double the number of mental health care professionals. This is particularly challenging, as you can appreciate, in certain remote areas where we have smaller Canadian Forces stations and bases. We want to try to have a standard of care that is available to all.
We've made significant investments in the care and treatment of grievously injured veterans as well. This remains a focal point of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but we naturally work very closely with the department.
I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you another initiative that we hope to have in place very soon. It is to allow for, and in fact encourage, the continued service of those who have been injured in combat and in the line of duty. I've undertaken quite extensive discussions with the assistant deputy of personnel, as well as the Chief of the Defence Staff and others.
I would share with committee members the very poignant and quite humbling experience of having seen two of our injured soldiers who have returned to Afghanistan with the Van Doos regiment. Both of them suffered very serious injuries, yet they are serving actively in Afghanistan. The Chief of the Defence Staff and Chief Warrant Officer of the Canadian Forces promoted them while they are serving in Afghanistan, just this past week. It was certainly a very emotional and morale-boosting experience for the troops present to see this happen, and to see the absolute courage and conviction of these soldiers to return to Afghanistan after having suffered grievous injuries there on previous tours.
We hope to institutionalize that, by the way, to make sure that members are encouraged and embraced, should they choose to stay in uniform after having suffered those injuries.
View Robert Vincent Profile
View Robert Vincent Profile
2011-03-02 16:53
Okay. You also said that there was a difference between members of the Canadian Forces and members of the American armed forces. Can you explain this difference to me? When two soldiers, a Canadian and an American, are in the same theatre of operations, how can they be different?
Karol Wenek
View Karol Wenek Profile
Karol Wenek
2011-02-15 12:27
Yes, I'd be happy to.
Just to elaborate a bit on the issue of safety, I think our primary concern is the increased risk of individual performance failure as people's physical and psychological fitness naturally deteriorate over time. We have a little bit of internal evidence that supports this view.
Several years ago, we had what I would call a bit of a spike in the number of medical releases we were seeing in the regular component. I commissioned a study to look at what the correlates were of that spike, what the causal factors were, or some of the antecedents. The primary factor that predicted that spike in medical releases was length of service, particularly past 12 and 15 years of service, and particularly in the harder combat trades, as we term them. There was that increased incidence. Most of the issues were musculoskeletal injuries. In other words, this is all attributable to wear and tear on the body from jumping out of aircraft and riding around in hard vehicles, those kinds of things.
So that was a supporting piece of evidence for that deterioration. We know also that with age, your physical abilities deteriorate somewhat. It's not rapid, it's not the same across people, but there is that kind of deterioration.
In a small fighting force like ours--it is relatively small by world standards--it's important that everybody be capable of carrying the load. That's what the universality of service principle refers to, really. It gives us the capability to rotate individuals and units through operational settings. We can't just send people over there for an indefinite period of time. It would essentially result in fighting those units down. So they have to be rotated, and that means the bench strength has to be there to allow for that rotation.
The risk here is that if you have people who are going to those settings, while they may be prepared to accept the risk to themselves personally, we can't accept the risk that they would pose to others. Unit effectiveness is a function of the collective performance of all of the people on the team. If one individual fails, the team may fail, and that may mean lack of success of the mission or injuries to others.
View Gary Schellenberger Profile
I'd like to welcome everyone here today to meeting number 34 of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are studying combat stress and its consequences for the mental health of veterans and their families.
For this first hour, we have a witness from Veterans UN-NATO Canada, Denis Beaudin, the founder.
Mr. Beaudin, could you give your presentation, please, sir? Try to keep it as close to 10 minutes as you can. It can go a little bit more. You will have an opportunity to respond to I'm sure many of your issues in the questions we ask.
Please go ahead, sir.
Denis Beaudin
View Denis Beaudin Profile
Denis Beaudin
2010-12-07 15:32
Thank you for inviting me to appear before the committee today. My name is Denis Beaudin. I am a retired master corporal; I retired from the Canadian Forces for medical reasons. I served from 1977 to 1993. I served in Germany from 1978 to 1981 for NATO, and in Cyprus from March to September 1985 for the United Nations.
I am the founder of Veterans UN-NATO Canada, a private group that I formed on January 4, 2008. I represent approximately 2,000 veterans, both active and retired members, most of whom are dealing with post-traumatic stress. I, myself, was diagnosed with the disorder in 2005.
I came here today to give you some insight into the challenges that a Canadian Forces veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder has to face in order to receive treatment in VAC clinics.
First of all, the challenges vary depending on how remote the person's region is. I am from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The Ste. Anne clinic is very close, only 70 kilometres away. I have a car, and I can get there easily. But someone living in Rivière-du-Loup or some other remote area of Quebec or another province—because our group has members from across Canada, from the east coast to the west coast—has a much tougher time.
The group's mission is to save lives. We work to take guys off the street and to get them the help they need, after they have given up trying because the system was just too difficult to navigate and too complicated. Just trying to get the department to recognize your illness is a battle that requires a tremendous amount of energy. I take nine pills a day. That gives you an idea of the kind of sacrifices I have to make on a daily basis. I take pills to help with panic attacks. I will try to stay as calm as possible today.
Let me ask you something: Is it normal for a guy, a veteran like myself, who goes off at 17 or 18 to fight for his country, to have to fight his country for treatment when he comes home sick, riddled with problems and trying to get his condition diagnosed?
That is totally unacceptable to me. When a veteran is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, it has taken two years just to have his condition recognized. Sometimes it takes three years, because he might not know he is ill.
We have major health issues, problems with aggressive behaviour and intolerance; we seek out psychiatrists or family doctors because we do not even know we can get help from the forces. We are referred to psychiatrists, private psychologists, for assessment. They are civilians with no knowledge of the military system or what we have gone through. It is extremely difficult to confide in civilians because they do not understand where we are coming from; they do not speak our language.
One of the biggest problems related to my post-traumatic stress is that I do not have any friends who are civilians. And I will never have any because I cannot understand them. There is even a major void when it comes to close family members because I cannot maintain a normal relationship. At parties, I stay in the kitchen and do the dishes. I isolate myself because I have no interest in anything anyone is saying or doing at the party; I am so disconnected from all that. I am in another world. And I am not the only one in that boat. That is how all the veterans I have spoken to in our group feel.
We feel that the system has left us out in the cold because the hoops we have to jump through are absolutely ridiculous. I see my psychiatrist once every two months so she can renew my prescription and check on my transition to daily life as a civilian. I used to have an hour with my psychiatrist, but now I get just a half-hour because of budget cuts at the Ste. Anne clinic. Some of the doctors who have been treating us are at odds with the hospital over those cutbacks and have even chosen to leave.
And the hospital does not replace those doctors, so when you go back, they are simply gone. You are always having to start over again with a new psychologist or doctor. It is incredibly difficult to see a new doctor when you have already confided in another person and finally reached the point of being able to tell that person what you were feeling and what was going on inside of you. And, as a result, you end up isolating yourself, refusing to access help, cutting yourself off from society, becoming very depressed and, in some cases, turning to alcohol or drugs. That was not the case with me; I never took any drugs. And thank God, because I could have easily given myself over to drugs. I probably would not be here today if I had. But I have experienced everything else. What are you to do? Suicide is the last resort, or if you are lucky, you may meet a comrade you served with who has already gone through the process, who can give you advice and try to set you up with people at the clinics or Veterans Affairs. But the people at the department are more used to treating veterans of World War II or the Korean War. I am not talking about the First World War, because as we all know, those veterans are quite old. I do not think any of them are left; God rest their souls.
It is very difficult for VAC officials to see things from the perspective of the new generation of veterans; they are used to taking things lightly with veterans who are older. Today's generation of veterans is 35, 40, 45 and 50 years old. “Veterans” is quite the label, but not even the clinics or department officials see us as veterans. In their opinion, a veteran is 80 years old and needs a walker to get around. I do not know what their image of a veteran is, but we have taken part in missions, given everything we have, sometimes even our lives. Many of my friends, my comrades in arms, are gone. And they deserve just as much care and support as our brothers who fought in World War I, World War II and the Korean War do. We expect the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat us the same way.
When I was admitted to the Ste. Anne clinic, I had to sign a lot of forms. I had to promise not to be violent or impolite, not to break the rules. With those kinds of conditions in place, the Ste. Anne hospital, as well as all the other clinics in Canada, are relieved of any obligation to treat a veteran whose case is serious but who cannot respect the rules. That is why you do not see the clinics dealing with serious cases, just light ones, where guys like me go in once every couple of months or every three weeks. The clinics are not equipped to deal with any severe cases; they do not have the space, the beds, to care for those veterans. When a bed is available, as soon as the veteran breaks any of the rules or becomes the slightest bit intolerant, he is kicked out the clinic for being violent or disruptive. Then the province steps in. In Quebec, the provincial medicare system takes care of those veterans, and that does not factor into the department's statistics. The number of veterans who receive care through the civilian health care system is not recorded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which distorts the figures and makes them inaccurate.
Personally, I think my case was severe enough that I could have stayed at the clinic. But I felt so uncomfortable with all of the restrictions I was under there that I chose to go home, because I was scared that I would be denied treatment. And that goes for many of my fellow veterans as well; they decide not to stay in hospital because they fear that if they ever lost control of their emotions, they would be kicked out and would lose their place in the system, making them ineligible to receive treatment in the future. So they take all their little problems home with them in the hope that the clinic will continue to treat them.
When someone is diagnosed with PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—the doctor who has been treating the patient for a year at one of the clinics across Canada, sends a report to the Veterans Affairs office in Charlottetown. For example, a doctor in a private practice may say that he has assessed the level of your disability resulting from PTSD at 50%, that it is categorical and that it is related to military service. He will then send the file to the officials in Charlottetown. Who are those officials? I have no idea. Are they doctors? I have no idea. It takes six months, a year or even a year and a half before they send the reports back. In more than 95% of cases, their determination is negative; the officials disagree with the doctor's assessment. Does that mean that the patient was treated for nothing, that they took medication for a year and a half for no reason, that the doctor was incompetent and misdiagnosed the patient? Who are these department officials in Charlottetown to change the diagnosis of health professionals, whom we had trusted for the first time?
Veterans are told to file an appeal. In 95% of cases, veterans have to appeal the department's decision. In many cases, patients have to obtain a second medical assessment and opinion. I challenge you to find a doctor today! It takes six or eight months just to find one who will accept you as a patient. As soon as the department deems the PTSD diagnosis invalid and the patient appeals that decision, the person ceases to receive treatment. That is one of the major roadblocks. The file goes back to Charlottetown, and the case goes to appeal.
When your appeal is heard, you must appear in a room about this size in front of two people whom you do not know and who barely introduce themselves. They say they are there to make a decision. You have to start from scratch and retell your whole story. You have been struggling for three or four years, so you are burnt out, exhausted. You are taking seven or eight pills a day, and you still have to prove that you are sick. The power is in these people's hands.
In 70% of cases, the decision is favourable. Strangely enough, your appeal is successful. But instead of 50%, they determine that your level of disability is 10%, which makes a difference—a 40% difference. That is just one example. Some people are originally diagnosed with a disability assessment of 70% or 80%, but end up with an assessment of 15%, when all is said and done. Then there is another problem: the percentage is split up. That is something new. For 20 years, that was not the case. I received a pension award further to a disability assessment of 25% related to back problems. In 1995, the award was not split as it is today. Now it is doled out in fractions. They split up your 10%. They acknowledge that the system is responsible for two-fifths of that 10%. So the person gets 4% of their pension. They are sitting at home and receive 4% of their pension. And now, under the 2006 charter, they also get a little bit of money. In real terms, 4% of a pension is equivalent to about $10,000. Thank you very much and good riddance to you.
So you end up with another veteran in a homeless shelter, such as Maison du Père, or some other establishment with a soup kitchen. That is unacceptable, and that is what I came here to tell you. That is the problem encountered by 99.9% of veterans who are currently trying to obtain their pension or a disability award from Veterans Affairs.
Do I still have time?
Denis Beaudin
View Denis Beaudin Profile
Denis Beaudin
2010-12-07 15:46
I just want to touch on post-traumatic injuries, both the physical and psychological. It is even worse if you have physical injuries. The wait times are longer, and members are responsible for finding their own doctors. The department used to send you to one of its doctors. At the very least, it would find you someone, but now, you have to find your own doctor.
Doctors no longer want to treat veterans, because it involves too much paperwork that requires too much time. Forget it. People just give up and commit suicide. That is why many of my comrades have taken their lives all over the country. I am here today to tell you that we no longer have the strength to fight the system.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Beaudin, thank you very much for taking the time to come here today and talk to us. For this study we're doing, I believe we started thinking that it was a small thing, and we are clearly seeing every week just what a large issue this is.
You have indicated that you have approximately 2,000 veterans who are part of your Veterans Canada organization. Would you have any idea of the number of people—whether it's within that 2,000 or others—who have attempted to commit suicide? Because the information given to us prior to our doing this study here was that this was not a big problem, and that there were not a lot of men or women veterans who were taking their lives--possibly because some of them are being treated as civilians rather than being treated as veterans out of that frustration that you've indicated. Do you have any idea of what kind of numbers we would be talking about?
Denis Beaudin
View Denis Beaudin Profile
Denis Beaudin
2010-12-07 15:48
In my opinion, out of 100 veterans, at least 15 have tried to commit suicide. That does not include those we do not hear from and cannot follow up on. It is only 3, 4 or 5 years later, that we find out they committed suicide. In the past year alone, 4 of my close friends have taken their lives. That is a lot. I would say that out of 2,000 members, easily between 10 and 15 out of every 100 have tried to commit suicide.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Those are very alarming numbers.
On the whole issue of the runaround that veterans seem to get, and in having to appeal their cases, it's difficult enough to get a diagnosis on PTSD initially, but you're saying that most of them, even if they're saying it's 50% or 70%, get sent back, and then you have to appeal that again and go through that very lengthy process. Is that the case for most of the 2,000 veterans who are part of your organization?
Denis Beaudin
View Denis Beaudin Profile
Denis Beaudin
2010-12-07 15:49
Yes. Initially, the diagnosis comes from a treating doctor who was assigned to you in one of the clinics across Canada. That person follows you anywhere from six months to a year and decides that you should be compensated or treated—based on an assessment of 50%, 60%, 70% or more. Then the file goes to Charlottetown, and you get a negative decision back. I can tell you that, out of the 2,000 veterans in my group, nearly half have gotten such a response. And I have not even asked all of them. Regardless, it is a huge problem.
I hear about it every day. I am always talking to veterans. I spend day and night with them. I probably sleep only about a half-hour a day. My group is very active. We are everywhere. This year, I helped people who were planning to take their lives. I picked them up and kept them alive. I brought them to opening ceremonies, for example, a game that the Montreal Alouettes played at the Bell Centre in Montreal. They were there representing veterans. These people had never received any kind of recognition, and they were ill. If we had never done those things, they might not have lived to see this Christmas.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's very alarming to continue to hear these particular comments that you're sharing with us, and I appreciate very much your taking the time to come today.
If I could ask Mr. Drapeau, we're were here with us last week, and we've seen you come before the committee as well. As I mentioned to Mr. Beaudin, I certainly was not aware that there were as many suicides as we are hearing about, and the numbers...can you give me some comments on that?
View   Profile
2010-12-07 15:51
In my own case, which I'll use as an example, I tried twice. I didn't go to the hospital. The way I looked at it, if I jumped in front of a car, it would be an accident, my family would have the money, and at least I wouldn't be there to bother them. It didn't work--twice. I tried to do it so my family would be living after.... I'm sorry. It's not something that I talk about.
At least now I have a civilian psychologist I can call before I do anything stupid. Or I have my friend from UN-NATO. Every week we meet each other to take the pressure off.... I'm sorry. The problem with PTSD is that you can't control your emotions.
One of the big problems is that every day you live in hell, because you're back where your friends are.... Sorry.... Some days I'm stronger than this. Today is not a good day. I had a bad memory last night. I apologize for that. It's just the way it is with PTSD. Usually I'm a clown; I'm always a clown. And today is one of those days when it's hard to be a clown because my memories are coming up.
You know, one of the problems you're running with is that for a second, you had a choice. You cry and you go down when your friend dies, or you are not a coward, you're a man, and you do what you are trained to do, and you block it. After that, you can see people dying and you don't care. Twenty-six years later, after my friend died, it came back to me. I had two strokes because of that.
And the fact is that they say that there will be many new people who will come from Afghanistan. When I went there in 2005, I was there with a fellow from a war too. He was applying for it too, because as you get older, the walls you build to protect yourself against those memories fall down. That's what you are getting with those veterans now.
I was a stubborn mule for 26 years. I had PTSD. I was bad-tempered. My family had to live with it. That was hell. Now at least I know why I was the way I was sometimes. Those emotions were really bad. But you live it. You don't know about it until someone tells you exactly what you have--even though you don't believe it.
It's just a fact. We grew up proud. You are a man. Your friend dies, well, you don't cry. You have no time to cry. If you cry, you're a coward, and they kick you out. That's the way it was in the seventies. Now at least the kids have a chance to take the pressure off. When they finish in Afghanistan, they'll talk to them. For us, that didn't exist. If you went to see a shrink, you were out of the forces the day after. At least now they are doing something to take the pressure off.
For me, it's a bit too late--two strokes later--but at least I didn't kill myself. I lost three friends last year who killed themselves. They were with me. They won't know why they died. They just did it. So it won't go in the stats that they did it because of service; they just did it. It's that simple. They probably did as I did. You don't report it to anybody. You try to do it, hoping it'll work and your family will have money coming afterwards.
For me, it didn't work, thank God. They look at me and see that I'm too big for a car, and they won't hit me.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Robert Vincent Profile
View Robert Vincent Profile
2010-12-07 15:55
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Welcome to our committee. It is fascinating to hear from veterans. Other witnesses have told us that there is no problem. When I asked how often a doctor's PTSD diagnosis was contested, I was told never. I was told that the diagnosis was automatically accepted and that veterans did not have to spend years fighting the system. And here you are telling us the complete opposite, that, in actual fact, a PTSD diagnosis is contested in 99.9% or 95% of cases.
Denis Beaudin
View Denis Beaudin Profile
Denis Beaudin
2010-12-07 15:55
A veteran's first application is always denied, whether it is related to a psychological injury or a physical one. You would think that turning down an application had become routine practice at the department. So veterans then have to appeal the department's decision. The veterans I am in contact with have all been told the same thing. I cannot tell you how many of them are happy that I am here today, to tell you what is going on! They asked me to tell you the real story. In reality, 90% of applications are almost always denied. I am the only one whose PTSD diagnosis was not contested. I do not know why. Perhaps it has to do with the severity of my case. For all my other claims, though—the files are all there—I had to appeal the decisions. I was denied disability for my missions, but I received it for my regular service in the forces. They are not the same thing.
View Robert Vincent Profile
View Robert Vincent Profile
2010-12-07 15:57
You said that veterans go through the civilian system. From what you said, my understanding is that no doctor, no one is assigned to veterans, even at the Ste. Anne hospital. Veterans have to go outside the military system to receive treatment and care.
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