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View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
—part of the recovery and the transition, so I just wanted to check on that.
What would you say your biggest challenge is in delivering your services?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for joining us again, Mr. Butler.
I appreciate having both you and the ombudsman here today as we start this study. As you know, in the other studies that we have done, we've identified and worked with the officials to look at areas where we can improve. The intent here is to take a look internationally and see what lessons can be learned.
Your information today about context and all of the other differences between our system and those of some other countries has been really good to help us keep perspective. Having said that, are there areas where you think we should focus? Is it on service delivery that you think we should be focusing as we carry out this study, or are there other suggestions?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
The other thing that we heard recently in testimony is about what I think was referred to as “death by a thousand cuts”, so there is a PTSD issue or there is a mental health issue, but on top of that there's a service delivery issue or there are other outside factors like relationships or money issues and what have you.
There are some things that we can't control as a government, obviously, but do you expect the work that we're doing on service delivery to have an impact on suicide prevention?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, gentlemen, for coming today.
I do apologize that we're a little bit later seeing you than we'd originally intended in terms of the process. However, it has given us an opportunity to talk to many different witnesses related to DND. You've seen in the questioning today that one of the focuses we've been talking to you about is mental health. Your approach to mental health is quite different. One of the differences is the concept of universality of service. Does that apply in the RCMP or is it a different concept?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
At that point, if they're discharged for medical reasons, do they still need to re-qualify for Veterans Affairs' services? That's one of the things we see with the military.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I want to go back to mental health. We talked about your members who are suffering with mental illness and the success they've had with the OSI clinics. One of the things we've heard is that it's hard to access those. Did you find that to be the case with your members as well?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I think our committee would be very interested if there were something you could submit to us at a later date on that strategy. It's something we might be able to learn from for other scenarios.
In intensive mental health cases, cases where perhaps people need to be in-patients, are you able to access the same...? I'm just thinking about court-ordered mental health issues that sometimes happen. With your members, that would be difficult. Do you have specific areas that they go to? How do you handle that?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
What I'm trying to get at is bricks and mortar. Is there somewhere different that you send them?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Very good.
One thing that we didn't talk about was suicide. Is that an issue?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I think we can all agree that your report encompasses a lot of what we heard. There's one thing I want to ask you about, though.
We heard from several veterans that they find it difficult, because of PTSD or other conditions, to return to base, or that as soon as they were on PCat or went to JPSU, they felt it was all downhill from there. How do you see us coming around to a positive transition in those cases?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I appreciate that. I think it's something we have to consider in the approach forward.
One of my other colleagues asked you about medical service, about lining it up and having a doctor before being released, which is also a service we haven't heard consistently from the veterans we've seen. In fact we had a veteran in earlier this week who talked about a two-year wait from the time they released until the time they were able to get a family doctor.
I don't know where the disconnect is there either, but there appears to be one.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you for that clarification as well.
I think I'm good. You're very efficient in your answers. Usually we run out of time.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you Mr. Chair.
Thank you to each of you for those perspectives that you bring. I think it was very interesting for us to hear your personal stories on how you transitioned and the contributions that you're making now to our veterans. Thank you very much for that.
I could talk for an hour, but I'm going to depend on my colleagues to ask you a lot of questions.
Mr. Garsch, I'd like to ask you a bit about the Shaping Purpose program. What was it originally designed for?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Great. You had mentioned that the first session you ran had 21 spots and 85 applicants. How did you solicit those applications at that point?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Okay. Before we get into funding, and I do hope to get there...success rates. I know that you've talked about the research that you're doing, and how you tried to put real numbers around things. Could you tell us a bit about that?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
You mean that the interface that they're having with their case workers is more meaningful because of this, because they have a—
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
To be fair you probably hadn't established where you wanted to be, right?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Is there a matrix that you use to measure success? Do we have a success number out of that? I know it is difficult to measure.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you very much.
Thank you for that question, Ms. Mathyssen, because here we have four veterans who, by all accounts, are doing well now, and all of you have gone through the appeal board. I think it's important that we have an appeal process, but the fact that four out of four of you—I don't know if that's a random sampling or not—have experienced that, I think, is an acknowledgement that there's a problem with the process.
I don't want to finish by sugar-coating anything. I think you have all given great testimony that'll be helpful to us, but I often like to ask the question, is there anything we're doing right now that we shouldn't be in case we throw out the baby with the bathwater? Are there any positive things you see right now that show we're on the right track, or that we need to make sure we reinforce and that we can't stop doing? I hold that up to anyone.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Right.
What I hear you saying, I think—and please correct me—is that we need to focus to make sure that we provide the services to get people on track so that they can use that time to effectively get on track.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Great.
Really, that was our intention in doing this service delivery study, to hear from as many horses' mouths as we could before we decided where we want to go for our next study, and to drill down on any of these topics.
Thank you very much.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, everyone, not only for being here today and giving us your testimony but for the work that you are doing for veterans. We appreciate it.
Mr. Allen and Mr. Thorne, being from New Brunswick, I'm quite interested in what your footprint is in Atlantic Canada.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
For your program, you don't require a permanent infrastructure, per se. You run the program in the community for periods of time.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I noticed when we were talking about career transition.... We've been focused a lot on the transition in the service delivery study. Are you finding that veterans are coming to you without a sense of purpose? Is that part of the issue? Could you talk a bit about that?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
You mentioned as well communication skills—and I'm working backwards—with family and loved ones.
Can you tell us again a bit of what happens or why that's required?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Do I understand from your testimony that you're an independent charity, and that you're not a third party provider to Veterans Affairs?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Lowther, I had the opportunity in Fredericton to participate in the boots on the ground walk. I don't want to say we weren't successful because we didn't find any homeless vets that day, because I think it's a good thing that we didn't; however, my take-away from it is that I had a lot of time to talk to the vets involved in that program. I found that their sense of purpose and having, as you say, a community to work on this together was very therapeutic for them. That's what they told me. They were able to get better and to help others.
Can you tell us a bit about how impactful you think it is for veterans to be reaching out to veterans? Is that a key part of the program?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
On that note—and any of the three of you may want to speak to this—do you feel there's a role, whether it's at the case manager level or another level, for more veterans to be involved in Veterans Affairs and service delivery?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you very much.
I think the research is very important. I myself witnessed the impact of the work on the ground.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I'll follow up on my colleague's question and give you an opportunity to talk about VRAB.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
That's fair enough. I just wanted to give you the opportunity to answer.
Ms. Lowther, you mentioned that a lot of the veterans who have fallen between the cracks and are homeless at this time have felt overwhelmed with accessing Veterans Affairs services. Can you give us some examples of things that trigger that? Do you have any insight there?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Based on a lot of what we've heard, I think we understand why they have that reaction.
I am curious about the brown envelope, though. What is it about brown envelopes that's so negative? Is that always the way bad news is delivered?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
One of the things we've talked about is the personal touch versus brown envelopes. In your opinion, would that be helpful?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
That was my next question, actually. From a family perspective, do you have any recommendations for families to be able to access services? If we're talking about veterans who are trying to hide, whether it's in the basement or wherever, they're not going to make that call, so do you have any recommendations on how we get the families connected to services?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I always like to ask this question because sometimes when we look at change we throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. From each of your perspectives, what should we not do? What is working well that shouldn't be changed?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
That probably speaks to your point about starting the relationship with Veterans Affairs much earlier in a career, too, and having it be a positive and not just something that happens to you at the end of your military career, I guess. Would that be fair?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you for your testimony today. It's filling in some gaps from some of the other witnesses we've had before the committee.
I'd like to go back to the workload You gave us some numbers. Some of the numbers you gave us were claims completed, which included departmental review numbers and VRAB numbers.
Mr. Anthony Saez: Yes.
Mrs. Alaina Lockhart: Do you have a breakdown of how many of those go back to departmental review?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
That's helpful, because some of the feedback we're hearing from veterans and other advocacy groups is that there's this frustration with the system. Their claims are being denied, so that's another step. They feel that their next option is VRAB, and then they find out that it does need to go back to the department, so I think that's a significant number to look at.
Are you seeing any commonalities in what is going back to the department?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Is there any training that could be given to case managers to try to bring out this information prior to...?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Good. I think that's a good sign, and hopefully we'll have some measurables on it and be able look at it at some point in the future.
On the claims that are counselled out, to me that looks like a fairly significant number. In talking to my colleague here, who has been in private practice, I understand that in private practice the number of those counselled out is actually fairly small. I think that number also will represent veterans who feel that they should have had services or benefits; they've gotten to this point. Are there any commonalities there? What would be some of the reasons why there wouldn't be a case to go to review?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
You mentioned that you're surveying the VRAB cases handled by the bureau and the satisfaction rates there. Is there any survey being done of those who are counselled out?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Yes, but I would imagine some of those also didn't get the result they were expecting.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
All right, fair enough, that's great.
I think I have about a minute left.
One of my other questions was whether they can still proceed, and the answer is yes to that.
Did we talk about the access to records? Are you able to get the records easily that you need?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you for this opportunity.
Mr. Zimmerman, I wanted to come back to one of the points you made, which was about the need to take care of families. You referred to the mandate letter, which talks about counselling and training for families who are providing care, as well as ending the time limits for vocational rehabilitation for surviving spouses.
Can you expand for me how you see this rolling out, what you think encompasses taking care of the family?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
One of the things we've heard from some of the witnesses who have been before the committee is that spouses struggle with is the fact that they need to access services via the member, the vet.
Sometimes that's very challenging if the veteran is suffering from PTSD or doesn't recognize the issue.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
The other thing—and feel free to share as much as you'd like—is that both of you have served. I'd like to talk about your experience transitioning. Could you share that with us?
We know that some people transition more easily than others. What did that look like for you?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Do you believe there's been some improvement since then?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I won't give you a five-minute spiel about who I am.
I'm Alaina Lockhart. I represent the region called Fundy Royal in New Brunswick.
I have an interest in serving on this committee because our community has always had lots of veterans, more so in the First and Second World Wars, and the Korean War, but we are transforming into this new age. Like many other Canadians, I feel that we have a duty to serve our veterans.
That's why I am honoured to be here, and I thank you for taking your time to come and I want you to know that we have open ears.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Both of you bring really interesting perspectives, and I hope we get to touch on both as we continue.
Mr. Callaghan, I would like to thank you for your service to begin with, and also for articulating so easily all of the things that we have been talking about over the last little bit.
If I had check boxes, you kind of hit a lot of them when we're talking about service delivery, paperwork being one. With regard to receiving a letter, for instance, when there's a change in your benefits, or notification that you're not going to receive benefits, do you think it would be helpful if you had one-on-one contact with a case manager or what have you, to walk you through this process, rather than receiving documentation in the mail?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
So for you this could have gone much better had you been able to meet with your case manager either by phone or personally, to walk through what the decision was and to talk about what future benefits you were eligible for. Is that fair to say?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Maybe we could fix that. Not knowing creates a tremendous amount of anxiety as well. I can appreciate that.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
We're talking about mental health and ways to check in and ways for that to be recorded and what have you, when you were serving, did you talk about mental health as a group when you would get together?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I have a few questions for Ms. Northey.
I wanted to talk to you a little about outcomes, because we have talked about those, and I'm sure you've read that the ombudsman has talked about those as well. What are your views on what the outcomes should look like for our veterans? I know we all have an opinion, but I'd like to hear what your perspective is on that.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
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.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you for appearing today. I think your testimony and the questions and answers we have will be very productive for our study.
I'd like to thank Mr. Clarke for bringing up the fact that it's interesting to sit here and talk about what the initiatives are and the issues that have been identified and what the intent is, versus what we're hearing from the veterans who have gone through some of these services and where the gaps are.
We recognize that many veterans are able to transition well, but we're very concerned about those who are falling into the gaps. I'd like to ask Mr. Phillips and perhaps Vanessa if they could talk to us about the step-by-step process when you get involved, and what that looks like.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Can I just back up and ask how they would find you? How does that connection happen?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
All right. Can you identify a group that seemed to fall through the cracks?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
This question is maybe for the brigadier-general.
When we had the ombudsman here earlier this week, he talked about the determination of service attribution as one way to look at a different concept of transitioning soldiers to veterans. I'm wondering if that's a concept that has been discussed or where we're at with that.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Would allowing that determination to be made while they were still enlisted result in any barriers?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
We can certainly appreciate that. We're trying to get at whether the intentions are good and what we could do to improve delivery. Is it resources? Is it legislation? That's a good point to make.
How am I for time?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you very much. We really appreciate your presentation. You articulated a lot of the items we've discussed over the last several weeks.
In your statement you talked about the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans Affairs Canada, and SISIP. I wonder if you could expand on the services provided by SISIP. Is it working well or is it a stumbling block in this process? I'd like to hear any recommendations you have.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Is there a common complaint that you hear about SISIP? Are there any particulars you've identified in the work you've done?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
What about resources for guiding soldiers and veterans through this process? Are the resources there for them to get the personal touch as they try to work through this process, or are they on their own?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Then if they are assigned a case manager, let's say, or a pod of people earlier when they're a soldier, that team would carry on with them to kind of bridge that. Is that what you're suggesting?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Is it fair to say—I think this is what I gathered from your presentation—you believe that in order for Veterans Affairs to stay in the right lane, we need to do the assessment beforehand? Would that be your recommendation?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
From the testimony we've had from some witnesses, I believe that has been a cause of frustration for them, this feeling that their service isn't regarded as important or that their injuries aren't acknowledged. I think that's a good point to make.
Thank you.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I'm going to ask a succinct question: is there one thing we shouldn't do?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you to all three groups for being here. When I saw the list of who we were having, I was thinking it was pretty diverse.
The one thing that all three of you have mentioned is the transition from military to civilian.
Mr. Jenkins, you pontificated very well that change in culture.
Mr. Blackwolf, you mentioned a staged release. I'm just wondering if you could expand on that idea a little.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Gaillard, perhaps you could tell us what the transition looks like for the RCMP, too. That's a different perspective for us.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you for appearing today. The information you're providing is very useful.
As you know, we're doing a review of service delivery. One of the things that I found interesting from your testimony today was when you were talking about the feedback you receive from exit interviews. There were some really great numbers there of veterans who were pleased with the service that was provided.
Do you know the breakdown of how many of those exits are successful applicants versus those whose applications were overturned?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
So we're not actually doing an exit interview after they've received a decision, then.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I appreciate why you would do it before, but I think there may be some value to doing it after the decision is rendered as well.
You also mentioned that it wasn't just a yes-no questionnaire, that there was opportunity for written feedback. Is that correct?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Are there any themes that have been identified in those written feedback sections, any consistent things that you are seeing? You said you are using it for improvement, so....
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Is there a format or a standard way in which that information is presented back to the minister?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
From your perspective, can any of the feedback you are getting after the review—and this goes to Mrs. Romanado's point as well—go back further into the actual review process, so we can avoid more cases coming to the board? Is there a mechanism to get the information further back in the process?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Oh, good.
Just going back a little, I am a bit surprised about your comments on how people were pleased with the opportunity to tell their story. Some of the feedback we have heard from veterans at committee is that they are very frustrated that they have to tell their story over and over and over again, especially those who are suffering from PTSD. What is the reasoning on that? Why are they happy to be telling their story now, at this point in the whole process? It seems a little contrary to some of the other testimony we have received.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I think that is all very good information for the service review, especially the aspect of the personal touch. We are talking about ways we can improve the whole process, and it has come out time and time again that personal touch is important.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
I want to go back to the actual process. In my constituency, I've talked to veterans who have gone through this process. It all sounds very good on paper, but it is frustrating. We're really trying to get at how we can improve things for our veterans.
Forgive me if you answered this question already. The initial step is the review hearing, correct?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Right, sorry. I'm trying to stay in your lane. It's a review hearing. How many of those go to appeal?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Out of 2,500 applications or presentations, 1,250 of those were successful, and of the remaining 1,250, there were 800 that went on to appeal.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
My concern is the people who don't follow through because, quite frankly, the success rate as you go through each of these steps is quite high. It is encouraging to know that at the VAC level you've seen up the 85% of the claims being accepted. I was encouraged to hear you say that eight out of 10 were upheld at a federal level, as well. I believe the statistic for the year prior was 65%. There were only a few. There weren't a large number.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Okay. We've seen a dramatic increase in the last few years.
The big concern for me is the number of people who don't persevere through this, because it is just too painful and onerous a process. We started talking about this at the beginning in providing feedback to VAC, so we can keep more people out of the system the whole way through. If there was one poignant message or feedback that you have, what would that be?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Very good.
I'm willing to share my time if there's someone else.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you.
Thank you to all of you for your presentations today. You have given us really balanced information to consider, and I appreciate all the different perspectives.
One of the areas I've been focused on with previous witnesses we have brought in has been that transition period. You have each brought up some interesting points.
One of the things we've been talking about, which seems like an easy fix but comes up in every scenario, is paperwork and how overwhelming that is for veterans.
Could you tell me what the most common issue is, and whether you have any quick or easy fixes or suggestions?
I'll start with Mr. Leonardo.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you. This is one of the things I've been thinking about. We've talked about additional caseworkers, and you brought up veterans service agents and the training they're receiving. Do you have any suggestions on how those two groups could work together to provide better service, and maybe assist with some of this paperwork?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
That caseworker would be the best person to do that.
Can you explain to me your experience with a veterans service agent? What is their role?
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