Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Maybe one of the other members of the committee could ask the same question of one of the witnesses about medical release for mental health.
Thank you, sir.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I would say it's perfect. Thank you.
Is it right to say that the transition is easier for physical injuries than for mental health injuries, or not necessarily?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Gentlemen, thank you for being here with us today. We appreciate it very much.
My first question will be addressed to the representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion and to those of the Equitas group.
I think we can agree that there is a big issue with regard to information-sharing between the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs. It is very unfortunate for veterans who must face this difficulty alone when they have to prove that their physical or mental injuries are due to their military service.
I have often asked this question in committee and I would like to put it to you as well. I was told on several occasions that in the United States the veteran's burden of proof, that is to say having to prove that the injuries are service-related, rests with the department responsible for veterans. And so there, it is the department of veterans affairs that has to determine whether the veteran's injuries are service-related or not. If we functioned like that in Canada as well, am I correct in thinking that the veteran would not have to work to transmit the information, but the department, with all the means at its disposal, would work to go and get that information?
I yield the floor to you.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I am going to ask my question very quickly.
Mr. White, the Royal Canadian Legion is the biggest veterans' organization, recognized by an act of Parliament. Over the past 20 years, and particularly in the last five, we have seen the creation of many other groups who want to offer assistance or services to veterans.
Do you think that is a positive thing? It certainly is in some respects, but does it not dilute the strength of the veterans' movement?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Auditor General, Ms. Campbell and Mr. Martire, welcome to the committee. I am happy to see you here today.
I will preface my first question.
I would like to come back to what my colleague Mr. Eyolfson said earlier. He felt that it was taken for granted that those who were submitting applications were faking, as they had to provide records to support their application if they wanted to receive specific services or benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada.
Mr. Auditor General, military members are under extreme pressure every day. It's an environment where people have to constantly prove themselves to their peers and their superiors. In a way, that's completely normal, as the government asks the Canadian Armed Forces to carry out missions despite sometimes insufficient resources. In addition, senior army officers have to ask their members to meet that requirement.
Here is what I think military members find difficult. The culture of military members having to constantly prove themselves is perpetuated, in a way, when they deal with Veterans Affairs Canada. For example, they have to do research to access their documents in order to prove that they have a service-related injury. I don't know whether this is true, but according to what I have been told, in the United States, the burden of proof lies with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and not the veterans themselves. Mr. Eyolfson also talked about that earlier.
My question is simple. Did you look at the burden of proof system in the United States in your audit? If so, what did you find out? If you did not look at it, what do you think about the burden of proof right now?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you.
Should you soon have an opportunity to carry out a study on Veterans Affairs Canada's services, I strongly recommend that you look into how the burden of proof is handled in the United States. That burden is actually assumed by the U.S. department in charge of veterans, and not by veterans themselves. I would really like to see the results of that study.
In your audit, you made a recommendation on the mental health hotline. That recommendation has been implemented.
Have you considered the option of having a hotline for suicide prevention? That also exists in the United States.
Many veterans have told me that it was good to have the mental health hotline, but in situations of extreme crisis, they would like to be able to call experts who could manage their situation and help them avoid committing suicide.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
You said that it was easier to have access to the rehabilitation program than to the disability benefits program. Do you think that is a matter of money?
Obviously, disability benefits require considerably more financial resources. Do you think this could explain the difference in eligibility between the two programs?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for joining us today.
Veteran Affairs Canada's mental health action plan called for quarterly meetings to be held between Veterans Affairs Canada and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. Two weeks ago, I went to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, in Quebec City, to find out what kind of cases came before the board. Of course, I did not look into any specific cases.
I saw that one of the issues that came up the most frequently was a lack of access to medical expertise. In many instances, for a case to have a positive outcome, the individual had to provide expert medical evidence. However, some of those individuals said many times to the judge that they had gone to numerous places, be it in New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec or even as far as Winnipeg, without being able to obtain expert medical evidence.
Can you talk to us about this problematic situation?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you for your answer. I understand what you are saying. Physicians are not really as available as we would like them to be.
As for conflicts of interest, you do provide legal assistance to veterans, and that really surprised me. I recognize that fact and I think it is fantastic. A veteran can use a lawyer who is under your authority, but is still independent.
Don't you think it would be possible to do the same thing when it comes to physicians?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I have one last question. What exactly does your first aid program for veterans consist of?
I understand that the question is broad.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I understand.
Let's talk about the reopening of offices. Some veterans would like to know about transparency. How will that be organized? Do you think those offices will provide treatment deliveries, or will they be limited to case management?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
General Natynczyk, it is a great honour for me to meet you and to be able to ask you questions. During the first years of my military service, you were my highest ranking superior. I would have three questions for you.
Firs of all, in 2014-2015, the Minister of Veterans Affairs at the time, Mr. Erin O'Toole, intended to introduce a card which was to be given to all veterans, regardless of their number of years of service. It was to be issued in two phases. During the first one, the type of service and number of years the member had served was to be established. In the second phase, an electronic chip was to be added which would contain information on the person's health.
I would like to know where that project stands and whether it is still going forward.
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