The Royal Canadian Legion is calling for noticeable improvements in Government support of Veterans
As we approach the Federal Election in October with concerns over how the 2019 budget will directly affect Veterans, The Royal Canadian Legion is amplifying our continued advocacy for specific changes and improvements so Canada’s Veterans and their families can have a better quality of life.
Letters have been sent to all Members of Parliament on April 29, urging their attention on several matters crucial to the needs of our service men and women.
These matters of importance are in varying stages of progress. With some, we have only heard talk, and await concrete action. While we appreciate any progress made, it’s time for noticeable results.
The following outlines where government action is required to make life better for our Veterans, their families and our communities. As written by the Prime Minister in his 2017 mandate letter to our Minister of Veterans Affairs: “Veterans should not have to fight their own government for the support and compensation they have earned.”
A comprehensive national Veterans’ homelessness strategy is needed in Canada, with a specific focus on getting Veterans off the streets. This strategy should identify gaps in knowledge and service delivery and be coordinated with other service providers.
VIP and Long Term Care Access
Increased access to Veterans Independence Program benefits for frail veterans, allowing them to stay in their homes longer, is needed.
Veterans Affairs Canada must also enact legislation so that at the time of a Veteran’s death, the VIP benefits are accessible to a Survivor whenever needed.
We also want to see all eligible Canadian Armed Forces Veterans be granted preferred access to vacant Long Term Care beds when they can no longer stay in their home.
More attention is needed on how we transition Veterans back into civilian life. We need tangible evidence that, as promised by our government, military members who are seriously disabled due to service are not being medically released until they are in stable condition, their medical records transferred to Veterans Affairs Canada, and a case manager assigned.
Veterans and the Census
We support the inclusion of a new question in the next short form census in 2021, in an effort to identify Regular and Reserve Force Veterans in Canada and help inform future policy and programs.
Our military must always receive the modern resources and support needed to do their jobs well. Our military can sometimes face unacceptable delays in acquiring or renewing the equipment they need. This can put our troops at a disadvantage, and must be improved.
Research and Therapies
Increased research and support is needed in areas that affect our Veterans’ overall well-being. We are calling for action across several topics.
While cannabis may be legal to use, there is little to no research available for Veterans or medical practitioners who are considering this sort of therapy.
Targeted research is needed, including an investigation into the monitoring and standards related to cannabinoid therapy, and the drug’s therapeutic efficacy.
Mefloquine (Lariam) toxicity
We continue to question why mefloquine remains a viable alternative as an anti-malarial drug and are advocating for more research into its use and long term consequences, in particular as it pertains to Veterans who received this drug when deployed.
We want affected individuals to receive proper diagnosis, care and tailored support.
Operational Stress Injuries
More research is needed into the causes, impact and treatment of operational stress injuries, including traumatic brain injuries in our military forces and their families.
In addition, our government must continue working to eliminate mental health stigma in the military and police communities.
The Legion is still waiting for a set of standards for psychiatric service dogs – whether created nationally, by the Government of Canada, or departmentally.
Service animals must be trained to a high standard. For the safety of both the Veteran and the dog, we want to ensure a medical professional has recommended the dog, and that the Veteran has the required training and financial resources to receive one.
The original governmental promise of standards in 2018 was not kept, nor was the later promise of a replacement version.
We continue to call for the establishment of these needed standards as soon as possible.
The Veterans Well-being Act/ Pension for Life
We were encouraged by the improvements within the new Pension for Life program in 2018, but later discouraged by the lack of simplicity for end users trying to understand how it affects them personally.
We are calling for the following to be addressed:
Veterans need additional details, and plain simple language to understand how they are individually affected by the new Pension for Life program. With that clarity, our Branch and Command Service Officers across the country can then explain the new rules to the many Veterans who seek our advice and support in preparing their claims.
Family and Caregiver support
Increased support for family and/or caregivers in the form of better financial compensation is needed. We would like the see the establishment of a menu of financial compensation based on lost wages and the degree of disability of the Veteran.
Funding is also needed for respite care. We propose that access to Military Family Resource Centres be expanded to include all Veterans and their families following their service, not just ill and injured.
We need renewed assurance that the Veterans Well-being Act
remains an “evergreen” document, flexible to change as new information comes to light, as originally promised.
Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence
We are asking Members of Parliament that the following items related to departmental mandate letters be addressed as soon as possible.
Tangible evidence is needed of a collaborative effort between Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence to synchronize programs, especially when it comes to the transition of Veterans to civilian life; but also to reduce overall complexity, overhaul service delivery, and strengthen partnerships between the two departments – as set out in the departmental mandate letters.
Centre for Excellence
In 2018 we were pleased to see the announcement of the first (virtual) centre of excellence in mental health to enhance research and best practices. We want to see a second centre established soon, concentrating on the identified area of greatest need.
The immense backlog of claims processing is well known. Providing Veterans with an average wait time is not acceptable and must change immediately with a more streamlined process and additional adjudicators.
Marriage after 60
We would like to see the elimination of the “marriage after 60” claw back clause, so that surviving spouses of Veterans who happened to be married after the age of 60, still receive the appropriate pension and health benefits they deserve.
We ask for better communication overall with Veterans about the benefits and services to which they are entitled, and better clearer instructions in terms of how to access them.
Want to get involved?
Canada’s Veterans served to protect the very rights and freedoms we enjoy today; we owe them our commitment to ensure they receive the benefits they need and deserve. Help us ensure our Veterans get the support they deserve from our government.
Join the Legion
Become a member to help Legion advocacy efforts!
The Legion is uniquely positioned to speak on behalf of our membership. We have over 260,000 members, including Veterans, their family members, and persons without military affiliation who support those who served.
We are often asked by the Government of Canada and other organizations to present our position on issues because we are the only Veteran service organization that assists Veterans and their families with representation to Veterans Affairs Canada and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.
There is no one individual or select group within the Legion that determines Legion policy or direction. The Legion has established an identifiable membership who shapes our policies and direction in a democratic manner. Join the Legion to get involved.
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Write a letter
You can also write your MP a letter with your support of the Legion’s position statements stated above.
We will be watching closely over the coming months to evaluate whether elected members are paying close attention to the overall needs of our service men and women.
For further information on our advocacy efforts head to: https://www.legion.ca/advocating-for-Veterans/advocating-for-change