In 2006 the Canadian Government introduced the New Veterans Charter in an attempt to “modernize” how Canada provides for its injured service members. Conceived in a time when Canada’s military commitments worldwide were at a low point, the new charter sought to reduce the
Government’s financial liability. Warfighters recognized this move as unacceptable almost immediately. Combat operations in Afghanistan would create innumerable challenges for Veterans. The outpouring of support for Canada’s soldiers was inspiring to see. However, there would be difficult times ahead for Veterans.
Veteran’s Affairs Canada began a program of closing regional offices and became very adversarial in granting disability awards, enforcing unbelievable policies such as “an across the board” disability re-verification policy every three years for all injuries, even amputations. The vets returning from Afghanistan have complex and unique medical needs that provincial health care programs on their own are not able to respond to. Different healthcare organizations and provincial and federal regulations made things very difficult for injured service members.
The long-running fight that Veterans groups have had with the Government is well publicized and anyone who follows the news can tell you that Vets aren’t happy. The missing piece is the why aren’t Vets happy? Under the new charter, lifetime pensions were eliminated in favour of a one-time lump sum payment. Good for government, bad for Vets. Imagine a 19-year-old soldier just returned from Afghanistan who lost a leg to an improvised explosive device (IED). The government gives the soldier a couple hundred thousand dollars and says “good-luck”. Is a 19-year-old able to manage that money? Are they trained or qualified to enter the workplace? More importantly are they able to manage their healthcare needs?
It was in this environment that a significant number of not-for-profit groups were founded to help Vets.
Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) https://vetscanada.org has mobilized to combat veteran homelessness and many issues facing injured Vets, to name but a few. Great organizations doing things that we would normally expect the Government to do for our vets
Recent changes announced by Veterans Affairs http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/pension-for-life-1.4468956 attempt to fix many of the problems of the last 10 years. The government has announced that a pension for life award will be an option for injured Veterans going forward. Money has been allocated for re-training service members and assisting with their transition to civilian life and support for military families. However no money is being allocated specifically for Veterans Health.
While serving in the military all healthcare is provided by Military doctors and mental health providers. Conversely, VAC is not mandated to provide health services. Each vet is responsible to find, schedule, and pay for their specialized services and then file claims for reimbursement for these services from a contracted private health insurance company. Imagine the difficulty that a Vet with PTSD would have in organizing these services on their own when the first thing they have to do after being released from the Canadian Armed Forces is to apply for their first provincial health card?
This is the reason for DVA Clinic, Dignified Veterans Assistance will have a suite of healthcare services all in one location. A “one-stop-shop” for Veterans. DVA will not only schedule and manage a Veterans appointments so they are grouped on the same day, we will bill healthcare insurance fees directly. Eliminating frustrating paperwork for the Veteran and allowing them to focus on getting well. The first clinic will open in Ottawa with plans to expand across the country. This type of clinic is an innovation in Veterans health care. Veterans will no longer have to drive to several locations to access healthcare services- this is the missing piece in taking care of our veterans.
Over the next few weeks, there will be many announcements about when we will open and what suite of services this multi-disciplinary clinic will provide. Finally, there will be an organization focussed primarily on Veterans Health with purpose built clinics with Veterans in mind run by other Veterans. We are very excited about this news and our upcoming announcements.