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Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs


Proceedings of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Issue 3 - Evidence - December 14, 2011

OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:05 p.m. to study the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces; to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families.

Senator Roméo Antonius Dallaire (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Joining us today are representatives from both of the departments that are heavily involved in veterans issues: Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence.

Mr. Hillier, I assume that you are going to make a presentation. Here with you are Anne-Marie Pellerin, Director, Rehabilitation and Case Management, Rear Admiral Andrew Smith, Chief Military Personnel, and Colonel Gérard Blais, Director Casualty Support Management.

What is your classification?

Colonel Gérard Blais, Director Casualty Support Management, National Defence: Logistics Officer.


Keith Hillier, Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery, Veterans Affairs Canada: Good afternoon, and thank you for having me speak to you today. VAC has a two-part mandate to provide services and benefits that respond to the needs of veterans, Canadian Forces members and their families and to ensure that their achievements and sacrifices are remembered by all Canadians.

The portfolio includes Veterans Affairs Canada, Veterans Review and Appeal Board, and the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman.

VAC offers a broad range of benefits and services to traditional and modern day veterans. For our modern-day veterans, our programs and services are focused on transition, rehabilitation and re-establishment in civilian life.

The demographics of veterans have been shifting and will continue to do so over the next 10 years. This year for the first time in Veterans Affairs Canada history, the number of modern-day Canadian Forces veterans who are receiving services from the department is higher than the number of traditional war veterans.

Today, the average age of a modern-day releasing Canadian Forces member is approximately 36 years old.

Given that statistic, it is safe to say that modern-day veterans typically leave the forces and continue working full time after their release. In fact, Canadian Forces veterans themselves have told us that finding a quality job is one of the most important things they need help with in terms of their transition to civilian life.

They have also told us they want a hassle-free service. We are delivering on that commitment to them by doing everything we can to provide them with quicker service without the cumbersome red tape.

The Department of National Defence is a key partner in our work and support for modern-day veterans. Together we have made good progress on a number of fronts, including our joint mental health strategy, casualty protocols, the establishment of 24 integrated personnel support centres, and improved transition services. In terms of civilian employment, we know that many civilian recruiters and hiring managers look positively on candidates with military careers and their accompanying transferable skills.

Work in partnership with DND, VAC has created a portfolio of customized career transition services to meet the specific needs of military personnel. These services include workshops, individual career counselling and job-finding assistance. Career Transition Services is only one example of our many modernized programs the department has in place for our veterans and wounded or ill members of the Canadian Forces. For veterans with a career-ending illness, injury or a health problem that resulted primarily from their service, we offer vocational rehabilitation services and assistance through our Rehabilitation Program. Vocational rehabilitation services and assistance helps the veteran — or in some cases the family member — identify and acquire the skills needed to begin a civilian career.

Medically released Canadian Forces members have been eligible for priority job appointments within the public service since December 31, 2005. As a result, if a position opens up in the public service and a veteran has the skills to do the job, the veteran will be given priority for that appointment.

Since 2006, when the suite of new Veterans Charter programs was first introduced, we have lived up to our commitment to care for CF veterans and their families in a more complete and compassionate manner. More support is on the way. In Budget 2011, the Government of Canada announced that it will support the Helmets to Hardhats program in Canada. This initiative will help connect releasing Canadian Forces members and veterans with career opportunities in the construction industry.

We are and will continue to listen to the veterans. They told us what is important to them and we are delivering the services to best address the needs they have expressed to us.

The Chair: To remind us, we are in a phase of looking into and with a certain amount of depth the whole exercise of transition to civilian life for veterans. We are well within the purview of your responsibilities.

I gather from what you will tell us, admiral, that we are also looking at your side. Do you have an opening statement?


Rear-Admiral Andrew Smith, Chief Military Personnel, National Defence: Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you today to address the issue of the Canadian Forces Return to Work Program and the attendant forms of transition assistance provided to military personnel. I am Rear Admiral Andrew Smith, Chief of Military Personnel. With me is Colonel Gérard Blais, the Director Casualty Support Management.


I am particularly happy to be here with Mr. Hillier representing Veterans Affairs, whom I affectionately call our cousins in the management of transitioning CF personnel.

When Canadian Forces members are seriously injured or suffer an illness to the extent that they will be away from their normal duties for a considerable period of time, their individual case management typically follows three phases, that being recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration, which I refer to as the 3Rs.

Before you I have provided our framework of care document titled Caring for our Own, which elaborates this in greater detail.

Briefly, recovery is the period of treatment and convalescence during which patients transition from initial onset of illness or injury to the point where they are stable and ready to receive longer term medical care and optimize their functional capacity in many aspects of their life, be that vocational, social or mobility.

The phase of rehabilitation is an active process designed to optimize functional outcomes following injury or illness in order to regain maximum self-sufficiency. Rehabilitation can take many forms, such as physical, mental and vocational.

Reintegration, which is often the most complex stage, is the transition to progressively returning the ill or injured CF personnel to a normal work schedule and workload in the regular force or primary reserves, transition to the cadet organization or rangers, or preparing for a post-service civilian career and associated work life.

There can be significant overlap between the three phrases as ill or injured members move from acute recovery to longer-term clinical, physical, mental and vocational rehabilitative support and often simultaneously prepare to reintegrate. The medical care is relatively straightforward. However, the non-medical care and support can be extremely complex.

The 3Rs are anchored in the principle of universality of service, and the minimum operational standards associated with this principle include the requirements to be physically fit, employable without significant limitations, and deployable for operational duties. This is a necessary and equitable approach to preserving the Canadian Force's trained effective strength and operational capacity.


To be clear, transition does not just mean release. The primary goal of the Canadian Forces is to return as many ill and injured serving personnel as possible to full duties. This return can occur in the individual's own occupation or, depending on the extent of their recovery, in a new occupation. In the unfortunate cases where it is determined that employment limitations are such that the person cannot meet the parameters of universality of service, they will transition out of the CF and into the care of Veterans Affairs Canada.


As soon as a medical officer determines that an ill or injured person can begin to reintegrate, a return-to-work plan is developed by a return-to-work coordinator in conjunction with the individual and their commanding officer. The plan is blessed by the medical officer, and the individual begins employment. In keeping with the return-to-work practice, the intensity and complexity of their assigned tasks increases as the member's condition continues to improve. The ultimate aim is to return the person to full duties as soon as possible, and that is entirely consistent with return-to- work practices and the principles of the New Veterans Charter. This step is vital as the individual gains therapeutic, psychological and social benefits from their return and may, by extension, enable them to recover more quickly. In the past year, more than 400 Canadian Forces personnel have successfully completed a return-to-work program.

For those unable to continue to serve the Canadian Forces, there are a number of programs in place to assist them in returning to gainful employment in the public service or the private sector. That includes employment with a cadet or rangers organization for those wishing to remain in the Canadian Forces. Also included, as mentioned, is a priority hiring practice in the public service, vocational rehabilitation and training through the Service Income Security Insurance Plan, which includes income support, the Canadian Forces Transition Assistance Program managed by Col. Blais, which links those leaving for medical reasons to private sector employers and programs offered by Veterans Affairs Canada.

It bears mentioning that corporate Canada, including but not limited to Canada Company, continue to look for ways to assist us in this regard. In addition, as you may be aware, we signed an MOU a year ago with the Corps of Commissionaires relating to employment with them. This is geared towards meaningful employment and achieving the best possible work-life outcome.


The stand up of the joint personnel support unit and its 24 integrated personnel support centres, in which Veterans Affairs Canada is co-located, has greatly facilitated the completion of a seamless transition from CF care to VAC. Staffs from both departments begin to work hand in hand on the transition six months prior to the member's departure to ensure a seamless transition.

The care of the ill and injured, including their successful transition, remains my highest priority and we continue to examine opportunities to improve and to work in collaboration with public agencies and the private sector to assist those who ultimately leave the Canadian Forces.


I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

The Chair: Thank you. To assist us, because we have both ministries here together, to set the scene of the questions, I would like to request two elements that have not necessarily come clear from your presentations.

First, what formal structures do you have between the two ministries where you are exchanging information, meeting at the highest levels down to the lowest, and what decision and authorities do you have in those entities that might exist?

Second, maybe you can give an example to show us how an injured Canadian Forces person moves from Canadian Forces to SISIP, which is the insurance program, to Veterans Affairs and who handles what. With that sort of bridging, that would, I hope, assist to guide our questions.

Rear-Admiral Smith: We have the Veterans Affairs/DND senior steering committee, which meets two to three times a year, co-chaired by Mr. Hillier and myself, where we examine a range of strategic issues related to providing synergies between programs. We look at communications, commemoration and initiatives related to topics such as mental health and outreach — a variety of issues.

Stemming from that, there are action directives that are assigned to the various working levels within each department, which are often jointly done. That has been an extremely positive piece to drive greater synergies between our two departments.

Mr. Hillier: With the governance structure we have at the senior level, it has forced discussion at more junior levels. We have a game plan and priorities, and most of them are joint ones. However, they have to come back to the committee and report to us on how they dealt with the issue that we asked them to look into. It creates that integration at lower levels in the organization so that they are talking and discussing.

For example, I know that with the issue of the integrated personnel support centres, we are working hand in glove at the local level, but also in terms of the logistics and what have you at the headquarters level. I would say that it is not perfect, but I think we have come a long way in a short period of time.

Rear-Admiral Smith: I would add that if you had the opportunity to go into any of the joint personnel support units across the country, you might find it difficult to ascertain which are Canadian Forces and which are Veterans Affairs employees in that centre.

The Chair: We visited one in Edmonton, and we have seen the structure. What about the transition exercise?

Rear-Admiral Smith: I will ask Col. Blais to map that out in terms of transition from SISIP and on.

Col. Blais: As soon as a Canadian Forces member is going to be released for medical reasons, they receive the message announcing that six months prior to the moment when they are going to leave. As soon as my staff receives a copy of that message, we link up with Veterans Affairs Canada to ensure that they are aware. At the level of the integrated personnel support centres, the case managers from the Canadian Forces and VAC begin to exchange information at that point to ensure that the transition plan is seamless and that when the person leaves, they have all the services they require.

The Chair: Where is SISIP in this?

Col. Blais: SISIP is also a partner in the integrated personnel support centres. As soon as we receive this message, a copy is sent to SISIP. They are aware of anyone who is going to be releasing for medical reasons and the process also begins with them simultaneously.

Senator Plett: One of my questions was related to the collaboration as well, and you have answered that.

In your report, Mr. Hillier, you are talking about veterans with career-ending illnesses and injuries or health problems. It says that for problems that resulted primarily from service, you offer vocational rehabilitation services and assistance through your rehabilitation program and so on.

What happens if a veteran has an accident driving a car that is entirely unrelated to the work; or he contracts cancer that is obviously not related to the work that he are doing? Do we offer them services as well?

Mr. Hillier: I will answer it in two parts. First, in order to receive most of our services — and I will clarify that in a second — the injury must be related to your service to Canada. Unfortunately, if you have a traffic accident, that would not be considered service related to Canada unless you happen to be in a special duty area, where you would be covered.

However, there are numerous veterans who are in a rehabilitation program that are having trouble adapting in society. It may be through a physical or psychological injury. They do not necessarily need to have had an injury related to their service; they are just having trouble adapting. They could have difficulty with finding or keeping a job.

In order to go into our rehabilitation program, it does not have to be directly connected to a particular injury that took place at a certain point in time. The way it is set up, any veteran who has an adaptation issue can come in. We will then work with the veteran and the veteran's family to get to the root of what the issue is; it could be a variety of issues.

In the program, we have many veterans from conflicts of maybe 20 years ago, who may have been having difficulty adjusting into society. They may have had trouble keeping jobs and other related issues, maybe family issues. We work with these veterans to try to help them to deal with whatever issues may be preventing them from maximizing their productivity in society.

Senator Plett: With a mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and so on, they could perhaps always be traced back to where they might have been as a result of the veteran's service.

Mr. Hillier: That is correct. For example, when someone would appear with one of these diagnoses, we do not wait to decide whether we will provide a disability award. We can take them into rehabilitation. I can say that in terms of approval of applications for the rehab program, we have reduced our wait time from four to two weeks.

Senator Plett: I will ask the same question of DND. If someone is still active and they have an accident off base, a car accident entirely unrelated to their work, do we help them or would the same thing apply?

Rear-Admiral Smith: We make no distinction whether an individual has a service or a non-service-related injury. Our care, support and benefit programs apply equally, whether it is a service-related illness or injury or not.

Senator Plett: I think probably that is the more important area anyway, because they are still actively being employed in the Canadian Forces, where a veteran is not.

In your remarks, Mr. Hillier, you also talk about giving priority for appointments in the public service sector. Obviously, not every job that you will offer will possibly fit the needs of the veteran, or the veteran may decide that he or she does not want that job. Is there a three strikes and you are out policy? How often would they be offered priority on a job if they turn the first or second one down?

Mr. Hillier: I am not aware of any limit to that, but it would be up to the veteran to apply. The veteran would have to meet the basic qualifications of the job; this is not trying to put square pegs in round holes. However, when it would get to a point at the end of the competition process that you have two equally qualified individuals, the priority would be given to the veteran.

In addition, at Veterans Affairs Canada within the last year, we have implemented our own process because I think we need to lead in this area. Without getting into the technicalities of the Public Service Employment Act, we have tried to open up our positions more so that Canadian Forces members would apply, and also use something called an "asset qualification."

That means when we create a pool of individuals — for example, it could be case workers or any number of positions at Veterans Affairs — if we feel experience as a former member of the Canadian Forces would be an asset to do the job, we can invoke that as one of the reasons for taking that individual from a pool of qualified individuals.

Senator Plett: As veterans transition into civilian life, what family support services does DND and/or VAC offer during this transition process? Could you give us a few examples? Is there something that needs to be done to further enhance the support to the military personnel and their families?

Rear-Admiral Smith: First, we have a comprehensive Military Family Services Program throughout the forces, which will seize a Military Family Resource Centre on every base across the country and selected areas outside of Canada as well. It is a comprehensive suite of services and programs that is well established and that Canadian Forces members have access to, irrespective of whether they are ill or injured. That is ongoing.

Specifically with respect to those people who are transitioning or returning to work, within the Joint Personnel Support Unit, JPSU, there is a military Family Liaison Officer from this family support program embedded in the JPSU to address the very question you asked, in order to assist or enable the families to participate in this return to work and/or transition piece. That military family Liaison Officer is a qualified social worker.

Senator Plett: Mr. Hillier, do you have anything to add?

Mr. Hillier: Yes, I could add to that. With respect to Veterans Affairs, for our clients that are being case managed, we actively encourage the veteran to bring the family member or members into the discussion, whether it is the partner or the kids. Certainly at some of the initial discussions, we find veterans are somewhat reluctant to bring their family into the issue, so we try to encourage them to do so. If a veteran is suffering, chances are the family is probably feeling some of that pain and suffering as well.

In terms of a specific example with respect to aiding a family, with regard to our rehabilitation program, if a veteran is too ill to actually participate in vocational training as a result of their injury or illness, that training opportunity can be made available to the partner. In a typical unit, if I might say, if the soldier is injured and cannot be retrained, sometimes we find there may be a spouse who perhaps did not attend college or technical school or what have you for any number of reasons, so we would support her in obtaining upgrading or training in a technical school or university, depending on the assessment. Obviously, there are professionals who sit with the veteran and their family in terms of having realistic goals because we want people to succeed and not take on something for which maybe they do not have a high percentage of being successful in whatever trade or education they may take on.

Senator Plett: Thank you very much. I want to commend both departments for their great work.

The Chair: Before going to Senator Day, I have a supplemental, if I may, to the good questions from my colleague Senator Plett.

With regard to people who are injured as a result of work related to DND, does that also cover reserves with the same coverage as regular force personnel?

Rear-Admiral Smith: Yes, it does.

The Chair: If they are going to the armoury or wherever, they will get the same coverage?

Rear-Admiral Smith: For individuals on full-time reserve service, yes. If a part-time reservist has a service-related injury, that equally applies.

The Chair: A Class A reservist who is injured outside of the service requirements does not get that support. Is that correct?

Rear-Admiral Smith: That is correct.

The Chair: At VAC, does a person have to have an existing file to be able to come into the system later on with a non-service-related injury?

Mr. Hillier: No, they do not. Actually, we are currently seeing some of those coming from prior conflicts.

The Chair: As a follow-up question to Senator Plett, do you know whether the Public Service of Canada actually has a policy of accommodating injured veterans throughout the public service?

Mr. Hillier: The policy of the public service is much broader than veterans. Having spent a number of years working around the employment equity file, accommodation is a basic principle of staffing in the public service. Whether it is the result of an injury as a result of service to Canada or whether it is an unfortunate traffic accident on the Queensway, accommodation is a basic tenet of public service hiring and retention.

The Chair: However, veterans are not specifically identified within that?

Mr. Hillier: Not in terms of accommodation. The accommodation is in terms of what the nature of their injury was. The priority is about their service to Canada.

The Chair: Lastly, the full spectrum of support to families, which was another excellent question from Senator Plett, does not cover medical services. Is that correct?

Rear-Admiral Smith: That is correct.

The Chair: Any medical attention required by the family with regard to the injury that might have happened to the member is not covered by either department. Is that right?

Rear-Admiral Smith: That is correct. Having said that, the Military Families Fund does provide for selective assistance to families in order to address specific issues related to an injury.

The Chair: Is that a non-public fund?

Rear-Admiral Smith: Yes.

Mr. Hillier: If I could ask Ms. Pellerin to expand on that.

Anne-Marie Pellerin, Director, Rehabilitation and Case Management, Veterans Affairs Canada: To expand for a moment in terms of access to services for spouses of released veterans, for those who are accessing mental health services at our OSI, Operational Stress Injury Clinics, the spouse and family members, dependent children, are able to access mental health service in support of the veterans' recover.

The Chair: As a policy. Thank you very much for that clarification.

Senator Day: Welcome to each of you. It is good to see you all again.

We have been talking about Armed Forces personnel and veterans, and then we have talked about veterans being traditional and non-traditional or modern-day, maybe to put a positive spin on it. Then we have also talked about injured and non-injured veterans. I would like to try to break that down a little bit so we can understand the services that are available for the various categories of veterans.

First, with respect to traditional veterans versus modern-day veterans, what year is the cut-off? Was it when the New Veterans Charter came in or was it at the end of the Korean War?

Ms. Pellerin: "Traditional veterans" typically refers to the cohort that served in the two World Wars and the Korean conflict. Post-Korea, we talk about modern-day veterans.

The access to service of course will differ because the New Veterans Charter came into effect in 2006. In fact, some of our modern-day veterans have accessed and continue to access benefits under the Pension Act.

Senator Day: From your point of view, modern-day versus traditional is the end of the Korean War, then?

Ms. Pellerin: That is correct.

Senator Day: There are different programs that have come along. In fact, many of the programs you have talked about are very new, which is good, because we have been encouraging this for some time. You may not know how some of these are going to work or are working because they have not been in place long enough.

For example, has anything happened with respect to the Helmets to Hardhats initiative? You mentioned that here, and it is an interesting and encouraging program. What has been happening with that?

Ms. Pellerin: The partnership with Helmets to Hardhats was announced in the budget, and my understanding is that there is work going on and there will be an announcement providing further details on the content of that partnership in the coming weeks or months.

Senator Day: Is this joint, DND, Canadian Forces or Veterans Affairs?

Rear-Admiral Smith: We are an interested party, but we are not a primary office in this initiative.

Senator Day: You will look forward to hearing what is going on in due course.

Rear-Admiral Smith: I would look at the Helmets to Hardhats program the same way I would look at the MOU with the commissionaires or the various programs we have with Corporations Canada as another enabling piece or another arrow in the quiver, if you will, as people look to transition.

Senator Day: I think it is important for us to recognize that there are a number of initiatives going on, all of which are for the benefit of veterans, which is something we strongly support here.

Let us talk about transitioning from the Armed Forces into the world outside of the military. You say the average retirement is about 36 years of age. Is every retiring member of the military required to go through the transitioning program or is it still voluntary?

Rear-Admiral Smith: Every person releasing from the forces has the right, and we are quite disciplined on this, to have a transition interview with Veterans Affairs to ensure, whether they are ill or injured, that they are fully cognizant of the benefits, services and programs that could be available to them should they have a service-related illness or injury post-release.

Senator Day: Do these interviews take place through the Joint Support Unit of Veterans Affairs?

Mr. Hillier: Yes, in areas where we have our units or area offices to provide the service. As Rear-Admiral Smith noted, we encourage all retiring military personnel to come to the transition interview, which takes place with one of our experienced personnel. It is also provides a sense of where the veteran's head is in terms of any issues that may be emerging and ensures that we provide the knowledge that after they leave the Canadian Forces and take off the uniform, if they an issue, Veterans Affairs is here for them. We do not expect them to know about all programs or services, but we want to leave the message: If you think you have a problem, give us a call.

Senator Day: Do you believe that a good percentage, over 75 per cent, of retiring personnel go through this?

Col. Blais: I can guarantee that everyone gets the transition interview because before you are released from the forces and get your final pay, there is a certificate of places, supply, and others, for example, that you have to stop by for before you get your last financial remuneration.

Senator Day: Is this for returning the helmet and rifle, for example?

Col. Blais: Yes. If you do not have the tick in the box from Veterans Affairs, you cannot leave.

Senator Day: That is good. Armed forces personnel understand that they must have these things ticked off so they can receive their final pay.

Let us talk about injured personnel and others. I am interested in a number of the programs that you have. In particular, the committee was involved a few years ago in discussions about personnel who can apply internally for positions in other government departments. The applicants are not injured and so are not considered for priority hiring. A program under the Public Service Employment Act provides that armed forces personnel may apply for a position as a member of the particular department would apply. How many departments have such a policy? I know that DND does that, but the last information we had was that not many other government departments had put this in place.

Rear-Admiral Smith: I see that as a two-pronged question. First, with respect to priority hiring within the public service, that is an enabling piece. It still remains incumbent upon individual departments to be proactive in that regard.

With respect to opportunities for well and non-injured people to apply to public sector positions, that is an open piece. If it is posted as an internal competition, Canadian Forces personnel are invited to apply as if they are members of the public service.

Senator Day: Is it up to each department to make the determination?

Rear-Admiral Smith: That is correct.

Senator Day: DND has that in place for all civilian positions. Any retiring member of the armed forces can apply for those internal positions, as if he or she were a public servant looking for another position. However, not many other federal government departments have taken the initiative to set that up. What are you doing to try to increase the possibilities in that area for retiring personnel?

Rear-Admiral Smith: We have not done anything specifically to vigorously promote that throughout other departments. I see that more as a Public Service Commission initiative to drive.

Senator Day: I might suggest to you that going through a management change, the Public Service Commission watches the priorities closely. You may want to push a bit to try to convince some of these departments to open up. The initiative is there. We passed it into law about five or six years ago, but a little push needs to take place to open this up to retiring personnel.

Mr. Hillier: As I noted, Veterans Affairs has opened up and put in place such asset qualifications that in jobs where Canadian Forces experience is considered valuable, experience can be used as a selection tool for equally qualified individuals.

Other than that, we have been doing some moral suasion, so we had to make sure our own house is in order, and open and transparent. It is difficult to encourage other people to be open and provide opportunities for veterans if our rules, as you noted, say it is up to each department. Therefore, we have taken that leadership role.

Senator Day: I would expect that VAC, DND and the Canadian Forces are open to following that initiative; but it is other departments that are of concern.


Senator Nolin: I am sorry for being late. Perhaps you talked about this in your opening remarks, but I would like to hear what you have to say about the decrease in income after military members are released. Could you specifically talk about the fact that injured members or female members experience an even more significant decrease than the average?

Your studies show that there is a 10 per cent drop in income after military members are released, but the drop is 30 per cent for women and 29 per cent for the injured.

Have you taken action to bridge this gap, first, to understand it and second, to make sure that we can help those members handle it? I think this is unacceptable.

Rear-Admiral Smith: Thank you for your question.


You speak to the Life After Service Study recently conducted jointly by with Statistics Canada, Veterans Affairs and us.

Senator Nolin: Exactly.

Rear-Admiral Smith: The points raised were helpful for us to better understand the challenges faced by people upon release, especially those who are ill and injured. In relation to the specific question you raise, we have not anything to address that, other than to look at enabling transition support as much as possible to get people figuratively and literally back on their feet to find meaningful work as soon as possible.)


Senator Nolin: I know that we are talking about injured members today, members affected by their job in the military. But I would like to understand the situation for women. In 2011, why are we still seeing a problem and not doing anything about it?


Rear-Admiral Smith: The Life After Service study showed that the relative reduction of employment incomes of women was related to service spouses, not so much to releasing female military members. It was a service spouse income issue that was in play.


Senator Nolin: Are you telling me that we are not comparing two equal categories? So we are not comparing male military members versus female military members, but versus service spouses, correct?

Rear-Admiral Smith: Exactly.

Senator Nolin: I will go to the sources and try to have the situation corrected. But I understand your answer.

I have another question, if you do not mind. I am interested in the second scenario in your presentation that refers to the transition stage when a primary reservist who is single is stationed in one place and his family lives in another place. What services do you provide to the families of single individuals during the transition?

Rear-Admiral Smith: During the transition?

Senator Nolin: I am going by your scenario. He had an injury and the treatment is working. Rehabilitation is working. So it is time for reintegration. What do you do for the families of military members in this case?

Rear-Admiral Smith: In other words, the parents?

Senator Nolin: The parents. If he is single, does he have a family or not? Does he have a family by your criteria?

Rear-Admiral Smith: Yes, definitely.

Senator Nolin: What do you do with his parents?

Col. Blais: They are always welcome to meetings and treatment sessions. The injured member decides who he wants with him, his family, his parents. They can always go to sessions. In terms of benefits, there are no specific benefits. But, if the injured member is an amputee and he is going to stay with his parents, we are able to make adjustments to his parents' home in order to make things easier for the member.

Senator Nolin: In terms of assistance, whether it is the parent or the spouse, they are the first ones interested in the health, often times the psychological health, of their relative, the former member. What kind of support do you have for those people, who just want to help with the rehabilitation process?

Col. Blais: We have a specific program for families. It has two components. There is peer support for the injured and there is a component for families. So these are people who have lived with individuals with PTSD injuries or other mental health issues. We have family members who have experienced similar situations and who are working for the department in order to provide help.

Senator Nolin: As sponsors?

Col. Blais: That is right.

Senator Nolin: Mr. Chair, we have heard witnesses say that male military members in particular face a tremendous challenge, since they keep their condition secret. Spouses are often the ones who notice there is something going on, a problem. Getting the member to admit it is a huge challenge. I assume that is the type of help you give to partners, spouses and families.

Col. Blais: Exactly. As commander of support centres, I can confirm that it is often the mom or the dad calling us to let us know that their son needs help.

Senator Nolin: So they tell you that their son needs help, that he does not admit it, but that he needs it.

Rear-Admiral Smith: Or the spouse comes with her husband and asks us to take care of him because he has a problem. He does not want to talk to us, but she wants him to talk to us.

Senator Nolin: He does not even want to come and see you.

Rear-Admiral Smith: But it sure helps a lot.

Senator Nolin: Yes, we are somewhat familiar with the problem. It is good to hear you talk about it. It is certainly not perfect, but at least you are aware of the situation, and your colleagues from Veterans Affairs Canada are too. They are well aware of the problem because there is an overlap at some stage. You both work with the same clients.

Mr. Hillier: Yes.

Senator Nolin: A client leaves you and goes home. So there has to be continuity in support.

Col. Blais: Not only continuity but also an overlap. Military members still serving are entitled to some benefits and, through the centres, we make sure they receive those benefits.

The Chair: Senator Nolin, I would like to ask another question, if I may. Let me go back to the single member on the base in Edmonton, whose family lives in Lethbridge. Does he receive assistance to go home during his recovery or care? Do the parents receive financial support to be able to go to those meetings or is that up to the individual?

Rear-Admiral Smith: The member can definitely be paid for a short period of time to go, but the parents get no funding.


Senator Wallin: I want to come at this a bit differently. We have heard from all of you, over the course of the last three years — at least that is my experience — on many different occasions. One quick follow-up on Senator Day's point.

My sense is, and I think we have been told — probably by you, but certainly by others — that there is not a great demand to go to work in other government departments. You find that people who leave the military might want to go into DND, but they do not actually want to work at Revenue Canada or other places. It is kind of hard to generate that demand if, in fact, the veterans themselves are not that interested in it. That seems to be the issue. Do you have any comment on that?

Rear-Admiral Smith: I do. It is a great point. I think your comment points to the fact that the Canadian Forces and, by extension, the Department of National Defence, really is a family. When people take the uniform off, they often do so reluctantly. If they are going to do that and want to continue employment in the public service, their first interest really is to remain part of the family — if I can use that term — inside the department.

I think it is an accurate comment. Veterans Affairs, as our cousins, are seen to be closely associated with that. People in the navy might see Fisheries and Oceans as a logical extension of that. However, to go and work in Revenue Canada or Industry Canada might not be so obvious.

Mr. Hillier: I would echo that. Certainly, there are occupations and trades in government that are compatible. Many are not. I think that is why, as Rear-Admiral Smith mentioned earlier this morning, that we have to have a number of tools in the toolbox. Helmets to Hardhats is one. There are also many other things going on with industry in Canada, particularly around the re-service, and what have you. This is clearly a situation where one tool does not suit the vast array of experiences that people have in the Canadian Forces.

Senator Wallin: The other thing I have noticed is that when you talk with soldiers in Afghanistan, or when they come home, the average age is 36. That is young. My sense from a lot of these guys is that they are young. They are just ready to go out and do something else and start again. I do not mean someone who is severely injured, but obviously they need help. I do not know whether you would characterize it as the vast majority, or many, or what your sense of that would be, but they have done their service, are proud of what they have done and are moving on. They do not really need your help, other than with the transition. Do you see that there might even be some reduction in the demand for your services, given this younger generation that says, "I am out of here. I am moving on."

Mr. Hillier: Certainly with our job placement services, the demand has been considerably lower than we had anticipated. Actually, certainly in some of the trades, the feedback I get from my case managers doing the transition interviews is that some of these folks are saying, "I have a job offer before I walk out the door." They have probably been headhunted. It is a good thing that they can take their skills and experience and go elsewhere with it.

However, I want to be clear here that while they are younger — my youngest client is 19 years old — I also have many over 100. While we have a lot of discussion about Canadian Forces modern-day veterans, as Senator Day noted, we are in no way relinquishing our responsibilities to traditional, war-era veterans. They continue to get case-managed and to get the service they need. Yes, there is a focus on veterans of more recent conflicts. However, I want to be clear, from the standpoint of Veterans Affairs, that it is not trading one for the other. Both groups have very different needs, but they both need services from Veterans Affairs.

Senator Wallin: I will make one comment on that. I happened to spend the weekend with my family, and my father had his new forms to fill out. I want to commend you, because they are much simpler than they used to be. We actually only spent about 20 minutes on it. That is one good thing.

Senator Nolin: Except for someone going to Revenue Canada.

Rear-Admiral Smith: With respect to decrease in demand, in the post-Afghanistan conflict era — noting that we are still engaged in Afghanistan in a meaningful way — there is a logical reduction in the number of physical casualties that will present themselves. Having said that, it would be my expectation, in keeping with our experience on OSI and PTS-type injuries, those numbers could grow in the next 24 to 40 months, often as more of a latent effect. That will certainly continue to bring our services into demand.

With respect to people not necessarily needing either our services or the Veterans Affairs services as much as they may have for traditional veterans or pre-2000 and pre-1995, this is reflective of a change in society. When I joined the public service, people used to think we were joining for life, or that it was a life sentence, or a career. Today you see youth fully accepting having two or three careers. Therefore, they are happy to do something different, engaging and adventurous, to get some skills and to move on to have a complete paradigm shift from a career perspective and do something completely different.

Senator Wallin: That is the sense I was getting. You may be right on the PTSD kind of injury. I just came back from Kabul, where we have 1,000 people stationed there. It is very stressful there. It is a different kind of security threat and living arrangement than the combat mission was and, in some cases, more difficult. It is interesting about the larger numbers.

This is just a quick technical point. Is VA now co-located at all of the 24 JPSUs, or almost all?

Col. Blais: There are two sites where we still have a campus concept that they are not in the same building, but the structures are going up now to accommodate them together.

Senator Wallin: That is part of anticipating six months in advance. When someone knows that becomes easier, too.

The Chair: Before we go to a second round, you still have 21 year olds who are veterans, like you did after World War II, and who will still require your needs. You have to have programs to handle that. Regarding that lower-end spectrum of the veterans, whether you are not you are doing that to the same scale you did with the old charter is certainly worthwhile discussing. As an example, for education, where we used to pay the whole university program, that is now nowhere near the same for this generation of veterans, and we have some number of them who have more combat time than World War II veterans, and in more complex operations, too.

There is a delta of the services you are providing in that. This goes to the point we spoke about, namely, going to Revenue Canada. I would find it difficult for an infantryman, who has no obvious trade out there, to apply to Revenue Canada except maybe being a driver. What specifically are you doing in order to assist that person to be re-skilled — that is, to be competitive within the public service — in order to get a job at Revenue Canada? Also, what is Public Service Canada doing regarding veterans who need to be re-skilled to be competitive in order to get those jobs?

Ms. Pellerin: I can provide an answer to that. With our vocational rehabilitation program, which is accessed by those who are medically released and non-medically released and who subsequently have a re-establishment health issue, they can access our vocational rehabilitation program. Once engaged in that program, we have vocational rehabilitation specialists on contract with VAC who do an assessment of the individual's education, experience, military experience, and look at the transferable skills from the military to a civilian occupation.

In addition we look at the individual's health circumstances and career interests. If the military experience or employment is not easily transferred and/or the member participant does not wish to reengage in that type of employment, then our vocational rehabilitation program will provide training in order that the participant can get the skills in order to access a job that is more suitable to their interests in the civilian community. That career interest could be in the public service or in the private sector.

All of our vocational programming is tailored to the individual's circumstances. Location, labour market factors and career interests will be taken into consideration.

The Chair: You are confirming that the public service does not have a particular policy in doing that so that they can transfer their pension that is already going and continue it within the federal service. There is no deliberate dimension from the Public Service of Canada to go and get the veterans to join them and retrain them and employ them?

Mr. Hillier: I am not aware of any such initiative.

The Chair: No, that is right.

Senator Wallin: Send them to Saskatchewan.

Senator Day: The one area that we talked about earlier of allowing retiring armed forces personnel to apply in an internal competition is a major step that has been taken and is overseen by the Public Service Commission. It is important for us to realize that this is internal. They will not have to apply for a position that they see in a particular department with everyone else from across Canada, it is an internal process.

Rear-Admiral Smith: That goes to the chair's previous question. Within the SISIP vocational rehabilitation, similar to the Veterans Affairs vocational rehab, we have an ability to steer or tailor vocational rehabilitation toward a job that they might be interested in.

Also, on an unofficial basis, as they return to work, if, for example, an infantryman wants to be a heavy lift equipment operator, we have an ability to place them in any one of the maintenance or supply depots in order to gain on-the-job experience in that regard. Equally, we continue to have the base personnel selection officers who are schooled in matching an individual's desires with a training program to help them better understand and have a realistic expectation of how to approach the transition, the skill development piece.

Senator Day: I would think a lot of the skills that the armed forces personnel develop would be ideal for areas like CSIS, border security and the RCMP. There are a lot of possibilities out there. It is a shame, for those skills that have been developed — and, you put a lot of time into training the skills and disciplines for positions in the armed forces — that we do not take advantage of that maybe to the extent that we could.

Rear-Admiral Smith: I would agree; noted. I know your question was more specifically related to a public service employment piece. My experience with dealing with corporate Canada is that corporate Canada, be it the bank industry, food distribution, cartage companies, financial institutions, amon others, are looking hungrily at the types of skill sets that Canadian Forces members have, whether it be communication skills, leadership skills, or organizational skills that we would tend to take for granted inside the Canadian Forces and that, based on what I am told, are not as readily apparent outside. The corporal "infantreer" that may be transition may not necessarily have all the knowledge related to distribution inside a food distribution warehouse. They can give that. What they cannot give them is the leadership, communication and organizational skills that he comes to the table with. They are interested in plugging in and tapping into that resource base.

Senator Wallin: This is more in summation, but we have been taking testimony in all of this, have seen the changes, improvements, the form that is better, and the actions to the JPSUs. Many things are improving. You have heard the question before, but is there one thing you wish you could fix that you think is still an issue — where someone is missing something — or do you feel you have the safety net underneath there somewhere?

Rear-Admiral Smith: Off the cuff, I would say if anything, it would be to raise awareness. A lot of people transitioning, even at the age of 36, do not naturally see themselves as veterans. They still see veterans as the folks on Remembrance Day who march of with a rack full of medals. Everybody in the forces today will inevitably become a veteran. Whether they become a client of Veterans Affairs is another issue. However, to raise awareness that when you transition — should you have an illness or injury related to service — there are services and programs available. That is an issue we continue to work on.

Mr. Hillier: I would respond by saying the government has been clear that the New Veterans Charter is a living document, and it will be adjusted over time as needs are identified or change. The evidence is that is Bill C-55, which we have put in place and people are getting the benefits of. I remember being in this chamber the evening before the election was called for clause by clause to get that through.

I would note that we are ongoing with our policy work, continuing with our joint research with the Canadian Forces, and also other veterans' administrations around the world. In terms of where we go I would like to highlight that this fall, in late October, we had the first meeting of a new veterans stakeholder group. This is a much expanded group that takes in many modern-day veterans' organizations. We are listening to those groups in terms of the issues they are hearing from their colleagues and from the men and women who have served.

The safety net is solid, but it is not perfect. We want to hear from veterans and veterans' groups.

Senator Wallin: One thing we discussed at that time was that the young folks coming back tend to keep in touch, because they email each other. They are not going to the legion on Tuesday night in the same way, so you have now found an access point.

Mr. Hillier: That is correct. We have expanded the stakeholder group. We met in Ottawa I believe the last week of October, and spent the better part of a day with them. The minister was there for part of the day, myself, and other assistant deputy ministers. We want to listen to them and hear what their concerns are. This will guide us in our policy work we need to do.

The Chair: We would be interested in knowing the terms of reference of your stakeholder group. It was not explained well what the employment rehabilitation that SISIP provides, when it is operating, what the employment rehabilitation that VAC provides, when it is operating, and how the two are communicating with the same body. You could provide that information to us subsequently — because we are running out of time — to be able to meet that requirement.

The other question from the chair is about your contracted people. They are providing employment retraining and advisory to members or their spouses. Where do you think that is at in regard to your satisfaction with their performance, as well as your clients'?

Mr. Hillier: I think we have made a lot of progress over time. We are not getting many complaints. As a judge of that, I look at the types of emails I get or the minister gets, and we are not seeing that. We have had some challenges from time to time when we got started up. We needed to bring to the attention of the prime contractor some of the subcontractors that probably did not meet our expectations. We have a contract which we monitor and we ensure the results are appropriate. It is all about the outcomes. In fact, we are able to ensure that we move forward.

Ms. Pellerin: With our contractor we have a minimum education requirement. All of our vocational rehabilitation specialists must meet a certain educational requirement in counselling, social work, and that type of thing. As well, they must be registered within their province or nationally, as a registered rehabilitation professional or vocational professional.

The Chair: Were you able to answer the first question?

Rear-Admiral Smith: SISIP runs the respective vocational rehabilitation programs through the Canadian Forces and the equivalent vocational program in Veterans Affairs. They are complementary and not competing programs. The SISIP piece is consistent with an insurance vocational rehab program, with a duration of 30 months. It can start six months prior to release and go for a period of 30 months. All medically releasing personnel have access to that program.

The Veterans Affairs vocational rehabilitation program is for people who release voluntarily and subsequently present with the service-related vocational rehabilitation need. Or it is for those who complete the SISIP program, ultimately return to work and it is not successful. It is a wonderful safety net that the government has put in place that recognizes service to the country for veterans to have a second approach to vocational rehabilitation. One is an insurance program, the other is a social program that is complementary. Increasingly, we are having Veterans Affairs case managers have a look early on in the SISIP piece to better understand what the vocational rehabilitation goals are for the transitioning member. When they have completed their SISIP piece, and if there is an issue or something else VAC can do, they are well aware of that in advance instead of picking it up after the fact.

Senator Day: You may not be able to give me all the information now, but the Military Civilian Training Accreditation Program, I would think would be helpful in recruiting. It would also help your job in placing retired personnel afterwards if they have an accreditation for their skill — for the technical train they have learned while in the armed forces — that they can carry into civilian life. I note that the lead on this is the Canadian Defence Academy. Where is it? Is there a briefing note we could get as to know how well it is moving along? It is not just for people retiring but for those in the armed forces. On a regular basis, would they be upgraded within their various skills?

Rear-Admiral Smith: I will give you an imperfect answer and take the question on notice. The Canadian Defence Academy has done a lot of work looking at qualifications, accreditation, and prior learning. It is an ongoing piece to tie in the various engineering or technologist societies across the country, to recognize some of the training we do. That is an ongoing piece. Quite a bit of work has been done. I would be happy to come back and provide you with greater detail in a note subsequently.

Senator Day: If you could, that would be helpful.

The Chair: Thank you all for being very candid, succinct and clear in your responses to us in this complex transition exercise that people are going through.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This session is closed.

(The committee adjourned.)

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