Let's Talk Veterans-February 2021
Veterans Affairs Canada’s magazine, Salute! is now an e-newsletter. Please share this e-mail with your friends and networks, and encourage them to register by visiting letstalkveterans.ca to keep up on issues that matter to Veterans and their families.
Let us know what you think about the new Salute! by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrating Black History Month—The Niagara Military Museum’s Black Military History Travelling Exhibit
February is Black History Month. Often having to overcome great challenges just to enlist in the military, the sacrifices and achievements of Black Canadians over the years have shone through.
The Niagara Military Museum recently unveiled the Black Military History of Niagara Traveling Exhibit to share the stories of Black Canadians who served. The exhibit is tailored to youth and features personal stories of service from the First and Second World Wars, Korean War, Afghanistan, and other conflicts.
Read more about this interesting project: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/art-hub/niagara-military-museum
Interested in learning more about the Black Canadians who have served our country? Be sure to visit the Peoples and Stories section on our website.
30th Anniversary of the end of the Gulf War
We are fast approaching the 30th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War on 28 February.
Veterans Affairs Canada has created an online space to mark this important anniversary and honour the Canadians who served in this conflict. The web page features a series of learning resources, profiles of Veterans who served in the conflict, a web gallery and more.
Take a look to learn about the history and the people who participated: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/wars-and-conflicts/gulf-war/30th-anniversary
Do you remember when Canada joined the war effort in the Gulf War? Share your memories to recognize the brave Canadians who served in this conflict, using the hashtags #CanadaRemembers and #GulfWar30.
If you would like to share your story with us, please email email@example.com.
Update on efforts to reduce wait times
Reducing wait times for disability benefit applications is our number one priority. We understand why Veterans and their families are frustrated, and we are making changes to address these concerns head-on. In June 2020, we released a strategy to address the long-standing issue of wait times for disability benefits decisions: Timely Disability Benefits Decisions: Strategic Direction for Improving Wait Times.
Veteran Benefit Teams
One of the ways we’re working on reducing wait times outlined in our plan is by creating new Veteran Benefit Teams. These teams include Disability Services Assistants, Benefits Program Officers and Disability Adjudicators–-the people who move applications from intake to adjudication to payment.
The pilot Veteran Benefit Team completed decisions in 17 weeks, compared to the previous 50.5 weeks; while it’s still early days with full implementation of this structure, we expect to see similar gains in the operationalized VBTs.
Since the release of our plan, Spike Teams have also been hired, trained (virtually) and, as of January 2021, have started to make decisions on disability benefit applications. One quarter of these employees are French or bilingual.
With the addition of Spike Teams, we expect to significantly reduce the number of claims waiting beyond the 16-week service standard by the end of March 2022.
We are tracking progress and providing regular updates on our efforts to address wait times, which you can find in our Disability Benefits Processing Summary Report. As the efforts of the Spike Teams ramp up, the progress should show in future quarterly reports.
Fighting the COVID-19 blues
Mental health and substance use supports are more important than ever as Canadians deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a difficult time, but you aren’t alone. If you need support with mental health or substance use issues, resources are available to you and your family.
Wellness Together Canada was launched with the challenges of COVID-19 in mind. Funded by the Government of Canada, this online mental health and substance use portal is led by three of Canada’s leading mental health and substance use organizations—Kids Help Phone, Homewood Health and Stepped Care Solutions.
You can access free, confidential and immediate parenting, mental health and substance use support 24 hours a day. The portal contains resources and tools to support the well-being of people of all ages in English and French. It connects you and your loved ones with qualified mental health and substance use professionals or volunteers, depending on the type of assistance you need.
Creating an account is simple and the information you provide is kept strictly confidential. Once your account is created, you can do a five-minute mental health self-assessment to tailor your wellness resources to your unique mental health journey. The self-guided courses, e-learning tools and one-on-one counselling are all available to you for free. There is also a dedicated phone line, accessible through the home page, to speak with Program Navigators that can help identify resources that best fit your needs.
The VAC Assistance Service (1-800-268-7708) is also available for former members of CAF and the RCMP, their families and caregivers. It is a confidential and free service, available 24/7, that offers psychological support by trained mental health professionals.
What We Heard: Veteran Community Consultation
Veterans Affairs Canada recently consulted Veterans and their families who are not currently served by the Department on how we can improve our communication and outreach to all former military members.
The final report from this public engagement is now online at: https://letstalkveterans.ca/veteran-community-consultation
Thanks to everyone who participated in this engagement and shared information with your networks.
Listening to your Feedback: Cannabis for Medical Purposes
One of our readers asked about Cannabis for Medical Purposes. Generally speaking, Veterans who have qualified for disability benefits and have a medical authorization from their healthcare practitioner may be reimbursed for cannabis for medical purposes. Visit our website for the details, including the policy, FAQs, and more.
Veterans Independence Program: Stay in charge of life
There are times when we could all use a hand. Whether it’s shoveling snow during the winter, keeping your property in good condition during the summer, or help with housekeeping, meal preparation and personal care, the Veterans Independence Program is here for eligible Veterans.
The Veterans Independence Program can also provide you with professional health and support services that will give you the freedom and quality of life you deserve. These services include transportation to and from appointments, long term care, ambulatory healthcare (assessments, diagnostics, and activities) and more.
Applying for the Veterans Independence Program is easy. If you have qualified for a disability benefit or the War Veterans Allowance, receive the Prisoner of War Compensation, or qualify for (but can’t access) a Contract Bed, you can apply directly through your My VAC Account. You can also download the form and mail it to us.
Our goal with the Veterans Independence Program is to make sure your life after service is as independent and fulfilling as possible. You take the lead – we’re here to back you up whenever you need a hand.
The Veterans Organizations Emergency Support Fund
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Canadians across the country hard and in different ways. Each passing month brought new challenges and forced us to adapt quickly to new ways of working and living. This has been especially true for organizations that serve Veterans and their families.
Veterans organizations play a critical role in the lives and well-being of Veterans and their families, as well as the communities in which they are located. These organizations also provide support for homeless Veterans and those with disabilities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Veterans organizations haven’t been able to go into the community and hold events or run charity drives due to health and safety restrictions. Falling charitable donations and general revenue has meant some of these organizations risk closing their doors forever.
The Veterans Organization Emergency Support Fund was launched in November 2020 to help organizations who have been hit hard financially. The $20 million fund supports charitable and non-profit Veterans organizations that have lost revenue because of the pandemic. This funding means organizations can continue their work during a time when it is needed most.
This funding forms part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan to protect millions of jobs, provide emergency support to families, and keep businesses afloat throughout the pandemic.
Veteran profile: Col. (Retired) Mark Gasparotto
Each month, we will bring you a Veteran’s story. Browse our full collection of profiles on our People and Stories page.
The sooner, the better: When to start thinking about life after service
Col. (Retired) Mark Gasparotto spent 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces before he released from service. By the time he turned in the last of his kit and signed all the necessary paperwork, he had been thinking about his transition for a decade.
Here are five pieces of Col. (Retired) Mark Gasparotto’s advice:
1. Pay attention to choices you make that have long-term implications
Mark is a trained engineer. He spent his career sweating the details, whether he was leading the construction of Route Summit in Zhari / Panjwayi or commanding the 2 Combat Engineers Regiment at Petawawa. He paid similar attention to the life choices he made during his military and post-military careers.
Read Mark’s story here.