THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
MENTAL HEALTH OF CANADIAN VETERANS: A FAMILY PURPOSE
THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
MENTAL HEALTH OF CANADIAN VETERANS: A FAMILY PURPOSE
Veterans Affairs Canada MMJ UPDATE POLICY – Partial Victory for Veterans.
Veterans Affairs Canada has **backed off from requiring both a pain and psychiatrist** if you have both a physical and psychological condition as of May 15th.
“When both chronic pain and a psychiatric condition are present, additional documentation will be required from either a medical specialist in the treatment of chronic pain or a psychiatrist.”
When both chronic pain and a psychiatric diagnosis are present, additional documentation will be required from a medical specialist in chronic pain as well as from a psychiatrist. Both medical specialists must be in agreement for approval of reimbursement.
Ste. Anne’s Hospital…ref Mr. Marcel Beluse ,”A TALE OF TWO CITIES” (OTTAWA &QUEBEC)
To Whom It May Concern….and sure as hell it should concern anyone who is at all concerned about the continuing welfare of the hundreds of helpless Veterans still surviving (but hardly thriving) at Ste. Anne’s Hospital, following the April Fool’s Day transfer of that once-fine facility to the ministrations of La Belle Province.
Hereunder, you will (I trust) be (dis)pleased to find a verbatim copy of a no-laughing -matter letter recently received from Ms Micheline Beluse, the devoted but disillusioned daughter of a Veteran on my floor, disappointed and despairing of the current care and treatment being tendered to her frail and ailing father.
It is my contention, and that of Micheline and a plentitude of other persons partial to the better interests of our vulnerable (albeit not always venerable) Veterans, that the promised prior level of care is not being accorded to them, in accordance with the underlying terms of the Transfer Agreement, which are being blatantly broken and breached at turn after turn, day after day.
Such palpable violations are manifested and exemplified in the poignant and pathetic letter below, presented as it is, for what it is, and representing but one voice on behalf of just one of the many other Veterans who are subject to similar egregious experiences, which are all too often, for reasons of feared retaliation, not voiced with volition.
It is my fervent plea–and hope– that the elements so expounded and exposed in Ms Beluse’s compelling communication, will be considered and corrected by the Transition Committee, not just as specific situations, but as symptoms of the overall and underlying primary problems permeating Ste. Anne’s Hospital as we know it today Those dire and destructive “TEN PLAGUES” , from which most of the ills besetting the patients infiltrate into their daily life routines, lie embedded within the faults and flaws to be found in the new nature of, and Provincial personnel protocols pertaining to and/or producing, the following :…..
STAFF SELECTION …STAFF TRAINING…STAFF SHORTAGES…STAFF ROTATION…
STAFF PART-TIME POSTS…STAFF INDIFFERENCE…STAFF INCOMPETENCE…
STAFF PLACEMENTS…STAFF INSECURITY…and STAFF MORALE, AT ITS VERY NADIR.
Now, “cut & paste”, or superimpose that plethora of problems upon the proper level of care pledged to our Veterans, and, inevitably, those negatives will produce a picture of pure chaos, consternation, confusion and concern affecting the patients, in place of the constant core of comfort , contentment and confidence which prevailed in the pre-Provincial period.
Unless and until principal personnel policy and procedural changes are promptly and positively designed and implemented by the Transition Committee, fully reinforced by “the full faith and credit” of Veterans Affairs Canada, the disease duo of decline and deterioration will spread and infect the few, final years left to the final, few Veterans still left, b seeking sanctuary and shelter, in the dwindling shadow of Ste. Anne’s Hospital, originally intended to serve as their penultimate place of peace and rest, not trauma and turmoil.
Having pronounced my preamble, I will now clear the way for Ms Micheline Beluse to present her compelling case, on behalf of her father and his fellow-Veterans.
NE KAH NE TAH
Ste. Anne’s Hospital
July 13 2016
Hello, Mr. Solkin
This follows the discussion we had last week and I thank you for your help and patience.
On Monday I went to my father’s closet to get him a clean shirt and found that the ones we had put in the wash more than 2 weeks ago had not been returned. I then went to the sock and underwear drawer and found that Dad had not been putting his underwear in the wash. I looked at the socks…I had been wondering why he was washing them himself and found that most of the socks I had bought him were gone. I asked Paul the attendant on Dad’s floor and Gercia the nurse about this and they both said that the people who pick up the bags for the wash don’t sort out what is taken care of at Ste-Anne and the pieces such as facecloths, towels and sheets that are being sent out to an independent facility. The result is that clothes disappear. The independent facility does not return the residents’ clothing despite the fact everything is clearly identified with name, floor, Ste-Anne Hospital. I asked what was being done since I don’t seem to be the first family member to be confused about this…and they had no idea. All they could tell me is that the staff is constantly reminded not to send out the personal clothing but the constant rotation I now have to go buy Dad new clothes, trust that they will be properly identified and returned…but I have my doubts. My Dad is now paranoid about changing his clothes…
I have noticed that there is a change in the quality of the food that is fed to the residents. I thought it was just me so I asked the other residents if they had noticed anything as well. Yes they had. As an example, I was with Dad at lunchtime and he had a sandwich, fruit, milk and tea. I was sure dinner would be more copious and better balanced. In fact dinner was a very small helping of baked beans, fries, ketchup and a desert. The residents are not complaining and I asked why…the answer was they are afraid of reprisals and the people attending meals can’t do anything about replacing a meal that is not satisfactory. I am perplexed. The dietician in charge of our unit is Monica, very devoted and attentive to the residents. She is present at almost every lunch time but appears to be unable to control what comes up from the kitchens… In the past the meals were served at a fixed time…on the dot. Now the meals can be up to an hour late. In the past if a resident was unable to eat the food or found it unpalatable or was dissatisfied, a substitute was provided. This no longer happens. The meal is the meal, like it or leave it. I have asked Dad to keep the meal slips for me so that I can see what he is fed since I am not present at all sittings.
I have to say that the food at the cafeteria is not what it used to be either…but I am not a resident and have a choice to go elsewhere. The Veterans don’t.
On the subject: One of Dad’s little joys is his daily can of Pepsi. I got a call from Monica last week and she was upset. Apparently the contractor has been changed and only Coke is being served now. Dad got really upset with Monica who can do little about it. She asked me could I please run by the store and bring him some to keep him happy. I did. What I don’t understand is that the little snack bar in the atrium doesn’t seem to have a problem getting soft drinks but the hospital does.
We now seem to have won the war of toilet paper penury. To palliate I have brought in extras that I put in the night table by Dad’s bed. It only took a little over a month to convince the staff in charge of sanitation that a person in a wheelchair and who is on stool softeners cannot access the extra rolls set on top of the paper towel dispenser. A little over a month and a few trips to Walmart. M
The facecloths and towels are not regularly furnished or replaced. The result is that Dad may have to use the same facecloth and towel for several days…they get to have an unpleasant odor.
We now have a problem with the designated ‘family room’. When Dad was admitted and the Federal Government was in charge of Ste-Anne the current situation did not exist. As a family member I am restricted to the use of the bathroom in that room. I cannot use the resident’s facilities…none of them. Now I find that if I need to go to the bathroom, there is likely a staff member there and I have to wait my turn. The staff also uses the room for naps and snacks. Last week I had to ask permission to go use the staff bathroom as the family room’s was occupied but the staff’s wasn’t. From October to April this did not happen once. With personnel cuts this should not happen. The attendants I know say that either they use the family room facilities or have to wait for the relief person to come and take over while they run to the staff bathroom.
The family room runs out of soap on a regular basis as does the large resident bathroom in the hallway. I spoke to Simon Leblanc about all this. Nothing has changed.
I have asked to meet with Dr. Richer who has now taken over Dad’s care. I hope to see her at the upcoming interdisciplinary meeting on the 22nd. That I know of, there have been no full checkups or bloodwork done on Dad since the takeover. He has gained a lot of weigh and I am concerned. The nurses have put notes in his record. He has also complained about dry eyes and now I’m waiting to see if anything is being done about this. Catching up with the nurse on duty is not always easy.
There have been three incidences of nigh orderlies (or nurses, hard to tell) coming into Dad’s room around 4 A.M. to take blood pressure. Waking an older gentleman at that hour is bad enough but what puts him in a fury is that these ‘équipe volante’ persist in putting the sides up on his bed. This happened again last week. Dad was furious and the head nurse on duty had to be called in. Dad considers putting up the sides of his bed unnecessary and entering to his room without prior advice or knocking an invasion of privacy. This is his home and in his home he sleeps in the buff and goes to the bathroom at least twice in the nighthhb…he doesn’t want to hit his head on the metal sides either. The relief people do not read the notes. Fortunately they have stopped trying to take his hearing aids away.
I bought batteries for Dad’s hearing aids since the nurses’ cabinet didn’t have more than 2. I was told that all Dad needed to do was go down to the clinic and ask for some. Dad has no idea how to do this and telling him is useless. He has short term memory loss and gets easily disorientated. I will do this for him now. This never happened before the takeover.
In April, Dad’s eyeglass frames had to be repaired and the attendant took them to the clinic. The clinic warned that unfortunately the frames were old and couldn’t be repaired again: he needed new glasses. On the 19th Nurse Gercia called for an ophthalmology consult. This was refused because Dad had cancelled his appointment in December while under the influence of a powerful drug administered by the hospital. We were told he would only be seen next December. I had to argue and argue and finally got an appointment on the 19th of June and the glasses are being ordered. If the frames had broken my Dad would have been both hard of hearing and unable to get around…he would have been blind as well.
In April, Dad’s wheelchair seat was so soiled that it had become malodorous. I asked that it be cleaned and the request was made. And refused. Apparently this is only done once a year and it wasn’t his turn. It was the attendant Paul who went downstairs and did the cleaning himself. Two attendants are still here from the old set: Paul and Julie. We are very grateful for this.
In May, one of the other residents got very belligerent and threatened Dad. He was alarmed and so was I. I had seen that man wheel himself into another resident’s room and pick a fight. The attending nurse had run down the hallway at the ruckus and hurriedly wheeled the man away to his room. Neither Dad nor I knew whether the man was able to cause damage. Both Adrienne and I talked to the head nurse to express our concerned and the whole matter was pretty much dismissed until we said the next time we would have Dad call the police…this was scoffed at as the police could do nothing. We pointed out that at least there would be a record of the event and if things turned ugly the hospital would be held responsible. The situation has not re-occurred and the resident is now nowhere near my father.
All and all, Mr. Solkin, things are more and more difficult since the takeover. It seems like a whole lot of little problems and some serious ones are forcing me to have boots on the ground and eyes all around which did not happen under the old regime. I had complete confidence in the care and attention to detail. My Dad was safe and well taken care of. If I had a problem, I would speak to the nurse and she would refer me to the proper department…case solved. Now, I never know what next and I find Dad becoming more irascible as obstacles pile up.
Thanks again for your attention and help
Micheline Beluse, Marcel Beluse’s daughter
Stakeholders. Lordy, lot of yipping about stakeholders now that victory is within grasp and most, if not all, have now embraced the mandate letter.
I have no idea what the criteria the new government has set reference Stake holder “summit” invitations or involvement on the six advisory groups struck. The CVA were invited by the Conservative government 5 years ago, to date., there has been no change to the status quo other than increased involvement in advisory group activity.
I do not know about many of the “newbies”, there are over thirty organizations now, charities, for profit, some that are obscure. I know that we fought for inclusion, held a D Day “vigil” to remind them of their promises and the consequences of failure.
We held frank, yet always respectful discussions with the minister during budget week, the Sacred Obligation principles were once again clearly refined, particularly in reference to the promised return to the Pension Act and equality between ELB and SISIP. Hehr told me that the CVA was being invited to hold HIM to account, to ensure the promises made to veterans were fulfilled with in the mandate, which he promised to do.
I have accepted.
I fully plan on holding them to account.
I do not what the new government’s criteria is in reference to the others or their motives. As you know, the Liberal promises closely resemble the CVA Harmonization plan, this is not random. We are non partisan, and after securing the NDP’s support, worked the liberals damn hard, pre-Trudeau and after, seeking a harmonized return to the pension act with a plan that respects the needs of those who served in war and the older generation, many who would prefer an LSA.
Promises have been made. The CVA has been invited to some of these advisory groups and “summit” to ensure these promises are kept and provide assistance at the group level to create proposals that are truly reflective of the mandate letter and the opportunity to collectively redress the major issues.
The bump to the LSA has concerned many veterans who wish to return to the pension Act, I have been asked a hundred times if not more why would the government bump up the LSA if they are planning on returning to the Pension Act?
Of course, I do not know but were I to speculate I could think of some reasons off hand. The legion and those composing the stakeholders group rallied behind a similar number and were actively promoting during the past couple of years. They would use the tort law as justification, which bring up a second likely reason, the Equitas lawsuit and the legal reference to subparity to average tort law (negligence at the work site). Perhaps it was to provide inclusion for all who were affected by the NVC LSA; the Critical Injury Benefit was very selective, while it might have applied and satisfied the Equitas litigants injuries, restrictive criteria ensured it did not apply equally to all veterans as will the increase once it passes through legislation.
I would also note, for what it is worth to you -Im not going to argue with the anti-liberal quotient- , the mandate is clear on providing a choice between the Pension act and the LSA, with an increase to the LSA. I do not know if the 360 threshold is far as they are prepared to go, whether we can get it higher during the ongoing discussions, but I do know that the Pension Act is in the mandate letter, their is unity with every stakeholder i have spoken to re pension act return and if the government is sincere, proposals will be presented prior to the next budget that will continue to address the issues many of us have been fighting for, or suffering through, these past many years.
FYI. There were over thirty organizations present at the summit last December, I read something the other day that might indicate the “summit” number will be expanded significantly.
I would encourage you to get engaged. While things are progressing according to my expectations (it has been six months- six of the fifteen mandate letter promises are already going through parliament) there is still the need to apply pressure through the base.
Stay focused on the mandate letter and the choice of returning to the Pension Act. This is new territory for some orgs, the mandate letter has circumvented their galvanization agenda. If you want your voice heard, do something about it!
Start speaking out not on facebook or these never ending email chains but where it will make a difference. If nothing else, write some emails to the PM, Ministers, parl secretary, use your membership with any organization to your advantage, send an email to their national presidents encouraging them to rally formally in favour of the Pension Act promises and other important issues identified in the mandate letter.
New Initiative to Consult with Veterans Stakeholders – Advisory groups to improve transparency and engage with Veterans
OTTAWA, April 15, 2016 /CNW/ – The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, today announced a new initiative to broaden engagement with stakeholders. Six ministerial advisory groups are being put in place as part of his commitment to improve transparency and support consultation to address important Veterans’ issues.
The six advisory groups will focus on policy, service excellence, mental health, families, care and support and commemoration. Each group will be comprised of up to twelve members, and participants will appoint a chair from their membership. A senior departmental official will also be selected to co-chair each group and a representative of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman will be invited to attend the meetings as an observer. Current members’ names will be updated as the advisory groups are established and their membership confirmed.
The overall goal is to engage with stakeholders, work toward common goals and seek advice and input on new and existing initiatives to support Veterans. The six advisory groups will help inform policy and program development as well as service delivery at Veterans Affairs Canada. This will ensure all areas reflect the changing needs of Veterans and their families. Records of discussion of these meetings will also be posted as they become available.
A Ministerial stakeholder summit with broader representation is planned for May 9-10, 2016, in Ottawa. The summit will provide an opportunity to collaborate, share views and gather information on topics that are important to Veterans and their families. This is a follow-up to the December 2015 Stakeholder Summit whose record of discussion is posted online.
Advisory groups provide an opportunity for early and ongoing dialogue with stakeholders and serve as a sounding board for the development of Veterans Affairs Canada’s policies, programs and services.
Advisory group members are selected in consultation with stakeholder groups and based on their interests and involvement within the Veteran community. Membership of these groups is still being finalized and will be made public once confirmed.
Veterans Affairs Canada will continue to listen to all interested and engaged stakeholders regardless of their involvement in any of these groups.
Stakeholder Summits are large, in-person events to discuss stakeholder priorities. Representatives from nearly 30 stakeholder groups attended the last Stakeholder Summit on December 2, 2015.
“Through our new initiative, I want to create a space and forum for stakeholders to give me their advice and suggestions. It is not our position to tell Veterans and their families what they need—we want to hear from them. Our new strategy, including the six advisory groups, will help us build stronger relationships with Veterans and the organizations that represent them.”
The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister for National Defence
Claude Lord, a Canadian military veteran, lives in a shipping container in a poor neighbourhood of Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Murray Brewster , The Canadian Press Published Sunday, January 10, 2016 2:16PM EST Last Updated Sunday, January 10, 2016 4:12PM EST
OTTAWA — Pat Stogran, Canada’s first veterans ombudsman, vividly recalls being hauled into the minister’s office one day in late 2008, where an angry, red-faced Greg Thompson — the veterans minister of the day — upbraided him for making public the issue of homelessness among ex-soldiers.
It was not an issue, Thompson allegedly told the extra infantry colonel, who had been selected for the watchdog post by a Conservative government eager to demonstrate that it was the best friend of the troops.
The encounter, chronicled in Stogran’s book Rude Awakening: The Government’s Secret War Against Canada’s Veterans, was the beginning of the end of the rapport they’d enjoyed. And it eventually led to the Harper government not renewing Stogran’s position in 2010.
Stogran says he tried unsuccessfully throughout his mandate to get the former Conservative government to recognize that homelessness among ex-soldiers was not only an issue, but a growing concern.
“They weren’t going to do anything unless they got hit in the head with a hammer,” said Stogran, who indicated the reluctance to acknowledge the problem extended to the veterans department as well.
What got him in trouble was the high-profile visits he made to homeless shelters across the country, where in 2009 — despite being chewed out — he began asking staff to collect data on whether shelter residents had any military service.
That data didn’t make its way into the national registry in a co-ordinated way for five years.
“I’m gob-smacked it took until 2014 for them to actually pick up on it,” Stogran said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Last week, Employment and Social Development Canada released a report to The Canadian Press that estimates 2,250 former soldiers — about 2.7 per cent of the total homeless population — use shelters on a regular basis.
Some groups, such as the Royal Canadian Legion, say they believe the estimate is too low and point to the fact that a Legion outreach program has dealt with 425 homeless ex-soldiers in Ontario alone since 2009.
The current veterans ombudsman, who worked for Stogran, says he also recalls the former government balking at the notion that veterans were — for one reason or another — ending up on the streets.
“There was some argument with the minister at the time whether it was an issue. Obviously it is,” Guy Parent said last week, reacting to the social development report. “Even one homeless veteran is too many.”
Thompson was actually quite vocal in dismissing Stogran, telling The Canadian Press in a 2009 interview that his ombudsman produced no evidence of such a problem.
“He’s never taken down one name of the homeless veterans that he’s met. That is just beyond the pale,” he said in May 2009.
“Why hasn’t he forwarded those names to Veterans Affairs Canada, knowing full well we have the programs there to help them? Why would he be so insensitive to veterans as to not provide those names? It makes absolutely no sense.”
The force of his argument may be somewhat diminished given that 2007 briefing notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information, warned Thompson that the issue was something the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada wanted to talk to him about at the organization’s annual meeting in May of that year.
“There have been a number of reports over the last year of people identifying themselves as veterans accessing food banks and homeless shelters in Alberta,” said the May 10, 2007 note.
A few months after that interview, in November, Thompson introduced a trial outreach program meant to identify ex-soldiers on the streets.
Parent noted that the veterans department is working with an outreach group to combat the problem. And Kent Hehr, the new Liberal minister, told CBC Television’s Power n’ Politics last week that his ministry is working aggressively to reverse the trend.
But Stogran says the new minister is facing an entrenched bureaucracy that needed as much convincing as the Conservatives.
During the election campaign, Liberals promised better treatment of veterans and now that they are in government, advocates plan to hold them to it. “I’m very excited. We have a new sense of hope and optimism in the veterans’ community and we’re hoping to build on that,” says Mike Blais, president and founder of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
ListenReverse policies, say advocates
The previous Conservative government brought in several measures which outraged veterans’ groups. Among them, they changed the provision of a monthly allowance for those suffering physical injuries and psychological trauma. Veterans applying for the benefit after 2006 were instead given a lump sum of $250,000, effectively creating two classes of veterans.
The Conservatives closed nine Veterans Affairs offices. The Liberals promised to hire 400 new service delivery staff and to reopen those offices.
A need to prevent suicides
Liberals also promised to spend $1.2 billion over the next for years re-establishing mental health facilities and providing college and university tuition for veterans after they leave the military. More veterans have died of suicide than suffered combat-related death in the war in Afghanistan, and Blais says that proves the need for better care and support.
Liberals also pledged $100 million for family support for caregivers who are often the front-line workers in identifying those in trouble and getting veterans help.
Disability helps minister understand struggling vets, says advocate
“There are many positive things that have been brought forward—things that we as an advocacy (group) have fought to have included in their election platform,” says Blais. “And we damn well plan on making sure that (Prime Minister) Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal government fulfills his promise.”
The new Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr was shot years ago, went through extensive rehabilitation, and now gets around in a wheelchair. Blais thinks this gives him a unique understanding of what injured soldiers go through.
‘Time for hope’
And, after meeting Hehr, he is even more encouraged. “He said he knew who I was and I told him bluntly, ‘then you know why I’m here. Mr. Trudeau promised me he would give you a very strong mandate to resolve these veterans’ issues and I have full expectations that those issues will be resolved within the first two years of a Liberal mandate.’ And he responded affirmatively. I believe he is going to make the effort to make this happen in an expedient manner.
“Veterans who have been disenfranchised—those who have been living in fear or felt abandoned and felt they had no hope—now, now there is time for hope.”
ONE VETERAN’S VOICE
by Wolf William Solkin
“RELAX RESTRICTIONS ! EXPAND ELIGIBILITY ! ADD ADMISSIONS !”
My beleaguered band of brothers (and sisters) at Ste. Anne’s/Veterans Hospital (SAH) recently received yet another update bulletin from “Management” on the state of the upcoming (up-chucking ?) transfer of our haunted home, from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), to La Belle Province, aka Quebec.
Apart from the regular redundant reassurances, that notice also contained some pertinent passages which served to re-start a long-standing cause of mine, that of the real need to revise, revamp and restructure the current criteria and present procedures for accepting/receiving more bona fide Veterans requiring care in this special facility, rather than, as now, excluding them for a variety of antiquated and/or arbitrary reasons, coupled with some selective/subjective judgement calls, as now implemented by “The Establishment”.
It is noteworthy to quote from the aforementioned SAH bulletin, which states that: “There has been a decrease in the number of beds required for long-term care for traditional Veterans over the last several years. As a result, three 33-bed units (i.e., floors) are currently closed, and an additional 20 or so beds are vacant. In all, approximately 120 of the (total of) 446 beds are unoccupied, and eligible Veterans are admitted without delay”.
Baloney! Malarkey ! Hogwash ! I obviously take exception to the the veracity of the above statement (except for the statistical data), as I have personally been aware of damaging delays in admission. Nor do I accept or acknowledge that the VAC/SAH interpretation of “eligibility” and/or “admissibility” is always fair, consistent or even-handed, within the parameters of the official mandate(s) !
To continue my contention….the term “traditional”as used above by SAH and endorsed by VAC, defines and includes only Veterans of WW I (!!), WW II, and Korea. It excludes [WHY?] any and all Veterans who served in bloody Afghanistan and in the various United Nations deadly peace-keeping missions in some of the world’s worst hell-holes, from which so many of those “younger” CAF volunteers returned to a more (in)different Canada, after suffering serious damage in so many ways. They, too, need but are precluded from the kind of care available only at Ste. Anne’s, despite the plethora of empty beds available, but now being set aside for Barrette’s burgeoning “civilian” corps….[WHY?].
I haven’t conducted a professional survey, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that dozens and dozens of those “New Generation” Vets suffer,not necessarily from PTSD, but from more “traditional” injuries such as loss of limbs, loss of vision, loss of hearing, or chronic lung disease, or brain injury, or…. just name it ! Yet, notwithstanding VAC’s oft-repeated and sacred, solemn avowal/promise/pledge to ensure “priority access” to Ste. Anne’s for (all ?) Canadian Veterans, those Vets are still being treated as orphaned, second-class/third-world citizens [WHY?], by a VAC which is so stuck in the stone ages, that it hasn’t bothered to update its eligibility guidelines long after the last Veteran of the First World War was honoured with the sad strains of “The Last Post” !
Also being side-armed and side-stepped from crossing the goal line at the entrance to Ste. Anne’s Hospital, are the many additional WW II “traditional” Veterans who, through no fault or decision of their own, had been assigned to carry out their voluntary and honourable military service on home soil, Yet, despite their recognizable requirement for the SAH-type of care, they have been left “on the outside looking in; because of what should long since have been declared as obsolescent /passé protocols. They, too, are being denied, disregarded and discriminated against…, [WHY?].
In addition, no thought seems to have been applied [WHY?] to the fact that there are pools of Korean War Veterans and Merchant Mariners who, while currently in their early to mid-eighties and still deemed somewhat self-sufficient, will soon be in their far more frail and feeble nineties, and will then require the Ste. Anne’s brand of care and concern. How long will they, and the other varieties of Veterans described above, be forced to grit their dentures and wait their turn in line for the much-vaunted “priority access”, after Quebec’s Health Dep’t, rushes to fill the full present inventory of unoccupied beds? Even now, the flavour-of-the-month in the non-stop ‘rumour mill’ is that there exists an old and crumbling geriatric 100+ bed facility, which Barrette has already scheduled to shut down, just as soon as “He’s got the whole (Ste. Anne’s) world in his hands”, to which he will immediately relocate the entire present body of “civilian” patients, en masse! How do you like them (rotten) apples ? Unconfirmed, but not unimaginable !
My soundly documented research reveals that , at present, gaining a berth at Ste. Anne’s involves two separate and sequential steps. The first step is that of ELIGIBILITY, which is determined by a Case Manager at the nearest VAC Regional office, for which the primary/abridged criteria are to be a Canadian Veteran who ” served in a theatre of war during either the First (!!!) or the Second World War…or in …Korea…or (in receipt of) a wartime related disability pension…AND…have health needs which can be met by the establishment”. (Basically the same conditions apply to Veterans of the Canadian Merchant Navy and Allied Forces).
The second step is that of ADMISSIBLITY, which is determined, (after Eligibility is confirmed by VAC) at Ste. Anne’s, for which the primary criterion is that “To be admitted in SAH, the eligible Veteran must need treatment and nursing care on a 24 hour basis in one of our programs…done on a case by case basis by the Clinisal Nursing Consultant and the Director of Professional Services”.
It is an ‘open secret’ that both formally declared sets of criteria referred to above, have been openly observed more in the breach, not only by obsessive rigidity, but also by excessive subjectivity, both at VAC and SAH. We have here some Vets who never set foot outside of Canada, as well as others who are virtually self- sufficient….so who’s kidding who/whom ?” Let us NOW openly face the realities of today and tomorrow, by acknowledging the existing and future needs now extant among our abandoned (and ‘banished ‘ ?). Veterans , and render them Eligible and Admissible to occupy the 120-and-counting unoccupied beds at Ste. Anne’s (VETERANS) Hospital. Here is where they truly belong, until the last, but by no means least, of our band of brothers will have breathed his/her last breath, in a VAC bed, attended by VAC staff, in a VAC hospital…..Ste. Anne’s .
If we can-and do indeed-continue to accept patients requiring palliative care, we can -and should indeed- admit those who are, fortunately, not at such an advanced/terminal stage, and can still be accommodated with the care, respect and dignity as befits them, wherever and whenever they served, even if they are not (yet) hopelessly handicapped. Prompt processing should present no problem, particularly in light of the many “new hires” of case managers recently and proudly announced by VAC.
It is well beyond high time for all VAC and SAH staff involved in this important issue, to bury their bureaucratic bonnets and replace them with humanitarian hats, so as to provide and safeguard this last remaining sanctuary for those many meritorious men and women portrayed above, who, having once selflessly served their country, now unquestionably deserve to be beneficially served by their country
To those who make policy at Veterans Affairs Canada, plus those who implement policy at Ste. Anne’s Hospital, I can but add…venerate your vulnerable Vets, versus buttressing your bloody budgets ! …..
……RELAX RESTRICTIONS !……EXPAND ELIGIBILITY !…….ADD ADMISSIONS !
And, Lest We Forget……..
……..LEAVE NO VET BEHIND !
OTTAWA—For the first time in eight decades, issues affecting Canada’s military veterans issues are featured prominently in an election.
With so much at stake, why would government yet again mess up another issue with veterans: priority hiring into the federal public service? Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, in another installment of government hype on the treatment of veterans, provided this statement during the July 2015 changes to priority hire veterans: “The Government of Canada is keeping its commitment to help military veterans thrive while making the transition to civilian life.”
Prior to these changes, only medically-released members could have one chance to be priority hired. Serving members weren’t allowed to access internal competitions, representing 88 per cent of public service job openings. Changes now allow Canadian Forces members to access internal competitions but with no priority placement. Non-medically released veterans can have priority accessing only external jobs, representing the remaining 12 per cent of competitions. After World War II, all overseas veterans received preference in all competitions, the injured having the highest preference, no time limits, and multiple attempts.
Time will tell if priority-hiring amendments are working, but are the minister, his department, and the rest of the civil service helping veterans “thrive”? In the first six months of 2015, which corresponded to O’Toole’s inaugural tenure, the Public Service Commission reports that he oversaw the priority hiring of zero medically released veterans. Since 2010, Veterans Affairs (VAC) has priority hired only six veterans, two of whom were hired by the Veterans’ Ombudsman.
O’Toole isn’t the only veteran in the upper ranks of Veterans Affairs. Former top general, Walter Natynczyk was appointed deputy minister in November 2014. These two individuals are the two most powerful individuals in VAC and arguably the most influential veterans inside government. They aren’t the only ones piling on endless platitudes but why the gaping chasm between media talking points and dawdling?
The current government has manifestly professed its commitment to veterans while demonstrating an iron grip on the public service. Yet, in the first six months of 2015, the entire 250,000 strong federal civil service could only priority hire 21 veterans.
In the past five years, 6,162 CF members have received medical releases out of a total of 24,000 releases. Troublingly, the public service has engaged only 446 veterans, or less than 7.2 per cent, of medical releases for those years, (veterans released other years would have also qualified further lowering the per cent).
Of the approximately 3,500 employees at VAC, only 97, or 2.7 per cent, are veterans, eleven of whom work in the Ombudsman’s Office. Most of these were not priority hires. A cornerstone commitment accompanying the controversial veterans’ benefits known as the New Veterans Charter was priority hiring. In the nine years since its enactment under the Conservative government, Veterans Affairs Canada has made just 25 veteran priority hires. Correctional Services, Public Works, Employment and Social Development, as well as Fisheries and Oceans, all priority-hired more veterans than the department legally mandated to “care” for and “re-establish” veterans.
National Defence has better fulfilled an obligation to veterans with 838 veteran priority hires, 71 per cent of the total. But the booby prize goes to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB). With more than 100 employees and a perennial insensitivity to veterans, this agency priority hired just one veteran in 11 years. This must be what the public service wants because the chief bureaucrat during this time, Dale Sharkey, was last month awarded the Public Service Award of Excellence. Her nominator: VRAB’s director of communication. Back patting and rhetoric over substance.
Does all this mean the public service discriminates against veterans? Some veterans employed in the public service have made this allegation. Perhaps the greatest barrier is the public service culture. As the auditor general and DND have noted, hiring an individual can take 10 months while their application meanders through bureaucratic obstacles. When Canadian Forces members are ordered overseas at 48 hours’ notice to potentially lose their lives, government’s dull-witted response when the uniform comes off is a distant cry from the caring and dignity this government keeps telling veterans they deserve.
One astute committee member noted during hearings on the changes to the priority hiring bill: “why aren’t we thinking outside of the box in which we tend to think right now?”
Enlightenment, compassion, and innovation appear anathema to the senior public service. There are time limits for the priority hiring window. Yet, for disabled veterans, the only expiry date on their disability is death. For spouses, if a veteran is too ill to work, she is barred from priority hiring.
More than 70 per cent of the priority placements are in clerical positions. For some, worthy jobs, but O’Toole tells us our veterans have a wide-ranging skill set. In fact, there is no unique veteran specific follow-up to ensure that veterans are not frustrated, bored, undervalued, under-performing or suffering discrimination in a public service culture, which is widely divergent from that of the military.
When Canadians join the military, they are constantly trained, taught, and transitioned into responsibility with some of the best mentoring management culture in the public or private sector. There is no gradual transition into a new public service job for the few accepted. All applicants must satisfy narrow criteria that either discourage or disqualify anyone outside the public service. Bureaucratic culture has a difficult time translating private sector skills to a public service context. No wonder almost all departments, except DND, have been unable to translate military skills sufficiently to substantively employ large numbers of veterans.
Neither are disabled veterans supported to take on partial workweeks to adapt their limitations to new employment. Anecdotally, veterans are too frequently unable to make the transition from disability to 100 per cent work schedule in an unfamiliar work environment.
But we really don’t know because we don’t care enough about our veterans to do any meaningful follow-up let alone provide urgently required coaching. And our veterans need a helping hand. Fully 60 per cent of recent releases have 20 years or less military service with 38 per cent having five years or less. They want a job and their skills are a must-have for a stagnant public service.
For veterans who are sloughed off onto civilian not-for-profits, we have no idea how they are doing because there is no accountable follow-up. Washing hands of veterans by the government to outside agencies has taken on a mean, hot-potato streak in the last decade.
Let’s put this all in perspective. In the six years after World War II, Canada’s federal civil service hired more than 130,000 veterans. By 1951, Veterans Affairs had 14,000 employees; almost 9,500, including more than 95 per cent of senior managers, were veterans. For all veterans in any employment, particularly the disabled, personalized follow-up was part of the package. Case managers met with veterans and employers on a regular basis to help ‘translate’ the military skill set and working limitations of veterans into civilian context.
“Walt” Natynczyk provided the following in a scripted news release: “Those who wear the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces serve Canada with loyalty, pride, and a commitment to excellence.” Each military member does this for each and every Canadian at the orders of the Government of Canada. Canadians have increasingly appreciated this reality of late.
Discouragingly, government is far too mired in political self-interest, advised by the parochial and initiative-paralyzed bureaucracy to tangibly return the commitment in kind to our veterans and their families. Are veterans ‘thriving’ O’Toole? The best many veterans have been able to achieve, if they aren’t committing suicide, is to merely survive.
Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and a frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.
The Hill Times
ONE VETERAN’S VOICE by Wolf William Solkin
“STE. ANNE’S HOSPITAL SERVICE STANDARDS START SLIDING DOWN SLIPPERY SLOPE”
Not too many moons ago, this old Algonquin Regiment “brave” sent up a smoke – signal that spelled out what I personally knew about the commendable conditions and standards of care THEN extant under Veterans Affairs Canada at my current billet, Ste. Anne’s (Veterans) Hospital . In that opinion piece, I contrasted the present positive performance with my fearful forecast and core conviction that, no sooner will Ste. Anne’s fall from grace at VAC by being transferred (kicking and screaming all the way) into what I see as the quagmire of Quebec’s unhealthy Health Dep’t., then all bets are off, and we will become orphans in the storm of poorer provincial protocols and crass cost-cutting, courtesy of “Bully-Boy” Barrette and his bunch of benighted bureaucrats and political pals.
That column was titled “TODAY AND TOMORROW(?)”, and it was my (naive) assumption that the egregious era of “TOMORROW” would be yet a while before making its foreboding appearance on the scene….certainly not before the “Transfer Tremors” takeover.. Not so, I regret to remark upon and report !
Even now, the portentous cracks in the very foundation of Ste. Anne’s unique culture of care and concern are visibly spreading, and showing , on the surface, what further fissures lie below, awaiting their turn and time of eruption.
At this juncture, I refer particularly to the employee/staff situation which , like the recent stock market behaviour, has taken a sudden downturn in the quantity and quality of its customary “blue chip” elements. Those “securities”, in our case, are the knowledgeable nurses and the extraordinary orderlies who attend to us 24/7…..at least, what remains of them, after the many early retirements, resignations and other ship-jumpings that have already taken place , due to rampant job insecurity and general frustration with the administration’s misbegotten modus operandi.
Of late there has been a spate of sudden and/or lengthy absenteeism on the part of an unacceptable number of essential employees, frequently leaving the shift staff seriously short-handed, and, by the same token, leaving us Vets in the uncertain and spotty care of far less experienced (and betimes strictly unilingual ) “newbies”*** ; retirees pressed into service long after their shelf life has expired, or, even less desirable, simply no replacements whatsoever, causing standards to be sacrificed on the altar of austerity, or perhaps even that of insouciance, while “marching in place” and marking time until the problem falls within the province of the Province.
I have just been informed that the main reason for deliberately calling in “newbies” to fill staff shortages , rather than experienced and available “veteran” employees, appears to be that the latter must be paid at a higher rate than the former, thus helping “Management” to show a better “bottom line”! All at the expense (no pun intended) of the pre-existing higher standards of care…yet another step down that slippery slope which endangers Ste. Anne’s erstwhile reputation for its stellar services to Canadian Veterans.
While some absences may be lscheduled vacations or days off, more and more seem attributable to other causes. Overwork has caused some blazing burn outs, resulting in prolonged medical leave; and what has previously been the familiar “Friday Flu”, that now ubiquitous virus seems to have significantly spread not only into Saturdays and Sundays, but is wending its way into weekdays as well.
The consequences are as self- evident as they are unavoidable, especially due to the seeming regrettable rush to cut costs, no matter the cost. The current consensus /’vox populi’ is that employee morale is sliding downhill on a slippery slope, with diminished standards of care as the booby-prize at the bottom. The reliable staff members that still show up as scheduled are often requested/entreated/pressured into “doing a double” (shift), often until they are too tired to stand on their feet; orderlies and nurses are switched from floor to floor, or even wing to wing, at will and without notice; muted mutterings have replaced happy ‘hellos’, and every exhausted employee seems to be bearing the burden of two, as they breathlessly hurry hither and thither to try to properly attend to the needs of their above normal assignment/quota of patients in a timely fashion, while still attempting to maintain their usual high levels of care and attention…..for the most part, like Sisyphus, facing an ever-impossible mountain to climb.
Moreover, these staff shortages can cause delays in meals and other essential services which, in turn, create a domino effect whereby previously tightly scheduled appointments with clinicians such as physio and/or occupational therapists, as well as with a wide variety of visiting medical specialists, must, of necessity, be rapidly rescheduled or, as is too often the case, postponed for a prolonged period of time….hardly a desirable outcome, nor is it, in the slightest, up to Ste. Anne’s standard “standards of care”.
Again, due to staff shortages, some patients have even had to miss their once-weekly(!) bath on more than one occasion, which is totally unacceptable, and an augury contrary to the oft-repeated and avowed /proclaimed VAC pledge that the vaunted high standards of care at Ste. Anne’s will never be reduced Don’t get me wrong….if one has to reside in a long-term care facility, this is still a darn good place to be….but it is definitely becoming less so with each passing day, as it anxiously awaits the provincially-suspended Sword of Damocles to plunge into its very essence.
I say, enough of the present on-site administration fantasizing that all is ‘tickety -boo’, and ‘business as usual’ is ongoing until the onset of Nirvana, in the form of their vision of a seamless transfer/transition which they trumpet will yet occur. God may be in his heaven, but all’s not well with the world of Ste. Anne’s. Hypothetically, it would be ideal if someone with some savvy from VAC’s HQ could come here and just mingle and talk with a random sampling of the floor nurses, orderlies and patients, to determine whether or not I’m babbling through my beret. If my observations and evaluation of this incipient situation prove to be correct, then concrete corrective measures should/must be implemented immediately, from the top down, before the proverbial fan gets hit too hard.
On second thought, the above suggestion would be impossible to act upon, as the floor staff have been instructed, in no uncertain terms, that it is forbidden for them to speak to patients about anything pertaining to the hospital, other than matters related to their immediate duties at hand, under penalty of serious consequences. In effect, if they rock the boat, they risk being made to “walk the plank”. And as for speaking out to “outsiders”… why, that would be courting a veritable court martial !
We Veterans will undoubtedly lose a lot of things on a number of fronts during and due to the transfer troubles that we will soon be facing. Notwithstanding, the one element that must be protected and preserved above all else, and is germane to our sense of security and satisfaction which comprises the essential aspect of our life at Ste. Anne’s, is the culture of peerless care combined with the wonderful work ethic which has hitherto permeated the rank-and-file personnel. The SAH patients and floor staff have for decades enjoyed a mutualistic/symbiotic relationship , which should be permitted and encouraged to flourish undiminished and undamaged, without fear or favour.
That is what we Vets were promised. That is what we Vets deserve. That is what we Vets expect.
What was once a warm and welcoming work place is fast becoming one of conflicts and complaints, and this inevitably shows up in the reduced degree of care and time allotted, plus unraveling of reciprocal relationships, all contra-indicated for the patients’ well-being. And all this starting to simmer this summer, long before the actual transfer is even consummated !
I lay no blame whatsoever on the employees. The fault lies in their confounded confusion and uncertainty about what they do not yet know about their future, coupled with their basic distrust and discontentment with what little they do know of that which lies ahead.
Just reading my diatribes and nodding your concurrence to yourself as you nod off, won’t accomplish diddly squat, unless YOU write a letter, make a call, or send an email to the person whom YOU are personally paying to represent YOU as your Member of Parliament , and instruct him/her to respond to (y)our “S O S” ………”SAVE OUR. STAFF” !!!
And please, Lest We Forget……
LEAVE NO VET BEHIND !
Wolf William Solkin.
” THE TEN COMMANDMENTS”
I have, in previous columns, expended much emotional energy and many woeful words voicing my vituperative views about what I perceive as the bad behaviour and negativism of some senior staff at Ste. Anne’s (Veterans) Hospital, along with similar symptoms evinced by some of the bungling bureaucrats at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), notable also for their niggardly notions of austerity cuts affecting Veterans.
Having spent all that valuable time and talent, without any adequate assurance that those paltry people (let alone their indifferent Parliamentary patrons) were paying any heed whatever to my “sour gripes”, I felt it was high time to remind them of why and to what end they have been hired, and on whose tab, so that perhaps they will stand back a bit from their dandy desks, long enough to gain a better perspective of what truly should be their real responsibilities and relationships with the vulnerable Veterans in their charge, of whatever war they waged at their country’s call, be it WW II, Korea, “peacekeeping” missions in countries that may never see peace,or the latest FUBAR in SNAFGHANISTAN.
That brings me to what I have termed “The Ten Commandments” for all VAC employees, setting forth in no uncertain terms, how and why Canada’s War Veterans are to be treated by those employed by our government to do so. This apparently long forgotten and sadly ignored Government of Canada document was given to me after it was discovered in an an obscure storage room at Ste. Anne’s Hospital. It is a straightforward statement, prepared by an anonymous authority within the venue of Veterans Affairs, in the good old days when the word “Veteran” was still virtually venerated. It is presented in the form of a Middle-Ages illustrated manuscript, expounding ten basic principles and precepts to be observed and embraced by ALL Veterans Affairs civil service employees, regardless of grade, dealing with Veterans at any level, in any matter.
The verbatim text of those ten tenets is displayed below:
VETERANS & THEIR DEPENDANTS
are the most important persons to all of us.
VETERANS are not an interruption of our work;
they are our work. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
VETERANS are dependent upon us;
our reputation is dependent on them . :::::::::::::
VETERANS have a right to call us;
we are not doing them a favour by serving them.
VETERANS are not people to argue with,
But individuals to comfort and assist . :::::::::::::
VETERANS are part of our business,
not outsiders. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
VETERANS are not cold statistics; each one is
a flesh-and-blood human being with feelings
and emotions like our own. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
VETERANS bring us their problems; our duty
Is to justify their faith in us. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
VETERANS deserve the most courteous and
attentive service we can give them. ::::::::::::::
Remember always, if VETERANS did not have
problems there would be no need for Veterans
Government of Canada
The ten adjurations contained in this inspirational major manifesto were intended to be held in the heart and seared into the mindset of each and every staff member of Veterans Affairs. However, I’m afraid that more than a few of them may have misplaced that mantra in the process of focusing on other issues of greater import to them, such as (perhaps) seniority, authority, promotions, pensions and other matters more momentous to them than the core cause for their very employment, as delineated in the above “Magna Carta”….caring for Canada’s Veterans !
If I had my druthers , I would first filch some funds from the budget allocations to Veterans Affairs Canada’s Department of Human Resources and their Public Relations/Promotions programs. I would then deploy those dollars to duplicate many dozens of copies of “The Ten Commandments “, and make it mandatory that every desk jockey whose livelihood is derived from ensuring the welfare of our old war horses ( and their younger comrades-in -arms, as well), MUST permanently post that protocol in a prominent position on his/her office premises, so that those civil servants will be ever mindful of their primary purpose and the processes by which to achieve its avowed fulfilment, each and every time they chance to look up from their pile of paperwork.
Then maybe…just maybe… we could all, together, gather at the river in “The Promised Land”, where all Veterans will receive the care, the attention, the respect, the value and the dignity to which they are deservedly entitled , as embodied in VAC’s very own “TEN COMMANDMENTS”.
That’s about it for now, except for my recurrent plea that we all should always remember., to…….
…..LEAVE NO VET BEHIND !
ONE VETERAN’S VOICE by Wolf William Solkin “TODAY and TOMORROW (?)” @ Ste.ANNE’s (VETERANS) HOSPITAL
A VETERAN’S VOICE: Intro / TRANSFER of Ste Anne by Wolf Solkin WWII Veteran
VETERANS’ VOTES ARE VITAL by Wolf William Solkin
ONE VETERAN’S VOICE – A VETERAN AND HIS VOICE