Julian Fantino: 2014 Annus Horribilis

Full article…. Hill times edited some out due to space issue on the printed version, Be advised that every MP and Senator will be getting a copy of the paper this morning.
Julian Fantino: 2014 Annus Horribilis
Mike Blais CD
Founder and President
Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Without doubt, 2013-2014 was a terrible first year for Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs. The fledgling minister immediately endeared himself with the veterans community, penning a widely distributed editorial claiming that he too was a veteran. Fantino declared, erroneously, that he had smelt gunpowder, been in the trenches, invoking images of Canada’s stellar military history without ever swearing allegiance to the Queen or donning the uniform graced with traditions that pre-existed confederation.
Veterans were not amused.
Veterans became less amused as Minister Fantino’s tenure unfolded. The contrasts with his predecessor, Steven Blaney, were stark. Blaney understood the obligation, was eager to engage veteran’s stakeholders in dialogue and encouraged collective discussions through the enforcement of mandated bi-annual departmental stakeholder meetings. Blaney promoted inclusiveness, accessibility. Minister Fantino, conversely, is seldom accessible and prefers exclusion over inclusion. The departmental stakeholder meetings his predecessor encouraged and often attended have been abandoned. Not one single departmental stakeholders meeting has been convened since Fantino was appointed.
The singular ministerial meeting held in early October, 2013, was nearly derailed when Fantino’s exclusionary policies forbade the stakeholders to have observers present. Gorden Moore, then president of the Royal Canadian Legion, arrived with Brad White, Dominion Secretary. An ultimatum was \delivered. Either White attends or the Royal Canadian Legion would not attend (boycott?) the meeting.
Minister Fantino blinked. The dominion secretary was allowed access but other than the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, none of the other organizations present had an observer. Not that it would matter, the meeting was designed to introduce the new minister to the stakeholders, provide a recycled brief of the New Veterans Charter and engage in general discussion that was very interesting but really served no purpose as a year later, no changes of significance have been implemented.
Julian Fantino did, however, take the opportunity to announce that the Harper Government would appeal a favourable ruling for wounded veterans before the BC Supreme Court (Equitas Lawsuit) regarding their quest for equality to the Pension Act. Equality denied when the Harper Government enacted the New Veterans Charter in 2006, creating a second class of veteran just as Canadian participation in the Afghanistan War entered the combat phase of a mission that would ravage the nation of 150 valiant lives and account for thousands of injuries and wounds. The government will argue it has no Sacred Obligation, no Social Contact with those who have sacrificed dearly under Mr Harper’s stewardship of the war.
It is virtually impossible for a minister to effectively manage such an important portfolio when he is absent from Ottawa/Charlottetown so often and for prolonged periods of time. The complexity of the Veterans Affairs Canada portfolio and the increasing obligation to the wounded being medically released from the Forces after twelve years of war must take priority over ceremonial events. Despite raising public awareness of the severe problems veterans are confronting and the oft catastrophic consequences, Fantino appears more focused on attending ceremonies celebrating, at tens of millions of dollars, the war of 1812 and anniversaries of battles from World War 1 and World War 2.
No novice minister of veteran‘s affairs has embraced the role of Canada’s ceremonial figurehead with such zeal. Within the course of a single year, Fantino traversed the globe. Hong Kong, Korea, Italy, France, the United States, Cyprus, Belgium… there was even time for a trip to Vatican. A recent domestic cross country tour presenting Minister’s commendations and awarding Canada’s surviving WW2 veterans certificates in tightly controlled photo opportunities have added significantly to the minister’s ever-growing air miles card.

When the minister is in Ottawa, veterans have not fared well. Fantino has done very little on the portfolio other than perform his duties to slash his department’s budget with characteristic unwavering loyalty to the Conservative fiscal line. Last fall, a “comprehensive” review was initiated on the New Veterans Charter with promises that the Sacred Obligation inadequacies would be addressed. Fantino will be tabling the Departmental response in early October. Considering the Conservative dominated committee’s recommendations, it is very unlikely that the wounded seeking equality for their sacrifice to the Pension Act provisions will be satisfied or that Memorial Cross Widows currently living in poverty due to exclusion from the NVC’s anti-poverty/earnings loss benefits will be provided respite.
Who will forget the unseemly inept, much televised manner Minister Fantino handled the closures of several Veterans Affairs district offices located across the nation. Remarkably, the restrictions of services provided the catalyst for hundreds of veterans in the affected regions to protest the closures through local public assemblies. A representative delegation of veterans traveled to Ottawa in January 2015 to encourage Fantino to repeal of this harmful, budget-orientated policy with the understanding that many Afghan War veterans will soon be medically released into these communities and will require direct assistance, and not a 1-800 number to a contracted entity
The delegation included veterans from World War Two to Afghanistan, expanding the level of community discord and derision beyond those affected by the substandard policies of the New Veterans Charter. It will be some time before Canadians dismiss the images of an arrogant minister snapping at a WW2 Veteran Roy Fields who, chest adorned with campaign medals denoting this nation’s proud history, had the audacity to declare the minister’s excuses hogwash while raising his index finger to make the point.
Hogwash?
Perhaps an apt description of the minister’s performance considering the profound level of disrespect demonstrated and the direct consequences, a decorated United Nations veteran bolting from the room in frustrated tears. Let us not forget, the Minister for Veterans Affairs duty is to serve veterans, not bully and berate them.
Many Canadians will never forget Fantino’s tactless response when Jennifer Mignault attempted to speak with him after a committee meeting. Jennifer is the spouse of a seriously wounded veteran in dire need of support, including tools to save her husband‘s life. Fantino first bolted to the sanctuary of a cloak room, reappearing a moment later with narrow minded focus and apparent selective hearing, He blithely ignoring the distressed spouse, the cameras documenting his behavior and blithely marched down the hallway dutifully followed by Parliamentary Secretary Gill and staff. They too, apparently, suffer from hearing impairments.

”Do we mean nothing to you?”

There have been other consequences to Fantino‘s exclusionary policies. The Legion filled the void of abrogated departmental stakeholder meetings, assembled the traditional veterans organizations and others, sent letters requesting reform on a a variety of issues. To no avail. Modern organizations have also formed, Bruce Moncur, Afghanistan Veterans Association and Jennifer Mignault’s Red Flaggers, a family caregiver not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the support to families Fantino has yet to provide.
Perhaps the most interesting consequence to Fantino’s Annus Horribilus as minister of Veterans Affairs has been political. Ronald Clark, the elderly disabled veteran who so valiantly attempted to save the VAC district office in Cape Breton and traveled to Ottawa to lead and represent his region, started an Anybody But Conservative campaign. He has promised will focus on the military and veteran vote during the next election.
This is remarkable. Mr. Clark is a veteran. By nature, veterans are not inclined to engage politically for or against. Nor is Mr Clark a young man. His era of service is far removed from the bloodied sands of the Panjawaii Valley in Afghanistan where recent veterans served.
But like many veterans, young and old, Mr Clark feels betrayed by Julian Fantino and abandoned by Stephen Harper, who refuses to accept his Scared Obligation to the families of 150 valiant Canadians who died in Afghanistan on his watch or the multitude of wounded that seek only Pension Act equality, the Chump Sum Award currently provided, for their sacrifice, pain and suffering.

A federal general election will be held in 2015, at this time, there is good reason to believe veterans will not forget who has deserted them in their time of need. Many veterans and their families will be mindful of Mr. Clark’s ABC campaign, there is already rising support and the word is spreading rapidly through veterans social networks. Others will surely be thinking of Julian Fantino…. when they cast their ballot.

Lest we Forget.

Michael L. Blais is president and founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

http://www.hilltimes.com/opinion-piece/2014/10/06/julian-fantino-2014-annus-horribilis/39804

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Don’t Give Up the Fight by Dr. Antoon A. Leenaars a suicidologist

Don’t Give the Fight
A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide

Dr. Antoon A. Leenaars

This blog has been long urged on me. Mike Blais, President/Founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, and Bruce Moncur, President, Afghanistan Veteran’s Association are two. There are others, military and civilian. I am the First Past President of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP). I am not a veteran, nor military personnel; people, such as veterans and police, call me a suicide expert, a suicidologist. They call me, “Doc”. We have joined forces to make suicide among the Canadian Forces and Veterans visible. Once it is visible enough (“We are here”), it is visible. Often we read in the media about one more of our heroes dying by suicide. There have been clusters, causing a contagion. From our experiences, we are deeply concerned.

War is violence. War stress is unforgiving. Suicide is an all too frequent cost of service. This is true today. It is the lead cause of death in the Canadian military. What are the facts? Why? What can we do? Like in the U.S., we knew too little was being done in Canada. One simply has to listen to the soldiers and veterans in both countries.

As one response, I was asked to do a blog; my first question was, “What is a blog?” I am new to computers; I only began using them in 1971. Fortunately, my daughter, Kristen, has a graduate degree in Marketing PR; she has a weekly blog. I write books; most recently (Dec., 2013), I authored Suicide among the Armed Forces: Understanding the cost of service. A blog is a message. (Marshall McLuhan, author of The Media is the Massage, would agree.) Books are too, but they are also different. A blog, Kristen told me, is short, clear and concise. I thank her for her guidance, but will probably disobey all the rules of blogging. Thus, here is my first attempt, beginning with the end of my blog.

To our soldiers and veterans, I state: You need your courage and hope. You are an intelligent, adept soldier. You have to accept the unacceptable—what you cannot change—and you have to have the courage to change what you can. Some of you know this as The Serenity Prayer or the teachings of the Buddha, Saint Francis, Friedrich Nietzsche, the Dalai Lama, X. You need to get beyond the traumatization, unbearable pain, suicide risk, vulnerability, and so on. You are a hero, and I believe in your ability to stop, pause, and reflect. You can be resilient. Healing is possible. The true warrior seeks help! Here I follow the wisdom of Jacob Bronowski (1973) in the famed book, The Ascent of Man (This dates me.) What makes a person a person—and a soldier a soldier—is the ability to wait, to think, to talk, to pause, to reflect, and so on, before the act. In the battlefield, the soldier does no different.

You, in the military, have worked hard as a soldier or pilot or Marine or sailor; now you can trust that strength to work hard on choosing life. You can have confidence that there is help available and that there are people—a Minister of Defence, a Major, a sergeant, a psychologist, a fellow armed services member/buddy and so on—in the military that care! You have green (military) courage. Courage is to change what you can. The anodynic experience, to somewhat quote Aldous Huxley, is not what happened to you; it is what you do with what happened to you. I offer some scripts: Don’t buy into the stigma. (Any sane person would feel traumatized.) There is effective help. Choose life. Don’t give up the fight!

The soldier needs to trust her or his courage; despite all that has happened to you in harm’s way and since, you have adjusted to stress, beyond what you imagined the first day of boot camp. I strongly believe that your life, and mine, is like that of the mythical Greek Sisyphus. Sisyphus lived in the heavens with the gods and on Earth with mortals. He saw the painful and depressing life of humans and knew what would help. The gods had an anodyne. (An anodyne is a substance or agent or person or system that fights pain.) Despite Zeus’s orders, Sisyphus stole the gods’ secrets and helped humankind. Zeus raged and banished him from the heavens. Sisyphus was doomed to the human condition; each day he had to push a boulder up a mountain, only to watch it tumble back down, causing the task to be repeated the next day. Your and my life is no different. Each day we must ceaselessly roll our distinctive rock to the top of our mountain, and the next day we must persevere and do the same. (There is a children’s story with the same meaning; the little train that has to get up the hill [“I think I can”].) This is not to be condemned; this is life. We have to accept the unacceptable. Military life makes it even more so; the mountain is even higher. It is Mount Everest! The military system/culture and war make it so. Yet, if you believe the Greek wisdom keeper, Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of humans. As with our ancient Greek hero, I do not want to inoculate you against trauma, the common military approach; I will attempt in this blog, from a suicidologist’s perspective, to do something different. (I do not pretend to be in the military; I offer a suicide expert’s perspective.) I will attempt to make suicide among the armed forces more visible. What I have learned what is most helpful is to persevere. (“I think You can”.) I hope that this mantra will help you get in touch with your Sisyphean strength (what are called protective factors) that build natural surviving of the aftershock; what the Prussian War theorist, General Carl Gottfried Von Clausewitz, in the 1800’s, called “friction”, of everyday military service, deep within the mind, heart, body, and soul. This blog, I hope, will help you to heal your pain, to end your suicide risk. You can survive!

Don’t give up the fight!

Reference: Leenaars, A. (2013). Suicide Among the Armed Forces: Understanding the Cost of Service. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Co., Inc.

About Author:
Dr. Antoon A. Leenaars is a clinical and forensic psychologist. He is the first Past President of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention; a Past President of the American Association of Suicidology, the only non-American to date; and an elected Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association. He has published extensively on suicide, military suicide, police suicide and homicide-suicide, homicide, terrorism, etc., including 13 books, most recently Suicide among the Armed Forces: Understanding the cost of service. He was the first Editor-in-Chief of the international journal, Archives of Suicide Research and has consulted to the WHO, military groups, police services, and governments around the world.

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MINISTER FANTINO: LESS BACK PATTING AND MORE ACTION PLEASE!

MINISTER FANTINO: LESS BACK PATTING AND MORE ACTION PLEASE!

By Sean Bruyea

Posted on Veterans Canada website 22 September 2014

When Canadian communities experience the tragedy of a multiple homicide, it would be unthinkable to ignore the victims or refuse to hunt for the murderer. Nor do we inundate the front page of newspapers with stories about how the remaining 35 million Canadians remain alive.

When Winnipeg or Calgary suffers destructive floods, we don’t hold celebrations in the rest of Canada for unaffected communities. As Canadians, we care what tragedy befalls fellow Canadians… unless you are the Minister or a senior bureaucrat at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

With unprecedented suffering of our serving and retired military and their families regularly emerging over the past four years, Minister Fantino put his name to yet another newspaper letter monotonously claiming VAC is a finely tuned machine (Fantino: I want to improve veterans’ access to gainful employment once they leave Canadian Forces, The Hill Times, Sept. 8, p. 16).

What a surprise to learn that industrious, skilled, healthy and relatively young individuals (average age of releasing military: 40) are succeeding. Fantino then declares that he will put more effort into helping these veterans who least require help to get a job.

What Fantino has literally run away from over his painful tenure are those who most need our assistance: families of the disabled, frightened ageing veterans losing their trusted frontline VAC workers or disabled veterans wanting extensive improvements to some very broken or non-existent VAC programs.

Fantino and his senior mandarins have ducked, duped and dawdled along a self-serving unilateral path. They consistently fail to implement recommendations from the Veterans Ombudsman. They slough off an unprecedented consensus of up to a dozen organizations which has called for wide-ranging and substantive changes to the lump sum program known as the ‘new veterans charter’ (NVC).

For 15 years, Government sponsored advisory groups, veterans’ organisations and even Parliament have made little headway in having VAC fix the system to help the most disabled veterans: 1,647 as of April 1, 2014. During the worst fighting of World War II in just 24 months, Canada created truly universal and comprehensive programs for all one million returning military.

Sadly, the inability of VAC to listen to anyone except sycophantic back patting has resulted in marginalizing many of these most disabled and their families while providing limited programs to only 13% of the 600,000 CF veterans. As the Ombudsman noted, “little is known about the potential needs” of the remaining 87% let alone their families.

In June 2014, the House committee on VAC concluded a limited study of the NVC. Of all witnesses and organizations, I submitted the greatest number of recommendations to assist the most disabled veterans and their families, thirty in all. Conservative MP and former Air Force Colonel, Laurie Hawn, testified in Committee, “I basically agree with most of your recommendations.” Nevertheless, only one of my proposals made it to the Committee’s 14 often vague recommendations.

Whereas a fully functioning healthy veteran receives daycare subsidies during retraining, totally and permanently incapacitated veterans and their struggling families are given zero daycare assistance. Whereas, spouses of disabled serving military members are granted a helpful allowance, spouses of disabled veterans who must either quit or curtail their careers are granted zero assistance.

The NVC is heavily marketed as superior to the previous lifelong pension program. Government claims that lifelong pensions made veterans focus on disability while the lump sum program allows veterans to focus on opportunity. Puzzling since disabled veterans receiving the lifelong pensions could test the waters of employment without suffering any deductions.

Healthy veterans under the NVC have 50% of employment earnings deducted during retraining while education is fully funded (MP’s under their plan keep 100% of employment earnings). However the NVC deducts 100% of seriously disabled veterans’ earnings. Even CPP disability allows recipients to receive up to $5100 annually in 2013 without reporting or being penalized.

Countless studies in measures of well-being and longevity conclude that individuals benefit from pursuing lifelong learning and employment even if part-time, especially the disabled. Under the NVC, the most disabled veterans are denied education support while frozen at a fraction of their military salaries, modestly adjusted for inflation.

For example, military salaries increased approximately 80% since 1996, the last year of wage freezes. While inflation has increased 34% during this time, VAC’s income program has increased a mere 30%. Ottawa, or in VAC’s case, Charlottetown, has effectively incarcerated our most disabled veterans in a policy prison of stagnant lost potential where education, employment and future earnings increases are denied. For our most disabled, NVC veterans and their families must focus upon disability rather than ability, upon insecurity rather than opportunity.

When there is a car accident, only the foolish would send an ambulance to last week’s crash scene or chase those unaffected drivers passing by the collision.

We need to hear much less about those veterans who don’t need our help and focus upon fixing the system comprehensively for those disabled veterans and their families who desperately need our help. A barrage of propaganda will fail to make the disabled veterans’ lives better. Tragically, it will add to the sense of helplessness and shame which feeds into highly destructive self-harm behaviours. Less talk Minister Fantino and senior bureaucrats. Let’s please have more listening and action.

Sean Bruyea the Advocacy Advisor to Veterans Canada (.ca) and is vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and a frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

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DDP 01-22-JPSU Suicide Mitigation Strategy

 

DDP 01-22-JPSU Suicide Mitigation Strategy-with Annex-Amend 52_Page_01

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Military suicides outnumbered deaths in Afghanistan, new stats show

Military suicides outnumbered deaths in Afghanistan, new stats show

Dominique La Haye, QMI Agency

First posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 04:26 AM MDT | Updated: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 04:50 AM MDT

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/09/16/military-suicides-outnumbered-deaths-in-afghanistan-new-stats-show

MONTREAL — There were more suicides in the Canadian Forces since 2002 than combat deaths during Canada’s Afghanistan mission, according to a report obtained by QMI Agency.

In the 12 years that Canadians fought in Afghanistan, 158 Armed Forces members were killed. According to records obtained from the Department of National Defence, there were 178 Canadian Forces suicides in the same period.

Due to standard military practice to issue only the numbers of suicides of full-time male soldiers — so the military can compare those statistics with the same age in the general population — previous numbers did not include female soldiers or reservists.

This has allowed the government to state that the suicide rate of a full-time male members of the Armed Forces is no different than that of the average Canadian from a similar demographic.

“I think the problem is much bigger than the numbers show,” military lawyer and retired Col. Michel Drapeau said. “Many suicides occur after the person has left the Armed Forces and those numbers aren’t included in the totals.

“Often, the ones who have just left the Forces are the most desperate.”

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson has ensured the “Forces have taken great strides in recent years to make sure that more attention is being paid to mental health issues, whether they are deployment related or not,” Ministry of National Defence spokesman Johanna Quinney told QMI Agency.

“We have augmented the military budget by $130 million, including an increase of $11.4 million for mental health initiatives, raising the total to $50 million. We now have 29 mental health clinics across the country.”

The father-in-law of one young soldier who committed suicide says the military still needs to work on the basics.

Marc Tardif said if not for the Army’s mistakes, his daughter-in-law, Anne Crevier, may still be alive today.

Crevier, 19, joined the forces in May 2011. On her final exercise of basic training, she was hit in the eye by a paintball. Crevier was wearing goggles, but not a full face mask.

The military transferred her for treatment to Valcartier in Quebec — far from her family, friends and basic training mates.

“She was really left all on her own,” Tardif said.

Crevier told Tardif that she was harassed while at Valcartier, and told that she was better suited to “work in an office.”

Nine months after the paintball accident, Crevier committed suicide. “She lost all hope,” Tardif said.

Two and a half years later, the family still waits for the results of the inquiry to Crevier’s suicide.

— —- —–

Suicides in the Canadian Armed Forces (2004 to March 31 2014):

2014 (March 31) :

Male – regular forces: 5
Female – regular forces: 0
Male and female reserves: 3
Total: 8

2013

Male – regular forces: 9
Female – regular forces: 1
Male and female reserves: 3
Total: 13

2012

Male – regular forces: 10
Female – regular forces: 3
Male and female reserves: 4
Total: 17

2011

Male – regular forces: 21
Female – regular forces: 1
Male and female reserves: 3
Total: 25

2010

Male – regular forces: 12
Female – regular forces: 0
Male and female reserves: 1
Total: 13

2009

Male – regular forces: 12
Female – regular forces: 2
Male and female reserves: 8
Total: 22

2008

Male – regular forces: 13
Female – regular forces: 1
Male and female reserves: 1
Total: 15

2007

Male – regular forces: 9
Female – regular forces: 1
Male and female reserves: 2
Total: 12

2006

Male – regular forces: 7
Female – regular forces: 1
Male and female reserves: 3
Total: 11

2005

Male – regular forces: 10
Female – regular forces: 0
Male and female reserves: 1
Total: 11

2004

Male – regular forces: 10
Female – regular forces: 0
Male and female reserves: 3
Total: 13

— Source – Department of National Defence

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BLOG INDEX: CAF & VAC Benefits and Services

CAF & VAC Benefits and Services

Canadian Armed Forces – Forces armées canadiennes

Hospitalization CAF

  1. PROVISION OF COMFORT ITEMS TO HOSPITALIZED CF MEMBERS **New**

SISIP – RARM

  1. SISIP VOC REHAB – RARM Education
  2. SISIP & VAC VOC REHAB: Amount (75K) and Duration (4 Years)

MEDICAL RELEASE – MEDICAL POUR LIBERATION

  1. Medical Examination for Release – Examen Medical pour Liberation
  2. Medical Releases: Universality of Service and Support to Our ill and Injured – Libération pour raisons médicales : Universalité du Service et Soutien aux Militaires Malades et Blessés

 

Veterans Affairs Canadaanciens combattant Canada

VAC Benefits Browser -Benefits at a Glance – Navigateur des avantages d’ACC – Avantages en un coup d’oeil

  1. Benefits at a Glance **New**
  2. Avantages en un coup d’oeil **Nouveau**

DRUG FORMULARY – FORMULIARE DES MEDICAMENTS

  1. Drug Formulary – Formulaire des médicaments
  2. Sativex (Pain and PTSD) (douleur et le SSPT)
  3. Botox for Pain Management – Botox pour la gestion de la douleur

VAC REHAB

  1. VAC REHAB – Payment for EXERCISE/SWIMMING PROGRAM FEES
  2. SISIP & VAC VOC REHAB: Amount (75K) and Duration (4 Years)

BENEFIT OF CHOICE

Program of Choice 01 – Aids for daily living

  1. POC 1 – AIDS FOR DAILY LIVING

Program of Choice 03 – Audio (hearing) services

  1. HEARING AID DIGITAL (New Devices every 4 years)
  2. TINNITUS RETRAINING THERAPY
  3. HEARING AID TINNITUS MASKER COMBINATION
  4. Tinnitus: DRUG INTERACTIONS, SIDE EFFECTS AND INDICATIONS
  5. OTHER AUDIO BENEFITS – BATTERIES (EXCEPT FOR HEARING AIDS) **New**

 

  1. SUNGLASSES (NOT-CORRECTIVE) INCLUDING CLIP-ONS/WRAP-AROUNDS
  2. LIGHT THERAPY LAMP – PURCHASE
  3. ELECTRIC HEATING PAD – HOT & COLD PACK
  4. REHABILITATION PROGRAM – PSYCHOLOGIST VISIT – INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING FOR SPOUSE/DEPENDANT

 

  1. VAC Payments and quantity of anti depressant 2003-2013
  2. VAC Payments and quantity (grams) for Medical Marijuana
  3. VAC Policy on Medical Marijuana

 

 

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Veterans across Canada plot campaign against Conservatives

Veterans across Canada plot campaign against Conservatives

PAUL McLEOD OTTAWA BUREAU
Published August 11, 2014 – 9:31pm

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1228721-veterans-across-canada-plot-campaign-against-conservatives

http://thechronicleherald.ca/sites/default/files/imagecache/ch_article_main_image/articles/B97354551Z.120140811213058000GUI6A0SM.11.jpg

A network of veterans across Canada is planning a co-ordinated campaign against the Conservative government during next year’s election.

The plan was sparked in January by a disastrous meeting in Ottawa with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino. In interviews, half a dozen organizers across four provinces say thousands of veterans will take part in the movement.

The plan is similar to the ABC campaign — urging people to vote Anything But Conservative — waged by former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams.

“When the election is called, you’re going to see some large fallout, believe me,” said Sydney veteran Ron Clarke.

“As soon as the writ is dropped, we are in action.”

The two main issues driving the movement are the closure of nine regional Veterans Affairs Canada offices and the government’s new veterans charter.

The charter gives veterans who are wounded in combat a lump-sum payment instead of regular payments to support them throughout their lives.

About a dozen regional organizers have been in regular contact through conference calls.

The tactics vary. Newfoundland and Labrador organizer Paul Davis said veterans will be specifically targeting Conservative ridings to tell voters about how they have been mistreated by the government.

One group is even mulling getting a bus to take the cross-country campaign on the road.

Others say their protests will be more informal but nonetheless vocal.

“We have no co-ordinated thing planned, but I know that every veteran in the area is pissed,” said John Scott, a former peacekeeper in Cyprus who lives in Prince George, B.C.

The ball started rolling in January when a group of veterans gathered in Ottawa to meet Fantino. The minister was 70 minutes late and things only got worse when he did show up.

Fantino chastised one veteran for pointing his finger, and

the minister walked away, seemingly exasperated, a few minutes later. News cameras caught

the interaction.

Afterwards, several angry veterans who were present started to make plans.

“Up until he screwed up, it would have probably been a fairly quiet thing,” said Scott. “But he made the big mistake of mouthing off to the veterans, and a couple of them, of course, didn’t take it very well.”

Some veterans are also angry that the department spends money on advertising campaigns after cutting the regional offices to save costs.

New tendering documents show the federal government will spend $678,000 this year on “advertising and creative services” to mark Remembrance Day. Target Communications of Halifax, which operates as

Compass Communications, won the contract.

That ad budget is the same or more than the annual costs of running several of the regional front-line offices closed earlier this year. The total costs of running eight regional offices came to $5 million per year (the annual costs of the ninth closed office, in Prince George, are not known.)

Veterans who spoke to The Chronicle Herald said the department has its priorities wrong and has been regularly spending on advertising while cutting front-line services.

But the department said the Remembrance Day campaign is well within its mandate.

“It is part of the mandate of Veterans Affairs to keep the memory of the achievement and sacrifices of veterans alive for all Canadians,” said an emailed statement from the department.

“It is important to note (Veterans Affairs) advertising expenditures will not impact the department’s budget for veterans’ services and benefits.”

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Stop Thanking Veterans For Their Service

Stop Thanking Veterans For Their Service

Posted by Ky Hunter on Nov 11, 2013 | 368 Comments

It’s heard a million times a day. Maybe it’s accompanied by a handshake, or a hug, or a cup of coffee. While the sentiment is always appreciated, it has been uttered so many times that “Thank you for your service” often carries no more meaning than a passing nod or a courteous “hello.”

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Iraq war veteran Alex Horton argues that the nation has done a disservice to veterans by constantly putting us on a pedestal. The obligated sentiments of thanks, the forced imagery of heroics, the patriotic necessity of venerating those who wear the uniform have all contributed to the fact that veterans are seen as some one-dimensional homogenous entity. The simplicity and sterility of “thank you for your service” allows veterans to remain faceless and sterile. And for the public to keep us at arms length from what really matters. It allows the civilian world to go back to their daily lives feeling like a good American because they thanked a veteran today, without taking any ownership of their sentiments.

The fact of the matter is that veterans ought to be thanked, but not for their service. Because, quite frankly, what we did isn’t about us. The All Volunteer Force in place in the U.S. today relies on men and women to step up and volunteer. Without volunteers, the system would cease to function and the U.S. would have to rely on a conscription service, denying young men and women the choice of whether or not they serve in the military. When choosing to volunteer, service members do much more than march off to war to be a hero. We give up their personal autonomy on where we live. We sacrifice holidays, birthdays, family milestones for the greater good. We postpone educational pursuits and professional careers. We strain relationships, push loved ones to the breaking point, and leave memories behind every few years as our lives our upheaved and moved again. We forego our personal passions and hobbies for the long hours necessary to ensure that the United States is the most professional and successful fighting force on the planet. And we have all volunteered willingly to do all of this. Less than 1% of the population of the U.S. serves in the military. So for every 1 of us who serves, more than 100 don’t have to.

Rather than writing off the decision to serve with a sterile “thank you for your service” this year, own the sentiment and make it personal.

Thank a veteran that you knew you would be present for the birth of all your children.

Thank a veteran that you have pursued your educational goals safely and uninterrupted.

Thank a veteran that your biggest stress is not getting your training ride, workout, spin class, yoga, pilates, or run in for the day.

Thank a veteran that you can sit home nights and write.

Thank a veteran that you have pursued a successful professional career and living the high life.

Thank a veteran that you have the security to be a stay at home parent.

Thank a veteran that you have chosen to make your home close to your, or far form your family, close to the ocean or deep in the mountain… but you choose it.

Thank a veteran that you were able to attend every one of your child’s sporting events, music recitals, spelling bees and parent-teacher conferences.

Thank a veteran that your spouse or partner comes home predictably every day.

Thank a veteran that you have your weekends free.

Thank a veteran that you pursued your passion as an actor, professional athlete, model, musician, or under water basket weaver.

Thank a veteran that you don’t have to be one.

This Veterans’ Day, remember the choice today’s Veterans made when the volunteered to serve. And realize what their choice to serve as allowed you to do.
– See more at: http://revoltdaily.org/stop-thanking-veterans-for-their-service/#sthash.LxT147g4.kWps6cqm.dpuf

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Veterans speaking up about PTSD

Veterans speaking up about PTSD

Veterans speaking up about PTSD

Steve Hartwig, Jason McKenzie and Scott McFarlane are travelling across Canada to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder in Armed Forces veterans. The three men served together in the former Yugoslavia in 1992-93.

“‘PTSD? Are those the crazy guys who go postal and kill everybody?'” That question is one reason Steve Hartwig is on the road. He’s travelling across Canada to educate people and get them talking about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

That ignorant remark was in reaction to Hartwig’s trailer, emblazoned with Into No Man’s Land: PTSD Awareness March.

“People use terms like ‘crazy’ and ‘insane'” in reference to people with PTSD, said Hartwig, who lives in Surrey, B.C. “In reality it’s not the case at all. We’re parents and soccer coaches and teachers. We have normal aspects of our lives like everyone else.”

Hartwig, Jason McKenzie and Scott McFarlane are on the road to Newfoundland. Hartwig is walking 32 kilometres a day, while McKenzie and McFarlane are taking turns behind the wheel.

The three men served in the Canadian Armed Forces in the early 1990s. On a 6 1/2-month tour of the former Yugoslavia, witness to ethnic cleansing and under constant threat of attack, all three developed PTSD.

“What was drilled into my mind on a daily basis was ‘never show a sign of weakness.’ So you have to soldier on,” said McKenzie, who joined the march Sunday as it stopped in his hometown of Regina Beach.

“Lots of times you’re forced out of the military if you come forward with PTSD.”

With no care – counselling, learning coping mechanisms, talking it out with other soldiers who’ve experienced PTSD – “the situation compounds because the individual is left to self-care their way through it,” said Hartwig.

“Then you come back to Canada and you’re rubberstamped and released back into the general population, saying, ‘You guys are good, have a nice day.’ ” For B.C. native McFarlane, the most traumatic event he faced was the one that had him shipped out by Medevac.

In February 1993, he caught on fire. He still has the vest he was wearing at the time.

“Steve saved my life … What Steve did was no different than a guy jumping on top of a grenade,” said McFarlane.

PTSD manifests in depression, anxiety and re-experiencing the traumatic event – “they smell the smells, they hear the sounds,” said Hartwig.

Sometimes it’s too much to deal with.

In 12 years in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian soldiers were killed in combat.

But in the past three years, 50 Canadian soldiers have committed suicide due to PTSD.

“If that trend continues, (200) soldiers will die by their own hand back at home … than soldiers died in combat. That’s the urgency of all this,” said McKenzie.

“It’s a different stigma attached to the suicides. … You don’t get driven down the Highway of Heroes with a flag bearing your coffin.”

With the proper care, the duration of PTSD can be shortened, said Hartwig. But it doesn’t often happen.

That’s another reason for this cross-Canada tour.

“We don’t have a voice with the people that are making the decisions and deciding the treatment,” said McKenzie.

A few months ago, he was at a low point and called Veterans Affairs for help.

At the time, several Afghanistan veterans had recently committed suicide. “I was hearing it on the news every day, this help was available,” said McKenzie. “I didn’t get a call back from Veterans Affairs for a week.”

When they called, they told him to go see his general practitioner. When McFarlane returned to Canada from his tour, “I was told I was an administrative burden,” he said.

The help that is available is inadequate, said Hartwig, as counsellors aren’t familiar with military situations or terminology.

“You’re explaining a C7 and you’re in a 113 and you’re moving here and they go, ‘Whoa, whoa, stop-stopstop, what’s a C7? What’s a 113?’ So I always got frustrated,” said Hartwig. “We are walking in no man’s land a lot of the time. We’re trying to figure out how to do this ourselves. When we ask for care, we’re told it’s there and we don’t get it, or we get halfway through it and the rug gets pulled from under our feet.”

Hartwig has heard from thousands of people so far, and his march is only two weeks in.

He invites people to share their stories by connecting in person or via Facebook. com/intonomansland.

The Into No Man’s Land tour aims to arrive at the Legislative Building around noon on Wednesday.

amartin@leaderpost.com

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post
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Prime Minister Harper: Thank you for Julian Fantino

Prime Minister Harper: Thank you for Julian Fantino

Never in modern memory has a Cabinet minister by his own poor example brought so much attention to the profound cultural problems at Veterans Affairs Canada.

By SEAN BRUYEA |
Published: Monday, 07/14/2014 12:00 am EDT
Last Updated: Monday, 07/14/2014 12:35 am EDT

 

Dear Prime Minister Harper, Gosh, the Veterans Affairs portfolio has been difficult hasn’t it? I don’t think you have received enough credit, however, for appointing Julian Fantino as the department’s minister. He has been a blessing in disguise to Canada’s disabled veterans and their families.

Canadians, particularly veterans, may be widely repulsed by the constant shenanigans of Fantino. I suspect that being the veteran and military champion you claim to be, you had a hidden plan to bring substantive change to that poorly-managed department. Our senior public servants and their policies are largely integrity, compassion, transparency, and innovation-challenged.  Those at Veterans Affairs (VAC) are arguably the worst of the lot.

Many believe you appointed the ex-cop because he would whip the department into shape while subduing those ungratefully vocal veterans who dared exercise the very rights for which they sacrificed in uniform. I am referring to those pesky fundamental freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the press.

Just as minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn noted following the department’s widespread breaches in my privacy in 2010, VAC, all alone in Charlottetown, needs cultural change. Rightly bringing the department back to Ottawa would be a rather large budget line. Firing all those questionably performing senior bureaucrats could face resistance in the public service.

I suspect you knew that such big change would require widespread public support. But most Canadians didn’t know or care about veterans. Disabled veterans were supposed to wither away quietly with meagre handouts. Meanwhile, society benefits from veterans’ sacrifice without society sacrificing much in return to care for them. Fantino’s arrival helped change that.

Although the Prime Minister’s Office adroitly worked on the Senate scandal to bring much-needed attention to Senate reform, appointing Fantino was your magnum opus.

He offended aging veterans who travelled a thousand miles to meet with him in Ottawa during one of Canada’s coldest winters on record. And rather than apologize for standing them up, Fantino accused the veterans of being “duped” by the public service union doing the job the minister should have been doing, i.e., protecting services for veterans.

During the altercation, which left one veteran in tears, Fantino declared he was late because he was at a Cabinet meeting to “champion some issues on behalf of veterans.”

Surely, those veterans suffering psychological injuries have been the hardest hit and the least cared-for in the tangle of VAC bureaucracy. The budget released two weeks later had nothing for living veterans such as those he offended. The late Jim Flaherty told Lisa LaFlamme on budget night, “I haven’t been asked for money for post-traumatic stress disorder, specifically.”

Instead, Fantino has been busy signing all manner of letters to the editor in which he  makes fascinatingly, spurious claims. In the Huffington Post Canada, Fantino wrote, “The disability award forms only a small percentage of the total financial benefits available to injured veteran” under the New Veterans Charter (NVC). In 2013, more than three times more or $419-million was given to veterans as a lump sum disability award than the $124.7-million paid out by all the other “financial benefits” of the NVC combined.

During Parliamentary testimony, Fantino alleged veterans could receive the impossible amount of $10,000 per month in financial benefits from VAC under the NVC. The minister and his department have repeatedly failed to corroborate this assertion. It was a masterful stroke to have Fantino accuse veterans of misinformation when Fantino and his senior bureaucrats are the greatest purveyors of misleading half-truths.

It was a brilliant plan to have Fantino, his three political staffers, deputy minister Mary Chaput and assistant deputy minister Walter Semianiw all run away on national news from the spouse of a veteran, Jenny Migneault. She was clearly not a threat or a union ‘dupe’. But Canadians needed to see that if Fantino has little respect for veterans, he and senior bureaucrats have little more than disdain for veteran spouses.

What veterans don’t understand about your Machiavellian plan is why the senior VAC bureaucracy, which needs deep cultural change, is allowed to run rampant. In spite of multiple executive positions designated for cutbacks, VAC reportedly has yet to make those individuals ‘redundant’. Meanwhile, overworked frontline positions were quickly cut. Furthermore, Chaput continues to rake in her annual bonus while she has increased her staff by 500 per cent ostensibly to generate much of the department’s “misinformation.”

Whereas Fantino can’t quite match the buffoonery of Rob Ford, he hit a home run when he compared Ford’s drug and alcohol addiction to sufferers of PTSD, like veterans from the war in Afghanistan.

I know there is much pressure to shuffle Fantino out of Cabinet this summer. I urge you to resist this. Fantino is the gift that keeps on giving to all Canadians.

Never in modern memory has a minister by his own poor example brought so much attention to the profound cultural problems at Veterans Affairs Canada. His antics will continue to highlight the indignity and humiliation to which far too many veterans and their families are subject to by Canada’s federal government. Then you will be able to bring about the extensive transformation needed at VAC.

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.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

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