Veterans Ombudsman, Guy Parent, recently released a review examining the support available to families transitioning from military to civilian life. The review, “Support to Military Families in Transition: A Review,” not only examined the support for families but updated recommendations made in earlier reports on this topic.
“Transitioning from military to civilian life is often tough on family members, particularly in cases where the member has an illness or injury. A successful transition is essential for the long-term independence, financial security, health and social integration of the transitioning member and their family. One of my priorities is to focus on improving essential support to families,” said Parent.
Approximately 1,000 CAF members are medically released each year, however, most medically released CAF members do not suffer from a debilitating illness or injury, according to the review. Out of the 4,000 members who were medically released between 2011 to 2014, only 15 per cent were thought to be cases that required an Integrated Transition Plan.
The review assessed three key areas: the role and challenge of families during transition, existing support available and review the recommendations made on recent reports and the action that has been taken as of January 1, 2016.
The review acknowledges that the government has taken steps to offer programs and benefits including the Retirement Income Security Benefit, the Family Caregiver Relief Benefit or the launch of the Veterans Family program pilot and the creation of new OSI clinics. However, there are still several areas lacking attention.
Parent identified five key areas where previous recommendations are still lacking. These key areas are a lack of direct and proactive communication to families about available programs and services; a lack of outreach to determine if needs are being met; a lack of treatment benefits for family members; no wage compensation for family caregivers and no access to a dental plan for some families.
“Of particular concern to me is the need for a caregiver compensation program for those family members who give up a career to stay home and care for their Veteran. I recommended action on this in Improving the New Veterans Charter: The Report, released in October 2013. To date, this has not been addressed and remains a problem of significant concern for many families transitioning from military to civilian life,” stated Parent.
Parent notes that in July 2015 the CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) launched the Veterans 20/20 Project to close the gap between the two institutions. The Veterans 20/20 Projects focuses on seamless transition, focusing on the veteran and service excellence.
Going forward, the Ombudsman has stated that he will continue to monitor the progress VAC is making on these key issues. He also hopes to undertake another study to determine the factors that cause a successful transition in to civilian life.
“I will continue to closely monitor ongoing progress in order to ensure that the recently announced initiatives are meeting their intent and that challenges facing families are being addressed. A successful transition from military to civilian life is essential to the long-term independence, financial security, health, and social integration of transitioning members and their families,” said Parent in the review.