Evidence of meeting #26 for Veterans Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was veterans.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Cheryl Flohr  Acting Deputy Director, Pre-Discharge and Retired Pay Programs, Veterans Benefits Administration, United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Margarita Cocker  Deputy Director, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Michael Fisher  Program Analyst, Readjustment Counseling Service, Vet Center, United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Joel Scholten  Associate Chief of Staff, Rehabilitation Services, Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center, United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Susan McCrea  Executive Assistant, Intergovernmental Affairs, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

4:10 p.m.

Acting Deputy Director, Pre-Discharge and Retired Pay Programs, Veterans Benefits Administration, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Cheryl Flohr

The last data I saw was specific to VBA, and it was slightly more than 50%. I can't speak for all of VA.

4:10 p.m.

Susan McCrea Executive Assistant, Intergovernmental Affairs, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

For all of VA, it is a third. For instance, in our National Cemetery Administration, I think about 73% are veterans.

March 27th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

One of the concerns that we've heard.... When I first saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, I noticed the 58,000 names that were on there. But we've been told that many more returning veterans from Vietnam unfortunately took their own lives, numbering in the many thousands.

Can you advise, with many of the military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan having very serious psychological problems, what lessons you have learned to facilitate and assist these men and women from doing harm to themselves or to their family members because of the severe trauma they went through?

What advice can you give us concerning some of our veterans who are suffering through those psychological problems months and years after the event?

And I thank you very much for your time.

4:10 p.m.

Program Analyst, Readjustment Counseling Service, Vet Center, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fisher

For the Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, it's about early access. It's about getting out to the events, whether it's to demobilization events or events that are happening in their communities, to make them aware of what services are available to them.

I talked in my presentation about the Vet Center program. We have that veteran-to-veteran connection, whereby a very large percentage of us, as you said, have worn the uniform and have served in combat zones. It allows us instant credibility when we're able to speak with somebody, because we speak the same language they do. It allows them to get comfortable. Then we start talking about what services they might need and about getting them connected to those services.

You also brought up the question of those individuals for whom, months to years after serving, that suffering comes up. That is a reality of post-traumatic stress disorder. It's active outreach in that case as well. It's going out to these events and making as many connections as one possibly can to make people know of the benefits they're entitled to.

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Director, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Margarita Cocker

If I may add something as well about the service-connected disability rating, when a service member is in the process of transitioning out or has transitioned out recently, they do not have to wait for the entire process to take place for their disability rating. If there is medical documentation that the VA can use to determine if the disability will be rated at 20% or higher, that decision can be expedited in as much as three days. Then the veteran can begin the rehabilitation process while he or she awaits the final decision from the VA. Even if that final decision on the disability rating becomes less than 20% based on all the evaluations, they can still remain in the vocational rehab program until the point of rehabilitation.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you very much.

Before I move on, I'm wondering if it's possible to have the name of the mystery guest. Our recorder likes to have the name, just for the information.

4:15 p.m.

Executive Assistant, Intergovernmental Affairs, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Susan McCrea

I'm Susan McCrea, and I'm with Intergovernmental Affairs.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Susan McCrea, welcome. We can't quite peek around the corner to see you, but it's nice to know you're there.

Thank you very much.

4:15 p.m.

Executive Assistant, Intergovernmental Affairs, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Susan McCrea

It's deliberate.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Now to Mr. Storseth, for five minutes, please.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you to everybody for presenting today. It's a very interesting topic.

I have a couple of questions for you that will move it around a little bit.

One of the questions is whether you've been experiencing some of the same issues we have with modern-day veterans—in your case, coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan—who haven't been utilizing the traditional organizations to get their benefits or to look at things.

4:15 p.m.

Program Analyst, Readjustment Counseling Service, Vet Center, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fisher

Yes, we have experienced those.

One of my slides talks about the Vet Center services that were provided in fiscal year 2011. It shows that 30% of the veterans who come to Vet Centers use only Vet Center services; they don't use any other VHA services. In part that is because they don't need other services; they just want to talk with somebody.

Another portion are people who are still getting comfortable with VA services and getting comfortable with VA.

So yes, we have experienced that. It's getting out there to them, going to where the veteran is at, talking to them, making them comfortable with the services, and then getting them into where they need to go.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

What's been the most effective tool that you've used to reach out to them? Is it new technology, social media, or is it some other form?

4:15 p.m.

Program Analyst, Readjustment Counseling Service, Vet Center, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fisher

To be honest with you, it's the veteran-to-veteran connection. I talked before about that common language, being able to go out and speak the same things, having that instant credibility, if you will, as well as having advertisements and all of that. That helps as well.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

How aware have you found that veterans are of the benefits that are available for them, particularly the modern-day vets coming home?