Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am Commodore Sean Cantelon.
In my role as director general, morale and welfare services for the Canadian Armed Forces, I am responsible for a range of programs and services in support of the operational readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces, in such areas as fitness, sports, recreation, and health promotion, both on bases and wings in Canada and on deployed operations.
This ranges from financial banking services offered through our SISIP Financial services, to mental health programs and services for Canadian Forces members and their families through “Support Our Troops” funds, including the Soldier On fund, and the military families fund.
I am also the director general and chief of military personnel organization who is responsible for casualty support and transition services on retirement. In this capacity, I worked very closely with retired Brigadier-General Dave Corbould, who developed the JPSU renewal.
Joining me today is Captain(N) Marie- France Langlois, the Director of Casualty Support Management who is also representing the joint personnel support unit. Captain(N) Marie-France Langlois is a former commander of the joint personnel support unit and, in her current capacity, is leading the renewal of transition services for releasing Canadian Armed Forces members.
I am very pleased to speak with you today on the topic of transition programs and services that are available to Canadian Forces members transitioning from military to civilian life. These services and programs are offered jointly by the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada, and are assisted by third-party, not-for-profit organizations.
The CAF approaches the topic of military to civilian transition through a holistic lens, looking at the military community as a whole, inclusive of regular and reserve force members, veterans, and their families. On average, over 10,000 regular and reserve force members transition out of the Canadian Armed Forces every year. Of that number, approximately 16% on average are medically released. This is significant because members who leave the service for medical reasons often require unique services.
There are a number of services available to our members, of which I will highlight just a few. However, before I go on, I would like to say that the majority of programs that I mention are available to all military members, regular or reserve, regardless of reason for their release from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Since 1978, the Canadian Armed Forces have provided transitioning military personnel with a two-day second career assistance seminar, run at each military base and wing. These seminars delve into such topics as: pension and benefits, release proceedings, psychological challenges of transition, and services and benefits administered by Veterans Affairs Canada. An additional one-day seminar is provided specifically for those members medically releasing.
At all seminars, the attendance of spouses is strongly encouraged.
The service income security insurance plan offers benefits to all CAF members leaving the military for medical reasons. These personnel receive income support for up to 24 months, and up to 64 months if they are unable to return to work. Those who leave of their own volition are also eligible for the same benefit if they are deemed totally disabled.
A component of this program is the vocational rehabilitation program, which enables participants to restore or establish their vocational capacity to prepare them for suitable gainful employment in the civilian workforce. This program focuses on releasing CAF members' abilities and veterans' abilities, interests, medical limitations, and the potential economic viability of their chosen plan to help them establish their future. The vocational rehabilitation program support can start up to six months prior to their release from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Similarly, Veterans Affairs also offers a suite of social benefit, income support, and rehabilitation programs. Considerable effort is ongoing to better align and harmonize the Canadian Armed Forces and the Veterans Affairs programs to ensure a seamless transition to civilian life for all CAF members.
Over and above the internal work that I just highlighted, the Canadian Armed Forces also works closely with third-party organizations to assist transitioning members, veterans, and their families. We continue to expand our relationships with multiple educational institutions across the country that have shown an interest in better understanding the qualifications and training of military personnel and offer them advanced standing in assorted academic programs at their institutions.
One example of our partnership is the military employment transition program, which works with more than 200 military-friendly employers to help members find meaningful employment. There are currently over 5,000 registered members and over 1,200 hires. This is in pursuit of their goal of 10,000 jobs in 10 years.
Successful transition to civilian life is a key priority of my organization and is in line with the CAF's comprehensive suicide prevention strategy, which is currently being developed and integrated across a spectrum of initiatives in order to prevent suicides. To help promote effective and efficient transitions, we work closely with Veterans Affairs Canada to remove barriers, raise awareness, provide members and their families with appropriate resources and support, promote research and evidence-based responses, and develop policy, protocols, guidance, and support programs and initiatives.
We are also actively working with Veterans Affairs Canada on improving services to veterans offered by our organizations through a joint national career transition and employment strategy. This strategy takes a whole-of-government approach and anticipates expanding its focus to include other government agencies such as Employment and Social Development Canada, Service Canada, the Public Service Commission and others to leverage existing programs and resources in support of transitioning members and veterans.
The delivery of the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs transition services is accomplished through the joint personnel support unit, which consists of eight regional headquarters, 24 integrated personnel support centres, and seven satellite locations across the country with a headquarters here in Ottawa. The JPSU serves regular and reserve force personnel and their families, as well as the families of the fallen.
The JPSU and IPSCs are envisioned as a one-stop shop where those who are ill or injured can receive advice, support, and assistance, not only from the military staff who deliver programs and oversee the IPSC, but also from our colleagues at Veterans Affairs, personnel who are co-located with the Canadian Armed Forces at IPSCs.
The CAF is committed to providing improved service delivery for care of the ill and injured, which is why we work in close partnership with Veterans Affairs to enhance programs and services. Veterans Affairs and the CAF are intertwined in many aspects of the service delivery, and personnel from both organizations work together at all levels to provide service and assistance.
Among its other programs, the JPSU is also responsible for the operational stress injury social support program, or OSISS. It is a joint VAC-Canadian Armed Forces program that provides valued peer support to members, veterans, and their families. The goal of OSISS is to ensure that when peers enter the gateway of peer support, they will be able to reap the benefit of support based upon lived experience to help guide them to the programs and services that can assist them on their road to recovery. Since 2001, OSISS has assisted many peers in accepting their new normal.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear today. Captain Langlois and I would be pleased to respond to the committee's questions.