Evidence of meeting #74 for Veterans Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was military.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Oliver Thorne  Executive Director, National Operations, Veterans Transition Network
Mark Fuchko  As an Individual
Nora Spinks  Chief Executive Officer, Vanier Institute of the Family
Debbie Lowther  Chair and Co-founder, VETS Canada
Noel Lipana  Former Lieutenant-Colonel, United States Air Force, As an Individual

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

If I go and see my doctor, she already has her computer open. She tells me what my medical life story is, basically, since I started working with her.

This should be automatic. There should be a checklist or a box or something on the form that says, “Listen, this is the issue, it's finished.” They should just go and track that.

11:50 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

Yes, I would have thought the same.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

That's good, because we're identifying a problem. That's a very big one.

In terms of awareness and accessibility of benefits, do you feel that you had that knowledge right off the top where somebody ran to you right away and told you or...?

11:50 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

No, I had no clue. When I was originally serving in Afghanistan, it was the old pension benefit. Had I been hurt on my first rotation to Afghanistan, my benefits package would have been different.

Now you have veterans who served in Afghanistan and, depending on the time frame when they got wounded, they're subject to different benefits, different compensation packages, and different outcomes.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Right, so if you were at Veterans Affairs, what would you do to clean that up?

11:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

There's a lot. I don't know if I can fit it all in within a minute or two.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Please send us any information following this presentation so that we can have that for consideration for our report.

11:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

I would love to follow up, absolutely, and I will do that.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

For my last question, quickly, I'm not saying that we should join together DND and VAC, but when it comes to transition, I'm becoming a strong believer that they should be one unit. What's your opinion on that?

11:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

I think that would be a great idea. I think that would be fine. I would rather be administered by a military member, personally, rather than a case manager from Veterans Affairs. I had case managers in the forces—don't get me wrong—because that's also something that exists there, but there were also issues with that.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Thank you very much, Mark. I appreciate your answers and I look forward to some of the added information.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Thank you.

I'm going to have to shorten the rounds up a bit to get through, Mr. Eyolfson. We're going to go for about four and a half minutes on this one.

February 8th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Fuchko, as you've said, you've heard “thanks for your service” enough, so I won't bother again because, as you've said, there's limited utility to hearing that at this point.

I will say, as someone who is now a member of government, that I am sorry. I am sorry that this has been happening. One of the reasons I am on this committee—I requested to be on this committee—is that at the doorstep I met a lot of veterans who had stories, not nearly as horrendous as the stories I'm hearing on this committee.

I know that when I hear these stories, it is beyond sobering. It is appalling. We need to do better. That's why I'm honoured to be on this committee: so that I can do what I can to do better for people like you.

For one of the questions I had, I mentally flagged this because I have a medical background. I practised medicine for 20 years before becoming a member of Parliament. You said that you have surgery to your hip that you require, yet it's been delayed. Is that correct? What—

11:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

Yes, I've had—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

What is the mechanism that is causing this to be delayed, or where is the bottleneck?

11:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

I had significant injuries to both of my hips during the blast. I ferociously complained about it to the Canadian Forces medical service and was kind of put in this holding pattern. Eventually, when I left service and started seeing a medical team outside the forces, this was something they identified. I got connected to an orthopaedic surgeon and went on through that. Now I'm having this major surgery in May.

Here I am, 10 years after injury, and I'm still requiring all this care, so for my case to be arbitrarily dropped and for me to get out of the limelight just seems absurd, because I'm going to require lifetime care, and it's going to be at a level that is going to be far different from the level for other veterans. I don't know if it's the Canadian Forces medical system or the way my health has fallen over the years.... There are numerous factors that have contributed to this.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Was there anything through Veterans Affairs? I know that, when you're in the military, your medical care is provided by the military, and then, when you're in Veterans Affairs, your medical care is handed over to the provincial health authority.

You said you're in Calgary now. Once it was determined that you needed this surgery, I'm assuming with your primary care practitioner and the orthopaedic surgeon, was there anything from Veterans Affairs that was delaying the process? Did the orthopaedic surgeon or your family doctor need any information they were having trouble accessing?

11:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

One of the big problems I had was access to my medical file. That took quite a bit of time to get and get to my physiatrist and other physicians. I eventually got that. I did follow-up. I did continuity of care. It just carried on going, and then it came to this point. I was really lucky. The medical team I had in place in Alberta was quite keen to get me out of the agony that I was having with my hips. It moved forward at a rather rapid rate once I made the decision that it was something I needed addressed immediately.

I couldn't really say that Veterans Affairs was holding up anything on that end, or the provincial health care. It's been pretty quick from that determination.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you.

From my experience as a physician, I can tell you that one of the things we have that is affecting veterans that's not in Veterans Affairs is simply our provincial medical systems. We need to move to electronic medical records in the worst way. I worked in Manitoba's major trauma centre, and we still had handwritten charts. Long-term patients would have volumes of charts, and you'd sometimes have seven volumes of paper. I understand that the provinces need to help with that. They don't understand that there's another issue that this is contributing to, our veterans. I don't have time for another question, so all I can say again is I am sorry, and we will endeavour to fix this.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Mr. Kitchen.

Noon

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for being here. I appreciate hearing your comments.

Corporal, I'm going to follow on what my colleague across the way asked. Would it be better to have the issues dealing with VAC internally imbedded in DND so that you're aware of that as you go through? Do you have any comments on that?

Noon

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

I personally feel there is probably some benefit and value to doing that, to having one overall apparatus for seeing the veteran, especially having other veterans and soldiers taking care of them. However, the JPSU system is far from perfect. They've identified some weaknesses there. Hopefully, those can be addressed and carried on. I think the big thing is you need one standard for everybody. I think having the armed forces take over the veteran after they leave and being in that system would probably be of some benefit. Again, that's just—

Noon

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

I see it as cutting down on a lot of the red tape that seems to be in your way, having to produce the same information time and time again. The issue of confidentiality seems to be that barrier at times. By having that within, I don't see that being as big an issue. Would you agree with that?

Noon

As an Individual

Mark Fuchko

I haven't really experienced it being an information-sharing issue. The issue has been, in Veterans Affairs they have all my information; however, when there's a new phase or something else is required, then I have to re-prove it. It's not a matter of DND withholding medical information from VAC. It's just this system within VAC that the totality of my file doesn't carry on. It's not in any logical sense used for another benefit or something of that nature.

Noon

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

This committee, over the years that I've been involved with it, has looked at issues of service delivery. A couple of comments that we've made have been dealing with the issue of being provided information from the moment you sign up and enlist. As you progress, that information is continually given to you as to what you can obtain if certain things should happen. As you progress, you continually learn that. Some of the recommendations that we've made in the past were to do with such information providing that service.

Do you see that as a value or do you see that as a hindrance?