Mr. Speaker, last fall I asked the minister about the many veterans and families struggling to access supports from Veterans Affairs. His response to my question left me wondering if he is hearing the many voices pleading with his government to listen and make the simple but important changes needed.
Just last week at the veterans affairs committee, we heard from the spouse of a veteran who highlighted very succinctly what I have been hearing for years. She said that her husband Marc, who was released from the military, was left with the impression that he was just another number. Sadly, this indifference has continued now that he is a veteran. This testimony highlights the fact that we are failing our injured veterans and their families. The Department of National Defence and the Department of Veterans Affairs are failing the men and women who serve this country.
The minister should know very well by now that our veterans and their families are struggling. Medically released veterans have to wait to access their pensions when they leave, putting an already stressed family in financial hardship. Veterans and their families are also left without knowing what supports they will qualify for, leaving them with more questions about the financial resources on which they rely.
In addition to financial support are the psychological supports that must be in place immediately. Waiting for a referral from VAC and the additional six weeks before a veteran can see a doctor at an OSI clinic is shocking and unacceptable. If we are able to immediately help the veteran in need, it will reduce the pressure and potential trauma for the veteran's family.
The current system is failing not only our veterans but also their families. More supports for spouses caring for veterans are essential. They may need help to repair a damaged relationship, resources to assist learning how to live with and help someone with PTSD, and supports for their own trauma. None of these resources should be difficult to access. They should be readily available as soon as they are needed.
These are just some of the struggles that veterans and their families face today. However, I get very worried about the future. As these veterans age, they and their families will struggle again to access specialized care that the veteran might need.
Right now, we have long-term care facilities, such as the one in my riding, Parkwood Hospital, that have expertise in serving the special needs of veterans, but post-Korean War veterans and peacekeepers cannot access these specialized facilities. As a result, these hospitals are slated to slowly shutter their doors.
I notice today that the minister visited my riding and made an announcement that he would open five beds in Parkwood Hospital. These beds have been sitting empty in the hospital for years. We need more beds and space to help veterans. Parkwood has the facilities to help veterans struggling to access long-term care, but the government lacks the political will to make this happen. It is content to download veteran care to the provinces. The announcement today does nothing to address the lack of a long-term plan for modern-day veterans. If we do not start to expand care, we are going to lose the expertise housed in facilities like Parkwood.
With much more work to be done to support the veterans, I wonder what the minister and his parliamentary secretary would like to share with the House in regard to how they will address the financial and health care hardships that medically released veterans and their families face when they leave the military. Will the government enact the military ombudsman's recommendations that all benefits and pensions be in place before a CF member is released from the military?