AFP/AAC Newsletter #30 - Bilingual/Bilingue

S ome 9,000 Regular and Re- serve Force members leave the Canadian Armed Forces each year. Of these, approximately 2,500 are released for medically reasons because they are no longer able to perform their military duties. This number of medical releases has grown steadily over time and has more than doubled since 2014 when only about 1,000 personnel were released for medical reasons. 1 In recent years we have witnessed much reporting about suicides and homelessness amongst veterans, many of whom had been released for medical reasons (including operational stress injuries (OSI)). A few weeks ago, we had an oppor- tunity to talk to a “modern-day” veteran who had been released on medical grounds for both physical and psychological disabilities. That discussion led me to ponder the ‘system’ and its flaws. The veteran was confident that the health care he had received from the Royal Canadian Medical Service whilst still serving was quite ade- quate. The CAF Medical Service has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience, especially in dealing with mental disabilities (OSI/PTSD), over the past decade or so. The training provided to CAF medical personnel has been thorough and appropriate for coping with today’s casualties. It seems that the real challenges begin after the member is released from the CAF when he begins to navigate an overloaded provincial health care system. The first problem is one with which many readers will be familiar – fin- ding a family physician! If that isn’t impossible enough in every province, finding one with the knowledge, skills and experience to deal with mental disabilities merely makes it even more difficult. There are precious few pri- mary care health care facilities across Canada with the knowledgeable and experienced staff to effectively deal with our disabled veterans. But it hasn’t always been this way. Our old Department of Vete- rans Affairs (DVA, forerunner to Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC)) built and staffed hospitals across the country to treat and care for the wounded fromWW I and they continued to treat those fromWWII and Korea. These were health care facilities that specialized in caring for war-wounded patients, and whose experienced medical staffs were well trained to handle most categories of war casualties. Regret- tably, all of the old DVA hospitals have now been closed, although a few beds have been reserved for disabled veterans in designated faci- lities across Canada (see newsletter #29 –Modern-day veterans may now be eligible for long term care beds). This degradation of war-casualty treatment capability outside the CAF began in the 1960s with the introduction of universal health care in Canada. That was when the provinces assumed responsibility for all medical care within their geographical boundaries except for CAF members. Until then, many camp/station health care facilities had limited capabilities conse- quently seriously ill/injured CAF members were frequently sent to the nearest DVA hospital for more advanced treatment. Thus, in the early Cold War years, the DVA hospitals accommodated both mi- litary veterans and serving military personnel. If those hospitals were still functioning, they could go a long way in mitigating the issue of inadequate medical care after leaving the CAF. However, reope- ning such facilities would be poli- tically taboo – can’t have a two-tier medical system, you know! But perhaps a reversal of the old prac- tice of treating serving members in veterans’ hospitals might work. Today’s CAF Health Services operate “operational trauma and stress support centres” for serving Regular Force members on practi- cally all major bases and stations. Why not broaden the mandate of these centres to include vete- rans who have been released for a mental disability? In some cases, this could provide the continuity of treatment which is so important for these veterans’ recovery. Obviously some regulations would have to be changed to permit the treat- ment of these now-civilian casualties in DND/CAF facilities but this should not be a major obstacle to better health care than is available now. We invite your thoughts and comments on this article – admin@ Q uelque 9 000 membres des Forces régulières et de réserve quittent les Forces armées canadiennes chaque année. De ce nombre, environ 2 500 sont libérés pour des raisons médicales parce qu’ils ne sont plus en mesure d’ex- écuter leurs obligations militaires. Le nombre de libérations pour raisons médicales augmente régulièrement et a plus que doublé depuis 2014. Cette année-là, seulement un millier de membres des Forces avaient été libérés pour raisons médicales. 1 Au cours des dernières années, nous avons constaté une recrudes- Medical Care for Veterans 1 Report of the Standing Committee on Ve- terans Affairs, NINTH REPORT, MAY 2018 Armed Forces Pensioners’ / Annuitants’ Association of Canada Issue #30 • Summer 2018