OTTAWA, Nov. 25, 2014 /CNW/ - The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, today issued the following statement to respond to the fall report of the Auditor General:
"Our Government accepts all of the recommendations made in the Auditor General's report, and we sincerely thank him for his hard work and valuable insight.
Last February, I recommended to the Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive, third party review of our mental health supports because I want to ensure they are as effective and accessible as possible for Veterans and their families.
However, we did not wait for the findings of the Auditor General to begin working proactively to address mental health issues facing Veterans and their families. In the interim, we reached out to academic, medical, and other knowledgeable authorities to seek wide ranging input, advice, and assistance regarding the complexities and challenges that impact the mental health of veterans. The results of this exercise are evidenced in our recent announcement of $200M in expanded mental health initiatives.
Further, in response to the findings of the Auditor General's report, I am pleased to launch the Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services for Veterans Action Plan, which spells out exactly what my department will do to improve how we deliver benefits and programs to Canadian Veterans. This action plan, supported by our $200 million investment, will further improve an already strong continuum of mental health supports and services.
In addition to the helpful corrective recommendations, I want to thank the Auditor General for highlighting that help is available and that my department provides timely rehabilitation and treatment for mental health conditions.
In his report, the Auditor General also noted that Veterans have access to many effective mental health services such as a network of 10 operational stress injury clinics - which will be expanded to 18; the easily accessed VAC Assistance Service; our comprehensive case management services, and the expanding Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) peer support program.
Our commitments in the Mental Health Services for Veterans Action Plan are clear.
1. We will improve the disability benefits application process and reduce barriers to timely access to benefits. In recent months, we have hired additional people across Canada to eliminate the backlog of unprocessed claims and help speed the transfer of any medical and service documents required for the application process.
2. We will strengthen our outreach efforts to better inform the Reserve Force of mental health care services, as well as reach out to families and family physicians. By investing in treatment and research and by working with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, we will develop a mental health first aid program for Veterans and their families. The successful CAF Road to Mental Readiness program will be expanded and outreach increased by 20%.
3. We are committed to measuring and reporting on the effectiveness of our Mental Health Strategy as we work with the Department of National Defence to enhance awareness of treatment and support, increase resilience, and reduce stigma. Our renewed strategy will also focus on research, treatment, and a better understanding of the needs of members and families making the transition from military to civilian life.
4. We will analyze successful reviews and appeals to ensure fair decisions for our Veterans.
The well-being of Veterans and their families is a top priority for Veterans Affairs Canada. We will continue to ensure Veterans have one of the most robust suites of mental health services in the world and to facilitate timely access to the care and support they need now and in the future."
For information about the Mental Health Services for Veterans Action Plan please visit veterans.gc.ca.
SOURCE: Veterans Affairs Canada
For further information: Contacts: Ashlee Smith, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, 613-996-4649; Media Relations, Veterans Affairs Canada, 613-992-7468