A key asset of any military is high-quality personnel. Attracting and retaining persons to a dangerous profession is a challenge made more difficult by a failing post-service support system namely, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). The success of the Canadian military to attract quality personnel hinges on the success of VAC to care for the wounded, ill, and injured military personnel and their families. Given veterans’ ongoing disapproval of VAC’s performance, the Government of Canada must address the VAC’s failings to illustrate the country’s commitment to current and future military personnel.
Modern veterans are typically middle aged when they leave the military. The emphasis for these veterans is a transition to civilian life. “Transition” continues to be a significant issue for VAC and veterans. In Chapter 1, “Beyond Medicalization: Military Conditioning and the Limits of Military- to-Civilian Transition,” John Whelan and Maya Eichler discuss military conditioning and the transition to civilian life. They describe the making of military identities and consider how the effects of military conditioning pose obstacles in the transition from military to civilian life.
Katarin MacLeod uses case studies in Chapter 2 to explore and offer definitions of Military Literacy and Veteran Literacy. She seeks to understand its role and impact on how our military and veteran families can both cope and connect to the education system. Katarin examines the perspective of a spouse, children, and pre-service teachers. The issues are complex and multi-faceted.
Leduc and MacLeod discuss, in four vignettes, the creation of veteran vulnerability in Chapter 3. These four vignettes identify how veterans organizations have been outmanoeuvred, recall the value of the Veteran’s Benefit Act, briefly address the Government of Canada’s marketing of veteran benefits and services, and expose the resulting veteran’s vulnerability.
“It’s Just 700” is a group of Canadian Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors led by Marie-Claude Gagnon. The group provides confidential peer support and information. In Chapter 4, Maya Eichler, Marie-Claude Gagnon, and Michelle Lamothe combine efforts to identify that Department of National Defence (DND), VAC and Veteran Review and Appeal Board (VRAB) fail to listen to and engage survivors of MST. In a time of #MeToo, it is unfathomable that MST survivors face these challenges.
In Chapter 5, MacLeod and Leduc continue the MST conversation. MacLeod reviews the failings of the VRAB as it pertains to MST survivor applicants. The survivors are fighting a well-entrenched denial culture that may be insensitive to situations that include MST survivors. MST survivor applicants, like all veteran applicants, may face even greater evidentiary burden with the proposed “Rules of Practice and Procedure.” Leduc speaks to the problem of bundling and labeling conditions brought on by sexual trauma when applying for benefits. He identifies a path for MST survivors that have been used successfully by Gulf War Syndrome and Agent Orange veterans.
Matt Barrett addresses an uncomfortable subject in Chapter 6: suicide by military personnel and institutional and organizational attitudes toward suicide. Generally, a bureaucracy will attempt to diminish attribution to minimize liability. Despite advances in psychology and public expectations, the ways in which bureaucracies define military service will affect how resulting mental injuries are regarded and treated.
In Chapter 7, the final chapter is a pragmatic account of VAC’s and GoC’s failings. Natasha Mohr is the widow of the late Petty Officer First Class Rick Mohr. Natasha shares her nine-year battle with VAC’s bureaucracy to gain the recognition that her husband’s death was the result of military service. Natasha’s story provides just one example of the needless pain and suffering that thoughtlessness at VAC caused in the veteran community. By including this chapter, we acknowledge the ones who bear the brunt of political and VAC failure: the families of veterans.
More than ever, Canadians need to be involved with holding our government to account for the effective care of military veterans. As Canadian politicians argue about expensive ships, armoured vehicles, fighter jets and what company gets those contracts, they forget the necessary personnel and technicians that are required to keep these machines moving. Cyberwar requires unique people with rare skills. Regiments require physically and mentally resilient soldiers to counter chronically unstable situations or insurgency. These people are a valuable resource in society, business, and the military. Canadians need to be asking the government: “why would anyone serve in the Canadian Armed Forces if they know that the Government of Canada is failing to care for them?” Instead of being a key asset, wounded, ill and injured veterans and their families are treated like a liability.
Treated Like a Liability: Veterans Running Battles with the Government of Canada comes in three formats: softcover, hardcover and e-book. The books available on the FriesenPress website, Amazon.ca, https://books.google.ca, and Chapters.Indigo.ca.