Volume 5: January - April, 2021
Message from Veterans Ombud

Welcome to the 5th issue of our newsletter, Focused on Fairness!

Since starting as the Veterans Ombud in November 2020, I’ve been focused on learning about and understanding the current issues facing our Veteran community. Over the past few months, I have met with 40 Veteran advocate and stakeholder groups, parliamentarians and media and have incorporated what I heard into our planning to set the strategic priorities and key focus areas for the Office. Shortly, we expect to publish these together with our renewed key statements.

In this issue, you will read about our accomplishments over the past few months, most importantly the publication of our report, Mental Health Treatment Benefits for Family Members in Their Own Right For Conditions Related to Service, the Women Veterans Outreach event, and the upcoming publication of our report, Peer Support for Veterans who have Experienced Military Sexual Trauma. We join with all Veterans who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma in our hope that the new announcements for peer support in the recent budget will become tangible very soon.

One thing that has become very clear to me is that the mandate of the Veterans Ombud is not well understood by Veterans or by serving CAF and RCMP members, and this is something that I intend to address. While we do investigate systemic issues that create gaps or barriers for Veterans seeking to access benefits and services from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), please know that the Veterans Ombud exists primarily as the independent voice that individual Veterans or their family members can trust for help to get to the bottom of issues they may be having with VAC.
Col (Ret’d) Nishika Jardine
Veterans Ombud
Recent Systemic Investigation Findings
When a military member serves, their family serves too. While families are resilient, the conditions of military service can have challenges and impact each family member differently. The Office of the Veterans Ombud (OVO) found that family members should have access to their own mental health treatment benefits through Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) – particularly when the Veteran isn’t seeking treatment.

For more about our findings and recommendations, read our report.
OVO Out and About

Women Veterans Virtual Outreach Activity
International Women’s Day was special for the OVO this year. On March 8 we held the office’s first outreach activity dedicated to hearing the concerns and ideas of Women Veterans.

Discussions focused on two key themes: 

1) How VAC can improve health care and services for Women Veterans
2) How the OVO can better serve Women Veterans

We learned a lot! Generally, Women Veterans would be interested in learning about VAC benefits and services well before they release from the CAF or the RCMP, and that they were not really aware of the service provided by our Office. Their feedback was very welcome and will inform our work going forward. Thank you to all participants!
2021 Veterans Ombud Commendation
Do you know a person(s) or organization making a difference in the lives of Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and/or their families?

Nominate them in one of four categories:

  1. Individual
  2. Lifetime
  3. Local Organization
  4. National Organization

Nomination deadline is 1 July 2021. For guidelines and submission information, please go to:

Success Story

Continued Psychological Treatment Thanks to a Timely Solution 
Veterans can get coverage from VAC for psychological treatment when they are receiving a disability benefit for a service-related mental health condition or are participating in the Rehabilitation program. Recently a Veteran needing this help from VAC asked us to intervene.

The Veteran had used up all his health care coverage for psychological treatment and had contacted VAC for support to continue sessions with his psychologist. VAC suggested that he apply for the disability benefit and advised him it could take 10 months to get an answer. VAC also told the Veteran that he was not eligible for assistance under the Rehabilitation program because he had been employed since leaving the military. Concerned that a long break in treatment would have a negative impact on his healing, the Veteran reached out to us for help.

We reviewed the Veteran’s situation and saw an opportunity to make the case to VAC that being employed should not prevent this Veteran from applying to the Rehabilitation program. He should be eligible to receive this short-term support while he waited for a decision about his disability benefit application. VAC agreed and encouraged the Veteran to apply. He did, and received approval the next day to continue sessions with the psychologist he trusts.

When you or your family are having difficulty with Veterans Affairs Canada, we are here as an independent voice that you can trust to help you get to the bottom of the issue. When we find unfairness, you can count on us to advocate for fairness on your behalf. Please know that for us, it is an honour to be of service to you who have served our country. 

Helpful links:

Welcome to New
Veterans Ombud Advisory Council Members!
The Veterans Ombud relies on an Advisory Council for advice to identify and address concerns in the Veteran community relating to the OVO mandate.

We are pleased to share that three new members recently joined the Veterans Ombud Advisory Council (VOAC)

  • Jane Hall
  • Brigitte Laverdure
  • Jay Milne

To read member biographies and learn more about the Council, click here.
Spotlight – OVO Intervention Unit
Merriam-Webster defines fairness as: “Impartial and just treatment or behaviour without favouritism or discrimination.” This quest for fairness forms the basis for the mandate of the Intervention Unit of Office of the Veterans Ombud.
When a Veteran or their family member is having an issue with VAC, they can contact our Office, and talk to one of the intake officers in our 14 member Intervention Unit.

Sometimes the Veteran just needs more information or we can provide them with a referral to another organization to get the assistance they need, but more often, they have a complaint that needs investigating.
During the course of our investigation into their complaint, with their permission, we can have access to their VAC file in order to determine whether their situation meets the three aspects of fairness:

Where we find that there is unfairness, we advocate for fairness on their behalf.
Individual Complaint Statistics

The OVO strives to find new ways to improve our services, including how we respond to your complaints. Our service standard is that 75% of complaints are handled and closed within 60 working days. To date, 82% of complaints to our office meet this standard. 
In the News

In case you missed it, find top news stories about our office here:
Newly arrived Col (Ret’d) Nishika Jardine met with media before Christmas to introduce herself as the new Veterans Ombud. She shared her background, views on her new role, and emphasized the importance of the OVO’s work. In mid-January she sat down again with news media to discuss the OVO’s recommendations to fix gaps in mental health treatment benefits for Veterans’ families.

The OVO was in the news once more when the $165 million dollar accounting error at VAC, made public by former VO Guy Parent in 2018, was reported as being in the final stages of settlement.
Murray Brewster
Sage Magazine
The OVO Gets Social

Our posts with the most impact this quarter:
Wolf Solkin

February 5, 2021
12,604 People reached / 1,023 Engagements
Mr. Solkin, a widely-respected Veterans advocate and Veterans Ombud Commendation recipient, died on February 4, 2021. The reaction to his passing reflects the profound impact he made on members across the Veteran community. The OVO is forever grateful for his significant contributions to Veterans. 
Mental Health Treatment Benefits for Family Members, in their Own Right, for Conditions Related to Military Service

January 19, 2021
5,195 People reached / 305 Engagements
What happens when you submit a complaint?

February 12, 2021
5,171 People reached / 331 Engagements
Stay Tuned
Here is what’s coming up at the OVO:
Helpful Links & Resources

Featured Resources

Office of Women and LGBTQ2 Veterans was set up July 2019 by VAC with the vision to offer fair and impartial access to programs and services leading to equality for all Veterans. This office works closely with members of the women and LGBTQ2 Veterans’ communities to identify and address systemic barriers and a lack of fairness.

Veterans Review and Appeal Board Compassionate Award provides assistance for compassion-related cases of Veterans who do not qualify for a benefit under the Pension Act or the Veterans Well-being Act Part III, however, are in great need after having exhausted the review and appeal process under the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act.

Quick Links for Navigating OVO

Services for Veterans:

Information / Referrals: We can help you navigate the often complex Veterans Affairs Canada system by providing information about benefits and services, your rights and redress options, and by referring you to the right service for your needs.

Complaint resolution: We can help address your complaint if you believe you have been treated unfairly by Veterans Affairs Canada. Every attempt is made to resolve complaints quickly and informally.

Quick Links for Navigating VAC

OVO Quiz
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