Remembrance Day is over, but for many the battle continues.
Veterans returning from deployment face the challenge of transitioning back into a society that often has little obvious connection with their wartime experiences.
A recent article by Minister of Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino in the Huffington Post pointed out that Veterans Affairs Canada’s budget today is over $3.5 billion. In 2005, it was $2.8 billion.
But Michael Blais, founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, says the Canadian government is not showing the same dignity to the country’s injured soldiers as it once did.
There are reports that veterans are often discharged before their benefits have begun.
There are 40,000 Canadian men and woman recently returned from Afghanistan.
The Legion is there but, as Greenwood Branch #155 president Bob Walker said last week, “A lot of the younger ones (veterans) that come back from Afghanistan and that, don’t want anything to do with the military. And they consider the Legion to be part of the military.”
Programs exist, such as the Veterans Transition Program where veterans are helped to work through their experiences and re-orient themselves by other vets and specially trained psychologists.
A CBC article last June listed four major issues facing Canadian veterans today.
• The disability pension was eliminated, replaced with a lump-sum disability award. Blais says the lump-sum payment can actually harm an injured soldier, because they are receiving a large amount of money at a time when they may not be equipped to deal with it.
• Exposure to chemicals in the course of training and combat.
• Post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues.
It is our obligation to ensure that these men and women are supported when they return home. Lest we forget must be more than something quoted only one day each year.