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Improving Canadian Veterans Access to Mental Health Care

  • Date : 2014-11-28
  • Canadian Psychiatric Association : cpa-apc.org
  • Synopsis : Report examines whether Veterans Affairs Canada provides veterans with identified mental health care needs with timely access to services and benefits.

Main Document

The Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) supports the Auditor-General's recommendations to improve Veteran mental health care. "While Veterans Affairs Canada has put in place important mental health supports for Veterans, the Report sets out targets for further action to improve veteran access to care," says Dr. Padraic Carr, President of the CPA.

The Report examines whether Veterans Affairs Canada provides veterans with identified mental health care needs with timely access to services and benefits and concludes that overall, the Department does not. The Auditor-General notes that while veteran access to services through the Rehabilitation Program is timely, access to the Disability Benefits Program, the program through which most veterans access mental health services, is slow. The Report cites long-standing barriers to care including a complex application process, delays in obtaining medical and service records from National Defense and long wait-times at operational stress injury clinics for getting a qualified health care professional to assess a mental health condition.

In the Auditor-General's report, Veterans Affairs Canada responds to the Report's findings and recommendations by pointing to a number of ongoing initiatives. Last weekend the Government of Canada announced $200 million over five years to improve mental health care for military members, veterans and their families. Some of these initiatives such increasing the capacity to digitize CAF member health records to speed the transfer of medical document to Veterans Affairs, directly respond to the Auditor-General's recommendations.

"The Auditor General's Report provides an important roadmap for improved Veteran mental health care, including developing performance measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the Veteran Affairs Canada Mental Health Strategy. We are hopeful that the $200 million announcement last week signals an important first step towards increased support for Veterans and their families as they face mental health problems," says Dr. Carr.

CPA supports the following recommendations that:

  • Veterans Affairs Canada assess and report on the effectiveness of its Mental Health Strategy and develop performance measures for its strategy and outreach activities for veterans with mental health conditions.
  • The application process for the Veterans Affairs Canada Disability Benefits Program be analyzed for barriers to timeliness and corrective action taken.
  • DND and the CAF take steps to accelerate the transfer of service and medical records to Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada, DND and the CAF implement solutions to provide timely access for psychological and psychiatric assessments.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada work with the Veterans Review and Appeal Board to identify whether reasons for successful reviews and appeals indicate a need to modify the application process to the Disability Benefits Program.
  • Veterans Affairs mental health outreach strategy be expanded beyond existing veteran clients and military members who are about to be released to include outreach to family doctors and families of veterans.

"Psychiatrists stand ready to help DND, CAF and Veterans Affairs meet the expectations set out in the Report," notes Dr. Carr.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada's 4,700 psychiatrists and more than 900 psychiatric residents. Founded in 1951, the CPA is dedicated to promoting an environment that fosters excellence in the provision of clinical care, education and research.



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