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Canadian Mefloquine(Lariam) Veteran Support

Dave Mckay‎

12 April 2020

VVi 24 Apr 2020

Were do I start, I was ordered and had to sign a paper at the FOBs in Afghanistan to take Mefloquine or I will be charged. On my 2nd tour Afghanistan 2007 roto 3 I was told at the beginning to take it, after awhile I noticed I couldn't sleep at all, I was paranoid as hell and the night mares and night tears were horrible. One fact and if he is in this group my driver Doug Forsythe (Dougie) asked why did I put water bottles all around our tent while OTW outside the wire. I told him that if the taliban try to sneak up on us we will here the crunch of the water bottle. So for the whole tour I had to take and sign a piece of paper and take the drug against my will.

|while back home even after the 3 day vacation in Greece I still felt the affects of the drug, night mares paranoia. When back home things that happen that I believe are a direct cause of this drug. I woke up one night and my spouse told me I had my hands around her neck and was talking in a foreign language. When I tried to go out in public it wasnt a good thing yelling at people at poker games. Blowing up at people for little things and making my children cry thats what really broke me, Doctors said I had PTSD but I knew it was something different I went over as an analyst and came back a killer.

Lots of people from my tour committed suicide, lots of friends from my unit did so as well. This drug is to blame 100 percent proof of this is it all happen on tour not after, the effects were real over there every one had them and complained about them. The government knew all along but I imagine the money exchange from the pill maker was a better deal then keeping our health and our safety a priority. What keeps me alive is the love of my family and the memory of my fallen heroes.
 
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Armed Forces reports 20 military suicides last year, largest number since 2014

The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, April 8, 2020 2:44PM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, April 8, 2020 5:28PM EDT

VVi 10 Apr 2020 db

CAF, Canadian Armed Forces
A Canadian flag patch is shown on the shoulder of a member of the Canadian forces in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Canadian troops returning from Ukraine this month have not been told whether they will allowed to quarantine at home with their families or forced to spend the two weeks somewhere else. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg)

OTTAWA -- The Canadian Armed Forces has quietly revealed that 20 service members took their own lives last year, the largest number of military suicides since 2014.

The increase came despite the federal government having introduced a suicide-prevention strategy for military members and veterans in 2017, underscoring the complexity of the challenge facing the military and government in preventing such tragedies.

The new figures quietly published online by the Canadian Armed Forces in January showed 17 full-time regular-force members and three reservists died by suicide in 2019.

Not only was that an increase of five military suicides over the previous year, it was the largest number of suicides among those in uniform since 23 service members took their own lives in 2014. The figures did not break the numbers down by gender.

A total of 175 Canadian military personnel have died by suicide since 2010. That is more than the 158 killed while serving in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

Military officials did not issue an accompanying report to explain the increase or what additional steps may be needed to address the situation, but Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in an email Wednesday that an analysis will come later in the year.

Such reports have been published each year since a rash of military suicides first cast a spotlight on the issue in 2013, leading the government and military commanders to promise to address the problem.

The subsequent Defence Department and Veterans Affairs Canada suicide-prevention strategy promised to improve the services and support available to military members and veterans in the hope of increasing awareness and reducing the number of suicides in both populations.

That included adding more medical staff, training personnel on how to respond if someone showed warning signs for suicide and introducing new measures to ease the transition to civilian life for those leaving the Forces.

National Defence's suicide-prevention strategy was endorsed by a variety of groups, including the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

"The CAF has provided leadership in the area of mental health and remains committed to working with its partners to ensure that our personnel, with their families, who are called to sacrifice so much in service to their country, receive quality care and support," Le Bouthillier said.

"Suicide is a tragedy and an important public health concern that affects everyone -- both in and out of uniform -- which is why we will continue to assess capabilities and adjust resources to ensure we meet the increasing complexities and demands associated with caring for our own."

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan acknowledged last year that "we must always strive to do better," adding: "Every time we lose a member of our Canadian Armed Forces to suicide, it is felt by us all. One suicide is too many.

"While there is no simple solution or easy answer, we will continue to evolve and improve the strategy as we expand our understanding of suicide and mental health and move forward on implementing solutions."

The Canadian Armed Forces for years resisted suggestions service members were more at risk of suicide than the general public, but reversed course after a landmark study from Veterans Affairs Canada in 2017 suggested that was true.

Now, with the vast majority of service members now ordered to stay home so they are ready to respond if the military is called to help out with COVID-19, commanders have been encouraging their troops to reach out and stay connected to ensure their mental health.

"These are unique and stressful times," chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told all Forces members in a letter on March 27.

"Take care of yourselves and your families both physically and mentally, say in contact with your colleagues and reach out to support one another."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2020.

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Wounded Warriors Canada (WWC)

VVi 10 Apr 2020

WWC Friends and Supporters:

We hope you and your family are staying safe during this most challenging time for Canada and the international community. While we do our part to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus by practicing physical distancing, I wanted to update you on the things we’re working on to provide innovative means to support our injured Veterans, First Responders and their families.

Clinically facilitated (in-person) group delivery is a central aspect of our mental health services. And while we’ve had to postpone our scheduled programming until such time that we can get back together in group again, technology offers us new and impactful ways to help those we serve. As we speak, we are working with our clinical team and program developers to adapt our programs to remote delivery methods.This will help us both in the situation we find ourselves at present and (long-term) as we work to find ways to breakdown geographical barriers to care that exist in a country the size of Canada.

In the meantime, our National Clinical Advisor, Dr. Tim Black, is developing a series of videos to introduce some of the central psycho-educational concepts taught on our programs. These are being distributed to those who are waiting to access our services and to frontline Canadian Armed Forces members, First Responders and their family members to help them cope during these especially difficult weeks and months. You can view the videos and learn more on our COVID-19 information page by following the links below.

We are committed to doing our best to support those who serve our country at home and abroad and are pleased to be finding new ways to connect and help them get started on their path to healing and recovery.

Of course, none of this would be possible without your care, compassion and generosity. Please take care of yourselves while staying healthy, staying home, and staying in touch. We wish you and yours a very safe and happy Easter.

Sincerely,
Scott Maxwell
Executive Director
Wounded Warriors Canada
#INTHISTOGETHER
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CERB is TAXABLE income

Chanlika Holgersen
April 5 at 8:47 AM

VVi 08 Apr 2020 no

For everyone applying for the CERB tomorrow. It IS a TAXABLE income. Meaning you will be required to pay taxes on it. BUT - here’s the kicker - they WILL NOT be taking off the required taxes! So if you receive the full $8000 over the next 4 months you must put aside $2400 (high tax bracket - most will fall in the lower tax bracket of 15% and will owe $1200) to pay back at tax time next year if you don’t want it to bite you in the a$$! Money isn’t free! Be smart!

EDIT: Wow I didn’t realize how far this would reach. Editing to reiterate this is just a generalized margin for the higher tax bracket. Everyone will owe a different % of taxes in 2021 based on your 2020 income. I only posted this because believe it or not, I have friends who think the CERB is not a taxable benefit. Yes it is like EI, but where it differentiates is that EI will deduct the necessary taxes for you before putting the money in your pocket - CERB does not. The reasoning for this is to get the money in your pockets faster and they’re not wasting time calculating everyone’s 2019 income to see how much individuals are entitled to. Thank you. Disclaimer* I am not educated to give advice on EI/CERB benefits - just passing along information I got from a CPA relative so people aren’t in for a shock come tax time next year - so please talk to a CRA representative if you’re still confused.
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Scams and phishing attacks about COVID-19 benefits

 VVi 08 Apr 2020 no

(le français suit l’anglais)

Dear Stakeholders and Advisory Groups Members,

Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, there has been an increase in scams and phishing attacks about COVID-19 benefits.

As the Government of Canada introduces new supports for Canadians who are facing hardship during this time, we remind you to be vigilant when receiving phone calls, emails and text messages that refer to these new benefits. The best place to find information on Canada’s Economic Response plan is at Canada.ca/coronavirus.

The best way to defend yourself against cyber-attacks is with information. If you can recognize the signs of a phishing campaign, you’ll be better equipped to protect your personal information from cyber scammers.

Please visit Get Cyber Safe for details on signs of a phishing campaign, and how to stay safe.

Sincerely,

Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach Team
Veterans Affairs Canada
vac.engagement.acc@canada.ca

***********************************************************************
Chers intervenants et membres des groupes consultatifs,

En raison de la pandémie de maladie à coronavirus (COVID-19), les fraudes et les attaques d’hameçonnage au sujet des avantages offerts pour répondre à la COVID-19 ont augmenté.

Alors que le gouvernement du Canada met en place de nouvelles mesures de soutien pour les Canadiens aux prises avec des difficultés pendant cette période, nous vous rappelons d’être vigilants lorsque vous recevez des appels, des courriels ou des messages textes qui portent sur ces nouveaux avantages. Le site Web Canada.ca/le-coronavirus est le meilleur endroit pour trouver de l’information sur le Plan d’intervention économique du Canada.

Vous informer est le meilleur moyen de vous défendre contre les cyberattaques. Si vous pouvez reconnaître les signes d’une campagne d’hameçonnage, vous serez mieux outillés pour protéger vos renseignements personnels des fraudeurs potentiels.

Veuillez consulter Pensez cybersécurité pour savoir quels sont les signes d’une campagne d’hameçonnage et comment vous protéger.

Cordialement,

L’équipe de mobilisation et de sensibilisation des intervenants
Anciens Combattants Canada
vac.engagement.acc@canada.ca
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Feds asked to automatically approve veterans' claims backlog amid COVID-19 fears

The Canadian Press Staff
Published Thursday, April 2, 2020 4:34AM EDT ; Last Updated Thursday, April 2, 2020 5:21AM EDT

VVi 08 Apr 2020 db

OTTAWA -- One of Canada's largest veterans' organizations is urging the federal government to automatically approve the roughly 44,000 outstanding applications for disability benefits from injured veterans to help them better deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The call from the National Council of Veteran Associations, which represents more than 60 veteran groups, comes amid fears about the financial and emotional toll the pandemic is taking on veterans struggling with mental and physical wounds.

Veterans Affairs Canada says staff are still processing claims as they work from home and that there are no immediate plans to automatically approve the backlog, which was already a source of frustration and anger for many veterans forced to wait years for support even before COVID-19.

But the COVID-19 crisis presents yet another barrier for veterans to get their applications approved, said council chairman Brian Forbes, who is also executive director of The War Amps Canada and a member of Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay's policy advisory group.

"It was bad enough as far as the backlog and the delays and the number of new claims (before COVID-19)," Forbes said in an interview "And then when you put the coronavirus on top of it, you've got a perfect storm. Things are just not getting done."

One of the issues facing some veterans is that they require a doctor's assessment of their medical condition before their applications will be processed by Veterans Affairs. Yet many doctors are not seeing patients in person except in extreme circumstances, Forbes said.

Veterans Affairs recently reported more than 18,000 of the 44,000 applications in the backlog were "incomplete."

The federal government has long faced pressure to automatically approve applications for disability benefits for veterans, with Veterans Affairs going back after the fact to conduct audits and verify eligibility.

Not only are approval rates for most categories of injuries -- including post-traumatic stress disorder -- extremely high, advocates warn delays add undue stress on veterans while potentially exacerbating difficult financial and medical conditions.

Yet Forbes suggests it doesn't make sense for veterans to keep waiting months when the government is promising tens of billions of dollars in support to Canadians and companies to help with COVID-19 -- much of which is expected to be disbursed quickly and verified later.

Veterans Affairs says the past week or so has seen more employees whose job is to process the disability claims continuing their work from home to ensure veterans are receiving decisions, especially those with the most urgent needs.

"Although we are not currently using automatic approvals with audits, we are encouraging decision makers to work more efficiently, using available evidence to reach the fastest decision possible," Veterans Affairs spokesman Josh Bueckert said in an email.

The call for automatic approvals comes as some veterans' organizations are expressing concerns about the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on the mental and physical health of Canada's wounded warriors.

Veterans Affairs says it has been checking up with former military personnel deemed "at risk" while some organizations are using telephones and video conferences to continue providing therapy, counselling and other support.

Yet many veterans suffering from physical injuries are now unable to get physio or rehab because of COVID-19 while the pandemic undermines one of the key messages broadcast to vets suffering from PTSD and other mental injuries in recent years: Don't isolate yourself.

"We have been talking for many years about getting our veterans out," said Royal Canadian Legion dominion president Tom Irvine, whose branches are helping former service members get groceries, access financial services and stay connected.

"It is a concern. There are going to be veterans or members of the Legion that are going to slip through the cracks. Hopefully it's minimal, but it is a concern. And that is why we're reaching out on a daily basis."

Irvine also voiced his support for the government to just sign off on the backlogged applications for help.

VETS Canada president Jim Lowther, whose charity provides emergency financial assistance and other services to homeless veterans or those at risk of losing their homes, says the organization has had more calls for help in the past two weeks than usual.

A former Canadian Forces member who was previously diagnosed with PTSD, Lowther says many veterans are worried about keeping roofs over their heads while for those suffering from mental injuries, "this is a dangerous time right now and hopefully it won't last too long."

Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada, says his non-profit has also received more calls for mental-health assistance, which he took as a hopeful sign veterans suffering from mental injuries aren't retreating and instead are reaching out for help.

And while he says person-to-person contact is the "secret sauce" to his organization's successful therapy services, he was hopeful its forced shift to online and telephone assistance could eventually see it better supporting veterans in more remote communities.

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Judge rules in favour of class action launched by special operations veteran
Social Sharing
Decision could mean bump in disability benefits for thousands of injured Canadian veterans


Richard Cuthbertson · CBC News ·
Posted: Mar 25, 2020 5:03 PM AT | Last Updated: March 25

VVi 30 Mar 2020


Simon Logan received an involuntary medical release from the Canadian Forces in 2016 after a career that included serving in the infantry, air force and special operations. (Submitted by Simon Logan)

Thousands of injured Canadian military veterans who served under especially arduous conditions are entitled to higher disability payments after a judge ruled Tuesday in favour of a former special operations soldier who challenged how the support is calculated.

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against the federal government is Simon Logan, who served in Afghanistan and was a warrant officer when he received an involuntary medical release from the Canadian Forces in 2016 following a 28-year career.

The military calculates long-term disability at 75 per cent of a member's monthly pay, but the Department of National Defence had only used Logan's base salary to determine his payments, and did not include an allowance he earned as a "special operations assaulter." It meant Logan received only $5,100 per month in disability payments, instead of nearly $8,000.

The case was heard in Federal Court in Halifax in February. In a decision this week, Justice Richard Southcott ruled in favour of Logan and other former military members in similar situations, writing that monthly allowances should be used in disability calculations.

"When you're in the military, you're kind of handcuffed in what you can say or do," Logan, 58, who lives in the Ottawa area, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "But when I became a civilian, I just wanted to take matters that I thought were unjust and try and fix it."


Daniel Wallace, a partner with the Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper, represented Logan in the class-action lawsuit. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

He said the court's decision "means a lot for a lot of people" who earned allowances for working in particularly difficult environments, but didn't see that recognized when they were injured while serving under those conditions.

Logan said he wanted to keep private the nature of the injuries that led to his medical discharge and that he was not permitted to describe his role in special operations.

The Canadian Forces says special operations assaulters include personnel trained to perform counterterrorism missions, hostage rescues, special operations patrols and special reconnaissance and surveillance.

Paratroopers, divers

Halifax lawyer Daniel Wallace, who helped launched the class action on behalf of Logan, said there are roughly 6,800 former Canadian military personnel who received monthly allowances on top of their salaries and were involuntarily medically released from the Forces.

Allowances include payments to certain specialized groups like paratroopers, rescue specialists and divers, and for conditions like isolation, work on submarines or serving on a flight crew. There are also allowances covering things such as being posted to an area with a high cost of living.

Wallace said he can't estimate how much disability money members of the class action would be owed, but said it should be retroactive for members who were released after 1999, when the current policy was adopted.

"We hope that now that the court has heard the arguments on both sides and decided in favour of the class, we hope that the federal government will accept that decision," he said in an interview.

If there's no appeal, he said the next stage would involve sorting out interest and the timing of payments.

'Dramatic drop in pay'

A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said in statement the federal government is now reviewing the decision and will determine next steps in consultation with the Department of Justice.

"The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are committed to ensuring that all Regular and Reserve Force military members receive their due benefits," the statement said. "Taking care of our members is our utmost priority and we will continue to take steps to improve services."

At the time of his discharge, Logan was earning $10,665 a month, of which $3,730 was a "special operations assaulter allowance."
He said he subsequently learned of other veterans who had earned allowances while serving but had received less than they thought they were owed in disability payments.

"It's a dramatic drop in pay from what I was making. My expenses didn't go down, my mortgage didn't change," he said. "I know I made good money when I was in the military, I'm not denying that. But to take such a drastic change in income — doesn't matter how much money you make, that's a big deal, dropping 40 per cent, 50 per cent."

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Federal Court rules in favour of injured veteran's class-action suit

The Canadian Press

March 24, 2020 03:44 PM

VVi 26 Mar 2020 db
JCO12154602.jpg
A Canadian flag sits on a members of Canadian forces that are leaving from CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., on Oct. 16, 2014. Thousands of injured veterans could be in line for payments from the federal government after the Federal Court ruled in favour of a former special-forces soldier whose class-action lawsuit alleged he was shortchanged on his long-term disability payments. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

OTTAWA — Thousands of injured veterans could be in line for payments from the federal government after a Federal Court ruled in favour of a former special-forces soldier whose class-action lawsuit alleged he was shortchanged on his long-term disability payments.

Retired warrant officer Simon Logan was medically discharged from the Canadian Armed Forces in February 2016, at which point he expected to begin receiving monthly payments equalling 75 per cent of his pre-release salary of $10,665.

Yet the disability payments only accounted for his base pay as a warrant officer and did not include nearly $4,000 in monthly allowances he had received while in the Forces, most of which were related to his service as a special-forces soldier.

The omission of those allowances represented a difference of nearly $3,000 per month in Logan's disability payments.

Logan's lawyers had argued in Federal Court that the allowances should have been included because they reflect the special skills and increased hazards that he faced while serving in uniform.

Government lawyers said the allowances should not have been included because Logan stopped being a special-forces soldier when he left the Forces.

But in his ruling on Tuesday, Federal Court Justice Richard Southcott said monthly allowances should count in the calculation for long-term disability. Allowances that are not received each month should not be included, Southcott added.

It was not immediately clear whether the government would appeal the decision.

Logan's lawyer, Daniel Wallace of Halifax-based firm McInnes Cooper, said his client was pleased with the decision and expressed the hope that the government would implement the decision and not appeal.

Wallace said approximately 6,800 veterans are part of the class-action lawsuit, though he could not say how much the government could end up paying out should it implement the court's decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2020.

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Canadian doctors urge caution on repurposing malaria medication to fight COVID-19
Canada part of a global study launched by the WHO to look into the use of chloroquine and other existing drugs

Amina Zafar · CBC News ·
Posted: Mar 24, 2020 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: March 24

VVi 24 Mar 2020 db

The drug, which treats malaria, has shown some efficacy against COVID-19-associated pneumonia in early research, but more study is required, experts say. (Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

Canada's top public health doctor warned against using malaria medication to treat COVID-19 on Monday, after U.S. President Donald Trump touted the option during a recent news conference.

People have taken chloroquine to prevent and treat malaria for decades. A related medication called hydroxychloroquine is mainly used to treat inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. People in more than 180 countries have been sickened by the respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus humans have no immunity against.

Last week, Trump told reporters hydroxychloroquine had shown "very, very encouraging early results." But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was also quick to say that officials are trying to strike a balance between making the potential therapy available to physicians to use on seriously ill COVID-19 patients on an emergency basis while ensuring it is truly safe and effective through clinical trials.

On Monday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, added her own cautions.

"My message is that you should not take medication without the scientific evidence," Tam said. "It can be quite dangerous. These drugs are not without side-effects. In fact, there are quite significant side-effects."

The World Health Organization (WHO) is running a research network called Solidarity that has identified a "vast suite of potential drug therapies and combinations" that could be repurposed to treat COVID-19.

Tam said part of Canada's participation in the network includes making sure patients will receive drugs in the most scientific and safest way possible.

Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, is writing a review on the safety of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

Trump suggested using hydroxychloroquine together with an antibiotic based on the results of a small study by French researchers.
Juurlink said that study involving just 36 patients is the extent of the human research so far on using hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment for COVID-19 — research with "so many holes you could drive a truck through it," he said.

Normally, an antibiotic is never recommended to treat a virus. But the antibiotic and antimarlarial combination has off-target effects beyond what it was designed to do, infectious disease experts say.

Juurlink said he's concerned about possible toxic overdoses from chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and side-effects such as:

Irregular heartbeat.

Low blood sugar.

Mood changes and psychosis.

"These are not drugs to be toyed with," Juurlink said.

The only way to tell if a treatment really works is to randomly assign a large number of patients to either take it or a placebo. Even then, rarer side-effects may not crop up until years later, once more people have taken the medication.

In the U.S. and Canada, doctors and pharmacists said hoarding hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 could hurt others, such as those who take the drug long term to keep chronic inflammatory diseases like lupus under control.

Pharmaceutical companies in Canada and worldwide are donating hydroxychloroquine to help medical researchers collect high-quality data on the safety and effectiveness of using the medication to treat COVID-19.

Trial to protect hospital staff

Dr. Kevin Kain is an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital, where he's part of a team of researchers designing a randomized placebo-controlled trial into the safety and efficacy of using hydroxychloroquine prophylactically to prevent COVID-19 infection. Their goal is to protect front-line health-care workers in emergency departments and intensive care by preventing the infection from taking root.

"This seems like the appropriate, high-risk group to establish that it works," Kain said. "Right now, people are using it without good evidence. I was around long enough to remember SARS, where a number of treatments were tried without appropriate trials, and in retrospect, a lot of those things actually caused harm."

In the lab, chloroquine works by suppressing the growth of coronaviruses such as SARS and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the French researchers said.

"It isn't entirely clear, but there's intriguing evidence that if you can get high levels of a mineral called zinc … inside a cell that's infected, it will inhibit replication of coronaviruses," Kain said. "Taking a lot of zinc by mouth doesn't do this because getting zinc into a cell is tightly regulated. Chloroquine seems to facilitate it getting into the cell."

Elsewhere in the world, Doctors Without Borders is preparing to treat patients with COVID-19, potentially with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. The medical charity operates in more than 70 countries.

Jason Nickerson, humanitarian affairs adviser for Doctors Without Borders in Ottawa, said if a treatment stops the severe illness from COVID-19, then it would be incredibly beneficial, particularly in countries with less resourced health systems.

"How do we get these new technologies, once they're developed, to patients in all countries, everywhere?"

He called on governments worldwide to apply policies to ensure technologies like drugs that are developed with public funds remain affordable and globally accessible, since in a pandemic, the virus needs to be stamped out everywhere to protect people everywhere.

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Liberals defends $4M transfer from operating budget amid veterans' backlog fury

Mar 10, 2020 5:59 PM By: Canadian Press

VVi 22 Mar 2020



OTTAWA — The Liberal government is defending its decision to take more than $4.1 million from Veterans Affairs Canada's operating budget at a time when the department is struggling with a backlog of tens of thousands of disability applications from injured ex-soldiers.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay found himself under fire for the move during an appearance before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, where he noted the reallocated funds went mainly to providing emergency help to veterans, and their families, who are considered especially at risk.

But the minister, who insisted eliminating the backlog of 44,000 applications for assistance from injured veterans is his top priority, later sidestepped questions about why the government didn't add more money to meet veterans' needs instead of taking funds from the department.

Veterans' advocates, including Canada's veterans ombudsman, have said long delays mean stress and frustration for veterans already suffering from physical and psychological injuries.

MacAulay pointed to the department's efforts to speed up the processing of applications through digitization and other internal changes even as he emphasized the billions in new benefits and services promised to veterans in recent years.

"The fact is we're doing everything to digitize the program, remove the paperwork," MacAulay told The Canadian Press. "What we want to do is make sure that we simplify the process, make it more efficient, and there's a large amount of money put into Veterans Affairs itself."

Veterans Affairs Canada's top civil servant, retired general Walter Natynczyk, told the committee the money transfer did not affect efforts to address the backlog and highlighted the department's internal efforts to approve applications faster.

Yet while the department has significantly increased the number of requests for assistance it is approving, Natynczyk acknowledged it has not been able to keep up with the applications filed each year.

Nor could MacAulay or Natynczyk say when the backlog will be eliminated. Veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton last month called on the government to produce a detailed plan and timetable for dealing with the problem.

"It's pretty irresponsible to give figures on something," MacAulay told The Canadian Press when asked about Dalton's request. "We do not know what the applications will be."

Conservative and NDP MPs were unimpressed with the government's decision to take resources from the department's operating budget as the backlog grows and demanded to see a detailed plan to address the overall problem.

"I always hope that money is getting right out to the veterans who desperately need it," said NDP veterans-affairs critic Rachel Blaney. "But when we look at the depth of the backlog ... having those resources to address that should be more urgent in my opinion."

Conservative veterans-affairs critic Phil McColeman blasted the government and department for not having produced a detailed strategy for eliminating the backlog, including securing more resources, to ensure veterans receive the benefits and services they need in a timely manner.

"It's mismanagement," he said. "Why isn't someone who is doing the planning of solving the problem recognizing that funds are there for the resources that they need and aggressively going after getting those resources in place so that we can solve this backlog problem?"

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2020.

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New Veterans Affairs office aimed at advancing gender equality

Mar 03, 2020

VVi 22 Mar 2020



OTTAWA — Veterans Affairs Canada is opening a new office intended to better serve women and those with specific needs stemming from their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The office is aimed at removing barriers to helping veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or two-spirit.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay says the government is responsible for providing these members with the care and support they deserve.

The idea for the office flowed from discussions during the first annual Women’s Veterans Forum held in Charlottetown last year.

Since then, the department has spoken with veterans and interested parties to identify barriers some face due to their gender or sexual orientation.

Women account for 14 per cent of the estimated 670,000 veterans in Canada.
\
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2020.

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Veterans never saw the $105 million promised to them by Trudeau in 2019
Trudeau has shut down veterans’ calls for more funding in the past and has fought veterans in court.


by True North Wire
February 1, 2020

VVi 10 Mar 2020 db

Veterans did not see a penny of the $105 million promised to them by Justin Trudeau last year.

The sum remained untouched, despite being earmarked for Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

Since 2018, the Liberal government has failed to deliver on $327 million worth of funds promised to help veterans, according to Global News.

Trudeau has shut down veterans’ calls for more funding in the past and has fought veterans in court.
In 2018, during a town hall meeting, Trudeau was questioned by former corporal Brock Blaszczyk on why he continued to fight veterans groups in court while also re-integrating former ISIS fighters and awarding Omar Khadr several million dollars in an out-of-court settlement.

In response to the question, the prime minister told the former corporal that some veterans were asking too much of the government.
“Why are we still fighting against certain veterans’ groups in court? Because they are asking for more than we are able to give right now,” Trudeau told Blaszczyk, who lost his leg to a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.

According to VAC, the department failed to meet a majority of basic service standards in the 2017-2018 year. 15 out of 24 service areas are behind on targets, including the rehabilitation program, disability benefits, and long-term care.

One key area of mismanagement by the Liberal government is a growing backlog of veterans waiting to qualify for disability benefits.
As of November 2019, up to 40,000 veterans were still waiting for a decision on their application. Among those waiting for a decision from the government, over one-third had been in the queue for over four months.

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Parliamentary Budget Officer says the government saved tens of billions by abandoning old Pensions Act for disabled veterans

Gloria Galloway, Parliamentary Reporter Ottawa
Published February 21, 2019 Updated February 21, 2019 Published February 21, 2019
This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

VVi 10 Mar 2020

The federal government put itself on track to save tens of billions of dollars over the lifetimes of disabled veterans – and significantly reduce benefits it pays them – when it replaced the old Pension Act with the New Veterans Charter in 2006, says a new report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

In addition, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux says, while most disabled veterans will get a small increase in their lifetime benefits when the government’s new Pensions For Life program takes effect on April 1, the most severely disabled vets will get less than they would have if the benefits remained unchanged. About 3 per cent of veterans will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each between the day they retire and the day they die.

Veterans with the most severe impairments “will be the main losers of the transition to the Pension For Life regime,” Mr. Giroux told reporters after the release of the report on Thursday morning. That’s because the government will remove the Career Impact Allowance Supplement that pays $1,145.36 every month to highly impaired vets with diminished earning capacity.

Veterans have been saying since 2006, when the New Veterans Charter took effect, that the plan paid disabled former soldiers much less than the tax-free monthly payments awarded under the old Pension Act.

The aim of the Charter, which relied heavily on lump-sum payments to compensate for disabilities, was to move to an approach based more on rehabilitation than monetary compensation. But it left less money in the pockets of veterans who applied for benefits after April 1, 2006.

Six severely disabled veterans of Afghanistan took the government to court in 2012 demanding that they receive compensation equal to that paid to veterans who applied for benefits before the Charter became law. Justin Trudeau campaigned with them in 2015 and promised to bring back the lifetime pensions should his Liberals win power.

But the veterans – who lost their case last year when it went to the Supreme Court – say the Pensions for Life that were introduced by the Liberal government in late 2017 do not come close to meeting what is given to Pension Act vets. And the PBO report proves them right.

Had the Pension Act remained in place, the PBO says the government would have spent $50-billion over the lifetimes of veterans who are currently in the system and of those who will apply for benefits over the next five years. The introduction of the New Veterans Charter – now called the Veterans Well-being Act – cut that figure to $29-billion, the PBO says.

The Pensions For Life will increase it slightly to $32-billion.

Harjit Sajjan, who is now both Defence and Veterans Affairs Minister after the resignation from cabinet last week of former veterans minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, said the new program will look at all of the potential needs of veterans.

“When it comes to our veterans, our government is absolutely committed to making sure that we look after them. We need to make sure that we went through a very thorough assessment, talked to veterans’ groups, talk to veterans to make sure that we’re meeting their needs,” Mr. Sajjan told reporters. “We knew that the Pension Act itself didn’t look at the totality of the current veterans. So that’s one of the reasons we had to look at the uniqueness to each veteran. And that’s why the Pensions For Life is so important.”

One of the people who has been the most critical, both of the New Veterans Charter and of the planned Pensions For Life, is veterans advocate Sean Bruyea.

He has launched a defamation suit against Seamus O’Regan, the Indigenous Services Minister who had the veterans’ portfolio prior to Ms. Wilson-Raybould. Mr. O’Regan accused him of “stating mistruths,” and making “numerous other errors” after Mr. Bruyea wrote a column last year saying the Pensions For Life will pay some veterans less than those who are already in the system – and much less than what is given to veterans such as him who fall under the old Pension Act.

Mr. Bruyea said he felt vindicated after the release of the PBO report.

“On average, there’s a small increase for the vast majority of veterans," Mr. Bruyea said, “but those are not the ones that have the most needs. The ones that have the most needs, the most severely injured veterans, will be worse off under this Pensions for Life.”

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Collateral damage: Families of soldiers with PTSD struggle after Veterans Affairs counselling cut
'The department is disconnected from ... what goes on in injured veterans' households,' says one spouse


Murray Brewster · CBC News ·
Posted: Feb 28, 2020 4:59 PM ET | Last Updated: March 3

VVi 02 Mar 2020 db

Shane Jones's combat tour in Afghanistan ended in 2005. But the war followed him home.

The retired corporal's family — including his teenage daughter — have had to walk on eggshells often in the years since.

An armoured vehicle rollover left Jones with a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress, injuries that changed him forever.

"My husband is not a violent man," said Veronica Jones, Shane's wife. "My husband suffers from severe PTSD.

"And for our daughter, growing up ... If you live by the cesspool, everybody gets splashed."

The Eastern Passage, N.S., family is among many affected by Veterans Affairs' move to tighten access to department-sponsored mental health services for veterans' family members.

The crackdown was prompted by the embarrassing revelation almost two years ago that a convicted killer — the son of a former soldier — received PTSD counselling for the murder he committed.

Veterans Affairs issues a denial

In an appearance before a House of Commons committee last week, a senior Veterans Affairs official denied that any families had been "cut off" from counselling services.

That comes as startling news to Jones and other veterans' families, whose therapy bills are now being paid out-of-pocket after initially being covered by the department.

Those relatives now want the opportunity to plead their cases before the Commons veterans committee when it reconvenes next month for hearings on the restrictions.

The public debate over the last several years has been limited to whether former soldiers are getting adequate help and treatment, said Veronica Jones.

"There needs to be an actual conversation about what the families are going through and how the families need support," she said.

Her 14-year-old daughter Ruth was diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder by two doctors, who have attributed her condition to the stress of living in a home with someone who has a severe brain injury.

Veterans Affairs paid for her counselling — then cut her off in September as part of a sweeping reinterpretation of its guidelines.

'I am heartbroken'

She no longer fits one of the criteria for receiving funded treatment — that treatment be "short-term." Veterans Affairs also questioned her diagnosis.

Her parents are now paying $600 per month for counselling and hoping the backlog in the provincial system eases.

"I am actually heartbroken," said Veronica Jones. "I think the department is disconnected from the reality of what goes on in injured veterans' households."

The couple has fought repeated battles with Veterans Affairs for the better part of a year over the support provided to Shane Jones.

Their confrontations with the bureaucracy have been heated at times.

Shane Jones's family says his file was red-flagged: Veterans Affairs staff filed a complaint with the RCMP that went nowhere. Now, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is looking into a claim of discrimination filed against the department by Shane Jones.

A scandal triggers a policy shift

If the department knows "there are minor children living in the house with someone who has severe PTSD, then they should be covering the children," Veronica Jones said.

The department tightened the rules governing when families can receive subsidized counselling after facing a firestorm of criticism in the summer of 2018 over the case of convicted killer Christopher Garnier, the son of a former soldier who was given taxpayer-funded PTSD treatment because of the murder he committed.

Former veterans minister Seamus O'Regan, blindsided by the revelation, asked for a review. That's when the bureaucracy kicked into gear.

The current minister, Lawrence MacAulay, has asked his officials to be as flexible as possible in deciding whether family members qualify.

As part of a year-long review, the department has notified 133 families, in writing, that their counselling benefits may be discontinued, according to numbers from MacAulay's office.

The figures do not include, however, the number of families who were informed directly by case workers or counsellors that their mental health services had been cut off.

That's a very different picture from the one Michel Doiron, the department's assistant deputy minister of service delivery, offered MPs last week when he told the Commons veterans affairs committee that no one had been cut off.

"When people say they've been cut off, nobody has been cut off," he said on Thursday.

"Some individuals did receive information saying that we're giving you an additional year and working with you to say either you stay in the program, or, if you're no longer eligible based on the criteria of the program, we will work with you to find a mental health practitioner."

Challenged during the hearing by Conservative MP Dane Lloyd, Doiron later said he wanted to "clarify" the remark.

He confirmed that "some people had been refused" coverage but said he could not tell the committee whether the individuals' bills had been covered by the department previously.

In the cases where family members were cut off, Doiron said, the mental health services they were receiving could not be linked to a veteran's recovery. According to the department's guidelines, taxpayer-funded treatment for family members must help a former soldier — a rule that clearly was not followed in Garnier's case.

Kim Davis of Lawrencetown, N.S., found out she had been cut off when she arrived at her counsellor's office for a session in mid-February.

She said she was astonished that Doiron would say what he said before the Commons committee.

"Oh my God, I've met him," said Davis, whose husband, Blair, is a former soldier who has struggled with mental health issues since returning from Bosnia.

"He knows my husband is a veteran with PTSD. He knows I receive counselling as a result of my husband's PTSD."

Davis has spoken out on behalf of veterans' families in the past and has appeared before Commons committees on three other occasions. She has even pointed federal officials to international research on the impact a soldier's PTSD can have on spouses and children.

Veterans Affairs "constantly touts that their decisions are based on research and backed up by research," she said.

"Well, this policy ... goes against every research paper out there."

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Veterans claim victory at Ste. Anne’s Hospital, continue fight for better health care in Quebec
Post WWII veterans gain access to Ste. Anne's Hospital


By Kwabena Oduro Global News
Posted February 28, 2020 5:57 pm

VVi 01 Mar 2020

Ste. Anne’s Hospital in the West Island, has opened up more beds for veterans. The move will allow those who served after the Second World War to receive care and services at the hospital. Global's Kwabena Oduro explains

There’s good news for veterans who, until now, have been denied access to Ste. Anne’s Hospital.

A leader in the fight for better care for veterans, Wolf Solkin recently shared this victory on his Facebook page.

“There was an entente arrived at between the federal and provincial government to permit eligible long term care to those categories,” wrote Wolf Solkin, a Second World War veteran and the acting president of the Veteran’s Committee at Ste. Anne’s Hospital.

The categories Solkin refers to include post-Second World War vets who did not serve overseas, as well as vets who served with the allied forces, peacekeepers, those who participated in Cold War deployments and also fought in Afghanistan.

“It took considerable effort from vets and cooperation between federal and provincial authorities but this news means vets barred from this special service will soon be able to benefit from it,” Solkin said.

Thanks to the new agreement, Solkin says there has already been a change in admissions at the hospital.

“Even in the last few weeks, we have received several eligible veterans. The caveat is they must be eligible for admission under the provincial protocols and criteria for long-term care beds,” he said.

The CIUSSS de l’ouest de l’ile de Montréal, that oversees the hospital, told Global News that more beds are indeed being made available to vets.

“And we think this is a major improvement and a change we have been fighting for the last several years and it’s a very positive action,” said Solkin.

Solkin began fighting for better treatment for vets not long after the federal government transferred management of the veterans’ hospital to Quebec in 2016. After complaining about the province’s standards of care, Solkin finally launched a class action lawsuit in February 2019.

“The judges that initially reviewed our situation recognize that we are dying here every day, which is natural at our age. We came here to die, not to live, but to die with dignity, with care, with respect — which I maintain we’re not getting,” he said.

In a statement, the health care agency told Global News they will not comment on the allegations raised by Solkin concerning the class action lawsuit because a judicial process is currently underway.

“We reiterate that providing our veterans and residents with the care and services to which they are entitled is always at the forefront of our priorities,” the agency said.

The court date for the class action law suit has been set for November 2020.

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www.1015thehawk.com
Scathing critique of the way veterans with PTSD are treated

February 24, 2020 05:47 pm

VVi 29 Feb 2020

The 15th day of testimony at the Desmond Fatality Inquiry in Guysborough has adjourned.

The day was spent with Dr. Paul Smith, the family doctor who treated Lionel Desmond in 2015 and 2016, and signed off on his firearm license application.

He delivered a scathing critique of the way veterans with PTSD are treated.

Dr. Smith told the inquiry they lose their jobs and community.

“They’re treated like lepers. They’re cast to the wind, and it’s all about pills and psychotherapy. It’s pathetic,” he said. “There’s a large percentage of guys that no longer want to deal with the system at all, and they’re the ones that I see, and they’re probably the most volatile and dangerous people in the world, in terms of risk to themselves.”

He said many of them lose trust in the military stress clinics they’re sent to after discharge; they feel betrayed by the armed forces.
Dr. Smith said veteran’s affairs doesn’t treat them like they’re valuable either and, whether that’s a resource issue or an attitude, many take it personally.

Near the end of the day, inquiry lawyers asked Dr. Smith how treatment could be improved.

“It’s all about allowing people to develop relationships,” he said. “Without relationships they commit suicide, it’s that simple.”
Testimony continues Tuesday.

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Veterans Affairs taking a harder line on therapy for families of former soldiers, ombudsman says
Veterans Ombudsman Craig Dalton says the shift in approach caught him off guard


Murray Brewster · CBC News ·
Posted: Feb 23, 2020 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: February 23

VVi 29 Feb 2020 db

Lt.-Col. Craig Dalton, as chief of staff for Task Force Kandahar, speaks to reporters July 15, 2010 in Kandahar. Dalton, now the veterans ombudsman, says Veterans Affairs has been quietly restricting therapy funding for veterans' family members. (Bill Graveland/The Canadian Press)

Veterans Affairs has been quietly tightening access to the mental health services received by families of injured former soldiers, the country's veterans ombudsman said Friday.

Craig Dalton, who said his office has received a flood of complaints about the policy shift, added the new restrictions were imposed not through a change in policy but more subtly, through a reinterpretation of the existing rules by the bureaucracy.

"The more restrictive interpretation will result in less support for family members," said Dalton, who has been seeking answers from the department after receiving calls from worried family members — some to his direct line. "We've heard from a number of folks over the last 48 hours."

Some families have been told in writing, he said, that their counselling and support services will cease. Others have gotten phone calls from Veterans Affairs staff to explain how things are changing.

Dalton said it all caught him off guard.

"We were aware they were looking at changing the interpretation of the policy. We didn't know exactly what that would be like," he said.

A half-dozen families who've been told their mental health support was being limited or scaled back have reached out to CBC News, refusing to speak publicly for fear of retribution.

Veterans Affairs' policy of paying for the counselling of family members came under intense fire in the summer of 2018, when it was revealed that a convicted killer was getting taxpayer-funded treatment for the PTSD caused by the murder he committed.

Christopher Garnier had never served in the military, but his father was a member. He was sentenced almost two years ago to life in prison for the second-degree murder in 2015 of an off-duty Nova Scotia police officer, Catherine Campbell.

No policy change, department says

According to the department's policy, last updated in 2010, Veterans Affairs must meet three conditions when paying for family members' counselling: the treatment must be for a short period of time, a veteran must be relying on the family member as a caregiver and the services being funded "must focus on achieving a positive outcome for the veteran, not on treating a family member's own condition."

CBC News asked the department if there had been a change of policy or if the existing guidelines were being more strictly enforced.
Veterans Affairs spokesman Josh Bueckert insisted the policy had not changed but, in an emailed response, did not say whether the department's interpretation of the rules had become more strict.

He did say family members who require long-term support or mental health treatment for their own conditions will be assisted in "locating other resources" by Veterans Affairs staff.

Backlog of applications for veterans' benefits grows by the thousands

A spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay stood behind the department, saying the policy "has remained fundamentally the same" for a decade and the bureaucracy has been told that it must be applied with compassion.

"Minister MacAulay has reminded his officials that the policy is to be applied as flexibly as possible, with the goal of ensuring that our veterans and their families receive the care and support they deserve," said John Embury, the minister's communications director.

Dalton said both he and and his predecessor, Guy Parent, have argued that the existing policy is too restrictive.

"We've called and recommended for family members to have access to mental health support in their own right," he said.

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'We deserve better': Veteran shares frustration over claim application backlog
Veterans waiting too long for benefits and aid


A major back log within Veteran Affairs is affecting benefits and aid for thousand of former service members. CTV's Jeremie Charron has more

Videojournalist/Producer Jeremie Charron @JCharron
Published Friday, February 21, 2020 7:42PM CST

VVi 29 Feb 2020 db

WINNIPEG -- A growing number of veterans across the country are being affected by a major backlog within Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

In an annual report, the veterans ombudsman highlights the issue which is keeping thousands of former service members waiting to find out if they qualify for benefits and aid.

Veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton is calling on the federal government to come up with a clear plan to eliminate the backlog within Veterans Affairs.

Most recently, Veterans Affairs Canada revealed that there were 44,000 applications waiting to be processed at the end of September, which was a 10 per cent increase from six months earlier.

WINNIPEG VETERAN SPEAKS OUT

Winnipeg’s Cameron Jones wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on Feb. 8, expressing his frustration with VAC.

Jones spent 37 years serving with the Canadian Armed Forces. Last June, he submitted a claim for ongoing treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“It took them six weeks to send me the information package," said Jones. “I then booked an appointment with my specialist, he did his part of the report, I did mine, and the specialist sent it off and it took them basically 32 weeks to say ‘no you filled out the wrong paperwork’”

Jones was told he needed to reopen a claim he started in 2016, which had taken two years to complete.

Now – he said he’s forced to start over and wait once again.

“Thirty nine weeks on average, so they've already wasted 32 weeks, now I've got the new paperwork, which they don't have yet because the specialist has to fill it out, once they receive that, the 39 week clock starts,” said Jones.

He said the delay has impacted him financially and emotionally.

'WE KNOW THERE'S MORE TO BE DONE': VAC

In a statement to CTV News Friday, the department said: "The work to improve our operations is ongoing and the Veterans Ombudsman’s Office (OVO) has provided valuable insights and recommendations in this report."

"We know there is more to be done – that is why we are changing how decisions are made and looking to find better ways to communicate with Veterans and their families."

According to the Royal Canadian Legion, it’s an area which needs work.

“The turnaround times have to improve, but more importantly for us the transparency is a must, and that will alleviate a lot of the calls we get here,” said Ray McInnis, Director of Veterans Services, The Royal Canadian Legion.

“They need to hire more people or do what they have to do to get the system better,” added Jones.

He said he’s been able to receive some treatment on his own - but is adamant changes need to be made, in order for veterans to get the help they need in a timely manner.

“We served the country with distinction, we deserve better,” he said.

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