By: Sgt Al Kowalenko, OMC (Retd), 48th Veterans Services Coordinator
Greetings to our 48th Veterans, Active Battalion Members, and Regimental Family:
As a follow-up to our 48th Veterans Services blog of March, 2021, we are now providing a current update on “Veterans Affairs Canada” (VAC), including information on its structure and access to their array of services and benefits:
What is Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC)?
VAC is a Government of Canada department responsible for pensions, benefits and services for both War veterans and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as their qualified family members.
VAC reports to the Minister of Veterans Affairs who currently is The Honorable Lawrence MacAuley (MP, Cardigan, PEI). Within its structure, VAC also has the Veterans Review and Appeal Board and the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman.
How Many Veterans Does VAC serve in Canada?
The veteran population of Canada (as of March 31, 2020) was 629,000 and consisted of 32,000 War veterans and 597,000 Canadian Armed Forces veterans. VAC serves 19% of the total Canadian veteran population including 12,400 War veterans and 106,800 CAF veterans.
What Programs and Services Does VAC Offer?
Areas covered by VAC programs and services for veterans include those for mental and physical health, financial support, education and jobs (post-service), housing and home life, families and caregivers.
Who Qualifies As A Veteran?
As per the VAC’s current definition, a veteran is “Any former member of the Canadian Armed Forces (Regular Force and Reserves) who successfully underwent basic training and is honorably discharged”. This definition has been in use for the past 20 years and as VAC also states “…recognizes the risk Canadian Armed Forces members assume by wearing the uniform and pledging allegiance.”
How Do You Prove That You Are A Veteran?
To access VAC programs and services, you will need certain documentation including your CAF Release Certificate and/or your Veterans Services Card, if you have one.
For those who have lost their Release Certificate, you can obtain a copy by contacting Library and Archives Canada and providing your service number and rank. More information is at the LAC website www.bac-lac.gc.ca or call 1-866-578-7777. For a new Veterans Services Card (VSC-NDI 75) contact VSCQuestions.EnquetesCSA@forces.gc.ca or call 1-833-995-0004.
When should 48th Members Access VAC Services?
After retiring from active service with the CAF, each member should assess if they need assistance from VAC whether it be for service-related injuries/health issues or transition to civilian life issues. This includes any 48th veteran from any era (1940s to the present day) who may need assistance.
Normally to access VAC services you will need to include medical assessments to accompany your application, such as hearing tests, eye tests, or physical exams completed by a doctor.
As an example, for the majority of veterans who served from the 1950s through the 1980s Cold War period, there were often no exit medicals completed for hearing and tinnitus injuries. VAC will more readily approve these type of injuries if there is supporting documentation from audiologists including current test results.
For PTSD issues (now called OSI –Operational Stress Injuries), assessment will have to be completed by qualified therapists or medical personnel. This will mostly apply to CAF personnel who have served overseas in conflict zones during tours such as the Balkan/Yugoslav Wars and the Afghanistan War.
What is the Best Way to Contact VAC?
It is recommended that you start first with a telephone call to a VAC representative at 1-866-522-2122 who will then open a numbered file for you. Also helpful would be for you to visit the VAC website at www.veterans.gc.ca for more information on their programs and benefits so you know what support category you might fit under.
What is the Application Process Like?
The VAC application process is very straightforward.
You will need to complete various forms to apply for financial and other support from VAC. Supporting documentation, such as medical test results, should be included as required. However, it should be stressed that you can begin the application without supporting documentation and add it later when it becomes available.
Expect a processing delay time of anywhere from six months to a couple of years depending on the type of claim you submit and the amount of support documentation required.
When VAC approves your application they will usually provide you with a financial settlement for your injuries and/or consultation support as necessary. As well, if you require items such as hearing aids, prescription glasses, body braces or prosthetics, these will be provide to you as part of the settlement.
Who Can Assist You?
One of the best things we recommend during the application process is to visit or contact your local Royal Canadian Legion Branch and speak with their Veterans Services Officer. They will assist you with preparing your application free of charge and forward it to RCL Ontario Command for review prior to sending it to VAC. This will often strengthen your application since the RCL deals with thousands of applications annually and knows how to submit the right information in the correct manner.
As well, you are always encouraged to contact our 48th Veterans Services team at the coordinates below for advice and guidance during the process. We have a number of veterans on our team who have received VAC settlements and are familiar with the process.
What is the VAC “Veterans Independence Program?
The VAC maintains a “Veterans Independence Program” (VIP) which provides home care services such as grounds maintenance, housekeeping, meal preparation, personal care, professional health and support services. The VIP program is usually readily available to those veterans who are 80+ but younger veterans can also qualify if they are unable to take care of their home or themselves due to deteriorating health issues. A VAC representative will visit you at your location to do an in person assessment to see if you qualify.
Where Are VAC offices in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)?
There are three VAC offices located in the GTA: Toronto-Scarborough Office (55Town Centre Court, Suite 205); Toronto-Sunnybrook Office (2075 Bayview Ave, K Wing); and Mississauga Office (5800 Hurontario St). Office hours are usually 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Telephone contact for each of these offices is through the VAC main number at 1-866-522-2122.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, in person visits are not being encouraged but a VAC representative (via remote contact) will be able to provide you with the appropriate forms to complete and advise what supporting documentation you will require.
Next Steps / Further Information and Contact Info
We would encourage 48th Highlanders veterans from any era to contact us if they have questions about Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), or questions about preparing a claim application. Please contact Sgt Al Kowalenko (Retd), 48thVeterans Services Coordinator, at email address email@example.com and/or telephone number 416-219-4967. As well there are a number of veterans on our team who are able to assist you depending on the type of VAC application you are submitting.
Best Wishes to Our 48th WWII Veterans
The 48th Highlanders of Canada is one of the few regiments in the Greater Toronto Area to have remaining WWII Veterans still with us in 2021:
To the following, we wish a very “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays” this December:
Norm Gogo (age 100) – lives independently at his home in Penetang, ON.
George MacLean (101) – lives at Martindale Gardens retirement home in Milton, ON.
Ken Milsom (102) – lives at Central King Seniors Residence in Weston, ON
Tom White (95) – lives at Sunnybrook Hospital, K Wing, Toronto.
We will always remember the service 1and sacrifice of our 48th WWII veterans who fought to maintain our freedoms and liberties. They were part of the “greatest generation” and an inspiration to us all.
And to all our 48th Veterans, Active Battalion members, and Regimental Family members:
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR 2022
DILEAS GU BRATH
48th HIGHLANDERS VETERANS SERVICES TEAM