Veterans Affairs will be available Comox to help injured veterans
Veterans in the Comox Valley will now have access to Veterans Affairs Canada staff right in their own community.
An Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) announced Wednesday at 19 Wing Comox will provide a variety of services to ill and injured Canadian Forces (CF) personnel, veterans and their families, and that includes Veterans Affairs client and transition services.
Two years ago, National Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the creation of the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) headquartered in Ottawa and its countrywide network of IPSCs two years ago.
Last Friday, MacKay announced the third phase of the IPSC initiative, which includes the creation of five new IPSCs and one satellite centre across Canada.
Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan was at 19 Wing Wednesday to share the announcement.
"These support centres improve the quality of care and services received by ill and injured CF regular and reserve personnel, retired members, their families and the families of those who have passed," he said. "Our network of centres help to ensure those who serve Canada have access to the same high standard of care and support right across Canada.
"They reduce the chance for gaps and overlaps, and they make life easier for our men and women in uniform who need assistance by offering a one-stop shop for seamless integrated and co-ordinated services."
The IPSCs provide a range of services, including community outreach; working with families of the injured or fallen; services to help ill or injured members return to work; financial planning services; adapted fitness services for those with special needs; liaison with Military Family Resource Centres' (MFRC) local base support representatives and local unit Commanding Officers; and Veterans Affairs Canada client and transition services.
"By consolidating and co-ordinating these many services, we've taken a giant leap forward in improving the care that our CF receive," said Duncan.
The federal government is investing almost $7 million over three years for the five IPSCs, as well as more than $4 million for their annual operating budgets.
Duncan told the crowd he sees the IPSC as filling a real need in the community.
"As someone who's interacted with the base quite a bit over the years and also with a lot of older veterans and new veterans, there is a real place for this that we've become very aware of through our office and through my interaction with the community," he said. "It's a great initiative. It's one I've been asked about and that is particularly important, I think, to the veterans because there will be a Veterans Affairs component to this, having people actually stationed in Comox rather than always having to go to Victoria, and I think this is going to be very, very positive for many of the individuals that my office has worked with over the years."
Duncan has been pushing for a Veterans Affairs presence in the Comox Valley since he was in Opposition.
"I can't tell you how many vets have told me that was the biggest thing on their wish list," he said. "The vets in this riding are primarily in the Comox Valley, and this riding has more vets than any other riding in Canada. To not have Veterans Affairs people here didn't make sense to me."
This announcement means probably eight new permanent positions of all stripes, including military personnel, clerical positions, financial assistance, Veterans Affairs and one new position attached to the MFRC, according to 19 Wing Commander Col. Michel Lalumière.
"There's going to be augmentation; it's still yet to be determined depending on the workload," he said.
Lalumière thanked everyone involved with the IPSC.
"It's all about support," he said. "The profession of arms is extremely demanding. We know that. As a country, we know exactly how much we're asking our armed forces to do. The true volunteers in this whole equation, I think everybody agrees, are the families themselves. I signed a dotted line; I don't remember my kids or my wife signing any dotted line, but for sure they are living this life as well. This is recognizing that."
This IPSC will be operational within the next few months, according to Lalumière.
New IPSCs will also be located in Cold Lake, Borden, Trenton and Bagotville, and a satellite unit will be established in Moose Jaw.
"This is one step of many steps when you consider all the programs that have been put together," said Lalumière. "People think injuries, people think automatically it's work-related. Not at all. We are responsible for the care of our members. What are we going to do to re-integrate them into our work or society? This is the program that is going to do that, regardless of the reason. We didn't have a lot of means and time to re-integrate our members before. That's not the case anymore."