On 28 February Jim Lowther, President of Veterans Emergency Transition Services (V.E.T.S.) and his Director of Policy and Communication, David MacLeod of Antigonish met with members of the Standing Committee on Veteran Affairs in the Officers Mess at Artillery Park, Halifax. Lowther, fighting pneumonia, and MacLeod who drove 2 ½ hours through a rain and snowstorm, were attending at the request of Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
Members of the Standing Committee on Veteran Affairs were conducting a cross-Canada trip with Halifax as their last stop. MPs Sean Casey, Eve Adams, Irene Mathyssen, and Annick Papillon were engaged and interested in the conversation. Then there was Mr. Anders – asleep. When confronted, Anders publicly lashed out at Lowther and MacLeod. The damage to these individuals is minute, but the damage to V.E.T.S. may be irreparable. V.E.T.S. reputation may have been damaged by Mr. Anders antics hindering a planned corporate fund-raising campaign.
V.E.T.S. is a Canada-wide, non-profit, apolitical, volunteer organization that assists homeless, or “at risk” veterans. V.E.T.S. finds temporary shelter, acts as a bridge to services, and monitors policy. By coordinating programming V.E.T.S. minimizes tax dollars wasted by bureaucratic “stove-piped” or parallel government systems. Veterans are entitled to specific benefits administered by Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) there may be little need for provincial healthcare. However, if the veteran is poorly administered, as so many homeless veterans are, parallel systems may work at cross-purposes frustrating the veteran and costing Canadian taxpayers in the process.
Homelessness is a complex issue and veterans share the same challenges as any other homeless person; however, besides various federal programs, veterans may have their own resources. V.E.T.S. manages the confusing federal and provincial bureaucracies and enables veterans to utilize their own resources. V.E.T.S. encourages gradual self-support by building on the pride of military service.
A critical need exists for organizations like V.E.T.S. The last two decades of military operations, specifically the Former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, were complex and the stresses on veterans were equally complex. These two long-term commitments alone far surpassed the Korean War in terms of stress and injuries. V.E.T.S. assesses, as a direct result of the missions, combined with the critical failures of New Veterans Charter, that the number of homeless veterans will rise in the next 5-10 years. V.E.T.S. estimates there are already 7000 or more homeless veterans in Canada.
V.E.T.S. does not use, or want, government funds. The organization is designed to build on the pride of military service, use corporate funding, and coordinate services thereby saving the Canadians money. Perhaps this is why Mr. Anders bizarre comments, attitude, and arrogance are so frustrating. Canadians are willing, able, and interested in contributing to their society – but “sleepy” MPs undermine their efforts.