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Ill, injured veterans sought for study

Jim Lowther, president of VETS Canada, is happy the Department of National Defence is looking into the challenges ill or injured veterans face when readjusting to civilian life. 
(TIM KROCHAK /The Chronicle Herald)
Jim Lowther, president of VETS Canada, is happy the Department of National Defence is looking into the challenges ill or injured veterans face when readjusting to civilian life. (TIM KROCHAK /The Chronicle Herald)

The Department of National Defence wants to study the challenges faced by ill or injured veterans in readjusting to civilian life.

Veteran Jim Lowther said he’s happy to see the military pay more attention to this issue. On the other hand, he wonders why they just didn’t give him a call.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Lowther, president of VETS Canada, which helps homeless and in-crisis veterans, in a recent interview.

“Any information that they needed, they could have real-time information on veterans and their families and the struggle that we’re facing just by reading the reports that we send them (every month).”

The Halifax-based organization has received requests from about 2,000 veterans from across the country since 2014, including 221 last month alone, he said.

The organization works on an annual budget of roughly $600,000 from Veterans Affairs.

In the call for participants announced last month, Defence Department researchers said they were seeking ill or injured Canadian Armed Forces veterans or their family members to talk about their experiences in transitioning out of the military.

The researchers weren’t available for interviews. An email from the Defence Department that summarized the purpose of the study said “ensuring a smooth and effective transition is critical to the well-being of our personnel and the effectiveness of the operational force.”

“The goal of the study is to better understand the experiences of ill or injured CAF members and their families during the transition from military to civilian life,” the summary said. “In the end, the study will help us identify ways to improve the accessibility or quality of current transition services or programs to better meet these needs.”

Interviews will be conducted individually, either in person or by telephone, and will take about 90 minutes. Researchers want to speak with ill or injured members who have recently been released from the Forces or are expecting to be released in the near future, as well as the family member who is their primary caregiver.

The interview will include general questions about the nature of the illness or injury but people will not be asked to provide specific details and the information will remain anonymous, the summary said.

It can be challenging at the best of times for veterans to readjust to civilian life.

“It’s like being on another planet,” Lowther said.

And it’s even more disorienting if you’re dealing with injuries or conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Veterans who are injured, medically released, they have a whole bunch of other problems if they’re not getting the help that they need, if they’re being stalled at Veterans Affairs or whatever, it starts to spiral,” he said. “The spiral starts and that’s when they end up calling us . . .

“I think it’s good they’re doing research into this, that they’re looking into this seriously, but I also think the research is already there.”

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