Veterans Need Long Term Care Bed Access

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON: Mr. Speaker, I want to take the time this evening to discuss the plight of veterans who are trying to get care for their very specific needs. Finding access to long-term care beds is difficult for all Canadians, but finding those beds in facilities that have the expertise to deal with the specific needs of veterans is even more difficult.

It is important to note that the government is shutting and phasing out long-term care facilities for veterans and offloading the responsibility to the provinces. I want to remind the minister that the responsibility for veterans is federal, and that should include their care as they age or after they are injured in the line of duty. At a time in life when they are fragile and vulnerable, the government is refusing to live up to its responsibility to them.

The member opposite will tell us that we have provincial health care, that we do not need to have separate veterans' hospitals. This is a shameful cop-out.

The men and women who put their lives on the line deserve respect and dignity. Veterans' hospitals have the expertise to deal with the very specific issues that veterans face, while other facilities do not have that capacity. Space is available in hospitals with this particular expertise, but veterans are being turned away.

I have had veterans approach me and tell me that they need a long-term care bed. There are empty beds at Parkwood Hospital, in London, Ontario, a veterans' hospital in my riding, but people cannot get in because of the technicality about the mandate of such hospitals. Doctors have said very clearly in the case of a 33-year veteran that his spinal deterioration was most likely because of his service, yet their opinion was dismissed and the veteran in question was denied a bed.

There was nothing available in a nursing home, so after much cajoling, Colonel Russell did receive a community bed. However, he has to pay for it. He has to pay for it because the government does not recognize his service. It is as if he had never served his country. That concerns me very much, and it should concern this Parliament.

I asked two questions in the House regarding Parkwood Hospital and the case of Colonel Neil Russell.

Neil was without a bed in a long-term care facility, and he quite simply had nowhere to go. After months and months, after going to the media and after many letters to the minister responsible, Neil was finally promised a bed. Then he was told that he had misunderstood and had to split the cost of the bed with the province.

It is a relief, in some ways, that he now has a place to stay, but it makes very little sense to me that he had to fight so hard to get it.

This situation is part of a larger picture, a picture of how low a priority veterans are for the current government and how out of touch it is.

First, according to the Royal Canadian Legion, there are 150 homeless veterans in London Ontario. It is a disgrace.

Second, the costs of a funeral and burial services have not been met adequately by the government. Some years ago, the assets cut-off to provide monetary help through the Last Post Fund was $24,000. That was reduced by the Liberals. Now it is just over $12,000. That means that 67% of veterans receive no help. This is simply not the way that we, as a country, should be treating our veterans.

I want to say that we on the opposition side will oppose the treatment that veterans receive from this ungrateful government.

Kellie Leitch, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the Privacy Act prevents me from speaking publicly about the personal information of an individual Canadian. However, her question gives me an opportunity to explain what our government is doing to help thousands and thousands of veterans who need long-term care.

Our government is proud to support Canada's veterans. They have served our country with honour and courage, and have made great sacrifices, themselves and their families. In doing so, they have also earned our nation's care and support when they need it and for as long as they need it. That is exactly what our government is focused on doing.

The pledge of support goes to the heart of the mandate this government has for supporting our veterans. Canada's provision of service and benefits makes us the envy of veterans around the world. Long-term care is one such example. Our government is helping to fund long-term care for more than 8,700 veterans residing in about 1,750 nursing homes and other similar facilities across the country. We are proud of this, because this is a real and meaningful way to help so many Canadian men and women who need and deserve it.

However, one size does not fit all. That is why we have a variety of options when it comes to caring for elderly veterans. Many veterans prefer to stay in their own home for as long as possible, and that is why we have developed the internationally acclaimed veterans independence program. The VIP provides veterans with things like home care, grounds maintenance and services, as well as home visits. This is the kind of thing veterans can count on from our government.

When institutional care becomes the only answer, we continue to accommodate veterans' individual wishes. A growing number of veterans prefer community beds in long-term care facilities close to their homes. That should not be surprising, that they want to be close to home. What is particularly important, however, is that these community beds are open to all eligible veterans, whether they served in the Second World War, the Korean War or more recently for the Canadian Armed Forces.

We are here to care for all veterans, and that is especially true for those who require long-term care because of an injury in their service to our country. Canadian veterans have earned it, and they deserve it.


 Irene Mathyssen, London—Fanshawe, ON Mr. Speaker, that is more lip service. The proof is in real action. In the case of the government, there is no action. I should not have to remind the member opposite that these men and women who are veterans and who served in our armed forces put their lives on the line for us. I should not have to remind the member that to support our troops means that we have to support veterans too.

When will the government stop with the platitudes and start looking at the issues that our veterans face every day?

It is the least the government can do, and it is the morally right thing to do. Care for our veterans is part of the contract, the covenant that we undertake with people who enlist and protect our country. We asked them to serve. Now it is our turn to serve them.