The Royal Canadian Legion is providing funds to support national expansion of a program that helps members of the Canadian military more successfully make the transition to civilian life.
Developed at the University of British Columbia and funded by the Legion’s British Columbia/Yukon Command, over the past 15 years, the Veterans Transition Program has helped more than 275 veterans and serving members deal with operational stress injuries and lead healthier lives.
Over that time, the program “has proven to decrease depression and trauma and boost self-esteem—three of the primary barriers to making a successful transition to civilian life,” Dominion President Gordon Moore told a news conference in November at Legion House in Kanata, Ont.
The Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund will contribute $500,000 over two years in startup funds so the Veterans Transition Network, the foundation formed to administer the program nationally, will have the infrastructure to support nation-wide expansion.
Moore was joined at the conference by Veterans Transition Network Executive Director Tim Laidler and UBC psychologist Dr. Marvin Westwood, co-founder of the program.
With the Canadian Forces’ high operational tempo over the last decade and the increasing number of multiple tours, “there will be a number coming forward with both physical and psychological injuries needing help,” said Moore. “It stands to reason this 15-year partnership should expand to national level, but this cannot be done without the necessary funds to ensure the program’s sustainability.”
Every level of the Legion will be involved, said Moore. “Our 1,500 branches across the country and each provincial command, through poppy trust funds, will also make their contribution to the program as it spreads across the country.” Aside from the $1.8 million in support from B.C./Yukon Command over the years, provincial commands have committed an additional $500,000 for program delivery and B.C./Yukon Command has contributed another $1.2 million to support ongoing research.
“In total, this represents a financial commitment of $4 million on behalf of The Royal Canadian Legion,” Moore said. “Royal Canadian Legion funding will help ensure this program will be accessible to anyone who’s served and will be free of charge.”
“The Legion was there at the beginning,” said Westwood, thanking the Legion, and B.C./Yukon Command in particular, for its continuing investment. Expanding the program nationally has created “a common ground” of support for veterans among the Legion, the military, Veterans Affairs Canada, veterans, and the university.
“We’re both proud and excited to add the Veterans Transition Program to VAC’s options available to veterans,” said Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney at a news conference earlier that week. He announced that $600,000 over four years is earmarked to fund veterans to attend the VTP as it becomes available across the country. VAC estimates at least 10 of its clients per year will seek the service, but says if more apply, there will be funding to support them.
As well, True Patriot Love Foundation donated $250,000 to fund four programs in Atlantic Canada and Wounded Warriors.ca had donated $100,000 to support a test program in Ontario.
“It has been inspirational to see the private and public sectors in Canadian society coming together so the program can be delivered across the country in 2013,” said Laidler.