Provincial and Dominion Command Service Officers met at Charlottetown at the end of October, 1996 to address the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result of advocacy by The Legion, PTSD was recognized as a pensionable condition in 2000.
One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Major General Romeo Dallaire, Chief of Staff, Assistant Deputy Minister (Personnel) for the Canadian Forces gave the participants an intimate look into the conditions facing our servicemen and women on peacekeeping missions. It is abundantly clear that while Canada is at peace, members of the Canadian Forces serve in Special Duty Areas in conditions of war.
In his description of the conditions in Rwanda where he commanded the UN presence he eloquently informed those present of the horrors and the results of the catastrophic events that took place. General Dallaire's presentation was followed by an excellent session by Dr. James Lazowski, Psychiatrist and former military Engineer and Military Doctor. Doctor Lazowski with wit and candor provided the audience with an education as to the medical nature of PTSD.
As a result, RCL Service Officers and VAC adjudicators now have a much better understanding of this disabling condition. One of the key aspects is that the individual suffering from the disorder may not acknowledge its presence or its effect. It will be only too readily apparent to those around them, however.
If you have any friend or a loved one who appears to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder whether it results from service in World War II, Korea or from any of the many recent peacekeeping missions, you may wish to contact a Service Officer of The Royal Canadian Legion or a Pension Officer of Veterans Affairs Canada to pursue a disability claim. A successful claim not only provides financial compensation and recognition of the sacrifice made but opens the door for appropriate treatment and therapy to cope with a situation that is as real as any physically disabling condition. The time to act is now.
Note of Caution to Branch Service Officers: The Dominion Executive Council (DEC) approved mission for Branch Service Officers is to act as referrals for Command Service Officers. Their primary role should be to assist CF serving members, veterans and dependants to fill out the green RCL Claim Form and forward this form to the appropriate Command Service Officer. In dealing with individuals who appear to be exhibiting symptoms of Operational Stress Injury / PTSD, they should do an immediate referral to either a VAC representative at 1-866-522-2122 (English) or 1-866-522-2022 (French), a Command Service Officer—Toll Free 1-877-534-4666, a member of the Centre for the Care of the Injured (1-800-883-6094) or a Peer Support Coordinator with the Operational Stress Injury Social Support Program (www.osiss.ca under Peer Support Network or Family Support Network)