By Jim Scott
There are not many offices one could enter in downtown Ottawa and be greeted by a friendly dog as an introduction to the business. And make no mistake, Duke is a very friendly dog.
He is unphased that he flunked out of a Guide Dogs for the Blind course and you’d have to be churlish to bring it up. He now has a job and he is very eager to perform it beyond expectations.
The Dignified Veteran Assistance (DVA) Clinic also has a job though at first glance it seems they are shoe-horning in where many others are already positioned to help. When a CF member is in uniform they are guided as required and supplied with services from top-to-bottom at the stroke of a pen. Upon leaving, it is assumed Veterans Affairs, or a plethora of support organisations like the Royal Canadian Legion can be counted on to guide individuals toward medical and pensions information. Need a job? Check with the Commissionaires. Otherwise, it is expected that the newly minted civilian will, like the rest of us, navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of government bureaucracy and just naturally know where to go and when to be there.
DVA founder Steve Nolan had a different view. As Garrison CO at CFB Petawawa he had oversight of the managers delivering services there and two other locations. According to the DVA website he had his hands on a renewal of the release process for soldiers which brought together military administration as well as Military Family Resource Centres and the VA. Even so he says there is a “gap” between the time in uniform and the ex-member out on the street. “We see that many guys go two years before they finally figure out what they’re entitled to and how to ask for it. We want to catch them before they get frustrated and resort to complaining on the internet.”
Clinical Manager Terri Legaarden told CTV News: “When they’re left alone to do it themselves, sometimes they just won’t. Because it’s so frustrating and complex to fill out the forms that they’d rather not and just live with the pain.”
DVA aims to be a one-stop shop where all medical issues relating to military service can be quickly and easily dealt with. They can explain what an ex-member is entitled to and ensure public servants at VA, or the reps at Blue Cross, can do their jobs smoothly and get the paperwork flowing. In house, DVA offers some physio and counselling and plans on expanding what they can do medically. Tamarrah Jacobs already offers acupuncture and “shockwave” therapy for injuries and more expertise is on the way. Eventually, DVA not only wants to be a full-service operation, but open offices where CAF members retire.
Unfortunately, Duke will only be available to serve at one location.