NDP condemns difficulties faced by spouses of veterans with PTSD

Video: A number of military wives went to Parliament Hill seeking more government support for families. Shirlee Engel reports.

Family members of Canadian veterans are calling on the federal government for help dealing with the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

At a press conference Tuesday in Ottawa, NDP Veterans Affairs critic Peter Stoffer and deputy critic Sylvain Chicoine were joined by three women, wives of soldiers and veterans, to discuss the difficulties faced by spouses of veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

READ MORE: Study suggests almost 14 per cent of deployed Canadian soldiers face mental disorders

“There shouldn’t be any hesitation when it comes to helping the families of our heroes,” said Stoffer. “Veterans’ families aren’t asking for much – they simply want to be treated with dignity.”

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The NDP and veterans spouses are asking the Conservatives to recognize the role family members of veterans play, when Canadian Forces members go overseas, and when they return home.

“We want to tell the government that it’s not just the men and women going overseas,” said Stoffer, adding that the spouses are the “invisible force” supporting Canada’s military members.

The women speaking in Ottawa today said they are just a small fraction of the thousands of family members suffering in silence.

Video: Veterans’ wives ask for help dealing with consequences of PTSD

For a lot of these veterans, the treatment and support received within the military helps manage PTSD, said Paula Ramsey, whose husband is currently serving in Petawawa. But Ramsey said she’s been contacted by friends who are fearful of the future. They don’t know what will happen once their husbands are released.

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“The military is holding them together,” Ramsey said. “When they’re sent out into the public they’ll have to search for their own treatment.”

Jenifer Migneault and Celine Drapeau, also speaking at the NDP press conference, detailed their experiences living with someone who has PTSD.

“I’m afraid,” said Migneault. “I’m afraid of leaving the house. This is the result of living with someone who has PTSD.”

Drapeau said not enough is being done to help veterans and families dealing with PTSD because the disorder isn’t understood, and there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it.

“People in the military won’t go get help because they are afraid they are going to lose their job,” said Drapeau.

What the solution would look like would depend on the family, said Stoffer, adding that the government should approach the families, go into their homes to see what their life is like and what help they require.

“They’re not asking for a fancy car,” said Stoffer. “They’re asking for basic respect and dignity from their government.”

Also on Tuesday, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino announced new measures to help veterans find work after their military career has ended.

Fantino outlined the Veterans Hiring Act, where Canadian Forces personnel and veterans would be permitted to apply for internal postings and would be given preference over other candidates.

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To qualify for the new hiring measures, veterans must have served for at least three years in the military and must apply for the position within five years of being released from the Forces.

The government said the new measures are expected to come into effect in 2014-2015.

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