Veteran Family Program helps military members, veterans and their families transition to post-service life

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday November 7, 2019


Medically releasing from the military into the civilian world can be complex and fraught with challenges. 

To help with the transition, the Veteran Family Program (VFP), which is funded by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), was launched in Military Family Resource Centres across the country for members who have successfully medically transitioned out or are currently preparing to leave. 

It doesn’t matter how long a member has been out; once they have medically released, they have full access to the program and its services.  “There is no time limit for these services,” said Petawawa MFRC Executive Director Claudia Beswick. “Often the barriers don’t crop up until they have been released for a while.”

The program is also available to their family members with the intent to build resiliency. “The support varies case to case because they each have their individual needs,” said Beswick. 

Access is unlimited. Those who use the VFP can use all the services an MFRC has to offer as well as a suite of financial, mental health and employment support workshops specific to their situation.

The member or their family can use the program to situate themselves in a new community, get mental health help, access childcare and all-around support as their life changes, because there are a lot of challenges when a member releases, and this affects the family dynamic as a whole.

“There is often a sense of loss when a member medically releases,” said Beswick. “There is a loss of services on top of everything else. So at least with the Veteran Family Program, we can be there for them.”

This program is still relatively new, yet vital to the well-being of medically released members.

In the past, once a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member has transitioned out of the military, they and their families no longer had access to many of the programs that were available to them. With VFP, they can still receive continuity of care and uninterrupted access to services and programs.

“As much as we try to ease the transition of a military family to the civilian world, it is always challenging when they are in a community that doesn’t have a lot of resources available to them,” said Beswick.

“It is great because they still have access to their services in addition to others,” she added. “We do mental health first aid, there are SISIP workshops, employment services can help with the job search and all those sorts of things.”

The key contact in the area is Louise Anderson, Petawawa MFRC VFP Coordinator. She provides information and referral services, transition programs, and access to intervention support. She is well-versed on the CAF community and its programs and services. 

A veteran or their family member can reach out to Anderson for all the information they desire and figure out exactly what is needed to ease themselves into this new chapter. 

She can also help coordinate services if the veteran leaves the area, even if they don’t have direct access to an MFRC. 

She and her team are also hosting a meet and greet on Jan. 30 to allow veterans and their families to meet the various groups, community partners, assisting agencies and organizations so they can receive more information about what is offered locally.

There are different ways of accessing the VFP. Visiting an MFRC in person, contacting Anderson directly, going to www.CAFconnection.ca or by calling the 24/7 Family Information Line (FIL) at 1-800-866-4546. 

Petawawa MFRC VFP Coordinator Louise Anderson can be contacted by email at louise.anderson@forces.gc.ca or by calling 613-687-1641 ext. 2234.