Veterans’ mental health travel costs not being covered

Former members of the Canadian military who are struggling with mental health problems say they’re being denied benefits from Veterans Affairs to cover travel costs to their psychologists and other medical professionals.

Former members of the Canadian military who are struggling with mental health problems say they’re being denied benefits from Veterans Affairs to cover travel costs to their psychologists and other medical professionals.

Two veterans said they’ve received notice from the department that their travel coverage to psychologists and psychiatrists would end last summer, leaving them on the hook for the payments if they wanted to continue seeing them.

Steve Bird said he was told in June that Veterans Affairs would no longer pay costs associated with his regular trips from his home in southeastern Saskatchewan to Saskatoon to see a team of health-care providers.

Instead, he said the department wanted him to find a psychiatrist and psychologist in Regina, which is about two hours closer.

But Bird, who says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was medically released from the Forces in 2008, said he has made progress with his doctors and switching psychiatrists would only set him back.

“I panicked when I heard — to me, it was them destroying the medical team that had gotten me back to being semi-normal,” Bird, 47, said from his home near the White Bear Lake Resort.

“It’s so hard to get the mental health people on line with a mental health issue if you have to keep starting over and over and over and over.

“It’s reliving everything to get them up to speed and it just sets a person back so far.”

Bird and his wife Carla Murray say they made the roughly six-hour trip to Saskatoon every month because they found a psychiatrist who helped him deal with his PTSD, rage, agitation and anxiety, and came up with a cocktail of drugs that finally worked.

Murray said they filed receipts with Veterans Affairs to cover the $500 in gas, food and accommodations per trip. A spokesman for Veterans Affairs couldn’t discuss the specific case, but said the department’s travel policy hasn’t changed.

The federal department did not provide someone for an interview, but Simon Forsyth said in an emailed statement that it is “generally expected that veterans will access services from their nearest possible health-care provider.”

But he said some veterans can be compensated for travel to a health-care provider if it maintains “an established relationship” and if the “veteran is making significant progress with a particular mental health professional.”

A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney issued a subsequent statement on Sunday saying that departmental officials have been ordered to follow up with the veterans to ensure they’re getting the benefits and services they need.

Craig Pottie, a veteran in Truro, N.S., said he also received notice in July that the hour-long drive to Halifax to see his psychologist would no longer be covered by Veterans Affairs even though the department had been paying the costs for more than five years.

Pottie, who says he was diagnosed with a panic disorder linked to his service, said he was told in February that the coverage would expire and that he would have to find care in Truro.

As a result, the 45-year-old says he hasn’t seen his psychologist since July.

“She was a like a lifeline,” he said from his home. “Without her, my marriage fell apart and my anxiety is returning with a vengeance, to the point that I cannot go outside.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

A recent investigation by the RCMP Central Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit led to the arrests of 24 people. (Contributed photo)
24 people arrested following RCMP investigation in central Alberta

Twenty-four people are facing a combined 235 charges following an investigation by… Continue reading

Photo from Town of Sylvan Lake Facebook page
Sylvan Lake communities band together on development plan

Sylvan Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan expected to be approved next spring

Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, left, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo).
New pandemic rules deemed workable for Red Deer retailers

Stricter COVID-19 reduction measures introduced in lead-up to Christmas

Quentin Lee Strawberry
Man accused in 2019 Red Deer murder will stay behind bars

Quentin Strawberry going to trial next year on second-degree murder charge

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

FILE - In this March 26, 2006 file photo, former soccer player Diego Maradona smokes a cigar as he watches Argentina's first division soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

In this July 1, 2020, photo, Salt Lake Tribune data columnist and Utah Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen poses for a photo. Larsen is a sports writer, but with much of that world sidelined during the pandemic he's been digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications. So when he found himself with a cache of spare change, partially from his childhood piggy bank, he knew plenty of people could use it. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, a view of a 'Matterhorn-Express' gondola lift in front of Matterhorn mountain in the Zermatt ski resort, in Zermatt, Switzerland. Restrictions to slow the curve of coronavirus infections have kept ski lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)
As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015 file photo, actor John Boyega, right, pose with Star Wars characters during the Japan Premiere of their latest film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Tokyo. Boyega stars in Steve McQueen’s “Red White and Blue,” the third film in the director’s anthology of West Indian life in London from the ‘60s through the ’80s. The five-film series will debut Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

The Hockley Motel in Mono, Ont., is shown in this undated handout photo. An Ontario motel that served as a backdrop for the beloved CBC sitcom "Schitt's Creek" is up for sale. The Hockley Motel in Mono, about an hour's drive northwest of Toronto, was listed for $2 million today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Colliers International
Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Most Read