CVA Situation Report. Critical Injury Benefit
Clarification issues. There is a certain degree of confusion surrounding this newly announced benefit and I think it is important that we dispel any false hopes created by the Minister O’Toole’s PR blitz and identify the new class of veterans that it has created. It is vital that seriously disabled veterans understand that the criteria is exceedingly restrictive and that very few of those severely injured since 2006 will be affected The Critical Injury Benefit (CIB) was created to recognize the trauma associated with a SEVERE wound/injury that requires/d IMMEDIATE hospitalization/institutionalization. These two words, severe and immediate, are the foundation of the bill.
The CIB is provided as a one-time, tax free 70.000 dollar benefit. The CIB is a stand-alone benefit; it matters not what level of disability awarded, if you have been denied in the past by Veterans Affairs Canada as having been deemed not suffering permanent injuries or are not a client of VAC.
The CIB is retroactive ONLY to 2006 and is applicable to ONLY those who are supported by the New Veterans Charter.
The “Department” decides “who” is eligible and will be reaching out to approximately 100 veterans identified. Those who will not be contacted have the right to apply for the CIB and if you are denied, the same process of appeal will be used as were it a disability award, ie, VRAB.
Parliamentary procedure. Be advised that nothing will happen on the CIB and other proposals requiring legislative amendments until the Bill is passed and enacted. Should Mr Harper decide to drop the writ early, the bill dies and this is nothing but a headline without substance. It has been eight months for the Veterans preferential hiring bill was presented….
Canadian Veterans Advocacy Issues of contention
First, it is important to note that over the past two weeks, the government has addressed significant issues that the CVA has been fighting for since we crossed the line of departure four years ago. Unfortunately, the comprehensive reforms we have been seeking have not been forthcoming and incremental proposals, negating participation by a vast majority of seriously injured veterans, form the foundation of most of the announcements. The Critical Injury Benefit is no exception, willfully exclusionary and to some extent, discriminatory to those who served in Afghanistan (and elsewhere!) prior to 2006 and sustained a severe injury that would, by event stringent criteria, warrant eligibility inclusion.
The Bill has been purposefully designed to recognize the extraordinary physical, and to a much lesser extent, mental trauma experienced through a incident inclusive of a Critical injury requiring Immediate internment. The Bill recognizes those who are injured on domestic operations or training, serving abroad is not a prerequisite.
But only veterans who, as a consequence of National Sacrifice, experienced Critical Trauma since 2006 are eligible. We feel this betrays the spirit of the bill, that the exclusion of veterans who were critically wounded/injured in Afghanistan prior to 2006, and those who have bore great national sacrifice in former Yugoslavia, NATO and Peacekeeping operations, is profoundly unfair.
Why does this government consider one’s veteran’s trauma worthy of a 70 thousand dollars benefit because he was catastrophically injured in Afghanistan after 2006 more worthy that another veteran who sustained the same level of critical injuries in 2005?
Should there not be equality on this issue, not discrimination through exclusion of veterans who have sustained critical trauma, who fulfill the criteria of the bill, no matter when or where they served?
The CVA believes that it does discriminate, that it fails to meet the One Veteran, One Standard national sacrifice principles, that it is fundamentally unfair to thousands of veterans who have served this nation with honour and dignity. We stand for equality for ALL veterans, for ALL eras who, through sacrifice fulfill the Critical Injury Benefits criteria.
Criteria– Mental wound exclusion/ “Immediate” care provisions. The flaws of this proposal are perhaps no more glaringly evident than through the exclusionary policies negating those who have sustained mental wounds. Our men and women in uniform are strong of heart and mind, when they are exposed to a severe traumatic incident in treading into Harm’s Way, they all too often suffer the impact of a mental wound in silence, unaware or unwilling to accept how “critically “wounded they are, the need for “Immediate” care. Perhaps the curse of stigma has interfered, particularly when “In Theatre” and instead of seeking medical assistance, resolution through peer support was attempted… despite the fact they have sustained a potentially catastrophic wound of the mind.
Far too often these wounds are not identified until the valiant return from operations and the impact on their lives and families leave them no recourse. Many have been awarded disability pensions that reflect the seriousness of their wounds, they are factually deemed permanently incapacitated, they are receiving the maximum award for pain and Suffering, perhaps have even been accorded the Permanent Impairment Allowance. Yet, despite the consequences this critical wound has borne on their career’s and quality of life, they will not be eligible for the CIB.
They did not conform to Catch 22’s criteria, , the “Immediate” quotient of the benefits mandate and the exclusionary impact it will bear upon the hundreds, if not thousands, of Canadians veterans who have sustained serious mental wounds that did not manifest until the “Immediate” time requite had elapsed.
The CVA believes the inclusion of the “Immediate” factor within the criteria presents obstacles that are to obstructive, exclusionary and should be removed or amended to recognize the “critical” nature of mental wounds and the delay onset of symptoms prior to the legislation being put forward and will advocate diligently to this effect. Let us not forget that more of our Afghanistan veterans have been taken through suicide than in combat, there “critical” impact they have borne is not to be ignored, abandoned or marginalized. To, bereft of compassion and understanding, legislate a benefit that deliberately excludes a vast majority of those who have sustained critical mental wounds is unconscionable.
The CVA will stand on this issue for the wounded and their families, if you have sustained a “critical”: mental wound and believe you should be eligible… I shall be requiring testimony to the effect of why you feel that you deserve inclusion, your feelings about being excluded from the 70.000 dollar tax free benefit and how this benefit would have improved the quality of you and your families life.
Who? Who decides who is eligible and who is not. The department of Veterans Affairs does. Minister O’Toole announced that approximately 100 veterans have been identified, they will be contacted if the Bill is enacted before the next election. The bill was tabled, without consultation with stakeholders, yesterday and as the Conservatives have a majority…
It is important for veterans to understand that the CIB has no bearing on the percentage you were awarded on the pain and suffering award or the status of your earnings loss benefits. You may be completely disabled as a consequence of a Critical Injury but due to operational circumstances or the invisible nature of a mental wound, are not eligible. Severe. Immediate.
Determinations on eligibility will be based on, as the SME defined, standards of “Medical Professionals”. This is perplexing, more so considering that it will not be a “Medical professional” who will judge, but a departmental bureaucrat. The appeal process is also suspect as there is little trust amongst the veterans community for the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, the entity that adjudicates disability pensions. Many veterans have discovered the VRAB has a habit of “selectively” accepting the advice of “medical professionals” or ignoring them in favour of testimony from a “department” selected medical professional which supports a denial.
More to follow as the situation develops, I/we are always interested in your opinion; consultation in the cornerstone of CVA advocacy. If you are affected, or just have feelings about this issue, please do not hesitate to send me an email through the Canadian Veterans Advocacy website or respond publicly on our social network; Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Pro Patria Semper Fidelis
Michael L Blais CD President – Founder Canadian Veterans Advocacy 905-359-9247 /// hm 905-357-3306