CVA Situation Report March 31 2015. Critical Injury Benefit

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

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A VETERAN’S VOICE: Intro / TRANSFER of Ste Anne by Wolf Solkin WWII Veteran

A VETERAN’S VOICE: Intro / TRANSFER of Ste Anne by Wolf Solkin WWII Veteran

This new column is intended to be the first in a series of observations and comments about the considerable concerns of Canadian Veterans. Its primary focus will tend to be on the old(er), WWII and Korea Vets, with whom I naturally identify more closely; particularly the gang at Ste. Anne de Bellevue Hospital, where I, along with some three hundred and forty other 90+ year old ex-service men and women, are confined to quarters, “for the duration”.

Let me introduce myself, by first avowing to you that I have the best interests of my fellow-Veterans close at heart, that what I say is sincere, and whatever you may wish to say to me in return , will always be respected and faithfully represented. I will speak for you and to you , and you are welcome and invited to participate in these conversations with your own thoughts, opinions and experiences, on any subject of value and/or interest to Canadian Veterans, especially “The Old Guard”. That goes for your family and friends as well, who might aso hold their own views about my views, and have (horror?) stories to tell about the treatment of Canada’s Veterans.

Pertinent portions of my ‘Street Cred’ Include the following:

I am a nonagenarian World War II Canadian Army Veteran, on partial pension, yet sufficiently disabled to have been admitted as a permanent resident at Ste. Anne’s (Veterans) Hospital, in Quebec.

I proudly served and saw combat as an infantry platoon commander with the splendid Algonquin Regiment (aka the “Algoons”, of 4th Div.) in North West Europe, ending up well inside Germany on V-E Day..

I was then seconded to the D.V.A. in Canada as a Rehabilitation Officer, facilitating the discharge process of the first waves of men returning home , by advising them, with the empathy inherent in a true comrade-in-arms, of their (bare-bones) benefits and entitlements upon re-entering the slippery slopes of “Civilian Life”.

Later, I acquired a Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Toronto, based on my having joined up while still an under-grad at McGill. I subsequently switched to a more “meat-and-potatoes” business career path, necessitated by the need to feed a family of five.

I have been in my new home at Ste. Anne’s Hospital for almost two years now, during which time I became a Director of the Residents’ Committee, and Editor-in-Chief of what I personally conceived, created and developed into a highly lauded bilingual newsletter, called “The Veterans’ Voice”/ “La Voix des Veterans”. This innovative periodical has been widely favoured and much in demand by the Vets and their families, as well as numerous volunteers and employees.

Regrettably, I was recently compelled to resign as Editor, necessitated by the egregious imposition of a new set of highly restrictive and totally unacceptable rules and regulations, which make a mockery of the words. “free press”. Those onerous restraints were so extreme as to interpose and authorize   a mish -mash of persons, (some of whom had never contributed as much as one comma or one minute to producing the “Veterans’ Voice”),wielding absolute power to censor, control and cancel any or all of my written words at will. Further crass conditions required that a designated “Spokesperson” be present at all times to monitor and represent me at any media interviews or events. Nor would I be allowed to write or speak about anything “controversial”, or political/government-related, or ask questions of any “external”/ public officials. Nobody, but NOBODY, should be so empowered as to be enabled to encroach on one’s inviolable rights to freedom of speech and expression, in defence of which so many of us fought so fiercely. I therefore refused to prostitute my principles or compromise my integrity, on the unholy altar of institutional insularity and/or paltry, petty peevishness. Sadly, immediately following my resignation, that once successful and popular newsletter has suspended publication for an indefinite term, much to the detriment and at the expense of the many Veterans who eagerly anticipated each new issue, and who are now dismayed by being deprived of that positive and pleasurable experience.

No one else seems willing (or able?) to take on that responsibility, despite the Pyrrhic victory of the campaign to morph the once tvigorous “Veterans’ Voice” into a mere whimpering whisper of vacuous vignettes.

All of which has now led me, here and now, to this pivotal point in my primary purpose: to protect and uphold the rights of our Veterans, enhance their over-arching health and welfare services , defend their dignity, and be vigilant and unyielding in ensuring the high level of care and comfort they need to live a life replete with value and respect, which they have dearly earned at such great cost and sacrifice. This column is meant to serve as every concerned Vet’s eyes, ears and voice, and to give one and all an ongoing opportunity to know what they should rightly know, hear what they need to hear, and say what they want to say, all for the betterment of us all.

For this special privilege to participate in such an open and unique exchange of ideas and opinions, grateful acknowledgement must be directed to the Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

So thanks to you, guys!

Among the many topics to be considered for future columns are the following few examples:

> #>What will be the impact of the forthcoming Damoclean “TRANSFER” of Ste. Anne’s Hospital from Federal to Quebec Provincial control, In all its numerous and disturbing ramifications?

> .#> What frightful fallout could occur once Quebec’s Health Minister Barrette imposes and implements his new and harshly criticized Bill 10’s provincial protocols and arguable standards, including having rescinded the publicly promised “Stand Alone” status for Ste. Anne’s Hospital, now lumping it together with several other unrelated health institutions?

#>Is taking frail and aged Veterans on ceremonial junkets to Europe a positive and rewarding idea, but with possibly serious negative after-effects?

>> #> Immediate need to Implement urgently required proactive (vs. reactive) Security Measures in all Veterans’ venues and facilities.

> #> Etcetera, etc., etc…..including some issues about which our readers might wish to inquire, so please start / keep those cards and letters comin’!

That’s it for now folks, but remember…….

LEAVE NO VET BEHIND!

—–

Tech-savvy 91-year-old gives voice to veterans at Ste-Anne Hospital
http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/west-island-gazette/tech-savvy-91-year-old-gives-voice-to-veterans-at-ste-anne-hospital

Letter: Cpl. Paul Franklin’s story made this Second World War vet very angry
http://montrealgazette.com/opinion/letters/letter-cpl-paul-franklins-story-made-this-second-world-war-vet-very-angry

—-

TRANSFER  TRAUMA. CENTRE(D)  at. STE. ANNE’S (VETERANS)  HOSPITAL

by  Wolf William Solkin

You may recall from my introductory column that I am a WW Ii Veteran residing quite contentedly and comfortably at Ste. Anne’s Hospital near Montreal. Heretofore, my fellow Veterans and I have had little to complain of; however, dark clouds are looming on the horizon, threatening to evolve into a tsunami of turmoil and chaos, which may soon strike our serene shores with a vengeance.

I speak of the forthcoming TRANSFER of the hospital from federal to provincial jurisdiction. When this happens (predicted to be signed before the end of this year and implemented early in 2016), we can expect to be trussed up and taken from the comparatively caring arms of Veterans Affairs Canada to the entangling tentacles of Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services, under the autocratic and absolute authority of the Honourable(?) Minister Gaetan Barrette, aka the “Bullying Bulldozer”. That Transfer , among many other negative effects, will place Ste. Anne’s Hospital completely under the control of the nefarious and almost universally opposed and much-protested “BILL 10″, a major obstructive obstacle in the path of the still unsigned Transfer agreement..

There is a challengingly long (and sometimes dirty) laundry list of concerns, complaints, questions, quandaries, uncertainties and anxieties with which the Vets at Ste. Anne’s must contend, both before and after the Transfer. I intend to address some of the most daunting issues in future  columns, in the hope that some in the seats of power, be they situated in Ottawa and/or Quebec City, might hear and even heed my/our words.

Today’s flavour of the month, by undeniably unpopular vote, is the above-mentioned bilious Bill10, a piece of lethal legislation which could well undermine the very foundations of the unparalleled health care upon which Ste. Anne’s tradition and reputation were built.

An egregious example of Barrette’s bludgeoning tactics is that, although two former federal and provincial health ministers had jointly and publicly proclaimed to the media their parties’ pledge that Ste. Anne’s Hospital would always retain its unique status as a “Stand-Alone” institution, he blindsided everyone by unilaterally pronouncing that it would, instead, fall under his Bill10 reorganization plan, designed primarily/ostensibly to cut the hell out of health costs. This will force Ste. Anne’s to surrender its indispensable independence, becoming just one of eight health and welfare institutions haphazardly lumped together in the “one size fits all” mish-mash that will operate as the West Island CISSS. If the Quebec government can uncaringly ignore and rescind such a promised fundamental principle even before the Transfer takes place, what else will Barrette undoubtedly and unhesitatingly do and undo once he has complete command and control in his unyielding grasp?

Losing its “Stand-Alone” status will compel Ste. Anne’s to adopt the comparatively substandard protocols and ruinous cost-cutting measures that now prevail across the province. The hospital will then be unable to sustain the high levels of care which our Vets have been repeatedly reassured will be securely safeguarded; which they so desperately need; and which, if I may make so bold, they damn well deserve!

Once Ste. Anne’s is forced to comply with provincial protocols and control, punishingly lower wages, plus many other diminished rights and increased restraints, that  will inevitably prompt even more of our remaining experienced and devoted employees to take early retirement or abandon ship for a better work climate.  Nurse-to-patient ratios could be seriously reduced; significant numbers of Registered  Nurses will be replaced by cheaper and less qualified Quebec-minted “Nursing Assistants”, unfamiliar with the special needs and problems of coping with geriatric patients, and alien to that particular mix of empathy, understanding,  concern, compassion and commitment to their charges, which constitutes the core culture of our outstanding nurses and orderlies, who comprise the true heart and soul of this (for the moment) fine facility.

Rhetoric and purple prose aside, our thrust here is obvious enough: if the front-line “ground troops” personnel are dissatisfied and/or of poorer calibre and increased indifference, the ricochet effect of Bill 10 will concentrate its collateral damage directly  upon the Veterans. They, in turn,will be deeply displeased, disappointed and defrauded by by the Barrette-born and bred lesser level of basic care and attention. That being the case, good intentions, public promises and federal funding notwithstanding, Veterans Affairs Canada will find itself inexorably incapable of upholding its first and foremost vow to the Veterans at Ste. Anne’s, which is/was to continue providing the highest degree of care and  stellar standards of service which have made Ste. Anne’s what it is today…not just a cold,  impersonal institution in which the few remaining reminders of WW II can survive, but a welcoming home in which they are encouraged and enabled to thrive, with the full honour and respect that is their due.

Rather than merely murmuring our/ your calm concurrence with this tempestuous tirade, let us all stand up  to do everything we can to protect our Ste. Anne’s Hospital venerable yet vulnerable Veterans, and their supporting staff, from the inexorable ravages of Bill 10, regardless of which province you live in.  Write your Member of Parliament !

E-mail the leaders of the federal opposition parties !  Phone the Minister and Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada !  Stir up your Royal Canadian Legion Branch along with the Provincial and Dominion Commands !  Talk it up at your Regimental or Service Branch/Veterans Association !  Have your Kiwanis Club or other Service Organization undertake the welfare of our band of brothers as one of their prime projects !  Above all, if you reside in Quebec, be sure to communicate your feelings to your own Member of the National Assembly !   It would likely serve little or no purpose to try to gain entry into the obdurate minds and  stone-deaf ears of Barrette and/or his solidly supportive bosom buddy, Premier Philipe Couillard….and to think that both once took the physician’s sacred Hippocratic Oath with its everlasting and underlying premise of “Do No Harm”

Whether you do one or more of the actions proposed above (and suffer shame if you don’t), for the sake of those who once did, but can no longer serve our country,  DO SOMETHING ! …..MAKE  SOME NOISE !

STAND STRONG for “STAND -ALONE”‘

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Warning Order. Monday – O’toole’s Announcement

Warning Order. Monday – O’toole’s Announcement

No exceptions No exclusion. No denial.

This is what I am hearing. The Harper Government is going to to to address the grotesque disparities in equality the New Veterans Charter accorded the valiant with the Pain and Suffering Lump Sum Award instead of the Pension Act provisions that I and a vast percentage of Canada’s wound.

There will be 70 k top up, but only for those deemed seriously wounded.

There are those who will argue that any improvement is a good thing, and to some extent, I do agree. The fact that the Harper Government has now acknowledged they have financially denied NVC veterans is a significant step forward, that they would try to resolve this issue prior to an election testament to the effectiveness our, and others, campaign has been effective.

And now that the government is moving on these issues, it is more important than ever that we stand for the equality standards we have united and the Canadian Veterans Advocacy has been created to foster; to ensure that any positive developments apply to ALL wrongfully affected veterans, that there is equality for ALL, including Canada’s most seriously wounded. Those who’s sacrifice has been acknowledged through the Pain and Suffering LSA should be treated equally, the top up, pro rated to the percentage awarded, should be provided to EVERY VETERAN WHO RECEIVED A LUMP SUM AWARD under the new veterans Charter.

How can a government acknowledge serious flaws, in this instance, financial recognition for a lifetime of pain and suffering, then provide solutions that deliberately exclude ninety percent of veterans affected by this unjust award?

I am also concerned at the amount that was selected, as it indicates that the government has embraced the Legions, ANAVETS, National Councils of Veterans Orgs, the UN, NATO and Aboriginal groups proposals that would equate the Sacred Obligation Pain and Suffering Award for National Sacrifice on the killing fields of Afghanistan, the National War Memorial, the horror of Iraq or any other conflicts Mr Harper decides to send troops into Harm’s Way to the 350 k workplace negligence award in Ontario.

This is not negligence, Mr Harper and his majority have purposefully sent Canada’s sons and daughters into Harm’s Way. How can they compare the sacrifice they have offered on the NATION’s to negligence on the civiulain work site? No respect. For the wounded or the of the principles that has made this great nation strong, proud and free.

This has been my worse nightmare and I have spoken of these fears often in the past, that the government would use the Royal Canadian legion and those they have assembled under their umbrella through the Legion Consultation Group as shields to deny justice, to deny equality. They refuse to embrace the wounded/CVA’s quest for equality, even though I have spoken to their presidents at these consultation meetings of the need to unite behind the wounded and the principles they have established, not stand against them by proposing standards that do not reflect their wishes, that would have the audacity to disrespectfully compare blood in war to blood in an accident at home.

EXCLUSION, DENIAL.

That they would exclude the thousands of NVC pain and suffering award clients that are not deemed “Seriously” incapacitated does not reflect the justice, the fairness that Minister O’Toole would speak to when defining the recent initiatives. There are serious flaws in each of the proposals to date that deliberately exclude those who are in pan and deserve to be recognized, despite the fact they may not be “considered” seriously injured by the departments selective and very restrictive criteria. Jennifer M, for example, does not qualify for the caregivers allowance, caring for a suicidal veteran 24/7 does not fulfill the criteria. Nor have they, as she has so desperately fought for, provided her the tools for her and thousands of family members to cope.

On the RiSB (retirement proposal) we have yet, despite promises to do so, been told whether pre NVC clients will have the Pain and Suffering award included in the determinations, contrary to the Manuge lawsuit. We think that including an allowance (PIA) designed to recognize additional need when the veterans is being covered at 75% is disingenuous, if anything, the allowance will be vital to quality of life should the equation, as it will for most of the lower ranks, ergo, the majority of the wounded, will be relegated to the anti poverty threshold. Neither the Pain and Suffering Award or the Permanent Impairment Allowance can be included in any RISB determinations, neither are income supplements, to include them will only impose hardship on the disabled and negate the spirit in which they were provided.

The CVA will engage on the equality standards, every program they have brought forward has serious flaws that negate participation by a vast majority of the wounded and disabled veterans. We hope, with your support, to raise these issues to a level dictating discourse and resolution prior to legislation being put forward.

The needs of the few to not outweigh the needs of the many, the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. There must be equality, balance, fairness to all. If they are going forward on a top up, it must apply equally to all who have been awarded and prorated compensation (dictated by the percentage you were awarded) provided.

Are they playing politics with Canada’s most seriously wounded, using them as pre-election props to dismiss the plight of the majority, all who have been subject to the same standards?

Will there be full equality in recognition of national sacrifice, not a buy off of the most seriously wounded to the detriment of most VAC clients by using whatever exclusionary definition that suits the respective programs agenda as a platform to exclude, to deny?

Will this just be a little cost announcement accompanied by an election style speech, a headline without substance motivated by political expediency, not a sincere willingness to address the issues with fairness, to provide respite to all that have been disrespected by the NVC through a pain and suffering award?

Should not EVERY VETERAN be accorded a LSA be bumped up to reflect percentage parity?

One veteran, one standard?

There must be equality! The Sacred Obligation must be fulfilled.

Mike – Prez, CVA

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A VETERAN’S VOICE: Introduction by Wolf Solkin WWII Veteran

A VETERAN’S VOICE: Introduction by Wolf Solkin WWII Veteran

 

This new column is intended to be the first in a series of observations and comments about the considerable concerns of Canadian Veterans. Its primary focus will tend to be on the old(er), WWII and Korea Vets, with whom I naturally identify more closely; particularly the gang at Ste. Anne de Bellevue Hospital, where I, along with some three hundred and forty other 90+ year old ex-service men and women, are confined to quarters, “for the duration”.

Let me introduce myself, by first avowing to you that I have the best interests of my fellow-Veterans close at heart, that what I say is sincere, and whatever you may wish to say to me in return , will always be respected and faithfully represented. I will speak for you and to you , and you are welcome and invited to participate in these conversations with your own thoughts, opinions and experiences, on any subject of value and/or interest to Canadian Veterans, especially “The Old Guard”. That goes for your family and friends as well, who might aso hold their own views about my views, and have (horror?) stories to tell about the treatment of Canada’s Veterans.

Pertinent portions of my ‘Street Cred’ Include the following:

I am a nonagenarian World War II Canadian Army Veteran, on partial pension, yet sufficiently disabled to have been admitted as a permanent resident at Ste. Anne’s (Veterans) Hospital, in Quebec.

I proudly served and saw combat as an infantry platoon commander with the splendid Algonquin Regiment (aka the “Algoons”, of 4th Div.) in North West Europe, ending up well inside Germany on V-E Day..

I was then seconded to the D.V.A. in Canada as a Rehabilitation Officer, facilitating the discharge process of the first waves of men returning home , by advising them, with the empathy inherent in a true comrade-in-arms, of their (bare-bones) benefits and entitlements upon re-entering the slippery slopes of “Civilian Life”.

Later, I acquired a Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Toronto, based on my having joined up while still an under-grad at McGill. I subsequently switched to a more “meat-and-potatoes” business career path, necessitated by the need to feed a family of five.

I have been in my new home at Ste. Anne’s Hospital for almost two years now, during which time I became a Director of the Residents’ Committee, and Editor-in-Chief of what I personally conceived, created and developed into a highly lauded bilingual newsletter, called “The Veterans’ Voice”/ “La Voix des Veterans”. This innovative periodical has been widely favoured and much in demand by the Vets and their families, as well as numerous volunteers and employees.

Regrettably, I was recently compelled to resign as Editor, necessitated by the egregious imposition of a new set of highly restrictive and totally unacceptable rules and regulations, which make a mockery of the words. “free press”. Those onerous restraints were so extreme as to interpose and authorize   a mish -mash of persons, (some of whom had never contributed as much as one comma or one minute to producing the “Veterans’ Voice”),wielding absolute power to censor, control and cancel any or all of my written words at will. Further crass conditions required that a designated “Spokesperson” be present at all times to monitor and represent me at any media interviews or events. Nor would I be allowed to write or speak about anything “controversial”, or political/government-related, or ask questions of any “external”/ public officials. Nobody, but NOBODY, should be so empowered as to be enabled to encroach on one’s inviolable rights to freedom of speech and expression, in defence of which so many of us fought so fiercely. I therefore refused to prostitute my principles or compromise my integrity, on the unholy altar of institutional insularity and/or paltry, petty peevishness. Sadly, immediately following my resignation, that once successful and popular newsletter has suspended publication for an indefinite term, much to the detriment and at the expense of the many Veterans who eagerly anticipated each new issue, and who are now dismayed by being deprived of that positive and pleasurable experience.

No one else seems willing (or able?) to take on that responsibility, despite the Pyrrhic victory of the campaign to morph the once tvigorous “Veterans’ Voice” into a mere whimpering whisper of vacuous vignettes.

All of which has now led me, here and now, to this pivotal point in my primary purpose: to protect and uphold the rights of our Veterans, enhance their over-arching health and welfare services , defend their dignity, and be vigilant and unyielding in ensuring the high level of care and comfort they need to live a life replete with value and respect, which they have dearly earned at such great cost and sacrifice. This column is meant to serve as every concerned Vet’s eyes, ears and voice, and to give one and all an ongoing opportunity to know what they should rightly know, hear what they need to hear, and say what they want to say, all for the betterment of us all.

 

For this special privilege to participate in such an open and unique exchange of ideas and opinions, grateful acknowledgement must be directed to the Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

So thanks to you, guys!

 

Among the many topics to be considered for future columns are the following few examples:

> #>What will be the impact of the forthcoming Damoclean “TRANSFER” of Ste. Anne’s Hospital from Federal to Quebec Provincial control, In all its numerous and disturbing ramifications?

> .#> What frightful fallout could occur once Quebec’s Health Minister Barrette imposes and implements his new and harshly criticized Bill 10’s provincial protocols and arguable standards, including having rescinded the publicly promised “Stand Alone” status for Ste. Anne’s Hospital, now lumping it together with several other unrelated health institutions?

#>Is taking frail and aged Veterans on ceremonial junkets to Europe a positive and rewarding idea, but with possibly serious negative after-effects?

>> #> Immediate need to Implement urgently required proactive (vs. reactive) Security Measures in all Veterans’ venues and facilities.

> #> Etcetera, etc., etc…..including some issues about which our readers might wish to inquire, so please start / keep those cards and letters comin’!

 

That’s it for now folks, but remember…….

 

LEAVE NO VET BEHIND!

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Soldier’s suicide probe botched, not biased: MPCC

Soldier’s suicide probe botched, not biased: MPCC

Cpl. Stuart Langridge
Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 10, 2015 1:06PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 10, 2015 1:38PM EDT

OTTAWA — There was incompetence and negligence, but no intentional bias, in the way the military police handled their investigation of Cpl. Stuart Langridge’s suicide, a watchdog agency said Tuesday.

The Military Police Complaints Commission released a long-awaited report into the troubled soldier’s death and said the case amounted to a series of botched investigations. It said there were also “unacceptable errors” in the way military cops dealt with the soldier’s grieving family.

The report followed a series of public hearings which heard from 90 witnesses and looked at the involvement of both the military police and the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.

The agency made 46 recommendations, the vast majority of which were either rejected outright by National Defence — or not answered at all — in a dispute that has set the stage for further legal action.

“In general, the commission found significant deficiencies in each of the investigations by the CFNIS,” commission chairman Glenn Stannard said.

Langridge, a veteran of two overseas tours including Afghanistan, was found hanging in an Edmonton barracks just days after being released from a civilian hospital in 2008.

His mother and step-father, Sheila and Sean Fynes, alleged that not only was the military investigation mishandled, but National Defence tried to cover up its poor treatment of their son and protect its image.

The commission found the allegations of bias unsubstantiated, but said the suicide investigation and subsequent follow-ups were riddled with blunders and amateur detective work.

“The 2008 investigation was conducted without any apparent plan or direction, mostly due to the inexperience of the investigators,” said Stannard.

The report said investigators did not appear to have pursued their work with any clear understanding of its purpose.

“The evidence was processed but not analyzed and no inferences or conclusions were drawn.”

In addition, military cops left Langridge’s body hanging in plain view for hours while they collected evidence and withheld his suicide note from his family for 14 months.

When the Fynes complained, a subsequent investigation was conducted “without a clear understanding of the nature of the complaint,” said Stannard.

The family alleged later that the there was criminal culpability in the way the military treated and supposedly humiliated Langridge because of his mental condition. The young soldier suffered from depression and anxiety, but was never formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.

The family also claimed that the investigations were biased towards clearing the military.

The military investigative service told the Fynes it looked into the specific complaint, but the commission could find no evidence of that.

“As for the 2010 investigation, the CFNIS did not conduct an actual investigation, yet nevertheless felt able to conclude the Canadian Forces could not possibly have been culpably negligent in Cpl. Langridge’s death as Mr. Fynes had alleged.”

The military tried to keep its response to the report secret. The commission went to court and late last week the provost marshal agreed to unseal the documents.

The commission intends to continue the court challenge because it does not believe National Defence should have the power to block the publication of information that the law says should be released.

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Federal report says there were “serious flaws” in the investigations of the suicide of war veteran Stuart Langridge

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Federal report says there were “serious flaws” in the investigations of the suicide of war veteran Stuart Langridge

There were “serious flaws” in the investigations of the suicide of Afghanistan war veteran Stuart Langridge with poorly supervised military police seemingly unable to cope with even basic policing techniques, says a hard-hitting federal report released today.

The Military Police Complaints Commission’s three volume, 1,008-page final report includes 46 recommendations aimed at comprehensive, top-down military policing, especially in “sudden death” cases.

But military police commanders have already rejected or ignored all but a few of the recommendations in their response to the report. Langridge committed suicide at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton on March 15, 2008, after several attempts and after battling depression and alcohol and drug abuse — all now recognized as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Langridge’s parents brought 33 complaints against the National Investigation Service (NIS) — the military’s detective force — claiming it was biased, negligent and incompetent in three investigations it conducted related to the soldier’s suicide.

The MPCC rejected the allegations that the NIS had been bias in its investigations but did recommend that the military police make a greater effort to assert their independence from mainstream military.

As expected, the report targeted the single highest-profile aspect of the case:

The keeping of the soldier’s simple, handwritten suicide note from his parents for 14 months.

That act resulted in the soldier’s last wish, for a private, family funeral, being ignored in favour of a full military funeral.

The Fynes have described the discovery of the note as “emotionally devastating.”

The report recommends that for “greater clarity” military police adopt a specific policy on suicide notes.

Aside from criticizing the length of time the NIS took to hand over the suicide note, the report is also critical of NIS senior officers for not explaining to Langridge’s family why it was withheld in the first place or whether foul play was ruled out before the soldier’s funeral. During the 2012 hearings, NIS officers said they had withheld the note in the interests of Langridge’s family in case he had been the victim of foul play and the suicide note forged.

The Commission found significant deficiencies in the investigations conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and unacceptable errors in the way the Military Police interacted with the Fynes, particularly in the mishandling of Cpl. Langridge’s suicide note.
— Commission chair Glen Stannard

Other key recommendations:

* Better supervision of military police investigators, especially when complex facts and allegations are involved.

* Meaningful and substantive briefings for families during sudden death investigations.

* Increased opportunities for military police investigators to improve their skills through secondment to civilian police forces.

* Experienced federal, provincial or municipal police investigators should be brought in to lead sudden death investigations.

* Property seized as part of an investigation should be immediately returned to families when no longer needed as evidence.

* Suicide notes should be withheld only if there are compelling reasons for suspecting foul play.

* Full face-to-face briefings should be held between a departing investigator and officers new to the case.

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Benefits for wounded Canadian veterans do not stack up

Benefits for wounded Canadian veterans do not stack up

A new analysis of money paid to disabled vets by Canada’s closest allies raises questions about the Conservative government’s claim that its support for injured troops is world class

A new analysis of money paid to disabled vets by Canada’s closest allies raises questions about the Conservative government’s claim that its support for injured troops is world class

Canadian soldiers walking toward rugged terrain in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail)

A new analysis reveals that Canadians injured in the line of duty are eligible for significantly less financial compensation than the amounts provided to disabled soldiers in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States – raising questions about the Conservative government’s claim that its support for wounded veterans is world-class.


A comparison of monetary compensation offered to disabled veterans in Canada, Britain, Australia and the United States

Canada

Lump Sum

A lump-sum payment of up to $306,698.21 which can be taken in a single payment or spread out over multiple payments. The amount offered depends on the degree of disability. Someone with mild hearing loss, for instance, might collect just $14,929, while someone who has lost the complete function of their lower limbs and is confined to a wheelchair might receive the maximum. Of the 45,615 veterans granted a lump-sum payment between 2006 and 2014, just 185 received the maximum. It is non-taxable.

Earnings loss

An earnings-loss benefit of 75 per cent of salary for two years (or longer if the veteran is taking part in a vocational or rehabilitation plan), all of which is taxable and from which any outside earnings are deducted dollar-for-dollar for veterans who are permanently and totally incapacitated and at 50 cents on the dollar for those in a rehabilitation plan. For those who are permanently incapacitated and unable to work after the two-year period has ended, the benefits can continue to age 65, with annual inflation increases of up to 2 per cent.

Impairment allowance

There are three grades to this allowance with the lowest being $584.66 monthly, which is what most veterans get. The middle grade pays $1,169.33 a month and the highest grade pays a maximum of $1,753.97. In addition, there is supplement for most, but not all, veterans who are receiving the permanent impairment allowance of $1,074. The allowance and the supplement are taxable.


Britain

Lump Sum

Lump-sum benefits are available up to a maximum of $1,092,348. This was originally set in 2005 at half that amount but was doubled in 2008 when it was deemed inadequate.

Severely disabled

Severely disabled veterans receive 100 per cent of their military salary tax-free for life.


Australia

Lump Sum

Lump-sum benefits of up to $420,207 are available, but veterans can choose instead to receive this as a fixed-rate weekly pension which, for someone who starts receiving payments at the age of 25 and dies at the age on 80, would amount to a total of $902,261. This is tax-free.

Severely disabled

Lump sums are awarded for spouses and children of severely disabled vets. For each child, for instance, a veteran would receive $80,956.51.

Earnings loss

An earnings-loss benefit pays 100 per cent of the difference between what veterans were making before their injury and what they are making after their injury, for the first 45 weeks of incapacity. When the 45-week period ends, they are paid between 75 per cent and 100 per cent of the difference between what they were making preinjury and post-injury, depending on how many hours they are able to work. These payments are taxable.


United States

Disability pension

Tax-free disability pension ranging from $167.58 for someone with no dependents and only a mild impairment, to as much as $4,010 per month for a severely incapacitated veteran with one spouse and a child. In addition, there are supplements of up to $10,836 monthly for those with dependents who are severely disabled and need special help.
Graphics by Trish McAlaster/The Globe and Mail

The Conservatives are fighting the perception that the party, which styles itself as pro-military, is failing veterans as Canada transitions from serving elderly veterans of the Second World War and Korea to helping a smaller number of young Afghanistan veterans who are suffering from psychological illnesses and debilitating physical injuries.

Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, who replaced Julian Fantino in the portfolio earlier this year, is vowing to take steps in the coming months to repair relations with those veterans, a politically sensitive constituency in advance of this year’s federal election.

On Monday, Mr. O’Toole unveiled a new retirement benefit aimed at giving moderate and severely injured soldiers a monthly income support payment beginning at age 65.

A security patrol from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) 1st Battalion, A Company 3 Platoon stands on the last rocky hill overlooking their final objective which is the”Belly Button” in which they will march through the following day. (Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail)

But many veterans say those moves are just tinkering. They argue they are getting a raw deal under the New Veterans Charter, which was passed into law in 2006 and replaced a system that provided veterans with lifetime pensions.

An analysis of the money paid to disabled vets by Canada’s closest allies suggests those concerns may be well founded.

Whether it is a comparison of lump sums awarded according to the level of injury, or the ongoing payments meant to replace the incomes of those who can no longer do their jobs, Canada’s remuneration comes up short – in some cases by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Veterans benefits around the world are universally complex to both access and understand,” said Sean Bruyea, a retired Air Force captain and veteran’s advocate who helped The Globe and Mail obtain and analyze the numbers from other countries.

But “veterans instinctively know that the programs under the New Veterans Charter are deficient,” Mr. Bruyea said. “For the government to tell them otherwise really is just stepping on veterans’ hearts and destroying their dignity.”

Trying to compare the compensation offered by the Canada, Britain, Australia and the United States is difficult because each jurisdiction provides money to its veterans in different ways, and all four countries have additional programs that go beyond direct financial compensation. In Canada, for instance, the Veterans Affairs department provides an independent living program that includes grounds-keeping among other home-care services.

In addition, the level of service to veterans is not equal. There have been complaints in the United States, for instance, about a huge backlog of unprocessed claims. And the delivery of health care is not the same on both sides of the border.

But, looking solely at the money paid to those injured while they were in the military, this country lags behind.

Members of the PPCLI 1st Battalion, A Company 3 Platoon scale the side of foothills moving through enormous boulders while on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail)

While Canada offers lump-sum payments of as much as $306,698.21 to its veterans depending on the level of their injury, Britain will pay up to the equivalent of more than $1-million Canadian dollars.

Australia’s maximum lump-sum payment is in excess of $400,000 (Canadian), and veterans in that country can choose instead to receive a non-taxable, weekly pension which can amount to more than $900,000 for a soldier who retires in his 20s and lives into his 80s. Lump sums are also given to children of disabled Australian veterans, which does not happen in Canada.

The United States provides a tax-free disability pension that ranges as high as $4,010 (Canadian) per month, depending on the level of injury and the number of dependents. In addition, there are supplements of up to $10,836 (Canadian) monthly for the most seriously disabled.

Canada has a program that compensates disabled veterans for lost wages which pays 75 per cent of their military salary. This country also provides a permanent impairment allowance and a supplement that can combine to equal a little over $2,700 monthly. But most soldiers who qualify for that allowance receive far less than the maximum, and the money is taxable.

In Australia, on the other hand, the earning-loss compensation can amount to 100 per cent of a veteran’s former salary if he or she is completely unable to work. And in Britain, the most severely disabled veterans receive 100 per cent of their military salary tax-free for life.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has defended his government’s approach to veterans, saying Canada’s programs and services are the best in the world.

Mr. O’Toole, the Veterans Affairs Minister, said there are a number of programs and benefits offered to disabled Canadian soldiers which, when added to the amounts they are paid, makes Canada’s system of compensation one of the best anywhere. “On a category by category comparison,” he said in an e-mail, “some of our allies may have a few items that have stronger support than we have at present, but in other areas they offer less in terms of programming or financial supports.”

Not only does Canada have a good health-care system which in not available in every country, Mr. O’Toole said, but there are medical, rehabilitative, vocational and family supports that aim to return disabled former military personnel to a productive post-service career. And, in terms of the monetary payouts, for soldiers in the lower ranks, the combination of the earnings-loss benefit plus the permanent impairment allowance and the supplement could add up to more than their military salary, the minister said.

A Canadian soldier of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) 1st Battalion, A Company mans the gate at the Gombad safe house in the district of Sha Wali Kot in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, as two local Afghans walk by the main road in Gombad carrying shovels. (Louie Palu/The Globe and Mail)

The government has spent at least $700,000 fighting a court case against a group of veterans based in British Columbia who argue that the New Veterans Charter violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it does not provide the same level of benefits and support as the system of lifelong pensions it replaced.

Frank Valeriote, the Veterans Affairs critic for the Liberals, said the comparison with other countries “just adds more fuel to the fire of the argument that our veterans have been making and that is that [the benefits] are inaccessible, insufficient and inadequate.”

Peter Stoffer, the NDP critic, said looking at what other nations provide to disabled veterans is a bit of comparing apples to oranges, but “for those who qualify, there is no question that other countries do better than ours when it comes to cash outlay.”

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Fiduciary obligation of feds to veterans, families involves honour of Crown

Fiduciary obligation of feds to veterans, families involves honour of Crown
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There are shortcomings in the New Veterans Charter. The government should act and correct the most obvious deficiencies.

OTTAWA—Much has been written over the past six months on the New Veterans Charter, in particular, the hope that substantive change will flow from the latest review and recommendations by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. This article aims to highlight some of the shortcomings of the Charter, and calls upon government to act and correct the most obvious deficiencies.

In 2013, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was asked by the then minister of Veterans Affairs to conduct a comprehensive review of the Charter and to deliver a report to the government on how it could be improved. The committee was obliged to exclusively review the changes made to the Charter in 2011 as part of Bill C-55, but also agreed that a comprehensive wall-to-wall review of the Charter was needed.

After almost 10 months of hearing witness testimony and reviewing documents, the committee delivered its final report to the government in June 2014, titled The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward. The government response to the all-party committee report was to announce a road map for implementing the recommendations titled: Taking Action for Veterans, which was introduced in September 2014. The implementation plan was neatly organized into two phases: Phase 1: Immediate Actions; and Phase 2: Comprehensive Recommendations. Disappointingly, no details about when the recommendations would be implemented were announced.

History and the Veterans’ Charter

The introduction of the Charter by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006 was groundbreaking. Following years of study by experts in the fields of rehabilitation medicine and gerontology, a new approach to rehabilitating Canada’s veterans, focused on getting veterans back to work, was unveiled.

The move towards adopting the Charter over the Pension Act for modern-day veterans was agreed-to by all political parties and all major veterans stakeholder groups of the time. However, what is not mentioned in the same breath is that the support of the Charter by all-parties came with an understanding that it would be a “Living Charter,” which means both that changes would be made to some areas as needed. This also demonstrates that there was a recognition that gaps existed in the Charter.

Legislative changes were finally made to enhance the Charter about six years later in March 2011, resulting in the unveiling of the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act in Bill C-55. At the heart of the 2014 report of the standing committee, is a key assumption that the Charter is here to stay; going back to the Pension Act for modern-day veterans is simply not in the cards. The view of the opposition parties and the veterans’ stakeholders at that time was that the changes made in 2011 fell dramatically short in addressing the substantive changes needed to the Charter.

Inadequacies

Truth be told, the Charter provides more programs, services, and benefits to veterans than the Pension Act. That much is clear. However, the Charter continues to have gaps that are not evident in the Pension Act, and therefore leave it wide open to criticism in the following critical areas: (a) solemn obligation of the nation to its veterans; (b) the difference in support provided between regular force and reserve force personnel; (c) the need for lifelong support to the most seriously disabled veterans; and (d) the need to increase the disability award, or lump sum.

These gaps, insufficiencies or shortages are addressed in the most recent report of the standing committee which includes 14 varied recommendations focused on helping our most seriously disabled veterans and their families. For example, some recommendations speak to changing legislation, regulations and policies, while others ask that processes be changed. Some changes will require new funding, while others can be implemented with little additional monies.

As veterans and Canadians take note of the changes that will hopefully be announced by the government in the upcoming spring budget, it is important to separate what needs to be done from what could be done for our veterans and their families.

Proposed changes

The substantive changes for our veterans and their families can be found in the report committee recommendation. Specifically, the committee recommendation two, that the government should recognize a solemn obligation to veterans; committee recommendation three, that most seriously disabled veterans should receive financial benefits for life; committee recommendation five, the reserve force personnel should receive the same benefits as regular force personnel; and, committee recommendation eight, the need for a review of the amount of the disability award to ensure that it more adequately reflects the awards in civil liability cases.

 Of note, recommendation two is at the heart of the ongoing Equitas class-action lawsuit against the government by Afghanistan war veterans. The suit filed in B.C. Supreme Court claims that disability payments are decided arbitrarily and are not enough to support soldiers who have been injured. A more fundamental issue of Equitas is whether or not there should be a solemn obligation owed by a nation to its veterans. We believe that most Canadians would agree that there is a solemn obligation, or if not, there should be one, given that military personnel on enrolment accept unlimited liability to serve the nation and put their life on the line for their country.

Solemn obligation

The form that the solemn obligation should take is also being debated in the courts. For the government the obligation owed to modern day veterans is expressed in the Charter passed by elected officials, members of Parliament. Yet, if the Charter is the expression of the governments solemn obligation to veterans, why have the substantive changes to the Charter not been addressed over the past decade?

Shortcomings

Providing benefits for life to our most seriously disabled veterans remains a glaring hole in the Charter, since the main source of income for our most seriously disabled veterans, the earnings loss benefit, ceases at age 65. Some argue that the loss of this benefit by veterans at age 65 is replaced by other sources of income such as CPP; however, the differences in the amounts of monies can be significant for some veterans.

Adding to the frustration is that reserve force personnel are entitled to fewer benefits than their regular force counterparts in some areas of the Charter. Given that the reserve force played a pivotal and critical role in the success of the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan over the past decade, such a gap is inequitable, and it is time to close that gap now.

Finally, there is some speculation that the disability award, or lump sum, has not kept pace with the amounts of monies awarded in civil liability cases and therefore needs to be increased. The disability award has increased over time from approximately $250,000 to $300,000 tax free; however, whether it has kept pace with the amounts awarded in the courts needs to be closely examined and adjusted accordingly.  That would be fair, since the disability award was designed to compensate veterans for their non-economic impacts of service related disability such as pain and suffering.

Conclusion

It is assumed by opposition parties and veterans stakeholder groups that changes to the Charter will be announced in the upcoming budget in April 2015. But should our veterans really be forced to wait for budget day or even beyond the next election to see change?

Even if announced in April, it will take years for the substantive changes to be implemented and for our veterans and families to benefit in a positive way from the report of the standing committee. As recently noted by the largest Veteran stakeholder group, the Royal Canadian Legion, “the government has had more than enough time, and certainly enough input from subject experts to be able to take solid action.”

What is clear is that by addressing the four recommendations as laid out in the report by the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and not an interpretation of the recommendations, the government will be taking the first steps to both levelling the playing field of the NVC, and to meet their solemn obligation owed to our veterans.

Displaying _MG_6021.jpg

Joshua M. Juneau and Michel Drapeau are Ottawa lawyers.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

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Government should be taking the lumps, not injured veterans

Government should be taking the lumps, not injured veterans

Despite what Prime Minister Stephen Harper says, Canada does not have the best veterans’ programs and services in the world.

It’s the bane of the Harper government. It’s the focal point of a class action lawsuit. It’s the lightning rod for injustice, despondency, and loss for the modern military veteran. The lump sum paid out to injured soldiers for pain and suffering is also the arthritic backbone of a controversial program known as the so-called New Veterans Charter.

In a recent CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the bold, and unchallenged, claim that the “fact of the matter is this country has the best veterans’ programs and services in the world.”  This truth may hurt, Harper. Unequivocally, Canada does not have the best veterans’ programs “in the world.”

Passed by all parties in 2005 and launched in 2006 under the Conservatives, the New Veterans Charter replaced lifelong pensions with lump sums. Since the war of 1812, Britain and later Canada provided lifelong tax-free monthly pensions to injured soldiers with additional amounts for family members.

The current lump sum pays no extra amounts for family members.

It has been exactly 100 years since the first of 172,000 injured Canadian soldiers began returning from the horrors of trench warfare to communities across a young self-assertive nation. At war’s end, Canada solidified its obligation and philosophy in compensating injured soldiers in the legislation known as the Pension Act.

Taking bits and pieces from the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and even France, the Pension Act developed the model later followed by the courts and workers’ compensation schemes. This model established that pain and suffering payments would be awarded according to the location, type, and degree of injury. Pain and suffering was and is considered completely separate from any consideration of lost income.

Since that time, Canada gauged our compensation programs by comparing three principal nations: the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Under the New Veterans Charter, any veteran injured due to military service and applying for compensation on or after April 1, 2006, can receive up to $306,698.21. Inflationary increases over nine years have raised this maximum from its original level of $250,000.

The U.K. also compensates soldiers for pain and suffering with tax-free lump sums. The maximum payout is £570,000 or CDN $1,092,348. Like Canada, the lump sum replaced lifelong disability pensions for those injured on or after April 6, 2005. Contrast this with Canada, which disregards date of injury but instead uses application date. Canadians injured in the middle of war-torn Afghanistan may have missed the April 1, 2006, lifelong pension deadline. Receiving blood transfusions, being medevacked, or having shrapnel removed from their brain makes filling in paperwork rather difficult.

Australia likewise changed its compensation after July 1, 2005. Previous programs provided both lifelong pensions as well as lump sums for pain and suffering. The current system provides a choice of a lump sum or a fortnightly tax-free pension. The maximum lump sum in 2015 is AUS $430,452.06 equivalent to CDN$420,207. This amount is adjusted for age with the maximum paid out to those 31 or younger. However, should a 25-and-a-half year-old male choose the weekly pension for the rest of his average Australian life expectancy of 80.5 years, he would receive, in today’s dollars, CDN$906,261.

Ottawa, has been quick to dismiss such dollar-for-dollar comparisons claiming that there is more to each nation’s programs than merely compensating for pain and suffering. Canada provides additional allowances for “permanent impairment,” house and groundskeeping as well as medical treatment. Bureaucrats and politicians like to disingenuously confuse the program mix with vocational and education training. However, if a veteran is so disabled as to receive the increased allowances for permanent impairments, Ottawa refuses to fund education or training. Our most disabled are relegated to a lifelong policy prison of stagnant human potential.

Australia and Britain both have additional allowances and more. Australia provides supplementary lump sums of AUS$83,564.11 for each child. Australia gives allowances for utilities and school age kids. Ottawa takes pride in providing CDN$500 for financial counselling to manage lump sums. Australia offers both financial and legal counselling to the tune of AUS$2,464.80.

British veterans receive up to 100 per cent of military salary tax-free if seriously injured. Canada provides a taxable 75 per cent of income. Britain also allows veterans to sue government in civil court. Such an important watchdog mechanism highlights negligence and prevents further injuries or deaths.  Canada’s government expressly prevents this in the laws bureaucrats and politicians wrote to protect themselves.

Finally, U.S. maximums leave others behind. In the same year Canada took away lifelong pensions for our veterans in favour of lump sums, a congressionally appointed Commission rejected lump sums. Currently, American tax-free disability pensions max out for a veteran with a spouse and one child at US$3,187 monthly. This compares favourably with maximum amounts paid out by Canada’s pre-2006 monthly pension scheme. In the US however, severely disabled veterans with a spouse and one child receive added amounts up to $8,600 monthly.

Canada has been under constant and increasing fire for the past nine years since the lump sum came into effect. A Royal Canadian Legion-led coalition of 19 organizations, including one, which represents another 60 veteran groups, has been pushing Ottawa to increase Canada’s lump sum to match court awards as well as increase the income loss program to 100 per cent of military salary. As of December 2014, maximum court payouts were $354,701.

These and many other recommendations made since 2006 by Veterans Affairs advisory groups, Parliamentary committees, the ombudsman and veterans’ organizations fester in a morass of political and bureaucratic indifference.

Having the best programs also means having responsive and agile processes to make sure they remain the best. Canada has neither the best programs nor the best processes. Only three years after Britain introduced its lump sum program, it doubled the maximum amount. Two years after that, government, military, veteran and family organizations worked closely together to implement dozens of recommendations including increased lump sum payments for levels below the maximum. More than 10,000 previous lump sum recipients received retroactive amounts of up to £150,000.

Canada does not have the best veterans programs in the world. Unfounded claims have sadly become the cornerstone of both the Canadian bureaucracy and elected officials. Equally unfortunate, too many Canadians take such statements at face value. Even the veterans ombudsman has been sounding off uncomfortable imitations of government rhetoric, claiming the “fixation on the [lump sum] program contributes to misunderstanding about the total benefits package provided under the New Veterans Charter…”

Veterans and Canadians have every right to be fixated on an inferior program, which languishes in government misinformation at the expense of suffering veterans and their families. Blaming veterans for misunderstanding inadequate programs and incompetent administration does not erase the inadequacy or incompetence. It is time for Harper to appoint that royal commission on veterans’ issues. Holding government accountable gets votes with the bonus of saving veterans’ lives.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and a frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

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Tragic death of Sergeant Doiron in Iraq

I am trying to assess this objectively and in that light, I fail to see why the Pershmega is taking such a proactive position were it not true. They say, for example, Canadians arrived unannounced on the front line, were ordered to stay in the car and were fired upon when they disobeyed. Kenney’s version is different, Ivison reports they were fired on when they spoke Arabic.

Seriously, would it not have been better just to allow Kenney to handle it in Canada and the coalition level? Why are the P saying anything at all that would jeopardize Canadian involvement by creating political discord at home?

And do not these disparity in versions, considering the nations has sustained the loss of one of Canada’s Sons, raise a bevy of legitimate questions… that would have never been risen? The mission is dangerous, most Canadians understand that their will be casualties.

Now there will be a month long whizzing match in the media and the HoC about details surrounding the incident that will detract from Sgt Doiron’s sacrifice. TWO investigations have been launched, one by the Provo Marshals office.

Tragically, Green on Blue accidents happen, as do Blue on Blue. But we must learn form our mistakes, if there were any or ensure that we prepare to ensure that situations like this do not occur in the future.

If the Pershmega version is true? Why were local commanders told that Canadians Advisers would be coming so far forward (200 meters is within small arms range, let alone machine guns and mortars)? Why was not a local Kurdish Liaison officer of detachment deployed to guide them into and out of the position? They were “advisers”, not combatants, what if they were attacked, is it not the Kurdish units responsibility to provide force protection? Logically, if they been expected and properly received, even were it just a Kurdish liaison officer that cleared the checkpoints to the OP, would this of happened?

Lots of questions now, eh?

And at the end of the day, who’s going to be holding the bag when the blame game finally ends?

I hope like hell it is not Sergeant Doiron and the survivors?

Cause that is what it is turning into, by the Pershmega on the ground and when Sgt Doiron is repatriated, here at home.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/03/08/john-ivison-after-sgt-andrew-doirons-death-lets-dispense-with-the-hogwash-that-canada-isnt-in-a-combat-mission/

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