A VETERAN’S VOICE by WOLF WILLIAM SOLKIN “NO REGARD……NO RESPECT……NO REMEMBRANCE”

A VETERAN’S VOICE

by

WOLF WILLIAM SOLKIN

IMG1134

“NO REGARD……NO RESPECT……NO REMEMBRANCE”   

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If I may be permitted, in this column I’m going to take the liberty of making a detour away from my more traditional subject matter about the cares and concerns facing the  venerable Veterans confined to barracks at Ste. Anne’s Hospital.   Instead, I trust you will forgive me for getting a whole shipload of  annoyance and resentment off my chest, about an issue which, though it might seem unimportant  to some, is of strong significance and meaningful memories to me and many others; i e.,devoting due regard to the feats and fetes, such as VE Day, of intense importance to the remaining World War Two Veterans, plus innumerable family members and friends of the real heroes,those KIA comrades whom we had no choice but to lay to rest, “Over There”. Which is my long-winded way of wending around to the latest burr under my well-worn saddle…..the recent proud, public commemorations of the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day, (which occurred on the eighth day of May, 1945, when my Regiment was still doing battle in Germany), were wildly and widely celebrated and publicized, on an international level,  by Veterans and civilians alike, in most venues across the free world, especially Holland which forever hails the Canadians as its hallowed liberators. But there was one notably egregious exception to these festivities, of which I am personally and painfully aware : .Ste. Anne’s Hospital, where I reside, along with an ever-dwindling number of other WW ll Vets, to whom V-E Day means as much, if not more, than their own birthdays !  That otherwise fine facility paid this auspicious event about as much respect and attention as I would expect from some adolescent with a severe case of ADHD, who. had missed  his daily dose of Ritalin !…. Not even a solitary “Post-it” note on an obscure bulletin board…how delinquent ;  how disgraceful ! Many of us still had our own “boots on the ground” (or air, or sea , as the case may be) on that unforgettable and historic day,when Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” breathed it final fetid poisonous breath after six unimaginable years of its horrific crimes against humanity. The lights of life and liberty were once again lit up for all of us to look anew upon our world, with its priceless and indispensable “Four Freedoms” fully intact and in place. Small wonder then, that so many thousands of people, in so many hundreds of cities   and in so many dozens of  countries  from A to Z, (Australia to Zanzibar), recognized and celebrated that special, delirious day with joyous jubilation,and paid such high honours to the ex servicemen and women who brought V-E Day into being by their own blood, sweat and sacrifices.  But what was confoundedly conspicuous by its absence  and indifference vis a vis V-E Day ?…yet again, that dubious distinction is deeded to my very own Ste. Anne’s Hospital ! My instinctive first and fair step was to find the facts  directly from the very top, but the lack of true gravitas and surfeit of obfuscation in the reply struck me as a belated bundle  of lame excuses , masquerading as real reasons, in a weak attempt to play “catch-up”. In that  moment an epiphany descended upon me, to the extent that I could no longer choke back my chagrin at such denigration of. this distinguished “Day of Victory in Europe”. Hence this disdainful diatribe against another instance of  blundering bureaucratic blindness. Now that I have vented my frustrations, and hopefully elicited your agreement with this grumpy old Vet’s viewpoint, let us hope and pray that somebody, somewhere in the world outside these otherwise welcoming walls, will hearken to my plea that , above all else, we must ever pay tribute and give honour to those who granted us the greatest gift of all…the right to live our  lives free from fear of an unthinkable “WMD”  (World of Mass Destruction). The very least we can do is remember that, while it is my personal truth that “Every Day Is Veterans’ Day”, V-E Day is, and will forevermore, be much more than just any other day ! As always,

Lest We Forget,………….

LEAVE NO VET BEHIND !

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Veterans Professional Association of Canada

Michael Blais
21 hrs

What would YOU say to a Veterans Professional Association of Canada? I have been working on this issue for a couple of years now and most recently established high level contact-discussions with a major national unions (UNIFOR) to discuss setting up a community based (Veterans) professional association that would provide PRO ACTIVE and dedicated services to OUR community.

Over the past four years of advocacy, it has become clear to me that the wounded and disabled of all eras deserve and require an organization that is dedicated to their care/safeguarding their quality of should they suffer or have suffered a mental or physical wound on while serving this nation. The PA envisioned will focus on ensuring full justice is served through the claim process and that members of the professional association have a dedicated team of medical-legal advocates. The PA will provide individual attention throughout the entire process and ensure quality of care standards associated with the injury and Veterans Affairs Canada support is comprehensive and delivered in an expedient manner.

Imagine the amount of stress this would alleviate from your life, imagine having the ability to appeal unjust awards with a dedicated team at your side

We need help, consistency, confidence that those that are acting on our behalf are dedicated to our plight and willing to take the comprehensive measures required.

Think about it, I am, as always, in consultation mode and would appreciate your input.

Be advised, I am an advocate, while I fully intend on setting up the foundations, joining and supporting the VPA when it established, I have no intentions of serving in any other capacity other than as a concept organizer.

I am old, the mission to date have borne consequences on my health and once the principles I have founded the Canadians Veterans Advocacy have been attained, I plan on fading unto obscurity.

Thoughts.

https://www.facebook.com/MPPAC?fref=nf

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The Veterans Hiring Act – MAY 2015 – Loi sur l’embauche des anciens combattants – Commission de la fonction publique

The Veterans Hiring Act – MAY 2015

 

“Proposed Amendments to the Public Service Employment Regulations following the coming into force of the veterans hiring act.”

 

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/Board2/index.php?topic=15466.0

 

 

Loi sur l’embauche des anciens combattants – Commission de la fonction publique

 

En prévision de l’entrée en vigueur de la Loi sur l’embauche des anciens combattants http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/2015_5.pdf , la Commission de la fonction publique (CFP) prévoit modifier les dispositions relatives aux droits de priorité des membres des Forces canadiennes qui sont prévues au Règlement sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique.

 

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/Board2/index.php?topic=15449.0

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List of all Pensionable condition (VAC) – Liste de toute condition pensionné de ACC

List of all Pensionable condition  (VAC) – Liste de toute condition pensionné de ACC

Ex. Umbilical Hernia, Abrasion dental, non-hodgkins lymphona, heavy metal poisoning, tension headaches, PTSD heaadachaes, MS, guillain barre syndrome,

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/VACDND_Services-Benefits/?p=527

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Loi sur l’embauche des anciens combattants – Commission de la fonction publique

En prévision de l’entrée en vigueur de la Loi sur l’embauche des anciens combattants http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/2015_5.pdf , la Commission de la fonction publique (CFP) prévoit modifier les dispositions relatives aux droits de priorité des membres des Forces canadiennes qui sont prévues au Règlement sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique.

La CFP est heureuse de partager avec vous la présentation ci-jointe qui présente et explique les changements proposés. Veuillez noter que les « Notes » contiennent des informations importantes et font donc partie intégrante du document.

Si vous avez des questions, veuillez communiquer avec la CFP à l’adresse suivante :

CFP.DEP-PDD.PSC@cfp-psc.gc.ca

————-

Modifications proposées au règlement sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique suite à l’adoption de la loi sur l’embauche des anciens combattants

OBJECTif DE LA PRÉSENTATION

Présenter et expliquer les modifications que la Commission de la fonction publique (CFP) propose d’apporter au Règlement sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique (REFP) suite aux modifications qui seront apportées à la Loi sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique (LEFP) par la Loi sur l’embauche des anciens combattants (LEAC).

La Commission de la fonction publique (CFP) est un organisme indépendant qui s’assure que les nominations à la fonction publique sont faites au mérite. La CFP administre la Loi sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique (LEFP), le Règlement sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique (REFP), et élabore des lignes directrices sur les nominations.
La LEFP régit les nominations à la fonction publique et au sein de celle-ci. Elle autorise la CFP à préciser certaines de ses dispositions par règlement. La CFP a donc pris le REFP, qui établit notamment des droits de priorité réglementaires et en prescrit les conditions d’application.

Droit de priorité : Le droit, accordé à certaines personnes, d’être nommées avant les autres (« en priorité ») à la fonction publique, si elles satisfont aux qualifications essentielles du poste.

La Loi sur l’embauche des Anciens Combattants

Un des objectifs de la LEAC est d’offrir aux membres des Forces canadiennes (FC) libérés pour raisons médicales un accès accru aux postes de la fonction publique.

À son entrée en vigueur – sur ordre du Gouverneur en conseil – la LEAC accordera aux membres des FC libérés pour des raisons médicales attribuables au service un droit de priorité légal (c.à.d. prescrit par la loi) prééminent de nomination aux postes de la fonction publique fédérale qui est assujettie à la Loi sur l’emploi dans la fonction publique (LEFP). La CFP sera responsable d’établir les conditions de ce droit (nouvel article 39.1 de la LEFP).

Les droits prioritaires accordés aux membres de la Gendarmerie royale du Canada restent inchangés.

Modifications proposées au refp

Les modifications que la CFP propose d’apporter au REFP ne concernent que les droits de priorité accordés aux membres des Forces canadiennes libérés pour raisons médicales.
Ces modifications devraient entrer en vigueur en même temps que la LEAC.

La LEAC prévoit également des droits de mobilité et de preference aux membres actifs des Forces canadiennes et aux anciens combattants. La CFP fournira des informations sur ces droits à une date ultérieure.

Le ministère des Anciens Combattants estime qu’environ 7 600 membres sont libérés chaque année.

Le  nouveau droit légal de priorité  (membres des FC libérés pour raisons médicales attribuables au service) :
s’appliquerait à tout membre qui n’occupe pas un poste à la fonction publique pour une période indéterminée;
comprendrait une période d’admissibilité de cinq ans, pendant laquelle le membre devrait satisfaire à certaines conditions (voir les Notes ci-dessous), suivie d’une période de droit proprement dite de cinq ans.
Le droit de priorité prendrait fin soit lorsque le membre est nommé à un poste pour une période indéterminée, soit lorsqu’il refuse une telle nomination, soit cinq ans après le début du droit.

Comme un des objectifs de la LEAC est d’offrir aux membres actifs et aux membres libérés pour raisons médicales accès aux postes de la fonction publique, seuls les membres qui ne sont pas déjà employés à la fonction publique pour une durée indéterminée pourront se prévaloir du droit de priorité. (Il arrive parfois que certains membres, comme les réservistes à temps partiel, aient déjà un emploi à la fonction publique. L’objectif étant atteint, ces personnes n’auraient pas droit à la priorité.)

La priorité légale serait octroyée à tous les membres des Forces canadiennes (c’est-à-dire les membres de la force régulière, les membres de la force de réserve et les membres de la force spéciale) qui sont libérés pour raisons médicales attribuables au service. C’est au Ministre des Anciens combattants que revient la responsabilité de décider si les raisons médicales sont, ou non, attribuables au service.

La priorité légale serait la plus élevée dans l’ordre de préséance. Autrement dit, la candidature des membres des Forces canadiennes libérés pour des raisons médicales attribuables au service serait prise en considération avant celle des autres bénéficiaires d’une priorité légale (notamment les fonctionnaires excédentaires au sein de leur propre organisation, les fonctionnaires en congé ou leur remplaçant, et les personnes mises en disponibilité) ou règlementaire (c’est-à-dire prescrit par le REFP).

Pour pouvoir bénéficier de la priorité légale, ces membres devront remplir toutes les conditions suivantes dans les cinq ans qui suivent leur libération :

demander leur droit de priorité (et ce, même si le ministre des Anciens Combattants n’a pas encore décidé si les raisons de leur libération médicale étaient attribuables au service);
obtenir un certificat médical indiquant qu’ils sont aptes à retourner au travail. La date prévue du retour au travail devra être dans ce même délai de cinq ans suivant leur libération; et
– ne pas être employé dans la fonction publique pour une durée indéterminée au moment où ils demandent leur droit de priorité.

La période du droit de priorité serait de cinq ans. Le droit prendrait fin soit à l’expiration des cinq ans, soit le jour où le membre est nommé pour une durée indéterminée à la fonction publique, soit le jour où il refuse une telle nomination sans motif valable ou suffisant.

Le droit de priorité réglementaire actuellement accordé aux membres des Forces canadiennes serait modifié comme suit:
Il serait octroyé à tout membre à temps plein qui n’est pas employé à la fonction publique pour une période indéterminée, et qui est libéré pour raisons médicales mais n’a pas droit à la priorité légale;
comprendrait une période d’admissibilité de cinq ans, pendant laquelle le membre devrait satisfaire à certaines conditions (voir les Notes), suivie d’une période de droit proprement dite de cinq ans.
Le droit de priorité fin soit à la nomination du membre à un poste pour une période indéterminée; à son refus d’une telle offre; à l’émission d’une nouvelle décision concernant sa libération médicale; ou cinq ans après le début du droit.

Un droit de priorité réglementaire serait accordé aux membres à temps plein (c’est-à-dire les membres de la force régulière, les membres de la force spéciale, et les membres de la force de réserve qui servent en service de réserve de classe « B » pour plus de cent quatre-vingts jours consécutifs, ou qui servent en service de réserve de classe « C ») qui sont libérés pour raisons médicales mais qui n’ont pas droit à la priorité légale, soit parce qu’ils sont en attente d’une décision (« determination »), ou parce qu’il a été décidé que leur libération n’était pas attribuable au service.

Si, pendant la période de droit réglementaire, il est décidé que la libération était, en fait, attribuable au service, le droit réglementaire du membre cesserait et un droit de priorité légale de cinq ans lui serait accordé, débutant le jour de la nouvelle décision.

La candidature des bénéficiaires d’un droit de priorité réglementaire est considérée après celle des bénéficiaires d’un droit de priorité légale.

Les conditions pour pouvoir bénéficier du droit de priorité réglementaire seraient les mêmes que celles de la priorité légale.

La période du droit de priorité serait de cinq ans. Le droit prendrait fin soit à l’expiration des cinq ans, le jour où la personne est nommée pour une durée indéterminée à la fonction publique, le jour où elle refuse une telle nomination sans motif valable ou suffisant, ou encore, le jour où le membre devient admissible au droit de priorité légal, suite à une nouvelle décision du Ministre des Anciens combattants.

Enfin, les membres des FC qui ont eu un droit de priorité – en vertu de l’article 8 du REFP – entre le 1er avril 2012 et l’entrée en vigueur de la LEAC, recevraient un nouveau droit de priorité réglementaire de cinq ans si:
le Ministre des Anciens combattants a établi que les raisons médicales ayant mené à leur libération n’étaient pas attribuables au service, ou si cette décision n’a pas encore été prise;
n’occupaient pas un poste pour une période déterminée dans la fonction publique au moment de l’entrée en vigueur de la LEAC; et
n’ont pas refusé une telle nomination.

Cette modification reflèterait les dispositions de la LEAC qui prévoit accorder un nouveau droit de priorité légal aux membres qui ont activé leur droit de priorité en vertu de l’article 8 du REFP entre le 1er avril 2012 et l’entrée en vigueur de la LEAC, s’il a été établi que leur libération médicale était attribuable au service.

Si vous avez des questions au sujet du contenu de cette présentation, veuillez communiquer avec la Direction de l’élaboration des politiques de la CFP.

dep-pdd@psc-cfp.gc.ca

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Daddy Never Came Back From Afghanistan

 

Daddy Never Came Back From Afghanistan

Daddy Never Came Back From Afghanistan

http://forces.tv/81991960

Last month Army & You spoke to a soldier’s young daughter about how PTSD affected her family’s life. This is her story…

I was born in April. My daddy was 22 and in the Army. He wasn’t there when I was born as he was away. He came to see me when I was two weeks old. He never put me down; I was a daddy’s girl already.

I was two months old when mummy and I went to live in Cyprus for six months with daddy. He was so proud of me and showed me off to all the other soldiers. He would come home whenever he could just to spend five minutes with me. When I got my first tooth he left work just to come and have a look. He said he loved me to the moon and back.

My first memory of my daddy was when he came home at weekends from work. I would sit by the window and then run out to him as soon as his car pulled up. He would pick me up and throw me in the air; he always caught me. He was so big and strong and looked so smart in his uniform. I was so proud of my daddy – he was my hero.

My daddy went to Afghanistan. I felt so scared but full of pride for my very brave daddy. I cried and couldn’t stop. I wanted to hug him forever so that he wouldn’t leave me. I was hugging him when I heard the dreadful sound of the train. This meant daddy had to let me go. I watched him go until I could see the train no more.

A few months later I was on the platform again; he was home from Afghanistan. As the people began to leave, I saw him, my daddy, my hero. I ran across the platform, everyone parted and let me through. As I reached him, he knelt down and opened his arms and I jumped into them. I could see people on the train and platform watching and crying. I had my daddy back for good or so I thought.

Daddy had been injured but I couldn’t see it. He had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My daddy was never the same. I was no longer daddy’s girl. Daddy treated me like the enemy. When I ran to him, he told me to go away. I tried to cuddle him and he said he didn’t want me anymore. I was so upset, angry and confused. I never thought daddy would hurt me like this.

Mummy told him to leave. Then daddy had a breakdown. He told us all the horrible things going on in his head. He said he loved us but had to go as he didn’t want to hurt us anymore.

That was two years ago. I haven’t seen him since. I will always love my daddy; he will always be my hero. Daddy went to Afghanistan but daddy never came back.

For help and advice about PTSD please click here

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Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Nov 11th)

Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs – Comité permanent des anciens combattants

Today we’ll be studying, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the subject matter of clause 1 of Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act.

Aujourd’hui, conformément au paragraphe 108(2) du Règlement, nous allons effectuer l’étude de l’objet de l’article 1 du projet de loi C-597 , Loi modifiant la Loi instituant des jours de fête légale.

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Legion’s position: “The holiday status of Remembrance Day has been debated at numerous Dominion Conventions throughout the Legion’s history, in fact, 13 times since 1970, and most recently at our 2012 Dominion Convention. It was at the 2012 convention that the Legion’s position against Remembrance Day being a statutory holiday was reaffirmed.”

Canadian Veterans Advocacy position: “As it stands now, through consultation with serving members, veterans, families, and the civilian population we have engaged we find there is universal support for the legal holiday that Bill C-597 presents. Once the bill is defined, once it has been clarified that no days off would be accorded, support has been universal. It is vital that our discussions today focus on the opportunity Parliament has been provided through this bill to honour and respect national sacrifice in a meaningful and effective manner.”

“At the York Catholic District School Board’s regular meeting of the board, held on Tuesday, November 25, the board of trustees passed a motion that a letter be written to members of municipal, provincial, and federal governments to express their strong belief that November 11, Remembrance Day, should not be made a statutory or school holiday.”

The Vice-Chair (Mr. Frank Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.)):
We have with us from the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, Michael Blais, president and founder. We have from the Royal Canadian Legion, Bradley White, Dominion secretary, Dominion Command; and William Maxwell, senior program officer, Dominion Command. Joining us from the York Catholic District School Board via teleconference is Sonia Gallo, communications manager.

http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=7941311&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2&Language=E

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THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF NEOLIBERAL SOCIAL POLICY: The New Veterans Charter: Severely reducing veterans benefits through ‘improvements’ and ‘enhancements’

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF NEOLIBERAL SOCIAL POLICY:

The New Veterans Charter: Severely reducing veterans benefits through ‘improvements’ and ‘enhancements’

by mluloff

Chapter I

Introduction

Canada has a long and storied history with a reputation for punching above our collective weight in the international community. From Banting’s discovery of insulin as a treatment for diabetes to Lester B. Pearson’s brilliant peace brokering in his handling of the Suez Crisis, Canada asserts her relevance by demonstrating an ability to innovate, adapt and overcome despite the bleakest of odds. This is especially true of our military history.

Two hundred years ago, fifty-five years before Confederation, a rag-tag militia of British and French colonists assisted by Indigenous and Metis warriors fought off a coordinated and significantly larger American invading force maintaining the Canadian-American border. One hundred and thirty nine years later, at the Battle of Kapyong in Korea, Canada demonstrated unrelenting resolve while holding off a Chinese and Korean brigade for three days; an amazing feat considering the Canadian contingent was demonstrably smaller and suffered seemingly endless casualties. To this day, the Canadian Forces are highly regarded as amongst the best-trained and effective organizations in the world. However, when the mission is over and the soldier returns to civilian life, a new mission lays before the returning soldier, that of re-integrating into the society he or she fought to serve while making sense of their experiences in order to wield them to their advantage in the often difficult task of establishing an existence beyond the total institution of military service. The recently restored civilian, “for whom everything (was) provided by the state, (has lost), to a certain extent, his sense of personal responsibility” (McKelvey Bell, 1919). If it is the Government who is responsible for this transformation from civilian to soldier, should it not then be responsible for the transition in reverse? Most would agree, however the chasm between what the government is mandated to provide and what provisions are available to veterans is long, and wide, and growing longer and wider still.

Despite the contemporary and extensive media coverage regarding benefits available to veterans of the Canadian Forces, caring for our injured veterans through disability pensions coupled with vocational training is certainly not a pioneering or novel idea.  During the First World War, the Tory-led Unionist government of Sir Robert Borden passed the War Measures Act creating the Department of Soldier’s Civil Re-establishment. Borden’s government proclaimed it as and indication of Canada’s strong commitment to those who had sacrificed life and limb for the Commonwealth:

“The men by whose sacrifice and endurance the free institutions of Canada will be preserved must be re-educated where necessary and re-established on the land or in such pursuits or vocations as they may desire to follow. The maimed and the broken will be protected, the widow and the orphan will be helped and cherished. Duty and decency demand that those who are saving democracy shall not find democracy a house of privilege, or a school of poverty and hardship” (Veterans Affairs Canada – Canadian Forces Advisory Council, 2004)

The newly minted Department developed and delivered comprehensive programmes designed to support the injured financially, foster professional and personal development through education and vocational rehabilitation, with the end goal of returning them to some semblance of self-sufficiency. The programmes were, by most measures, heralded as a complete success. At the time, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported:

“as soon as the returned soldier who is crippled or rendered partially disabled by disease or injury can be made to realize that life still holds interests for him in the manufacturing, the educational, or the commercial world, and that there is a department which is ready to do everything necessary to help him overcome his handicap, so soon will a step forward have been made in connection with his rehabilitation and his return to useful civilian life. The knowledge that he can still be self-supporting in spite of the handicap of the loss of limbs or of other serious defects, assists him to regain pride in his own personal effort and encourages him to make a strong endeavour to become self-supporting” (McKelvey Bell, 1919)

Certainly many things have changed since 1919, and the Government of Canada’s unfettered commitment to the injured soldier as demonstrated above is, quite regrettably, one of them.

Canada’s decision to support the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission to Afghanistan was an undertaking the likes of which the Canadian Forces had not seen since the Korean War, both in the size and scope of the operation, and in the amount of casualties incurred in combat. From the time the first Canadian boots hit the hot sands of Kandahar to the declaration of the end of combat operations, 158 flag-draped coffins have returned to Canada to be received by grieving families. The impact on those who fought selflessly and tirelessly alongside international allies and survived the horrors of war is without a doubt immeasurable.

In addition, many Canadian forces members returned home with injuries including some who returned home with gruesome physical injuries, and others who returned haunted by the intensity and vicious violence of the conflict; both types of injuries afflicted some soldiers. The brave men and women who stood face-to-face with the Taliban and other armed factions across southern Kandahar were prepared to give everything, up to and including their lives, for their country. On their return, their country has an obligation to them as mandated by the contemporary incarnation of veteran’s legislation, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Act, which charges the Minister with “the care, treatment or re-establishment in civil life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces” (The Governnment of Canada, 1984).

With an average of two thousand eight hundred troops deployed at any given time, Canada’s mission in Afghanistan was producing a constant flow of new clients for the Department. In 2005, while Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Stephen Harper proclaimed to an audience of Legionnaires,

“all too often we hear stories of veterans who are ignored or disrespected by government. What a shameful way to treat men and women who risked their lives to defend Canada. This shame will end with the election of a new (Conservative) government” (CTV News, 2005)

But the shame did not end when Mr Harper became Prime Minister in February 2006. The first Tory government in over a decade, seemingly delivering on its promise with fervour and without delay, produced the New Veteran’s Charter (NVC) exactly two months after forming government, created an office for a veteran’s ombudsman, and introduced major changes to the financial assistance available to injured clients of the department. At the time, Harper hailed the legislation as a sign his government was “begin (ning) to do the right thing for Canada’s servicemen and women” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2006). The Minister of Veterans Affairs, The Honourable Greg Thompson proclaimed,

“The New Veterans Charter is the most profound transformation of Veterans’ services and benefits since the end of the Second World War. It provides all the fundamental programs and services that CF Veterans and their families have told us they need as they transition from military to civilian life” (Ibid).

Even the officially non-partisan chief of the Canadian Forces, General Rick Hillier touted the NVC as “Canada’s promise to invest in (veterans) futures” (Ibid). However it was the Minister of Veterans Affairs who was closest to the results in declaring the piece of legislation a transformation.

The government was presenting the NVC as an improvement to the antiquated Pension Act, however, the major changes represented a significant decrease in the amount of financial assistance available to injured veterans at a time when hundreds of soldiers were returning home afflicted with either or both physical injuries and Occupational Stress Injuries (OSI) (Aiken & Buithenhuis, 2011). In response, Michael Blais, CD, founded the Canadian Veterans Advocacy and organized an Annual Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest, attracting thousands of angry veterans to federal riding offices and to Parliament Hill in 2010 (Canadian Veterans Advocacy, 2012). The chief complaint regarding the new legislation was the decision to remove the Life-time Disability Pension mandated by the now-defunct Pension Act and replace it with a Lump Sum Disability Award. The common argument advocating for this change is that lump sum awards provide substantial and immediate support to the veteran. The trouble is the lump sum payment does not provide the guaranteed income security needed for veterans to re-establish themselves without financial strain. If the veteran is well-versed in investment banking and has access to the best advice possible, perhaps this option would be viable, however this scenario is highly unlikely considering the social circumstances of the modern veteran.

In response, the government introduced the Enhanced New Veteran’s Charter Act, addressing some of the issues raised by concerned veterans and modifying the Lump Sum Disability Award. Rather than reverting to monthly pensions as demanded by Canadian Veterans Advocacy and many individual veterans, the government opted to change payment options for the Award to include a monthly instalment option, with the reasoning that veterans had difficulty managing a large sum of money (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2010). Still, the total amount awarded to the recipient would mirror the amount of the lump sum, giving very little incentive to prolong the pay out. In fact, the Government of Canada was scaling back the fiscal benefits to injured veterans, describing the changes as ‘enhancements’ and ‘improvements,’ purporting to be addressing the concerns regarding the NVC while only making token changes to the Act in order to give the impression of understanding and to placate the affected veterans. Additional cuts to the Veteran’s Affairs budget were announced in the 2012 Federal Budget while the government maintains its unbridled “support” for those who fought for Canada. While these changes are presented by the government as a means to speed up the process by making large cuts to the “rampant bureaucracy” within the Department of Veterans Affairs, indeed having less direct support for veterans by closing District Offices and slashing staff would tend to provoke the opposite result (The Canadian Press , 2012). Yvan Thauvette, president of the Union for Veterans Affairs Employees has countered “People are overwhelmed in a lot of district offices. Service delivery, they want to cut positions and most of those positions are frontline staff people. Do you believe that the service will be the same? No it won’t” (CBC News , 2012). The EQUITAS Society, a Veterans Advocacy group currently engaged in a class-action lawsuit against the government in response to the Enhanced New Veterans Charter has identified the services currently available to veterans as “woefully inadequate” (Equitas Society, 2012). Can cutting resources and funding while lowering the financial support to Canadian Forces veterans truly be an enhancement to the services available to them? How can recent changes represent both a reduction and an improvement to these services?

In May 2012, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs released its latest report, piously titled Improving Services to Improve Quality of Life for Veterans and Their Families. The Report contains seventeen (17) recommendations, most of which contain weak language including “assess the potential benefits… examine… maintaining current practices…  review… continue to work,” and so on (Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, 41st Parliament, 2012). In the Supplementary Opinion of the Official Opposition, New Democratic Party of Canada members of the committee expressed “very serious concerns with its content” (Ibid, p. 71).  Not surprisingly, the NDP, in chorus with the Union for Veterans Affairs Employees, stated,

“New Democrats are very concerned that the cuts to staff (approximately 804 VAC staff), the elimination of nine regional offices across the country, and proposals for private sector/alternate service… will seriously impact the quality of service to veterans and their families. The Official Opposition does not believe that the Department of Veterans Affairs can maintain the same standard of care or programs and services with fewer staff and resources” (Ibid)

In its Minority Report, the Liberal Party of Canada was scathing in its criticism of the process of the committee and the content of its Report. The Party’s only sitting member of the Committee, Sean Casey (MP Charlottown) pointed out that many of the recommendations lacked substantial or sufficient action, opting only for “further study” (Ibid, p. 75). Casey states,

“The Liberal Party is disappointed with the calibre and generality of this Report. Such an extensive study provided an opportunity for the Committee to make impactful recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The recommendations however, as well as the report in general, display that the majority of the Committee is far more interested in congratulating the government, than in providing advice and constructive criticism to improve services to the veterans of Canada” (Ibid)

With such vehement criticism from stakeholders, employee representatives and committee members, how does the government continue to mask deep cuts as improvements?

Research in this policy area is incredibly important. Reducing Veterans benefits is shirking Canada’s responsibility to care for those who signed a contract of unlimited liability and have incurred injuries while conducting combat operations in defence of the Crown. At a time when the Government of Canada has demanded so much of its Canadian Forces with the decade-long war in Afghanistan, humanitarian efforts in Haiti, increased military presence in the Arctic, security efforts for the Olympic Games, response to domestic emergencies including flooding in Manitoba, peacekeeping operations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, it is not fulfilling its responsibilities as outlined in the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

Chapter II

Theoretical Framework

The Pension Act (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/P-6/) and the New Veterans Charter  (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/information-canadian-forces/services-benefits) are social policies as they directly pertain to the welfare of a microcosm of Canadian society, namely former members of the Canadian Forces. The transition between the two policies has garnered considerable backlash from stakeholder groups including the Canadian Veterans Advocacy (http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/) and EQUITAS (http://www.equitassociety.ca), both representing memberships of affected veterans. This opposition is indicative that this transition has incited a social problem. Social problems consist of “the activities of groups making assertions of grievances and claims with respect to some putative conditions” (Spector & Kitsuse, 1977, p. 415). Contemporary veterans policy is based on claims making, just as protesting veterans are themselves in an act of making claims, which include

“demanding services, filling out forms, lodging complaint, filing lawsuits, calling press conferences, writing letters of protest, passing resolutions, publishing exposes, placing ads in newspapers, supporting or opposing some governmental practice or policy…” (Spector & Kitsuse, 1977, p. 79)

As a bureaucratic institution, the Department of Veterans Affairs keeps records, administers programs and services and engages with clients using forms, which are completed by department staff and those demanding services. If a client of Veterans Affairs has concerns, he may seek redress in a variety of forms, most if not all of which are mentioned by Spector & Kitsuse above. As this case pertains to a social policy that has provoked a social problem, approaching policy analysis from a social perspective is crucial to understanding both the implications of this policy, but also to understanding how this policy is presented as beneficial to society. Analysis using Political Economy and Social Constructionism theory achieves both of these objectives.

The Political Economy of Neoliberalism

Political Economy recognizes that “actual policies are often quite different than optimal policies, the latter defined as subject to technical and informational, but not political constraints” (Drazen, 2000, p. 7). In this sense, political constraints refer to limits incited by conflict of interest and the solutions available within these limits (Ibid).  Broadly, Political Economy is the study of how the allocation of scarce resources, guided by politics and power, informed by ideology, affects the range of choices available, which subsequently affect society. As conflict is inherent in Political Economy, the works of Marx have invariably influenced the paradigm.

Marxist political economy is underpinned by the assertion that “an economy driven by production for profit is systemically irrational” (McNally, 2011). Marx explains that through over-investment, capitalists undermine any possible profitability within the economy (Ibid). In the incessant and arbitrary ambition for profits, capitalists tend to produce far more than is demanded by the market leading to price wars while undercutting competition, which in turn cuts into or completely destroys the possibility for profitmaking, the supposed raison d’etre for the capitalist marketplace (Ibid). As the easiest way to produce profits is to exploit labourers, capitalists rely on large pools of surplus labour (the unemployed or underemployed) that must sell their labour at a reduced rate in desperation for a subsistence wage (Ibid). As labourers do not own the means of production, they are forced to sell their labour on the very same market in which capitalist society acquires virtually all goods and services required to survive. As goods and services are sold on the capitalist market in order to garner maximum profits, so too are labourers exploited in order to maximise profits. Therefore, if you cannot participate in the market by finding someone to buy your labour, you risk being unable to purchase the goods necessary for survival (Ibid).

In the contemporary period, the predominant political, economic and ideological framework is neoliberalism. Its policies are not only championed in the countries of the West, but are encouraged and exported by international organizations and treaties including the World Trade Organization, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, The International Monetary Fund, The European Union, The North American Free Trade Agreement and The Trans-Pacific Partnership. As the dominant ideological paradigm, neoliberalism has become hegemonic in its perceived incontrovertibility. David Harvey contends that

“neoliberalism is above all a project to restore class dominance to sectors that saw their fortunes threatened by the ascent of social democratic endeavours in the aftermath of the Second World War. Although neoliberalism has had limited effectiveness as an engine for economic growth, it has succeeded in channelling wealth from subordinate classes to dominant ones and from poorer to richer countries. This process has entailed the dismantling of institutions and narratives that promoted more egalitarian distributive measures in the preceding era” (Harvey, 2007)

Neoliberalism is underpinned by the theory that overall well-being is improved by the state limiting itself to providing strong institutional structures and protective services (police, armed forces) in order to preserve property rights, the integrity of money, individual freedoms, free markets and free trade (Ibid). Unregulated Free trade opens labour markets to the world, lowering high wages in developed countries and exploiting cheap labour in developing countries (Bhagwati, 1994). Neoliberalism concerns itself it creating a market in every area, including areas traditionally excluded from market activity and,

“if markets do not exist (in areas such as education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution), then they must be created, by state action if necessary. But beyond these tasks the state should not venture. State interventions in markets (once created) must be kept to a bare minimum because the state cannot possibly possess enough information to second-guess market signals (prices) and because powerful interests will inevitably distort and bias state interventions (particularly in democracies) for their own benefit” (Harvey, 2007)

Neoliberalism has also been defined as “a more virulent form of capitalism (…) with a growth pattern based on soaring inequality, rising global poverty, and increased human insecurity” (McNally, 2011). Elaborating upon this broader definition, and for the purposes of this paper, neoliberal policies have been defined as “clamping down on the growth of inflation and the growth of social entitlements; loading negative effects (…) onto vulnerable groups” (Connell, 2010).

Neoliberalism and Veteran’s Policies

Canadian Forces airmen and airwomen, soldiers and sailors swear an oath of service upon initiation and in doing so sign a contract of unlimited liability. The concept of unlimited liability refers to how “the professional soldier- and by definition sailor and airperson- is unlimited in his or her military responsibilities and, if necessary, must offer up his or her life in the achievement of the mission goal” (Bercuson, 2004). The Government of Canada, by engaging in the war in Afghanistan, invoked this pillar of service and, as would be expected in a violent counter-insurgency, casualties of all types were taken. The act of signing such a contract, giving up basic rights and entering into combat creates an entire vulnerable class of servicemen and women. Upon returning home, soldiers afflicted with horrific physical and/or psychological injuries become substantially vulnerable, more so when their injuries prevent them from preforming their regular duties. Prolonged injury leads to release from the Forces, all the while inhibiting the sale of their labour and preventing them from participating in the economy.

Reductions in Veteran’s social benefits from this point of view are about loosening the social safety net once available to veterans and replacing it with an incentive-based approach to healing. What this means will be made clearer in the next chapter, but the key point is that one purpose of the New Veterans Charter is replace state liability for the consequences of state action, with cash payments, the purpose of which is to terminate state liability. Arguably, the market approach has benefitted society as a whole.  However, private health care is another matter. Many authors have made the point that market based health care makes the enjoyment of good health a consumer commodity often inaccessible to many members of society. For this reason, it appears that Canadians are resistant to the reprivatisation of health care, even naming Tommy Douglas, the founder of public health care, as the greatest Canadian.  A recent US example may serve to illuminate the approach of the Veterans Charter.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times ran a story illustrating the troubles of Joyce, a 60-year-old diabetic who works for a church and does charity work in Africa (Stone D. J., 2012). Understandably, the church does not offer health insurance. As the free-market approach deals with incentives it is important to note that “insurers know that diabetics like Joyce are much more likely to become ill and generate expensive bills, and the free market incentivizes them to identify high-risk individuals and exclude them” (Ibid).  When the predominant ideology encourages the exclusion of groups most disadvantaged in society, this approach can only been seen as a further disenfranchisement of these groups. It is also counter-intuitive to incentivize healing, a process which takes a natural and often slow course.  At the same time, the purpose of the change is to reduce costs, which is consistent with the approach of neoliberalism. Ironically, what the government would not want to try with Medicare they are undertaking with the care of veterans.

By removing the term “benefit” and replacing it with “award,” the new Veterans Charter ensures that injured veterans are no longer considered entitled to appropriate medical care and support payments in case of physical or mental injury. Instead they are to receive “awards” contingent on the goodwill of the department.  Moreover, veterans are placed in a position where they may be expected to recover and resume economic activity before the Lump-sum Disability Award funds have depleted. That is, veterans unable to secure an income quickly and who have not been provided with income replacement will live on the Disability Award until they find gainful employment, or until the Disability Award has run out.

Whereas the traditional financial support provided to injured veterans in the Pension Act as described in Chapter 1 provided predictable, lifelong financial support as well as vocational retraining, the lump sum places responsibility for recovery in the hands of the individual, essentially making it possible for the government to abdicate from any obligation as an active partner in the treatment, rehabilitation and support of those who have served their country. This severely limits both the time and resources available to the injured veteran, further burdening an already vulnerable member of society, and by extension, the members of his or her family who will be obligated to provide the care and support which the government is no longer going to provide. These limitations create a hostile environment in which to recover and is neither conducive to the recovery which the program claims to promote nor the wellbeing of the veteran it purports to serve. Just as neoliberalism encourages more productivity with fewer resources, the NVC imposes unrealistic goals and truncated timeframes while providing substantially less financial support. The very principles upon which the Pension Act was based, enduring financial support coupled with vocational retaining with the goal of a meaningful return to self-sufficiency, are undermined or completely discarded with the passing of the New Veterans Charter into law.

The Social Construction of Neoliberalism

The Social Constructionist model deals with how political ideas and opinions are ‘constructed’ using the connotation of language and framing the discussion surrounding, and the individual positions within, a policy (Stone D. , Policy Paradox, 1997). The Social Constructionist model pays particular attention to how policy ideas are perceived by the public. It explains that the strength of support for such policies depends on how political actors use language and connotation to evoke desired responses and the framing of issues to change public perception. The use of language is important to consider as it has serious implications for how the public reacts to proposed policies.

Many linguistic tactics can be employed in the social construction of a policy area, the most common being framing and branding. Branding in the policy sense is the strategic use of language to define a topic, policy, situation, or actor in the public mind (Cosgrove, 2007). Branding relies heavily on influencing perception and manipulating public opinion. Effective campaigns can have lasting and decidedly substantial results. Framing is essentially narrowing the terms of debate or analysis of a particular policy. By focusing on a small, particular piece of a causal chain, political actors can determine what the ‘cause’ of a situation is and subsequently offer a list of alternative policies to remedy the problem (Stone D. , 1997). Framing simplifies issues, and focuses the public on the chosen issue, solution, and outcome. This undermines the rational decision-making process (Ibid). From this point of view, the New Veteran’s Charter (NVC) is socially constructed as a modernised solution to the complex needs of the newest generation of combat veterans. It is purported to be an “enhancement” when it is, in fact, a reduction. By coining the NVC as a “living document,” we are encouraged to overlook its many shortcomings with the qualification that it can be modified at a later date. By replacing “benefits” with “awards,” the government is facilitating a fundamental shift in the way we approach veterans benefits; these benefits are no longer entitlements, they are hand-outs given to those deemed deserving. By using the word award, the government suggests that the veteran is being honoured.

Social construction is not limited to policy, but extends to the target groups themselves. Schneider and Ingram, well regarded as the “foremost theorists of target groups” contend  “the social construction of target populations has a powerful influence on public officials and shapes both the policy agenda and the actual policy design” (Stone D. , 2005, p. ix; Schneider & Ingram, 1993, p. 334). The social construction of target populations as described by Schneider and Ingram

“refers to (1) the recognition of the shared characteristics that distinguish a target population as socially meaningful and (2) the attribution of specific, valence-oriented values, symbols, and images to the characteristics. Social constructions are stereotypes about particular groups of people that have been created by politics, culture, socialization, history, the media, literature, religion and the like” (Schneider & Ingram, 1993)

These stereotypes have been categorized by Schneider and Ingram and illustrated by a bivariate table which groups populations by level of power: weak or strong, and by types of constructions: positive or negative (Ibid). For example, groups considered having strong power and positive construction, labelled “advantaged,” include the elderly, business, scientists and veterans (Ibid). Populations with weak power and positive construction, labelled “dependents,” include children, mothers and the disabled (Ibid). Populations with strong power but negative construction, labelled “contenders,” include the rich, big unions, minorities (in certain circles), cultural elites and the moral majority (Ibid). Finally, populations with weak power and negative construction, labelled “deviants,” include criminals, drug addicts, communists, the unpatriotic and gangs (Schneider & Ingram, 1993).

Public officials implicitly use this framework to construct certain groups as “deserving” which has two effects on policies targeted to benefit these groups. First, the targeted group will respond favourably to the policy and second, other groups will respond positively to the policy as it is benefitting these “deserving” people (Ibid, p. 336). Despite the appearance of conclusiveness and endurance within these categories, Schneider and Ingram allow “dramatic events will often serve as catalysts for changes in social constructions” (Ibid, p. 343). This is precisely what has happened in the case of veterans. Military servicemen and women have been disproportionately drawn from the middle and lower classes in recent years (Lutz, 2008). It is little wonder that injured veterans have become categorized and treated as “dependents” within this framework and the shift from strong to weak power might be attributed to the shift in military demographics. When examining the qualities of dependent groups, parallels between the framework and the administration of the New Veterans Charter emerge. Policy tools for dependent groups as described by Schneider and Ingram illustrate this:

“Subsidies will be given, but eligibility requirements often involve labelling (sic) and stigmatizing recipients. (…) Outreach programs will be less common, and many programs will require clients to present themselves to the agency in order to receive benefits. Welfare programs even for persons perceived as deserving, such as college students, the disabled, or the unemployed, usually do not seek out eligible persons but rely on those who are eligible to make their case to the agency itself. Symbolic and hortatory tools will commonly be used for dependent groups even when the pervasiveness of the problem would suggest that more direct intervention is needed.  Groups in the dependent category will not usually be encouraged or given support to devise their own solutions to problems but will have to rely on agencies to help them” (Schneider & Ingram, 1993)

The stigmas that exist both within and outside the military regarding injuries, most notably the diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as the process for receiving benefits under the New Veterans Charter are well documented and will be discussed at length in the next chapters. The passive approach to program implementation described above has become the hallmark of the New Veterans Charter and has drawn significant criticism from media, stakeholder groups and veterans themselves. By employing the techniques of social construction of target groups, the justification for the policy tools engaged by the New Veterans Charter can be highlighted and used to illustrate why the approach to veterans pensions has changed since the Pension Act was enacted. Through employing this approach, this paper will emphasize how the veteran has been recast from “advantaged” to “dependent”, a change that has been mirrored in policy.

In synthesising these two frameworks, the all-important questions ‘how’ and ‘why’ can be answered regarding the thesis statement. The Social Constructionist model reveals how policies and target groups are framed and branded to receive public support and the Political Economy model reveals whom truly benefits, which are truly liable, and thus why a certain policy was used to deal with a problem, either real or contrived. In this particular case, it will be argued, that although veterans were completely entitled by convention to the benefits received under the Pension Act, receiving a wage without labour undermines the neoliberal and capitalist agenda as no labour is being performed and there is no incentive to return to employment and become self-supporting. . Provisions under the NVC are in place to incentivise short recovery times and a return to market activity with complete disregard for the actual mental or physical wellbeing of the veteran. Additionally, the government and society have recast veterans as “dependents,” and the social constructionist model informs how direct government intervention, however pervasive a case may be made, is discouraged in favour of a passive, individualistic approach. This synthesis of frameworks, coupled with the concept of neoliberalism provides for a congruent and comprehensive analysis of this policy shift.

It is my contention in this thesis that

1) The New Veterans Charter is an archetypal neoliberal policy representing a significant reduction in fiscal benefits allotted to injured veterans of the Canadian Forces. The Conservative government has made the claim the Charter is enhancing and improving services available.

2) In presenting the NVC, the government has employed techniques to shift injured veterans from their position as “deserving” to dependent and therefore to reduce the benefits available to them to provide an incentive to return to employment and terminate government liability

3) Not only has the government severely reduced the fiscal benefits received by clients of the Department of Veterans Affairs but it is also my contention that the benefits currently available are insufficient to provide support and assistance to veterans who are affected by their participation in the war.

4) Lastly, it is my contention that the Government of Canada, in providing insufficient veterans benefits, is in breach of the contract it signs on behalf of the Crown with each and every soldier entering the Forces and into armed combat.

 

Chapter III

Provisions under the Pension Act

The Pension Act was enacted in 1919 in order to care for ill and injured soldiers returning from World War I, their families and the families of the deceased. (Government of Canada, 2004). The Pension Act begins with a preamble explaining,

“the provisions of this Act shall be liberally construed and interpreted to the end that the recognized obligation of the people and Government of Canada to provide compensation to those members of the forces who have been disabled or have died as a result of military service, and to their dependants, may be fulfilled” (Government of Canada, 2003)

This language recognises the obligation of the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to provide for those who have sacrificed on their behalf and in making decisions regarding compensation, to interpret the provisions liberally in the spirit of the preamble. The Pension Act provided for a monthly, life-long, non-taxable Disability Pension to be paid to every applicant that has sustained an injury serving during a war or in a special duty area. In recognition of the financial burden of dependents, veterans provided for under the Pension Act received an additional proportion of the Disability Pension for a spouse or common-law partner and for each child the veteran cares for. Similar provisions were in place for spouses and children of soldiers killed while serving during a war or special duty area including contingencies for unforeseen circumstances.

On top of the base pension paid to disabled veterans, the Pension Act contained additional provisions including the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance and Attendance Allowance. The Exceptional Incapacity Allowance was paid to those who live with a condition that leaves them in a state that has reduced their ability to enjoy their lives or has shortened their lifespan. The legislation is worded very generally and makes reference to this generality as it pertains to the liberal interpretation in the preamble. The Attendance Allowance provided up to $11,196.96 (2003) for the hiring of a support worker in the case of complete incapacitation and just over five hundred dollars in extra money for wear and tear on clothing inherent with amputations.

Although no major vocational rehabilitation programs existed within the Pension Act, these services would have been redundant as the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (www.cfpsa.com/en/AboutUs/Sisipfs/Pages/default.aspx) provided for them and is available to every serving member of the Canadian Forces.  The Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) is administered by the Department of National Defence’s Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services and provides several financial services to Canadian Forces Members and veterans. SISIP’s programs include Life and Disability Insurance, Long-Tem Disability Programs, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Financial Planning, Counselling, and Education. While the Pension Act continues to be the relevant legislation for those injured prior to 2005, three years into the War in Afghanistan, the Government enacted the New Veterans Charter and the benefits as outlined by the Pension Act ceased to be applicable.

Provisions Under the New Veterans Charter

            First introduced in 2005, the New Veterans Charter sought to modernise veterans’ benefits. Whereas the Pension Act language was very general and called for a liberal reading, the New Veterans Charter or Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act includes no such clause and is very specific.  The NVC provides Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance, an Earnings Loss Benefit, the Canadian Forces Income Support Benefit, the Permanent Impairment Allowance, and the Disability Award.  The Government describes each as follows:

Rehabilitation Services and Vocational Assistance

“Three types of rehabilitation services are available: Medical, Psycho-social, Vocational:

The rehabilitation process begins as soon as you and your case manager meet – it is important for us to get to know you and your family and for you to get to know us. Next, your case manager will work with you in identifying your goals and challenges.

The resulting rehabilitation plan will outline services and benefits you will need, identify local service providers and provide time lines to guide you. You may receive help in many ways, depending on your needs. Here are a few examples:

Consultations with specialized medical practitioners

–          Medications or physiotherapy

–          Pain management

–          Psychiatric treatment

–          Counselling for you and your family by a psychologist or social worker

–          Addictions counselling

–          Occupational therapy

–          Career-related counselling and evaluation

–          Financial Support for training and related costs such as child care

–          Help to find a job

–          Help in returning to the workplace (for example, a gradual return-to-work program)” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2013)

Earnings Loss Benefit

“An income replacement program that ensures your income does not fall below 75% of your gross pre-release military salary. This benefit is taxable and is payable while you are taking part in the rehabilitation or vocational assistance program. The Earnings Loss Benefit will ensure that you have a total pre-tax income of at least $40,000 per year (with the exception of some reservists)” (Ibid)

Canadian Forces Income Support Benefit

“A tax-free payment payable if you have completed the Rehabilitation Program and you are able to work but have not been able to find a job or have a low-paying job. Application forms can be obtained from your case manager”(Ibid)

Permanent Impairment Allowance

“A monthly taxable allowance payable if you suffer from lost job opportunities because you are permanently and severely impaired” (Ibid)

Disability Award

“The Disability Award is designed to provide you with an immediate financial support if you have been injured while serving our country. In addition, you may also qualify for additional allowances. Benefits for your survivors are also available.” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2012)

Substantial cuts made to the vital services severely injured veterans need

When comparing the provisions for injured veterans under the Pension Act (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/P-6/) to those in the New Veterans Charter (NVC), it is apparent that a significant decrease to the benefits available to Canadian Forces veterans is mandated by the NVC.

Take, for example, the care of a severely disabled veteran. He or she is without a doubt an incredible encumbrance in every fashion. There are likely to be significant mental, physical, emotional and most especially, financial stresses. The New Veterans Charter completely removes the Attendant Care Allowance, crucial to the support of the most seriously disabled, forcing veterans to pay themselves for this costly but vital provision, despite the fact that their injuries are service-related (Ibid). This financial burden might not be as difficult to bear, if it weren’t for further cuts directly affecting those with dependents. The Pension Act also provided financial support to children and spouses who often become the primary caregivers and are certain now to fill this role with the cut of the Attendant Care Allowance. Compounding this burden, the New Veterans Charter completely removes all compensations for dependents (Ibid, p.29, 40). Furthermore, whereas the Pension Act delivered tax-free assistance to injured veterans for life, the NVC truncates the benefit programme, ending all services at age 65, when veterans become eligible for CPP or QPP (Ibid p.47). These cuts to services disproportionately affect those with more serious injuries. Medical training has so improved since the World Wars that many severely injured and disabled soldiers who would have previously died have survived and are in need of serious attention, though this may not have been easily anticipated (Wiss, 2013).

By far, the largest cuts have been made to those most seriously disabled. The Attendance Allowance was a substantial financial benefit, and its absence in new legislation comes as a detriment to those who desperately need it.  Those moderately disabled are not as severely affected, as they would not have been eligible for these allowances, nor would they be required. For this group of injured veterans, it is the replacement of the Disability Pension with the Disability Award that has had the biggest impact. The implications of this change are discussed later in this chapter.

Stakeholder Reaction

Substantial criticisms have arisen from stakeholder groups, as illustrated by the 2010 Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs (the Committee), released four years after the institution of the NVC and entitled A Timely Tune-up for the Living New Veterans Charter. It is a shame that this “tune-up” did not do more to expose the inadequacies of NVC.  Instead its purpose appears to be to demonstrate the government’s willingness to make meaningful changes to the document.

In June 2010, just as Parliament was rising for summer break, the Committee presented its end of session report to the House of Commons. The Report reiterated the Committee’s “tireless support for any measure that can improve the well-being of those individuals who chose to defend our values of freedom by risking their physical integrity and their lives” (Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, 2010). Though this language will be discussed while analysing the social construction of Canadian Forces veterans, it is important to mention the tone and sincerity with which the Committee conducted its inquiries and made its 18 recommendations. It is just as important to note the assumptions used to limit the scope of policy alternatives.

The Committee report cites the testimony of Brian Ferguson, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy Programs and Partnerships, Department of Veterans Affairs informing them that the Pension Act’s disability pensions “were awarded for amounts insufficient to provide an adequate income,” and that the Act was “constructed to provide compensation for pain and suffering received in service to Canada and not as income replacement” (Ibid). Furthermore he asserts that VAC “could not offer an income stream into the future” and under the Pension Act, “no rehabilitation was available” (Ibid). These statements are used in support of the rationale guiding what the government has presented as enhancements provided by the New Veterans Charter. Unfortunately his assertions are patently false, as explained by the Committee in the paragraph immediately beneath his testimony. The Committee asserts,

“under the Pension Act regime, it would have been possible to introduce measures to facilitate the transition to civilian life for military members released for medical reasons. A number of programs—generally modest in scope—were developed by the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada over the years” (Ibid)

Two years earlier, Mr Ferguson gave an interview to the Charlottetown Guardian newspaper lauding the lump sum Disability Award. (Prince Edward Island is home to Veterans Affairs Canada Headquarters). Ferguson proclaims that ”for the most seriously injured (the lump-sum Disability Award) is a much more substantial financial contribution” (Day, 2008). The Committee Report investigates this contentious portion of the NVC in some detail, and concludes that despite the contention that the Disability Award is not income replacement, it is insufficient without major reforms to income replacement programs within the NVC. This point is the focus of the three guiding questions of the Report itself and is discussed below.

The committee focused on the three major areas of the NVC: rehabilitation services, financial benefits and the lump-sum disability award. The Committee guided its investigation by the following three questions:

“Do the rehabilitation services offered under the NVC make it easier for veterans to transition harmoniously to civilian life than previously? (…) Do the financial benefits offered under the NVC guarantee veterans and their families more solid financial security than previously? (…) Does the lump-sum payment of a disability award enable veterans and their families to achieve greater acceptance of the pain and suffering associated with injury or death than previously?” (Ibid, p. 6)

Their answers were quite undeserving of praise. To the first, the government answered “a cautious ‘yes’” with the qualification that questions remained regarding how many veterans actually benefitted from the programs (Ibid). To the second, “a cautious ‘no’” as the government recognizes that though the least injured veterans might be better off, for veterans with complex, psychological disabilities “the NVC is a distinct step backwards in financial terms compared to what the Pension Act provided, particularly for young veterans” (Ibid). The Parliamentary Committee was stating what researchers at Queen’s University would reiterate one year later: that veterans’ benefits for the most injured and vulnerable veterans were wildly insufficient. Addressing the final guiding question, the Committee stated

“Very few of the witnesses heard supported this measure in its present form, particularly as a result of the risks associated with the lump sum payment of a large amount of money. Terms and conditions of payment spread over a period of time could quite easily mitigate the problem, but that will probably not be an adequate solution, unless significant changes are considered to the programs providing financial benefits for income replacement purposes” (Ibid)

The Government was made aware of the shortcomings of the New Veterans Charter long before the Committee presented its report. Criticism was long available to them in the form of newspaper editorials and letters and briefs especially from stakeholder groups to Ministers and Members of Parliament. However, for the first time Parliament had produced a substantial analysis of the NVC. Despite the seemingly critical and concerned nature of the language in the Committee’s Report on this issue and the guiding questions, the language used in several other passages suggests support for the NVC and the government.

            The Committee’s findings are entirely inconsistent with the remainder of the Report. Following forty-five pages of analysis and months of notably critical witness testimony, the Committee somehow concludes, “the vast majority of those affected have welcomed this reform very enthusiastically” (Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, 2010, p. 45). Notwithstanding the assertion that “very few of the witnesses heard supported this measure in its present form,” the Conclusion details what has occurred since the implementation of the NVC (Ibid, pp. 6, 45). “Our first observation is that the NVC is a significant improvement over the regime under the Pension Act,” the Report proclaims (Ibid). It touts the new rehabilitation measures available through the New Veteran’s Charter as a “significant improvement over the old regime since measures are now in place to provide veterans all the assistance they may need in the event of an injury” (Ibid). Though additional rehabilitation measures have been added to the provisions available to injured veterans, rather than providing tax-free income replacement to ensure their financial security, these new measures are designed to return the injured veteran to the labour force as expediently as possible and to terminate the government’s financial commitment just as quickly.

Among the stakeholder groups who testified before the Committee are Canadian Veterans Advocacy (http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com) and EQUITAS (http://equitassociety.ca/). Canadian Veterans Advocacy’s mission statement includes “abolish the Lump Sum Disability Award and restore the Lifetime Pension” as well as “Push for substantive changes and improvements to the New Veterans Charter” (Canadian Veterans Advocacy, 2012). They assert,

“Of primary importance was — and is — the restoration of the Social Contract and Sacred Trust between soldiers and the Nation they serve. The government abandoned its soldiers and this social contract in 2006 when it passed the New Veterans Charter which replaced the Life-time Disability Pension with an inadequate Lump Sum Disability Award” (Ibid)

EQUITAS’ mission statement proclaims,

“with the introduction of the New Veterans Charter in 2006, all Canadian soldiers who now make an application for disability benefits are awarded primarily a one-time payment with some disabled soldiers receiving various income guarantee funding.  The total of all their benefits under the New Veterans Charter is significantly less than those benefits provided by the previous Veteran Affairs Canada Pension Act, or other compensation programs throughout Canada or by the Courts for one-time lump sum disability payments (e.g.: car accident). (…) Although Canadians were told that the New Veterans Charter was brought in to improve benefits for disabled soldiers, it has become clear that this Act is a financial hardship for many disabled soldiers. This is a situation that needs to be fixed.  As the result of the New Veterans Charter, many disabled soldiers are in dire circumstances and their stories are heart wrenching” (Equitas Society, 2012)

Though cited frequently within testimony, and often present at hearings, neither group was invited to testify before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

 

The NVC: an expedient return to work

While the Pension Act focussed on long-term financial security of injured veterans in the form of a tax-free monthly allowance, the New Veterans Charter has replaced this provision with a one-time, lump-sum disability award. Veterans Affairs notes that the disability award’s “sole intent is to recognize and compensate for the non-economic impact (pain and suffering) of an injury or illness, and provide immediate financial help,” and that it has other programs for long-term support (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2012). These other programs have been put in place to “help to compensate for the economic impact of an injury or illness,” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2012) but many veterans are ineligible for these provisions and, with no other source of income, they are left using the Disability Award as their income until it runs out. (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2012).  Currently, without admittance to a rehabilitation program, there are no measures to deal with veterans who have spent their Disability Award and haven’t any personal savings to rely upon.

Under the Veterans Charter, there are three benefits and allowances that a veteran may be granted upon approval: 1) the Earnings Loss Benefit, 2) The Permanent Impairment Allowance and 3) Canadian Forces Income Support. The criteria for receiving any of these provisions are incredibly narrow.

  1. Earnings Loss Benefit

In order to receive the Earnings Loss Benefit, you must first qualify to be admitted to the rehabilitation and vocational assistance program. Although Veterans Affairs states that you do not need to qualify for a Disability Award in order to qualify for the rehabilitation or vocational assistance programs, in order to qualify for the rehabilitation programs, one must have been medically released from the Canadian Forces or have a service-related injury preventing one from returning to work (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2013). Prerequisites for rehabilitation and/or vocational assistance are arguably redundant considering that a service-related injury that prevents one from working would likely result in a medical release. And, those being medically released likely have a service-related injury. If one has been medically released for a service-related injury, one would have likely have been approved for a Disability Award.

The Earnings Loss benefit provides a mere seventy-five per cent of the injured veteran’s previous salary, and is taxable. Therefore, a top-paid corporal who would have enjoyed a salary in the high sixty thousand dollar range is eligible to receive a maximum taxable benefit of approximately forty thousand dollars, if deemed eligible for the Earnings Loss Benefit (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2013; Canada Revenue Agency, 2013; National Defence, 2013; http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dgcb-dgras/ps/pay-sol/pr-sol/rfncmr-mrfr-eng.asp)

Consider for a moment if the veteran cannot properly care for him/her self due to illness and requires the support of a spouse. In this case, the household income lost would far exceed the immediate twenty-five per cent drop due to matters beyond the veteran’s control, as the spouse of the injured veteran may need to accommodate him/her, resulting in lower labour-force participation and a further loss in income. This creates a problem that did not exist prior to the enactment of the NVC, as the Pension Act provided a steady and reliable income for injured veterans and provisions were not deducted from additional income earned by the veteran. Spousal income is not deducted from the Earnings Loss benefit, therefore, if the spouse of an injured veteran must reduce labour-force participation and, by extension, their income, in order to care for the veteran, their aggregate household income drops as well. Regardless of what the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs might say, in this case, the Pension Act is far superior to the New Veterans Charter as the NVC represents a palpable drop in the income support available to veterans, by its restriction of eligibility, and in the reduction in the amounts paid to the veteran on a monthly basis.

Additionally, the Earnings Loss Benefit is a temporary measure as it is only available to those concurrently undergoing a rehabilitation program and expires at age sixty-five, whereas the Pension Act provision was for life. The EQUITAS Society notes that the Earnings Loss benefit is typically paid out for a mere two to four years, a far cry from what was available under the Pension Act (Equitas Society, 2012, p. 20). Furthermore, as of 2010, less than eight per cent of those who had received a Disability Award were eligible for or had completed a rehabilitation program through Veterans Affairs (Ibid). This means that only a very small percentage of injured veterans are receiving this kind of income support. Without this provision and, by extension, without any stable income, the Disability Award becomes the solitary piece of financial aid available to the veteran, which means that, despite Veterans Affairs assertion that its “sole intent is to recognize and compensate for the non-economic impact (pain and suffering) of an injury or illness,” the Disability Award becomes, in effect, the compensation for the economic impact of pain and suffering either way (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2012).

  1. Permanent Impairment Allowance

The second income-replacement measure provided by the NVC is the Permanent Impairment Allowance. The eligibility criteria for this provision are far narrower than the Earnings Loss benefit, and despite its name, it does not last very long; the soldier’s impairment may be permanent, but the financial support available to him/her is certainly not. In order to qualify for the Permanent Impairment Allowance, one must be deemed permanently and severely impaired, by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, must be on a Veterans Affairs-approved rehabilitation plan and have received a Disability Award (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2013). Therefore, once the rehabilitation program finishes, the veteran is no longer eligible to receive this entitlement. If less than eight per cent of injured veterans are enrolled in a rehabilitation program and are eligible for the Earnings Loss Benefit, even fewer could be considered permanently and severely disabled. This provision is available to a very tiny number of entitled veterans due to its severely restricted eligibility criteria. In fact, in the first three years of the new regime under the NVC, only three applicants had been awarded the Permanent Impairment Allowance and by 2011, that number had only risen to sixteen, despite continuing and overlapping tours to Afghanistan (Equitas Society, 2012, p. 21; Aiken & Buithenhuis, 2011).

  1. Canadian Forces Income Support Program

The last income-replacement measure available to injured veterans under the New Veterans Charter is the Canadian Forces Income Support Program. Of the three income-replacement measures contained within the NVC, the Canadian Forces Income Support Program is the only one that is tax-free. This provision has the narrowest of criteria; in order to be considered eligible, one must have successfully completed a rehabilitation program, have a household income insufficient to meet basic needs (it is unclear how this is defined, as no clear explanation or criteria are provided) and unable to find work (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2013). This is the program for those who have exhausted all other means of financial support and those who are no longer eligible for the other income-support programs because they have reached the age of sixty-five.

To add insult to injury, the maximum monthly allowance under the Canadian Forces Income Support Program is less than one thousand three hundred dollars a month for a single veteran and under two thousand dollars a month for a veteran with dependants (Equitas Society, 2012, p. 22). Any other income the veteran receives in addition to this allowance is deducted from the base amount, leaving many veterans earning a figure “always at a value below the poverty line” (Ibid). This amount is woefully inadequate to maintaining a decent standard of living, especially for elderly veterans completely unable to join the labour market by both a function of their injuries and of age. It is currently the only provision that will be available to Canada’s newest veterans unable to find work or elderly and only if they have completed the rehabilitation plan. At the time, the Veterans Ombudsman expressed his concerns regarding these benefits,

“The Office has challenged the Department’s decision to use a flawed model—that of the claw back of Service Income Security Insurance Plan long-term disability plan benefits, which is the subject of a class action suit before the Supreme Court of Canada—for the Earnings Loss Benefits package in the New Veterans Charter” (Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, 2009)

The Class action lawsuit mentioned, Dennis Manuge v. Her Majesty the Queen was ultimately successful, though the flawed model remains in use for the income-replacement measures under the NVC (CBC News, 2013). Before this decision, and from its inception, SISIP would deduct from its long-term disability benefits the amount of the Veterans Affairs monthly Disability Pension; leaving Pension Act veterans without the disability insurance they had paid into. Now, under the NVC, any income earned while receiving the Earnings Loss benefit is deducted, leaving the veteran with reduced incentive to work. This is contrary to the neoliberal principles underpinning this policy shift.

The Lump Sum: Replacing a pension despite its intention

            The most contentious issue in the discourse surrounding the New Veterans Charter is the Lump Sum Disability Award.  The Department of Veterans Affairs describes the Disability Award as “a one-time, tax-free cash award. It is paid in 5% increments, up to a maximum of 100%. The current maximum is $298,587.97” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2012). Under the previous Pension Act, veterans would receive a monthly support payment for life, depending on the assessed percentage of injury. Under the Lump Sum Disability provision injuries are ranked on a similar scale and veterans are paid out a percentage of the maximum amount. Though it may run contrary to the stated sole intent “to recognize and compensate for the non-economic impact (pain and suffering) of an injury or illness,” and because of the restrictions and conditions placed upon the income-replacement regime, “the majority (of injured veterans) are left to derive an annual income from (a combination of) the investment of their lump sum pay-out (sic) and their own reduced ability to work and earn income” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2012; Equitas Society, 2012, p. 28). In his passionate submission to the Standing Committee on National Defence in April 2013, Major Ray Wiss, a medical doctor, Canadian Forces Reservist, veteran of the war in Afghanistan and author of FOB Doc, describes the trials the lump sum payment thrusts upon injured veterans,

“rather than a pension, they are offered a lump-sum payment. This obliges the injured soldier, often a young person with little financial acumen and a fragile psyche, to make investment decisions that are at the mercy of the stock market. (…) The rules were changed while the game was still being played. CF members wounded in Afghanistan (…) before the VAC Charter came into effect are getting $5000 a month tax-free (or more) for life, as well as benefitting from a number of other assistance programs. The previous Charter clearly offered a level of financial security that was much more reliable and on going (…)” (Wiss, 2013)

Three years earlier, Sean Bruyea, in his submission to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, made strikingly similar remarks,

“Given that a lump sum is given to disabled people, I think it is a bit morally or ethically questionable that we give a lump sum to people in their time of greatest need and distress, and that’s usually at the time that they transition out of the military. It’s a very difficult time in most people’s lives. Even for the most level-headed people, it would be a far stretch for them to manage that money well” (Bruyea, 2010)

The Disability Award leaves all veterans who are ineligible for income-replacement programs vulnerable and at the mercy of both the financial and labour markets simultaneously. The Veterans Ombudsman has had considerable input from veterans on this matter,

“Many Veterans have objected to the decision of the lump sum disability award that replaces the disability pension. The Office has com- missioned an actuarial study to compare the previous Pension Act model with the lump sum model in the New Veterans Charter to estimate the financial, physical, psychological and social wellness of disabled Veterans over their lifetime” (Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, 2009)

Subsequent reforms to how the Disability Award is paid out to injured veterans have made it more difficult for the Government to claim that it does not replace the life-long pension provision under the Pension Act.

The Department has recently provided options as to how the Disability Award can be received by the injured veteran. Instead of obtaining the Award in one lump sum payment, the veteran may decide to receive a part or the entire Award in monthly instalments (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2013). This new option mimics pension payments, and despite intentions, will allow veterans to use the Award just as they would a monthly pension. The main difference is: these instalments eventually end, unlike a pension.

The monthly pay out option undermines the government’s assertion that the Disability Award is not meant to replace a monthly pension as, due to the narrow eligibility criteria for income-replacement programs, many veterans are left with no other choice but to use it in this manner. It would seem, in this case, that the Disability Award represents a disconnect between policy objectives and policy outcomes. Whereas the government says that the Disability Award was not meant to replace the life-long Disability Pension of the Pension Act, it has, in effect done so and at significant cost to the veteran.  The combination of the lump sum and the new income-replacement programs are insufficient to provide the financial security required.

* Figures from 2003 (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/P-6/page-2.html)

**Average Canadian life expectancy (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/health26-eng.htm)

*** Includes Attendance Allowance for Pension Act and all allowances available

+ Before tax salary using highest pay scale for NVC Earnings Loss calculation

The three cases above highlight the major financial discrepancy between the Pension Act and the New Veterans Charter. Though rank and age vary between each case, these examples demonstrate that the worse a veteran’s disability, the more disadvantaged he/she is when provided for by the New Veterans Charter. Although the difference is almost negligible for those with a low disability assessment, the gap between the fiscal benefits provided by both pieces of legislation widens considerably for moderately and severely injured veterans. If Major Wiss is correct in his assertion that far more severely injured soldiers survived injuries they may not have had in previous wars due to medical advances, the benefit gap affects these severely injured soldiers the most as they receive far less than they would have had they been injured a decade ago. Although injured veterans are eligible for standard disability benefits through the CPP (www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/publications/evaluations/income/2011/january.shtml), these benefits are less than $12,000 a year, much less than 75% of the veteran’s income provided on an interim basis by the Earnings Loss Benefit and insufficient to accommodate the complicated injuries of war. Those who have sacrificed the most are now bearing the brunt of the reduction.

Chapter IV

The New Veterans Charter as a Neoliberal Policy

The New Veterans Charter’s income-replacement measures provide for seventy-five per cent of the veteran’s post-release salary, which has been demonstrated to be insufficient to meet basic needs in some cases, and in all others represents a decrease in the standard of living of the veteran. Each of these programs provides less than what the veteran is used to making, or less than what is required to achieve a basic standard of living. All programs, from the rehabilitation program to the Canadian Forces Income Support Program situate themselves in relation to the labour market and emphasise a return of the veteran to the labour market. The rehabilitation and vocational assistance program’s eligibility is contingent on the veteran having a service-related injury and being unable to return to work. To receive any of the other financial benefits, one must first be eligible for these programs, the goal of which is a return to the labour market.

While the Pension Act provided compensation for life based on the injury sustained by the veteran, these new provisions have narrow eligibility criteria and are only available for a limited amount of time unless the veteran is demonstrably permanently physically disabled. These new income-replacement measures are tied to the return to the labour market and not the injury sustained; financial compensation has shifted from an injury or condition-centric approach to a market-centric approach. This shift is consistent with the principles of neoliberalism.

The rehabilitation and vocational services programmes available to veterans have been privatised and are not run by the Government of Canada, but have been outsourced to three private partners, the March of Dimes Canada, a non profit social agency, and two private and commercial consultant agencies, operating together under the moniker Can Vet VR Services (CanVet, 2009). This outsourcing to the private sector in the form of a public-private partnership (P3) is characteristic of neoliberal social policy as it involves less state and more market. (Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, 2005). As neoliberalism strives to privatize government, essentially bringing a wider range of human interaction into the market, P3s contribute through the private provision of welfare, an area traditionally served by the Keynesian welfare state (Ibid). Through the P3 with CanVet, Veterans Affairs Canada, and by extension the Government of Canada have privatized social welfare provision, creating a market for the rehabilitation of injured veterans so that they may, in turn become gainfully employed once again to serve the market as members of the labour force. The focus has moved from compensating the veteran for his injury to moving past the injury as expediently as possible and returning the veteran to market activity. Consistent with other neoliberal reforms, the financial compensation packages rely on an incentive structure, as market participants responding to incentives can create the desired market outcomes. The financial compensation packages, all of which are tied to participation in the rehabilitation and vocational program are time limited, providing a sense of urgency while all the while providing inadequate income in order to incentivise a quick recovery and a return to the labour force.

The Political Economy of the New Veterans Charter

In effect, the New Veterans Charter has removed the social safety net once enjoyed by veterans and has replaced it with a neoliberal rehabilitation system that addresses the needs of the market as opposed to the needs of the veteran. Neoliberalism seeks the marketization of human interaction and in this case, what is considered the successful rehabilitation of veterans is a return to the labour force. The Rehabilitation Program places the burden on the individual to heal and rehabilitate at a rate much faster than would have been expected under the Pension Act. With a life-long Disability Pension, veterans were free to heal at their own pace and to explore career options without fear of the impending loss of financial support. It is understood that “VAC found that many veterans served by the Pension Act were focusing on their disability rather than on rehabilitation due to the structure of the financial benefit” and that “the NVC attempted to rectify this by dividing financial benefits into compensation for pain and suffering, and compensation for earning loss due to disability,” this analysis misses the point. (Aiken & Buithenhuis, 2011, p. 4). The Pension Act provided long-term financial security to veterans in recognition of their service-related disability. It provided for a guaranteed standard of living for the rest of the veteran’s life. If the Government of Canada was concerned that veterans were not receiving the vocational training and the rehabilitation they required, they might have introduced enhanced measures to suit these goals. As Drazen notes: “actual policies are often quite different than optimal policies, the latter defined as subject to technical and informational, but not political constraints” (Drazen, 2000, p. 7).

In this case, the neoliberal hegemony as described by Harvey can be considered the political restraints in play during the complete overhaul of the veterans’ disability compensation package. The New Veterans Charter, as it remains today, may be the optimal policy within the greater neoliberal framework, however is it demonstrably not the optimal policy from the point of view of those it is meant to serve. On the broader question of who benefits from the change and who pays, it is obvious that it is both this hegemonic agenda that benefits, as it serves to perpetuate it and it is, undoubtedly, paid for by the veterans who are left with less financial security and forced to prematurely join the labour force in order to make up for this insecurity.

The Social Construction of Veterans

            As noted in Chapter 2, the social construction of the veteran has moved from “advantaged” or deserving under the Pension Act to “dependent” under the New Veterans Charter, as defined by Schneider and Ingram. Whereas the Pension Act provided the financial security for veterans to properly deal with their disabilities without interrupting their level of income and ability to care for themselves and their families, the NVC treats veterans as dependents in need of financial support but only for the duration of their rehabilitation program, which is designed to return the veteran to productive labour. This neoliberal emphasis on individual responsibility of the veteran removes Canada’s collective responsibility to care for the veteran, having risked life, limb and mental state and suffering a loss to one or more. Now constructed as “dependent,” veterans fall into the same category as welfare recipients and subject to the same unjust neoliberal rhetoric. This rhetoric, whether intentional or not, justifies the reduction in financial benefits as continued emphasis is placed on individual responsibility. This is fundamentally problematic in the case of veterans as, upon enlistment, a soldier enters into an unlimited liability contract with the Government of Canada. This protects the Government from civil action in the case of mental or physical injury to the soldier. Soldiers enter into this contract willingly as the expectation is that they will be properly cared for by the comprehensive benefit package they are entitled to in the case of injury. It would be unreasonable for one to enter into such contract if it were believed that the benefits the Government provides in these cases would be wildly insufficient as demonstrated of the New Veterans Charter. What is especially troublesome is that for the great number of still-serving soldiers who joined the Canadian Forces while the Pension Act dictated these benefits, as Ray Wiss so eloquently states, “The rules were changed while the game was still being played” (Wiss, 2013). Wiss continues,

“we asked (them) to work with ‘unlimited liability.’ But half way through the most intense combat mission we have been involved in since the Korean War, the Government of Canada Changed their liability toward them, y reducing the benefits to which the wounded were entitled” (Ibid)

If injured after the NVC came into effect, these soldiers who thought they were signing up to an organization that provided life-long support in case of injury were instead subject to the diminished programs of the NVC. Whereas they may have been viewed as entitled to the benefits under the Pension Act, they are now dependent on the provisions under the NVC and subject to its narrow eligibility requirements. The Government was able to sell this removal of benefits and neoliberal shift in policy by how it constructed the change. What can only be described as a reduction was labelled an enhancement.

The Social Construction of the Enhanced New Veterans Charter: Better than bad is still worse than good

With the original incarnation of the New Veterans Charter receiving high criticism, on November 17th, 2010 Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn gave a speech announcing the enactment of an Enhanced New Veterans Charter. He described the enhancements as “a series of improvements to the care and support of our Canadian Forces personnel, our Veterans and their families” because “we owe it to these brave men and women to ensure that they can count on Canada in the event they are injured in the line of duty.” (Government of Canada, 2010).  The Minister announced “the addition of an additional monthly payment of $1,000 — for life — to help our most seriously wounded veterans who are no longer able to work” (Ibid). He announced that enhancements would contribute to “improving access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance and the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance in order to include up to 3,500 more Veterans” (Ibid).  He announced that “improvements” had been made to the Disability Award,

“The legislation that we are tabling today ensures that our Veterans and Canadian Forces members have that choice. Those receiving a Disability Award will have the option to receive it either:

  • through annual payments over any number of years the recipient chooses;
  • as a partial lump sum and partial annual payments over any number of years the recipient chooses; or
  • as a single, lump-sum payment.
  • furthermore, at any time, the beneficiary can choose to be paid their outstanding balance as a lump-sum payment” (Government of Canada, 2010)

Minister Blackburn made sure to educate the crowd properly on the Disability Award,

“Once again, I would like to reiterate that, contrary to information that is often conveyed, the Disability Award is not intended as a replacement for the Disability Pension, or as an income replacement. The Disability Award is meant to compensate for pain and suffering. Under the New Veterans Charter, there are still monthly payments for life for those who need them” (Government of Canada, 2010)

The Minister uses the words addition, enhance and improve several times throughout his announcement; he socially constructs the NVC by branding the legislation an enhancement and labelling its measures improvements. By reiterating the assertion that the Disability award is not meant to replace the Disability Pension, he perpetuates the social construction of the injured veteran and legitimizes narrowed eligibility by constructing some veterans as more deserving of financial stability than others all the while leaving veterans to use the Disability Award in this manner as income-replacement measures remain insufficient. He asserts that these changes “meet veterans needs,” suggesting that they are sufficient to quell the criticism of individual veterans and stakeholder groups. Unfortunately for the Minister, they did not.

In their position paper on the New Veterans Charter, EQUITAS, a Vancouver-based non profit organization criticizes the way the NVC was portrayed by the Government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion, “they gave the impression that many NVC disability benefits were universal, and paralleled (…) traditional workers compensation program (…) and this advertising (is) ‘overselling’ at best and ‘disingenuous by intent’ at worst” (Equitas Society, 2012). These stakeholders were able to recognize that the social construction of the policy was dishonest and are attempting to expose this, however the government has far more resources at their disposal and can easily flood the discourse with its construction.

In October 2011, the newly appointed Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney gave another speech discussing the Enhanced New Veterans Charter. He asserts that his Government’s construction of the NVC has been successful, that “there is a growing recognition that this new approach is focused on wellness, and that it really is helping our injured and ill men and women to make the best recoveries possible, in the shortest time possible” (Government of Canada, 2011). The Government has socially constructed the veteran as a “dependent” and deserving of a new approach that facilitates recovery as fast as possible. This is consistent with neoliberal thought and is being socially constructed as enhancements and improvements to what was once available to veterans. This benefits the Government as it can been seen to be improving services to ill and injured veterans while simultaneously reducing the financial benefits available to them or reorganizing how the same amount of financial support is administered. This comes as a detriment to veterans as they receive less of the help they need, less frequently and less predictably.

Perhaps the Government truly believes that they are improving benefits. Perhaps their social construction of the New Veterans Charter is not malicious and cynical. Perhaps it is so committed to the neoliberal ideological framework that it considers the New Veterans Charter a real improvement to the Pension Act. The New Veterans Charter focuses on the individual responsibility to rehabilitate and re-join society, whereas the Pension Act focused on the collective responsibility of society to take care of those who have sacrificed life and limb on its behalf. The Government wants the emphasis on recovery and not on the injury itself. What seems to have been lost in the discussion are the veterans who are getting by with demonstrably less than they have ever had to before.

Chapter V

Conclusion

Neoliberalism’s ideological hegemony has been characterized by the retreat of the state in social policy, the reduction of social benefits, and the creation of markets in every aspect of human life. The New Veterans Charter has reduced state involvement in the administration of programs and benefits by shifting responsibility to the private sector; financial assistance has been demonstrably reduced by the implicit replacement of the Disability Pension with the Disability Award, and; the Government has fundamentally created a market for veterans assistance. This shift has left many veterans worse off than their colleagues wounded prior to 2004, some of which suffered injury during the same mission to Afghanistan. The Conservative government has constructed the policy change as an enhancement, better serving the men and women of the Canadian Forces and improving their lives through effective branding and labelling. The reduction of fiscal benefits available to veterans has negatively affected those of all ranks and ages, though the most seriously injured and sincerely in need are by far the most severely affected. When civilians sign up to be soldiers and engage in a contract of unlimited liability with the Crown, there is an expectation that, if injured in service to the country, veterans will be cared for sufficiently. Prior to the enactment of the New Veterans Charter, the Pension Act provided a predictable life-long, tax free Disability Pension and the government has replaced this, along with several other allowances, with a one-time, lump-sum Disability Award. This has proven wildly insufficient and constitutes a breach of the expectation that Crown and country will properly care for those injured in service to them; the expectation created by the promise Prime Minister Robert Borden made so long ago.

This research has revealed that:

1) The New Veterans Charter is an archetypal neoliberal policy representing a significant reduction in fiscal benefits allotted to injured veterans of the Canadian Forces. The Conservative government has made the claim the Charter is enhancing and improving services available.

The New Veterans Charter’s ‘improvements’ certainly do not improve the financial security of injured veterans as the government asserts. There are a number of ways to measure the drastic decrease as well as several areas and programmes within the historical legislation that have been curtailed or abolished completely. Aitken and Buitenhuis identify their “most obvious” observation as the

“Pension Act provides a significant financial advantage over the New Veterans Charter (NVC) for veterans with severe disabilities. The difference between the Pension Act and the NVC compensations is greatest for veterans who live longer, those who are married and have more children, those with a higher disability assessment, and those released at a lower rank. These groups are financially disadvantaged under the NVC compared to the Pension Act (Aiken & Buithenhuis, 2011, p. 47)

This is exemplified in the statistical comparison of the two pieces of legislation. The New Veterans Charter represents only 58-69% of the funding available to severely injured veterans under the Pension Act, depending on age and rank and assuming the member is married with two children, which is the average (74%) for clients served under the NVC (Ibid p.20, 24). These reductions are severely exacerbated when cuts to services and dependant supports further shift the burden from the government to the soldier and his family. This is confirmed by the notional cases in Chapter III, where the most severely injured veteran was most disadvantaged with the highest assessed injury and more dependents, though veterans of all variables were disadvantaged under the NVC.

These problems have been brought to the government’s attention by way of Ombudsman’s Reports, Parliamentary Committees, stakeholders and, most recently, the application for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of veterans receiving reduced benefits under the New Veterans Charter, however no meaningful change has been made, though government continues to laud the NVC as properly taking care of our veterans. Though the government uses rehabilitation and vocational assistance programs as examples of improvements to the services available to injured veterans, narrowed eligibility requirements have left many veterans unable to access what is offered. What is more, many of the ‘new’ programs are duplicate and therefore superfluous as National Defence’s SISIP program continues to offer similar and overlapping services. The NVC offers far less than its predecessor and what it does offer, wasn’t missing.

2) In presenting the NVC, the government has employed techniques to shift injured veterans from their position as “deserving” to dependent and therefore to reduce the benefits available to them to provide an incentive to return to employment and terminate government liability

Whereas, traditionally, the Department of National Defence’s SISIP program provided vocational rehabilitation to injured veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs provided financial security through the life-long, tax-free Disability Pension, the NVC has mandated the Department of Veterans Affairs to assume SISIP’s previous role and the veteran’s return to the labour-force has become the primary goal of the programs provided for under the NVC. This, coupled with the demonstrably severe reduction in financial assistance has incentivised a speedy return to the labour force, as financial benefits are now finite. Furthermore, as many programs rely on self-identification of mental and physical wounds, the application process can be stigmatising and have reduced veterans from deserving beneficiaries to dependent clients. The NVC disability provision is now labelled an award rather than a pension, further exacerbating the effects of this shift by suggesting that, once received, the Disability Award provides what society and government have prescribed as deserved regardless of the fact that it may be insufficient to care for the veteran’s individual needs.

3) Not only has the government severely reduced the fiscal benefits received by clients of the Department of Veterans Affairs but it is also my contention that the benefits currently available are insufficient to provide support and assistance to veterans who are affected by their participation in the war.

Notwithstanding the fact that the NVC represents a severe reduction in the financial support offered to injured veterans, those who have sustained the greater injuries are exponentially worse off than their processors under the Pension Act. With the repeal of the Attendance Allowance, many veterans are left to rely on spousal or community support. This shift is consistent with the neoliberal retreat of the government from the provision of social policy and the downloading of responsibility for this provision on to the private and third sectors, the results of which can be financial devastating to families. Even if the veteran is accepted into the rehabilitation program and is receiving a 75% income support, without provisions for attendant care, spouses and families are left to fill the gap, reducing their labour force participation, forcing families into precarious employment and further negatively impacting total household income. The design of these programs has been described by stakeholders as forcing injured veterans to live at or below the poverty line.

4) Lastly, it is my contention that the Government of Canada, in providing insufficient veterans benefits, is in breach of the contract it signs on behalf of the Crown with each and every soldier entering the Forces and into armed combat.

Under the NVC, no longer can soldiers depend on the he bold proclamation of then-Prime Minister Robert Borden that,

“the maimed and the broken will be protected, the widow and the orphan will be helped and cherished. Duty and decency demand that those who are saving democracy shall not find democracy a house of privilege, or a school of poverty and hardship” (Veterans Affairs Canada – Canadian Forces Advisory Council, 2004)

Veteran’s benefits have been severely reduced the point of insufficiency, spousal and family support have been removed, placing veterans at a desk in the aptly described school of poverty and hardship. Veterans sacrifice life and limb with the expectation that they will be properly cared for by those they so diligently and selflessly serve. The NVC is a betrayal of this sacred trust that has existed since Canada first asked its sons and daughters to fight on behalf of freedom and democracy and against the tyranny of nationalism and the brutal ambition of the Triple Alliance.

Canada has made incredible contributions in the area of social justice and has in the past been considered a bastion of equity concerned with the wellbeing of its citizens and, indeed, of the world. We have recognised that sometimes the most undesirable acts are required of those serving in the armed forces and that these sacrifices come with a cost, but that this requirement is accompanied by a commitment to value the efforts of those called to service and to providing for those who have made this deep, personal sacrifice on behalf of all Canadians. Though our men and women of the Canadian Forces continue to make these sacrifices, the government has fallen short on its commitment to care for those injured in its service. Without meaningful changes to the provisions available to ill and injured veterans, this commitment will remain unfulfilled, to the detriment of those who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of all. It is time that Canada abandons the rhetoric and makes a meaningful sacrifice for those willing to sacrifice for us.

References

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Government of Canada. (2004, October). Volume 1 of the   Disability Pension Program Evaluation. Retrieved May 7, 2013, from   Veterans Affairs Canada:   http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/department/reports/deptaudrep/dp_evaluation

Harvey, D. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism.   Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

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National Defence. (2013, March 28). Regular Force and   Class C NCM Rates – 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from National Defence   and the Canadian Forces:   http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dgcb-dgras/ps/pay-sol/pr-sol/rfncmr-mrfr-eng.asp

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman. (2009). Annual Report   2008-2009. Government of Canada, Veterans Affairs. Ottawa: Government of   Canada.

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Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, 40th Parliament,   3rd Session. (2010). A TImely Tune-Up for the New Veterans Charter.   Parliament of Canada, House of Commons. Ottawa: Public Works and Government   Services Canada.

Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, 41st Parliament.   (2012). Improving Services to Improve Quality of Life for Veterans and   Their Families. House of Commons Canada, Parliament of Canada. Ottawa:   Public Works and Government Services Canada.

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Stone, D. J. (2012, March 30). On healthcare, not what   the doctor ordered: Free-market solutions won’t help many of the uninsured.   Retrieved July 23, 2012, from LA Times:   http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/30/opinion/la-oe-stone-free-market-healthcare–20120330

Stone, D. (1997). Policy Paradox. New York; London:   W.W. Norton.

The Canadian Press . (2012, March 6). Opposition motion to   halt cuts at Veterans Affairs defeated. Retrieved March 28, 2012, from   CBC News:   http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/03/06/veterans-board-benefits-privacy.html

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Veterans Affairs Canada – Canadian Forces Advisory Council.   (2004, March). The Origins and Evolution of Veterans Benefits in Canada,   1914-2004. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from Veterans Affairs Canada:   http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/forces/nvc/reference#a01

Veterans Affairs Canada. (2012, November 13). Disability   Award – The Facts. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from Veterans Affiars   Canada: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/department/facts-fait/lump-sum

Veterans Affairs Canada. (2010, November 17). Government   of Canada Introduces Legislation to Improve Financial Aid for Canadian Forces   Personnel and Veterans . Retrieved February 19, 2012, from Veterans   Affairs Canada: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/department/press/viewrelease/1042

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When will the Canadian Armed Forces become civilized?: Mallick

When will the Canadian Armed Forces become civilized?: Mallick

As decades pass, brutal treatment of women in Canada’s Armed Forces continues. It isn’t retro, it’s common.

 
Heather Mallick says she is skeptical that things will improve quickly for women in the Armed Forces, like Cpl. Lea Losier of The West Nova Scotia Regiment, seen participating in an urban combat scenario in 2013.

MCpl David McCord/DND / Toronto Star file photo

Heather Mallick says she is skeptical that things will improve quickly for women in the Armed Forces, like Cpl. Lea Losier of The West Nova Scotia Regiment, seen participating in an urban combat scenario in 2013.

The Canadian Armed Forces is a terrible place for women. No, scratch that, gay males would do well to stay away too. No, change that, most men should avoid the place. For the men I know and like wouldn’t want to work with men who treat women so badly.

But if you think of women — as well as LGBT people — as lesser humans to be demeaned, bullied, sexually harassed and assaulted, the Armed Forces is offering you a dream job. Sign up now.

What is to be done about Canada’s men in uniform?

A new report by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps says the Forces’ continuing “sexualized culture” has never been altered or remedied, and is thus condoned. “Zero tolerance” has become an absurd mantra.

The 88-page report, jargon free and devastating, was released Thursday in reaction to a shocking 2014 story in L’Actualité about military drunkenness, violent sexual assault and voyeurism.

But I am reading other stories, from 1998 and 2003, in Maclean’s about allegations of hideous sexual brutality against women in the military, including a 1988 gang rape. One includes this quote: “I used to recommend the Forces to people,” said one former air defence technician who alleges rape by another soldier. “Now I’m not so sure. I’m not so sure they are going to change.”

I was alerted on Twitter to these older stories by two female journalists, one of whom had co-written one of them.

Twitter is also a bad place for women. Twitter is as unsympathetic to female tweeters reporting death threats and degrading language as the Canadian army is to female soldiers being told by men, as reported by Deschamps, to “stop being pussies.”

“Girls that come to the army know what to expect,” Deschamps reported being told.

Nothing changed for female soldiers in 2003. Why should it change now?

Here’s another example, another piece of a bigger puzzle. On Thursday it was revealed that the new board of the TTC, which transports 1.8 million Toronto riders a day, would have 10 men and one woman. Nobody outside a civilized group on city council really noticed.

The Star’s transportation reporter, Tess Kalinowski, only got a worried response from the mayor after she wrote about it. Mayor John Tory (open John Tory’s policard) will now ask the deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong (open Denzil Minnan-Wong’s policard), the man in charge of civic appointments, to reconsider the nominations.

This is the way things are. Things haven’t changed. Women only entered politics or the Armed Forces in significant numbers a few decades ago (though they were always on streetcars). They’re there, but they still don’t rate.

Take Mad Men, a show on U.S. cable channel AMC, which is about to end. It was a hit because it was seen as excitingly retro, its popularity based on wardrobe: women in sheath dresses and men in hats.

Notice that women are again wearing sheath dresses and hipsters are wearing hats. Boards are still largely male. The Globe has just reported that cadet sexual assault allegations are rife at the Royal Military College of Canada. Women in the Armed Forces are treated so badly that they suffer, as do women in the notoriously female-hostile RCMP, from post-traumatic stress disorder.

We don’t hear about that. We hear about soldiers suffering battle fatigue. For many female soldiers, the battle is also at work.

There’s nothing ironic about Mad Men. It’s a show about now.

Back to the horror story that is the Canadian Armed Forces. Deschamps’ report made it clear that sexual assault and harassment aren’t being reported because women fear it would kill their careers and mark them out as “weak.” She said the only solution would be a reporting mechanism outside the chain of command.

Among her 10 recommendations, the idea of an external complaint process was the one the military most objected to.

After bad public reaction this week, the Forces told the Globe and Mail it would spend the summer studying how other countries like the U.S. have outsourced handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints, and follow that path. I am skeptical.

There are so many vile quotes to pick from in the new report, but it mentioned a commonplace saying: women join the Forces to “find a man, to leave a man, or to become a man.”

NDP MP Christine Moore, an Armed Forces veteran, says the diminishing of women was a constant of her military career. “If your husband is also military, usually you will get less harassed because they don’t want to get in trouble with someone they consider a buddy,” she told the Star’s Alex Boutilier.

In an effort to avoid being smug, I’ll say that civilian life is flawed as well. Women often treat each other badly in the workplace. And in journalism, a certain kind of man will find you more . . . plausible, shall we say, if you’re married and have children. That’s a military attitude.

In 2015, women are still drowning. They’re splashing in the water looking for a lifesaver: a military defender, a deputy mayor from this century, a female military chief who listens to an independent judge. At the moment, they lack all three.

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A VETERAN’S VOICE: Ste Anne PARKING PROBLEMS: PRIVILEGES VS. PAYMENTS

A VETERAN’S VOICE: Ste Anne PARKING PROBLEMS: PRIVILEGES  VS.  PAYMENTS

by Wolf William Solkin

“PARKING PROBLEMS: PRIVILEGES  VS.  PAYMENTS”

Ste. Anne’s  (Veterans) Hospital is about to be exposed to its own institutional version of PTSD, i.e., Post Transfer Snafu Discombobulation (with  abject apologies to those heroic men and women  who may be suffering from the very real and debilitating illness with those self-same initials). I. refer to the feared future in which,   while at present all parking privileges at Ste. Anne’s are fully free for all parties,  once the Transfer from Federal to Provincial jurisdiction is actually implemented (forecast: circa April 1, 2016), parking charges will then be levied on all and sundry, with the pointless exception of the Veterans themselves. [Although I wouldn’t put it past Quebec’s Health Minister, “Bully -Boy” Barrette, to wish he could concoct an imaginary parking fee schedule for wheelchairs and walkers, with a  surcharge for power chairs and scooters , to augment his arbitrary austerity measures].

I have had many a concerned question put to me by Vets at Ste. Anne’s  as to whether their visitors will be obliged to pay for parking, and I feel it is incumbent upon me to address, probe and protest that very  vital issue, while there is even the slightest chance of mitigating the destructive and inevitable fall-out of enforcing paid parking upon  the avalanche of variegated  visitors and employees  who daily  descend upon us in droves.  I can clearly but haplessly foresee a drastic drop in visitation by our Veterans’ families and friends, both in frequency and duration.  A present pattern of two to three visits per week could easily plummet to only once weekly or even less; once- a -week visits could go down to once -a-month or, if lucky, twice monthly; and customary stays of two to three hours or more, could be severely cut back to one measly  hour,  max !

Such abysmal assumptions/predictions on my part can be justified in face of the reality of restricted disposable income  available to considerable numbers of Ste, Anne’s Veterans’ families and friends.How many of them, do you honestly believe, will be able to afford to shell out an additional trying tariff of $30 up to $120 per week for fifty-two weeks per annum, every year  until death do them part ?…….Just DO THE MATH…!!

Now stop to think of the potentially devastating effects such a sharp and sudden curtailment of the life-line of  visitation would have upon the morale, behaviour and even mental and physical health of so many of Ste. Anne’s already emotionally frail and fragile Veterans; even unto those whose only cognitive connection is the sight of a familiar  face, or to sense the aura of their family’s boundless love……..such a prospect is too terrible and shameful to contemplate !

Does that sad and sorry scenario reconcile with  Veterans Affairs Canada’s proud public pronouncement that “VAC places the highest priority on ensuring that Veterans and their families are to have access to the support they need when they need it”…..WELL, DOES IT ?….NO WAY !!
Such an unthinkable outcome is totally unacceptable, and must be promptly prevented in the face of all “costs” !

And what of the thousand -plus faithful employees , without whose culture of devotion and dedication to its patients, Ste. Anne’s would be but another cold and impersonal institution, rather than the fine facility favouring its “family” of Veterans as exists today ? The staff is already more than disquieted and dispirited by the spectre of lower wages, higher insurance costs ,  heavier work loads and fewer work hours than heretofore, and the looming foregone free parking privileges makes for one more big bite into their (reduced) income.  That would be yet another negative nail driven deep Into their  coffin of concerns, replete with reasons enough for those remaining workers  to seek greener grass in more welcoming pastures , on the other side of benighted Barrette’s fence. Bear in mind that availability of adequate public transportation to Ste. Anne de Bellevue is just a joke, and most of the employees come from afar, by car, and would obviously prefer to work much closer to home, all else being equal.

I have been informed, “on the record”, by an official source with inherent integrity but subject to the routine regulatory restraints , that while specific details  of the  parking charges  are not to be cleared for public release until after both governments will have assented to and signed the final terms and conditions of the Transfer agreement, I can rest assured that “the Veterans and their families will be happy with the result”.  I must confess to my uncertainty of the definition of the word “happy” in this context as applicable to “families”:…does it mean gratis…or half-off …or somewhat reduced…or special monthly rates……OR WHAT ?
I am left to draw the inevitable inference that many or all of the many other parties involved, will, to the contrary, be far from “happy”, no matter the definition.

I have therefore to question, what will be the parking charges and/or concessions applied to the hundreds upon hundreds of Volunteers who  faithfully provide a plethora of pro bono services every day of every year;.will they be as quick to do so if they have to pay parking charges for the privilege of performing their benevolent acts ? …And what of the many members of  the Royal Canadian Legion branches who regularly sponsor Bingo nights and bring Care Packages to all our Vets?…and the Service Clubs whose adherents mount multiple   entertainments?…and the Canadian Armed Forces personnel who participate in ceremonial occasions and exhibitions?…and the  Corps of Cadets cadres who act as reverse rickshaw runners, pushing wheelchair – bound Vets  to the Auditorium for concerts and other events?…and those  special individuals who, of their own volition  on their own initiative, and at their own expense,   come ito Ste. Anne’s Hospital with their immensely popular pets to bring smiles to otherwise sorrowful, detached and lonely faces?…and the myriad precious little children  who arrive in their school buses with faithful regularity to deliver their delightful hand-made greeting cards (in bot official  languages) of “Thanks for your service” at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, VE-Day and Remembrance Day?  Yes indeed; what of “all of the above”?    Just how many of  those invaluable enhancements to the well-being of the Band of Brothers still surviving at Ste, Anne’s will  willingly continue to come here to give of their time and efforts;  and if some graciously do so, then how often and for how long will they  persist if subjected to a parking charge penalty as a perverse “reward” for every time they extend a helping hand to a hapless Veteran.?…..                I WOULDN’T BET ON IT !

So how to resolve this coming cause-and-effect crisis of such potentially cruel consequences? How to continue to derive such priceless benefits from so many excellent people without making them pay the price for their “bonnes actions” ?  The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, as bestirred by the voices YOU can raise, the emails and tweets YOU can send, the phone calls and/or letters with which YOU deluge the Honourable Minister (and his honourable Deputy Minister) of Veterans Affairs , in addition to your own Member of Parliament and your area’s Senator. So, to start off right, YOU yourself need to get off your glutes and put on your boots. Your  mission and your message should be short and not-so-sweet, to the effect that if they want to have the Ste. Anne’s Veterans continue to enjoy the benefits derived from the activities of all the  persons profiled above,then they must each get off what is commonly called  their respective  butts, and take collective / effective action NOW, vis a vis the final terms of the Transfer agreement, before it is signed and/or implemented, to ensure that Ste. Anne’s Hospital policy and practise of free parking for all be upheld and never upturned….out of the deepest  respect, regard and reciprocity for the sacrifice and service rendered to our home and native land by these few remaining remnants of our honourable and venerable Veterans.

“IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T  (try to) FIX IT”
and. lest we forget….

…………………      LEAVE  NO  VET  BEHIND !

P. S. On a more personal note….Prior to my regrettable yet inescapable resignation as Editor-in -Chief of “The Veterans’ Voice” newsletter for  the Veterans at Ste. Anne’s, I submitted the gist of this column as a proposed Editorial, in the hope of having some impact on the political’,powers-that-be, only to have it rejected on the purported grounds (among others) that it would create anxiety and inquietude among the residents.   If only “The Management” elements governing Ste. Anne’s Hospital were  not so disconnected and out-of- touch with the facts on the ground, they might recognize how much angst, anxiety and even anger already exist among so many of their puzzled patients , not only over the potential parking problem, but several other major matters.as well.The administration echelon might also realize that even if there are no immediate answers to the Vets’ questions or qualms,  just having their concerns aired on their behalf helps to lower their level of stress significantly. It is essential that one speak not only to the Veterans, but also speak for them, and in their best interests,  even if that requires putting some big burrs  under some substantial saddles.
Whatever the outcome of that approach, it strikes me as being much more preferable and potentially productive than that of having  Ste. Anne’s  senior staff just circle the wagons and hide their  collective heads in the sand,  hoping that the several storms swirling about them will go unnoticed until they disappear into the ubiquitous and infamous black holes of bureaucratic blindness.
The recently imposed Ste. Anne’s in-house “Guidelines”(proscribing confrontational content in its newsletter) would have instantaneously  called for refusal to publish this  diatribe of protestation as being too “controversial”,  and/or making “political representations”, and/or  posing questions that look for responses to “external sources”; all of which quoted phrases are prominent in Ste. Anne’s rigidly restrictive “Guidelines”.  Those very expressions of estrangement from the latter medium led to my  fortuitous association  with Canadian Veterans Advocacy in our common cause, which is to obtain for all Canadian  Veterans everywhere, not charity  or the odd square meal, but an enduring and equalizing  SQUARE DEAL !

w.w.s.

—–

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!

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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

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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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