Guest Editorial: Veterans’ benefits improvements overdue

Guest Editorial: Veterans’ benefits improvements overdue

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Guest+Editorial+Veterans+benefits+improvements+overdue/10998985/story.html
Guest Editorial: Veterans’ benefits improvements overdue

Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole speaks duiring a news conference at the Department of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa, Monday March 30, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

With a federal election just six months away, partisan motives no doubt factor in the Harper government’s charm offensive aimed at Canada’s veterans. It could hardly be otherwise, given the nature of the political process. But there’s good policy here, too.

More of those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces are receiving their due after years of suffering Ottawa’s ill-judged policies, reckless cost-cutting and caustic leadership, as typified by former veterans minister Julian Fantino.

Consider this a welcome about-face. What’s unfortunate is it took so long for officials to do the right thing despite pleas from veterans ombudsman Guy Parent, Canada’s auditor general, the Commons veterans committee and, of course, from veterans themselves.

A major step forward came this past week when Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole announced the planned hiring of more than 100 permanent case managers to help guide veterans through the tangled bureaucracy that serves their interests.

Various new reforms are of scant use if the people who need them can’t navigate the system to realize these benefits. That’s why good case management is so significant, providing one-on-one attention to veterans in need of help. About 100 additional workers are to be taken on to process disability claims.

New hiring is especially important in light of previous job cuts at Veterans Affairs. While the Harper government celebrates its recent moves on behalf of Canada’s former service people, the fact remains that, in many cases, it’s simply correcting its own mistakes.

A huge stumble was appointing Fantino, of all people, to the sensitive job of serving veterans.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first necessary reform in this area was to dump Fantino and replace him with O’Toole, a former Sea King helicopter navigator and a far more sympathetic figure. It was a smart move. And there have been other worthwhile reforms, including a retirement income security benefit, closing what O’Toole admitted was a major gap in existing programs. It affected hundreds of veterans who suffered incapacitating wounds but hadn’t served long enough to qualify for a military pension.

The new benefit helps them and their families ward off poverty with a monthly support payment starting at age 65.

Much depends on how this measure and others are implemented, especially who is deemed eligible and who is shut out.

Conservatives understandably hope all this will generate meaningful support on election day. Perhaps it will. But not if voters bear in mind who allowed so many veterans to suffer — and for so long — in the first place.

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Married to PTSD: Veterans’ Spouses Whose Home Lives Are Battlefields

Married to PTSD: Veterans’ Spouses Whose Home Lives Are Battlefields

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Jenifer Migneault comforts her husband veteran Claude Rainville after she tried to speak with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, after attending a Commons veterans committee in Ottawa, Thursday May 29, 2014. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

This piece originally appeared in Maisonneuve magazine.

Jenifer Migneault waited alone in a parking lot while teams of police searched for her missing husband. Claude Rainville had been gone for over an hour and Migneault had no idea who to call. Over the past 13 years, Rainville, a war veteran with the Canadian Armed Forces, had alienated most of their social circle and siblings with the same erratic behaviour that had caused him to go missing. Migneault’s only nearby relative was her 15-year-old son, working a shift at McDonald’s. She tried to suppress her panic in front of the police, but it kept spilling over into tears. Somebody pinch me. This nightmare has to end.

It was 5:30 p.m. Left on his own, Rainville began to change. He was no longer a man on a walk with his wife around a lake framed by flowers and trees.

He was a soldier back on the battlefield.

Rainville marched the bike trail through the forest. In the pitch black, he strayed from the path and slinked among the trees. The farmers in nearby houses were enemies out to attack him. His camera, memory card filled with nature shots, was a gun. He held it poised, ready to fire, and walked fast, occasionally breaking into sprints, just like he had been trained to do. His breathing was perfect. His back didn’t bother him at all. He travelled roughly 25 kilometres in six hours.

About halfway through his trip, Rainville snapped back to reality. He lay down on the cement under a highway overpass, looked up at the bridge, and thought about how easily he could end his life. The constant ringing in his ears from more than 5,000 hours spent on a military plane would stop. The pain he caused his family could be gone with one jump. But Rainville pictured his wife’s face, with her dimples and her infectious smile, and got back on his feet. Then he was lost again; returned to soldier-mode.

When Rainville didn’t meet her at the car, Migneault called the police, who arrived on the scene and peppered her with questions. Was her husband more likely to be in the woods or on the street? Did she last see him north or south of the parking lot? Migneault was terrible with directions but felt pressure to answer correctly. She worried she might be considered a suspect in his disappearance. Her voice became high-pitched and frenzied. One officer told her to get a grip. As it got darker, Migneault imagined worst-case scenarios: after a recent fight, she had found her husband in the bathtub holding a razor blade to his wrist. She prayed the police would find him alive.

Around midnight, Rainville showed up at the McDonald’s. The police called her right away. She pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot and noticed through the windshield that her husband was not himself. Despite the pressure on his back from six hours of non-stop activity, he stood tall between two policeman. For hours, she had worried Rainville was dead. Now, she found him alive and at war. She threw her arms around him and said “I’m so fucking happy to see you.” He gave her a limp pat on the back and said, distracted, “Hi, how are you?” He was looking above the heads of the policemen for enemies.

Once they arrived home, Rainville lay naked on his back in their bed. Migneault started to massage his exhausted legs. If they made love, she thought, surely her husband would reappear. But when they started having sex, Rainville treated her like a one-night stand. He didn’t kiss her. He didn’t pleasure her. After ten minutes, he came, then fell asleep. Migneault lay awake wondering how this stranger could share a body with the man she married. It would be roughly a week before Claude returned to himself.

For veterans’ spouses such as Migneault, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) turns domestic life into a battlefield. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 10 per cent of war zone veterans suffer from PTSD, the mental illness triggered when someone experiences terror. Behind those veterans are families struggling to help their loved ones cope.

PTSD is all-consuming. Spouses must sacrifice their independence to care for wounded veterans. These spouses often lose their jobs, their social lives and their sanity, yet are virtually ignored by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). There is a profound lack of government support to help them become adequate caregivers and remain financially stable, let alone balance their own personal desires with a veteran’s erratic behaviour. Many suffer in isolation, their lives swallowed whole by PTSD.


Claude Rainville (right) and his brother Bruno (left), during his 1997 UN mission in Haiti as a traffic technician. (Photo: La Voix de l’Est)
 

Rainville served for 20 years as a military traffic technician. He’s loaded and unloaded freight and troops from air-crafts in over seventy countries, including Kuwait, Rwanda and Syria. His last and longest stint with the Canadian Forces was seventeen months in Haiti in 1996 and 1997, on a United Nations mission. He remembers feeling “fucked up” by the end of it, tired of the relentless heat and the smell of rotting flesh.

Migneault met Rainville in 2001, three years after he had left the military. They married the following year; both brought two children from previous relationships into their new family. It wasn’t long before Migneault noticed her new husband’s behaviour was changing. When he closed his eyes, Rainville was crashing in his plane or running from gunshots. He imagined a recurring image, which came to him often: a Muslim woman tied up naked and the hands of torturers who peeled off her skin inch by inch. Other horrific visions were real memories, such as the morgue in Haiti, where dead babies were piled on top of one another on shelves, their feet dangling like dolls in some dystopian toy store. Migneault would often wake up to find her husband on their bedroom floor, gasping for air.

Rainville suffered from severe tinnitus in both ears, loud enough that if you played the frequency on a speaker, you could hear it through two walls; it was a constant reminder of the horrors he had witnessed. He was hyper-vigilant and preferred to stay inside with the blinds drawn. A loud noise would make him jump or run. He often lost his temper. To block out the flashbacks, Rainville drank. Addiction is a common symptom of PTSD, and he regularly closed himself in the bedroom with a few bottles of red wine

Chris Dupee had been isolating himself from his wife and children since he returned from Afghanistan in 2009, but when he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010, his wife Angel Dupee was oblivious to the implications. “I had never heard that phrase ever before he came home,” she says. “Nobody warned us there was a chance this could happen.” Chris was on a heavy dose of sleeping pills to calm his night terrors. She remembers a horrific morning in 2013, when she had a miscarriage the doctors had told her was coming. Chris was almost impossible to wake, asleep until she started to hemorrhage and he came, groggy, to her aid. “It seemed to me that he was numb to it,” she said. Afterwards, he never spoke of the incident. “It was as if it never happened.”

Chris Dupee and Rainville have many of the hallmarks of PTSD sufferers, which can include nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, panic attacks, sadness, anger, dissociation, isolation, emotional detachment, memory loss, chronic fatigue, marital problems, substance abuse and self-medication. Some leave combat behind while others are plagued with traumatic memories. The standard treatment for a soldier or veteran diagnosed with PTSD is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. If the disorder is left untreated long enough, it can become chronic and major depression can develop, Dr. Stéphane Guay, the director of the Trauma Study Centre at Montreal’s Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, said in a 2007 parliamentary session. “When [soldiers] are six to seven months in the field, they’ve learned to live a very rigid kind of life,” says Dr. Ron Warner, a psychologist who specializes in stress and trauma and worked as a contract psychologist at Canadian Forces Base Kingston in Ontario. Acclimating to the unpredictability of children, spouses and a civilian existence can be extremely challenging.

Warner often suggests that his patients bring their partners to therapy sessions, which is not mainstream practice. “When you have a veteran traumatized, you probably have a wife traumatized as well,” he says. Veterans’ spouses can suffer from secondary traumatic stress (STS), a condition where a caregiver shows PTSD-like symptoms. According to a study from the University of Rijeka in Croatia, almost 95 per cent of spouses living with PTSD-wracked veterans took on at least one of their symptoms. One-third of participants qualified as having STS.

Many spouses caring for veterans with PTSD reach a mental or physical breaking point, especially when they have no support network or life outside the home. “If someone is acutely suicidal … [or if] you can’t predict what mood somebody’s going to be in from one minute to another, I think the caregiver constantly can be found on guard wondering what’s going to happen next,” says Dr. Ruth Lanius, the director of the PTSD research unit at Western University in London, Ontario. Dr. Lanius always encourages her patients to lean on professional caregivers before family members. Without external support, she says juggling a career and caring for someone with severe PTSD is “impossible.”

Virginia Shaw is a 44-year-old from Pictou County, Nova Scotia. At night, the trauma of picking up body parts after the Swissair crash near Peggy’s Cove in 1998 would envelop her husband, Shane Porter. The veteran would set off the smoke detector so he could evacuate Shaw, her nine-year-old daughter and their two-year-old daughter onto the street. He was paranoid, and installed a $1,700 security system with cameras that captured every angle of the house. He stopped socializing and easily lost his temper. One night in 2011, Shaw noticed four of the pills Porter took to treat his PTSD floating in the toilet. When she confronted her husband in the kitchen, he picked up a hot pan with fried hamburger from the stove and threw it at her. He missed, but pieces of meat and grease splattered her legs and arms. “I felt like a prisoner of war in my own home,” she says. After 16 years of living with Porter’s PTSD, Shaw began to show symptoms of his trauma. “I felt suicidal.” She has recently been diagnosed with severe clinical depression, anxiety and social disorder.

Shaw, like Dupee and Migneault, had no idea what PTSD entailed. “We weren’t given any pamphlets or literature or anything,” she says. “I thought he had depression.” Porter’s PTSD paperwork was lost after his initial assessment and it was five years before a case manager checked up on the family. He only started to see a psychologist in 2011—twelve years after his diagnosis. But by that point, Porter was too far gone. He had already been charged and served 30days for possessing child pornography. In 2013, Porter assaulted Shaw and was put on a stay-away order. In July 2014, he hung himself.


Jenifer Migneault (right) and Marie-Andre Mallette, both spouses of military veterans, hold a news
conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday June 5, 2014. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)
 

Jenifer Migneault is 42.

She wears two gold chains around her neck, one with Rainville’s pendant of airforce wings, and faux-diamond-studded flowers on her manicured fingernails. Her mother is an alcoholic whose then-boyfriend sexually assaulted Migneault for seven years when she was growing up. At 16, she fled from her hometown of Hull to escape the abuse. In an interview for her first real job, the manager asked Migneault her current salary. She was unemployed, so she said $30,000. He offered her $32,000. She went on to work as an employment consultant and in social and rural development. When her dyslexic son was failing out of Grade 2, Migneault home-schooled him for a year so that he could re-join the public system in grade three.

When Migneault first met Rainville, neither of them knew he suffered from PTSD. He had been released from the military in perfect health. Migneault loved his stories about serving overseas. He loved that she would listen. So many people were unable to.

Migneault has come up with a name to describe her husband’s military alter ego, the man he becomes when he dissociates and feels like he’s back in a combat zone: Rambo. Rainville became Rambo anytime he felt attacked in arguments. He saw Migneault as an enemy and lost all sympathy for her feelings. When she cried, he felt numb, a useful skill on the battlefield but not so much in your living room.

It became easier for Migneault to end her social life than to constantly justify her husband’s erratic behaviour. She stopped calling friends. She didn’t go out at night. She did all the cooking and cleaning; it was a good day if her husband had the energy to wipe down a kitchen counter or change out of his pajamas. The couple played online games for fourteen hours a day, smoking cigarettes and the pot Rainville used to treat his tinnitus. He could still be incredibly sweet and passionate. They made love often and were indulgent, eating oysters in bed or binge-watching movies. In those moments, Migneault was reminded of the man she had fallen in love with. But it did not take much for that man to become Rambo.

In 2004, the couple’s four kids were all living under their new roof in Farnham, Quebec. Migneault and Rainville fought constantly. When Rainville became emotionally detached, Migneault took it personally. When the couple had screaming matches, Migneault would pack a suitcase. By 2007 her own mental health was so bad that she took a sick leave from her new job working for the province. In 2008, she quit.

Rainville, meanwhile, cycled through 15 jobs in less than 10 years. He collapsed four times from anxiety attacks and ended up in the hospital. But he had to work: since he was released in perfect health, his pension only left $12,000 each year after he paid child support for his two teenage children, who eventually moved out, unable to deal with their father’s erratic behaviour.

In desperation, Rainville tried to return to the military in 2006, but the Department of National Defence told him that he was ineligible. His military medical file showed that he had suffered from severe depression upon release—a fact nobody ever told him.

Rainville never thought to call Veterans Affairs Canada for help with mental health issues. In his mind, the department was only there for a “guy who lost a leg or an arm.” But Rainville’s brother, who is also a veteran, mentioned that VAC might cover treatment for his fractured spine and give him a better pension. Rainville called VAC’s general information line in 2007. Migneault opened the door just as her husband reached someone at the department. Rainville held the phone in his right hand and his forehead in his left. He cried into the receiver. “I need help, madame. You have to understand I need help.” Migneault closed the door to give him privacy. She had never seen Rambo look so desperate.

A case manager called Rainville back the next day. She sent him paperwork so he could apply to be assessed for his physical and mental health problems. Rainville was overwhelmed. Migneault filled out the stack of forms. In July, Rainville was finally diagnosed with PTSD.

Despite filling out all the applications for Rainville’s health problems—forms between 10 and 20 pages, which according to the auditor general, take on average four months to assemble—Migneault was never contacted by his case managers, the people who help Rainville navigate VAC, or his psychologist and psychiatrist. “All communications [between] spouses and family caregivers are through the veteran and that might be a mistake,” says Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent. “The fact [is] that sometimes [veterans with PTSD] are too proud [to declare] all the impacts the injury has on their daily life.” Even though VAC had set Rainville up with a psychologist and psychiatrist, he wasn’t improving. Rainville thought his psychologist was “part of the system [and] there to fuck me up.” He didn’t tell his therapist the truth, such as the fact that he was smoking pot to manage his tinnitus.


Veteran Ron Clarke joins fellow Veterans and PSAC members as they hold a news conference on Jan. 28, 2014. The group is asking
the government to reconsider its decision to close Veterans Affairs district offices in eight communities. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
 

Veterans Affairs Canada was a black eye on parliament. In January 2014, VAC announced that it would close eight regional offices in small towns and cities. When a group of veterans arranged a meeting with then-Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to protest the closures, he was 70 minutes late. VAC paid managers handsome bonuses while the department cut costs and shed jobs. A scathing report was released by the auditor general while Minister Fantino was in Italy to commemorate World War II. The report detailed how some veterans wait eight months to be approved for mental health benefits. Days before the report, the government announced it would spend $200 million on veterans’ mental health issues, but less than a week later, journalists reported that the money would be paid out over 50 years. (Not surprisingly, Minister Fantino was shuffled from the department in early January 2015.)

When veterans are abused by the system, they make national headlines. Spouses are invisible. “There’s a tendency to focus the public’s attention and political and institutional attention on the veterans themselves,” says Murray Brewster, a Canadian Press journalist who’s been covering the military since 1996. “But in the shadows and darkness behind is family that has to pick up the pieces.” VAC does not recognize that many family caregivers are unable to work and are not adequately compensated or supported by the government for their efforts. In March, it proposed a yearly benefit of $7,238 to provide them with “relief,” pocket change for someone who has quit work to care for a veteran. The department currently has no program to prepare them for the challenges of living with someone suffering from PTSD and it offers few benefits and services to help them manage tumultuous home lives. Guy Parent says that VAC was used to what he calls the old family model of one income-earning spouse and one caregiver. “The fact that a caregiver who’s a family member should not be compensated, that might have been okay 50 years ago, but that doesn’t work anymore,” he said in October. “I think it’s a failure to develop with the times.”

VAC insists it is adapting. “We are continuously looking at new ways in which we can provide the support that spouses now require, particularly when dealing with serious mental illnesses such as PTSD and other operational stress injuries,” says Anne-Marie Pellerin, the director of case management and support services for VAC. There is a 1-800 number spouses can call in case of emergencies and a link to a peer support group, Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS). Migneault says she left a message for OSISS, but nobody ever returned her call. In some cases, depending on the nature of the veteran’s benefits plan, spouses are eligible for counselling sessions or employment programs. But it was five years after Rainville’s diagnosis before anyone told Migneault she was entitled to see a psychologist.

Linda Magill is a veteran and a vet’s spouse who fought VAC for over a year when the department took away her husband’s personal care allowance without notice. The benefit gave her $3,000 to pay someone to stay with Eric when she travels for her work as an occupational health and safety consultant. Eric mostly has to stay in bed; in addition to PTSD, he has had over 200 knee and leg operations due to his reactive arthritis. In the end, the benefit was re-instated, but Magill’s battle was hard-fought. “VAC brought me to my knees,” says the 61-one-year-old who has a double major undergraduate degree in psychology and law and justice, a college certification in business administration and a certification in occupational health and safety. “Now what the heck is a young corporal’s wife who has never worked anywhere but 7-Eleven and Mac’s milk [supposed to do]? How is she going to write an eleven-page appeal like I did?”

Magill, Migneault and spouses like them may have fared better in the United States, where Veterans Affairs (VA) offers caregiver support coordinators, similar to case managers, who help navigate the system’s benefits. There is an entire section on the VA website dedicated to spouses that includes information about home care services and respite care. There is even an American non-profit called Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors that trains spouses to handle military grief. A 2009 internal report of the Canadian department pointed out that “family members are not entitled to direct support from VAC initially as a matter-of-right,” and called for that to change. Yet, five years later, the ombudsman’s 2014 report noted that nothing had.


Claude Rainville in Atlantic City, January 2014 (Photo: Jenifer Migneault)
 

Nothing much had changed for Rainville, either. On a trip to Atlantic City in January 2014, he stood on his hotel balcony, 22 floors up, and told Migneault that he wanted to jump. The couple was getting desperate. In March, Migneault spoke at a press conference on Parliament Hill, advocating for VAC to support care-giving spouses. The pair began to attend VAC committee meetings regularly.

In May, Migneault stood outside of a parliamentary meeting room in Ottawa, trying to process what she had just heard from Minister Fantino. Utter bullshit. Fantino had addressed the ten-person Veterans Affairs Committee and a room full of journalists, veterans and parliament staffers. The door was surrounded by a throng of camera-people and reporters. Fantino mumbled his way through an explanation of VAC’s decision to increase its advertising budget by $4 million. He talked about funding a study to determine the importance of service dogs to veterans. They can train dogs but they aren’t going to train wives? Bullshit.

Migneault waited beside the door for the minister to come through, her anger spiralling. Rainville stood beside her. As Fantino made his way through the exit, the narrow hallway was filled with a flurry of flashing lights and pushy hands wielding microphones. As Migneault watched the scene unfold, she thought of her father, who had recently died of lung cancer. He had taught his daughter to always fight for herself. The minister passed her. “Mr. Fantino, can I talk to you please, as a spouse?” Her voice was almost completely masked by the press scrum. Fantino became so flustered that he mistook a closet door for an exit. But Migneault wasn’t finished. In a kind of trance, she said to Rainville, “I have to talk to him. I have to talk to him. I have to talk to him.” Rainville put his hand on Migneault’s lower back and gave her a nudge. “Go.”


Fantino was now in the building’s foyer and Migneault could barely see his head over the swarm of journalists. She pushed her way through and started to yell. “Mr. Fantino, as a spouse, can I talk to you please?” He turned left into another hallway that led to an exit. She chased after him, her high heels clacking on the tile floors. This time, Migneault spoke even louder. “Mr. Fantino,” she repeated, her voice echoing in the big atrium. “I’m just a vet’s spouse.” He did not turn back. Nor did any of his staff members. The minister disappeared through a door.

Migneault paused. “You’re forgetting us, once more,” she said, while journalists bunched up behind her like a tangled slinky. Her mind raced. Would security stop her if she walked further? Screw it. This one’s for you, Dad. She started down the now-empty hallway.

“We’re nothing to you,” Migneault said. She slowed down and shouted, “We’re just what? Nothing?” She pivoted to face the gathered journalists and took big strides back towards her audience.


Jenifer Migneault walks towards reporters after chasing then-Minister of Veterans Affairs,
Julian Fantino, down a parliamentary hallway on May 29 (Photo: CBC)
 

“Nothing. This is what we are,” she said, enunciating clearly in her sharp French accent, as if taking vicious bites out of the air. “Nothing. Again.” She delivered one last knockout: “You’re going to hear from us. The spouses.”

A scrum formed around her. “What were you hoping to speak with the minister about?” asked a CTV reporter. “What about when you hear they are spending $4 million more on advertising?” asked Brewster. As she answered questions, Migneault worried about Rainville. Where was he? After six minutes she found him sitting on the landing of a staircase, crying. She rushed over.

“Take me out of here,” he said.

She held his arms and looked directly into his eyes. “Just breathe.”

The journalists had started to snap pictures. She led her husband to the upstairs cafeteria where they could drink coffee in peace. For the rest of the day, Migneault and Rainville didn’t think about the incident. They walked around a park in Hull and ate dinner with another veteran and his wife. When they drove home from Ottawa around 7 p.m., they still hadn’t checked the news.


Jenifer Migneault swarmed by reporters after chasing down Julian Fantino on May 29
(Photo: Jerry Kovacs/Canadian Veterans Advocacy)
 

At 9:30 the next morning, Migneault’s phone rang. A journalist from CTV wanted to interview her in their Montreal studio, a 45-minute drive from their house in Farnham. As Rainville drove, more media requests rolled in. After her fourth TV appearance that morning, Migneault decided she wanted to wear a new shirt for her next two spots. She took $20 from the $125 she had earned from CBC earlier that day, went to Simons department store and bought a new t-shirt with her own money. A first in seven years.

Migneault made her pitch over and over: train spouses as caregivers. Support us so we can support your heroes. There was a subtext to her plea: help me be my own person in addition to being a vet’s spouse.


Jenifer Migneault speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 4, 2014,
regarding the issues of caregivers helping veterans with PTSD. Her husband and veteran
Claude Rainville stands at her side. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
 

In the next month, she met with Justice Minister Peter MacKay, staff members from the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the entire NDP caucus to promote her cause. When she spoke, people listened—Migneault can make a recipe sound like a presidential address. She’s a verbal boxer whose words land fast and sharp. She hits you with repetition—bang! bang!—and then pauses for a few seconds before she delivers a KO. But her greatest strength is her honesty. When Migneault meets with politicians, she never prepares notes or briefs herself on policy. She is all story and heart. The day after she confronted Fantino, she told CBC Radio, “When my husband has dreams of being killed or killing someone, tell me how to wake him up. Because do you know how many times I was punched?”

Claude Rainville (left) and Jenifer Migneault (centre) meet Justice Minister Peter MacKay (right) on June 6, 2014 at a D-Day commemoration ceremony in Ottawa. (Photo: Jerry Kovacs/Canadian Veterans Advocacy)
 

In June, the Veterans Affairs Committee, a mix of 10 Conservative, Liberal and NDP members of parliament, recommended that spouses of veterans with PTSD should be able to access counselling without going through the veteran. They also suggested that spouses who act as primary caregivers should be compensated.

After hearing her speak in August at a roundtable in Ottawa, a veteran in the audience started to cry. While another panelist spoke, Migneault walked into the middle of the crowd and gave him a long hug. These were the moments she lived for. If she reached one person, she felt she had done her job.

As Migneault became more high-profile, other spouses contacted her. She assembled eleven of these women into a group called the Red Flaggers, to help advocate for caregivers in every province. Her organization spawned another round of media interviews. She made good on her promise to Fantino that he would hear from her again. When she finally sat down with the then-minister and his chief-of-staff in September 2014, Migneault introduced herself as the president and founder of the Red Flaggers.


Then-Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino (left) talks with Jenifer Migneault (right) at a Korean
War Commemoration event June 29. They had a proper meeting in September 2014
(Photo: Sylvain Chartrand/Canadian Veterans Advocacy)
 

In October 2014, Fantino announced intended changes to the New Veterans Charter, the document that specifies the department’s programs and benefits. The department promised “access to a suite of services, including a new program to train caregivers to cope with severely injured family members,” Brewster wrote in a Canadian Press story. The program, which will be available in spring 2015, is an online resource to help families and caregivers manage mental illnesses such as PTSD. At the end of November, the government announced a pilot project that gives certain veterans and their families access to a network of services that were previously only available to still-serving members, such as child care and counselling.

Since Fantino’s fractious meeting with veterans, the opposition had been calling for his dismissal. “Will the prime minister do the right thing—apologize himself and fire that incompetent?” asked Tom Mulcair in a January 2014 question period. After the auditor general’s report was released, the Liberal party created online ads with tag lines such as: “Veterans fought for us. They shouldn’t have to fight their own government.” In January 2015, Fantino was demoted to his former position as associate minister of National Defence. In the press, his encounter with Migneault was cited as one of the events that contributed to his downfall. In March, when the new Veterans Affairs Minister, Erin O’Toole, announced a proposed yearly family caregiver benefit of just over $7,000, the media referenced Migneault’s famous chase after Fantino. The day of both announcements, her schedule was full of interviews. Journalists wanted to know if she finally felt validated.


Jenifer Migneault speaks on a CBC Radio-Canada panel on October, 2014 about the war in Syria.
She appeared alongside high-profile guests such as Roméo Dallaire and Public Safety Minister
Steven Blaney. (Photo: Claude Rainville)
 

Migneault felt like the Fantino incident resuscitated a part of her personality that Rainville’s PTSD had smothered. For over a decade, Migneault’s entire schedule had revolved around his mental health. If Rainville’s mood changed, they cancelled their plans. If he panicked in public, they went home. If he woke up in the night, she did too.

Now, Migneault had a schedule of her own filled with appointments, phone calls and travel. She and Rainville spent most of the summer of 2014 travelling in Ontario and the Maritimes to network. They constantly shuffled between Ottawa and Quebec. Rainville would doze in the car while Migneault hustled in the House of Commons. The people she was meeting became more prominent: retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, Member of Parliament Marc Garneau, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau.

Thanks in part to Migneault, spouses would now have more support, but she had never benefitted from the resources she was fighting for. As a result, she hadn’t learned to balance her political goals with Rainville’s needs. A caregiver program would have given her the tools to manage PTSD and her career. She would have known how to predict and minimize triggers so they didn’t always fight. She could have explained his behaviour to family and friends instead of retreating from the world.

Rainville was supportive of Migneault’s advocacy, but he couldn’t keep up with their new schedule. He found the trips to Ottawa exhausting. Before the couple met Dallaire—one of her husband’s heroes—Rainville fell asleep in an underground parking lot with no reception. He arrived fifteen minutes late to meet the retired lieutenant-general.


Jenifer Migneault meets with retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire on August 14, 2014. (Photo: Claude Rainville)
 

As Migneault’s profile became more public, Rainville’s paranoia grew. He was convinced the government was watching them. He set up a Google alert for Migneault’s name and became angry if she didn’t tell him about every email she received or meeting she had booked. He refused to go outside. He would not grocery shop or run errands and constantly delayed tasks he had promised to do around the house. He spent hours gambling online—while she pitched to politicians, he prayed for the right poker cards. “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life sitting in front of a computer beside a husband,” she told him one night. Rainville replied that while she had a cause to focus on, he had nothing.

A month after the VAC committee meeting with Fantino, Rainville and Migneault started to say the “d” word. One night in late July 2014 they stayed at a vet’s spouse’s house in Trenton, Ontario, at the end of a networking trip. Migneault had heard rumours that she might be asked to run for the NDP. Rainville asked her to promise that if her career took off, she would stay faithful to him. Migneault responded that she didn’t know if she could balance a work schedule and their marriage. Their marital issues were a classic symptom of caregiver burnout.

Migneault started to leave him out of plans, because networking was easier without his unpredictable moods. She dreamed of raising $10,000 so she could buy an RV and travel around Canada to meet with more spouses, organizations and politicians, but she also felt a profound sense of guilt. On trips, Rainville, reminded of his limitations, would announce that he wouldn’t hold Migneault back anymore. They would cry and scream. Neither of them wanted to be apart, but neither of them thought Migneault could have a career and be a caregiver. There was no family support to fall back on—Rainville and his two children no longer speak in person. Though his 26-year-old son lives in the same town, he didn’t acknowledge his father when they last ran into each other. He last heard from his 28-year-old daughter, who lives 40 minutes away, when she sent him a birthday message on Facebook in June. She had a child in December 2013 whom Rainville isn’t sure he will ever meet.

During their talk of divorce, Migneault never knew whether Rainville or Rambo would show up. Rainville articulated all the regular feelings associated with potential heartbreak, but Rambo would cut through emotion with his decisiveness. Love was like any other battlefield, where tough choices were made with the head instead of the heart. Rainville wanted to work out their problems. Rambo wanted to sever their relationship and move on.

One morning in September 2014, Rambo decided he wanted a divorce. He had arrived at the same decision before, but this time, it felt final. He read and re-read a Facebook post Migneault wrote days earlier about how the Fantino event had changed her life. Rambo concluded he had no place in her new world. Full stop.

In the computer room, they fought and smoked for about an hour. Migneault did most of the talking. She wanted to try to save their marriage. She reminded her husband that they had their first couple’s therapy session scheduled for the following week. She begged him to show some will. But Rambo just looked at her with a sarcastic smile. Relationships couldn’t be fixed. “Once you have a broken leg it’s always broken,” he said. They didn’t speak for the rest of the day.

Around 7 p.m., Migneault made plans to meet one of her few friends, Chantal Paris, for a walk. She smoked a joint, put on an oversized hoodie and left the house. They met on a path that coils around the Yamaska River. As the lighted fountain on the water shot bursts of red, yellow and orange into the air, Migneault crumpled over Paris’ shoulder. For the first time all day, she let herself process what Rambo’s decision meant. “How can I continue the way that I’m doing right now?” she asked. “I have to find a job. How will I be able to work, Chantal?”

Paris said all the right things. She told Migneault it was for the best—that this cycle with Rainville and Rambo would never stop. She offered her a place to stay. Migneault said she would have to step down as president of the Red Flaggers so as not to seem like a hypocrite. How could she be an advocate for caregivers if she no longer was one? She would either be touted as an example of how the system fails spouses or condemned as a selfish, disloyal traitor. Paris told her to slow down.

By the end of their almost hour-long walk, Migneault had formulated a plan. She would move in with her mother in Hull. After crying so much, Migneault reached that delirious stage where she saw the silver lining to an awful situation. “I’ll become who I want to become,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. But those plans were unnecessary. The PTSD-fuelled cycle was coming full circle. When she returned home, Rainville had shed his invisible uniform. He calmly told his wife he didn’t want to throw away 13 years of marriage. He would try couple’s therapy. He would try to be less jealous. After all, they were a team. Migneault shrugged off Rambo’s words like a bad dream.

The next morning, around 9:30 a.m., Migneault listened while Rainville spoke to his case manager on the phone. More delays on a masking device that could help his tinnitus. More paperwork. More bullshit. She smoked a cigarette and tears welled up in her eyes. How much longer would her hero have to suffer? How much longer would their relationship have to suffer as a result?

When Migneault’s out in the world, she feels like a new person. When she sits across from politicians and stands behind podiums, she’s reminded of how far she’s come from years spent secluded in the computer room. But when she gets home, nothing has changed. The calls with VAC. Her husband’s pain. Their isolation. And she would soon lose another pillar of support: the Red Flaggers, uncomfortable with Migneault’s determined tactics and emotional message, disbanded in September 2014. Every day when she kicks off her shoes and puts down the grocery bags, she continues her 13-year-long battle with PTSD. In her domestic war zone, Migneault is not a winner. She’s just a vet’s spouse.

This piece originally appeared in Maisonneuve magazine.

UPDATE: Since this piece originally appeared in Maisonneuve, Veterans Affairs Canada announced a proposed family caregiver relief benefit of $7,238 a year.

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SISIP CLASS ACTION – Undeliverable Settlement Packages

SISIP CLASS ACTION – Undeliverable Settlement Packages

Dear Class Members,

Re: Dennis Manuge v. Her Majesty the Queen
HFX. No.: T-463-07
Undeliverable Settlement Packages

Since April 15, 2013, we have delivered settlement packages to over 8,000 class members. We have not been able to send a number of packages to some class members as we do not have their current contact information. If you have not received your settlement package to date,
please review the list below to see if your name is on it.

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/Board2/index.php?topic=15358.msg16532;topicseen#msg16532

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Mr Wolf Solkin, WWII Vet, had to resign as Editor at Ste Anne

CVA is looking for someone who can take over the publication of Mr Wolf Solkin, WWII Vet at Ste Anne Hospital, articles on the Information Repository and FaceBook.

Mr Wolf Solkin had to resign as Editor at Ste Anne “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.”

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

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/Board2/index.php?topic=15356.msg16529#msg16529

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VAC Responds: Critical Injury Benefit

VAC Responds: Critical Injury Benefit

Clarification to article by Murray Brewster and Terry Pedwell, Canadian Press, March 30, 2015.

Part 1

The article included a quote from Phil Ralph of Wounded Warriors, asking do we address the long term security of injured Veterans?

Response: The Critical Injury Benefit is intended to recognize the immediate consequences of the most severe injuries. Other benefits available to critically wounded Veterans include Earnings Loss up to the age of 65, the Retirement Income Security Benefit available after age 65 (if approved by Parliament), and the Permanent Impairment Allowance and its supplement.

Part 2

The article also included a quote from a Veterans’ advocate who dismissed the initiative, saying it appears aimed at the physically wounded, leaving those with psychological injuries out in the cold.

Response: The Critical Injury Benefit is available for both psychological and physical injuries to Veterans who, since April 2006, experienced a severe and traumatic injury or developed an acute disease caused by a sudden and single event which resulted in an immediate and severe impairment and interference in quality of life.

Clarification to segment on Canada AM, March 31, 2015.
(Video starts at 52:45)

Part 1

The host states, Veterans Ombudsman says there are 1,600 severely injured Vets. The Government, though, acknowledges somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 Veterans who will actually qualify for that money.

Response: It appears that the reporter is actually quoting the number of Veterans who were in receipt of the Permanent Impairment Allowance (1,647 as of March 21, 2014). This allowance is provided to those who are permanently and severely impaired. It is not a benefit aimed at compensating injuries. The Critical Injury Benefit is an INJURY award, whereas the Permanent Impairment Allowance is for impairments and disabilities. It is possible to be injured but fully recover and not be permanently impaired. The CIB is payable in such a situation and is thus separate and distinct from the PIA.

Part 2

A Veterans’ advocate on the interview says “I have absolutely no idea where the $70,000 comes from.”

Response: The amount was determined based on research into similar awards in other benefit plans in other countries for traumatic injuries.

Clarification to article by Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, March 30, 2015.

The article includes a quote from Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors, who said “The new benefit will go to just 1% of all severely disabled Veterans, who are vulnerable and need support.”

Response: Disabled Veterans are eligible for numerous benefits from VAC including disability awards and ongoing benefits such as earnings loss and permanent impairment allowance. In the future, if approved by Parliament, these Veterans may also be eligible to receive the Retirement Income Security Benefit (RISB) upon turning 65.

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CANFORGEN 069/15 CMP 035/15 091511Z APR 15: CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION DAOD 5516-2 – OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE

CANFORGEN 069/15 CMP 035/15 091511Z APR 15

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION DAOD 5516-2

UNCLASSIFIED

 

THE PURPOSE OF THIS CANFORGEN IS TO ANNOUNCE THE UPDATE OF THE CAF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION DAOD

 

THE CAF ARE DEDICATED TO FULLY UPHOLDING THE PRINCIPLES ENSHRINED IN THE CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS AND THE CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACT (CHRA). ENROLMENT OF PERSONS IN THE CAF IS STRICTLY VOLUNTARY AND CAF MEMBERS MUST BE PREPARED TO PERFORM ANY LAWFUL DUTY TO DEFEND CANADA, ITS INTERESTS AND ITS VALUES, WHILE CONTRIBUTING TO DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY

 

A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR IS A PERSON WHO CLAIMS THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO PERFORM MILITARY DUTIES ON THE GROUNDS OF HAVING A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION. A CAF MEMBER MAY REQUEST VOLUNTARY RELEASE ON THE BASIS OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION IF THE CAF MEMBER HAS A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION THAT IS A SINCERELY HELD OBJECTION, ON GROUNDS OF FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE OR RELIGION, TO PARTICIPATION IN:

 

WAR OR ARMED CONFLICT IN GENERAL OR

 

THE CARRYING AND USE OF WEAPONS AS A REQUIREMENT OF SERVICE IN THE CAF

 

THIS POLICY IS TO BE USED ONLY FOR VOLUNTARY RELEASE BASED UPON A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION. IT WILL NOT BE USED FOR PURPOSES OF RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL ACCOMMODATION OR TO SUPPORT A COMPASSIONATE POSTING. CAF MEMBERS REQUESTING A VOLUNTARY RELEASE FOR CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR OCCUPATION TRANSFER (OT) OR COMPONENT TRANSFER (CT). AN OBJECTION BASED PRIMARILY ON ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING DOES NOT QUALIFY TO VOLUNTARY RELEASE ON THE BASIS OF A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION:

 

PARTICIPATION OR USE OF ARMS IN A PARTICULAR CONFLICT OR OPERATION

 

NATIONAL POLICY

 

PERSONAL EXPEDIENCY

 

POLITICAL BELIEFS

 

MEMBERS CAN CONSULT THE RELEVANT DAOD AT THE FOLLOWING LINK: http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/about-policies-standards-defence-admin-orders-directives-5000/5516-2.page

 

 

 

 

CANFORGEN 069/15 CMP 035/15 091511Z APR 15

DOAD 5516-2 OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE

UNCLASSIFIED

 

LE BUT DU PRESENT CANFORGEN EST D ANNONCER LA MISE A JOUR DE LA DOAD OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE

 

LES FAC SONT DEDIES A RESPECTER PLEINEMENT LES PRINCIPES ENONCES DANS LA CHARTE CANADIENNE DES DROITS ET LIBERTES ET LA LOI CANADIENNE SUR LES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE(LCDP). L ENROLEMENT DES PERSONNES DANS LES FAC EST STRICTEMENT VOLONTAIRE ET LES MEMBRES DES FAC DOIVENT ETRE PRETS A EXERCER TOUTE FONCTION LEGITIME POUR DEFENDRE LE CANADA, SES INTERETS ET SES VALEURS, TOUT EN CONTRIBUANT A LA PAIX ET LA SECURITE NATIONALE ET INTERNATIONALE

 

UN OBJECTEUR DE CONSCIENCE EST UNE PERSONNE REVENDIQUANT LE DROIT DE REFUSER D EXERCER DES FONCTIONS MILITAIRES EN RAISON D UNE OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE. UN MEMBRE DES FAC PEUT DEMANDER UNE LIBERATION VOLONTAIRE SUR LA BASE DE L OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE SI LE MEMBRE A UNE OBJECTION SINCERE, POUR DES RAISONS DE LIBERTE DE CONSCIENCE OU DE RELIGION, A PRENDRE PART:

 

SOIT A UNE GUERRE OU A UN AUTRE CONFLIT ARME

 

SOIT AU PORT ET A L UTILISATION D ARMES EN TANT QU EXIGENCES DU SERVICE DANS LES FAC

 

CETTE POLITIQUE DOIT ETRE UTILISE SEULEMENT POUR LA DEMANDE DE LIBERATION VOLONTAIRE SUR LA BASE D UN OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE. ELLE NE SERA PAS UTILISEE A DES FINS D ACCOMMODEMENTS RELIGIEUX OU SPIRITUELS OU A SOUTENIR UNE DEMANDE D AFFECTATION POUR MOTIFS PERSONNELS. LES MEMBRES DES FAC QUI DEMANDENT UNE LIBERATION VOLONTAIRE POUR OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE NE SONT PAS ADMISSIBLES A UN RECLASSEMENT VOLONTAIRE OU UNE MUTATION ENTRE ELEMENT. UNE OBJECTION FONDEE PRINCIPALEMENT SUR L UN OU PLUSIEURS DES ELEMENTS SUIVANTS N EST PAS ADMISSIBLE A LA LIBERATION VOLONTAIRE SUR LA BASE D UNE OBJECTION DE CONSCIENCE :

 

 

PARTICIPATION OU L UTILISATION DES ARMES DANS UN CONFLIT OU UNE OPERATION PARTICULIERE

 

POLITIQUE NATIONALE

 

A DES FINS PERSONNELLES

 

CONVICTIONS POLITIQUES

 

VEULLEZ CONSULTER LA DOAD SUR LE LIEN VERS LES DOAD SUIVANT: http://www.forces.gc.ca/fr/a-propos-politiques-normes-directives-ordonnances-administratives-defense-5000/5516-2.page

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Conservative loon Michael Savage attacks veterans with PTSD: ‘Boo-hoo-hoo!’

Conservative loon Michael Savage attacks veterans with PTSD: ‘Boo-hoo-hoo!’

Michael Savage (Facebook.com)

 

Conservative talk radio host Michael Savage said last week that veterans with PTSD are a bunch of crybabies who should act like men and stop complaining because they’re bringing the entire country down.

According to Right Wing Watch, Savage was in the middle of a discussion about whether or not the city of San Francisco should rename a road tunnel after comedian Robin Williams, who committed suicide earlier this year.

The right-leaning host was on the air with a caller who supported the naming of the tunnel after the famous comic. Savage said to honor Williams would only promote suicide. The caller, a veteran with PTSD, said that people who struggle with depression and other forms of mental illness deserve to not be stigmatized.

Savage abruptly hung up on the former serviceman and went into a rant about the current state of society.

“I am so sick and tired with everyone with their complaints about PTSD, depression. Everyone wants their hand held and a check, a government check. What, are you the only generation that had PTSD? The only generation that’s depressed?” he demanded.

America’s problems, he said, stem from people choosing to “cry like a little baby” rather than pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get on with their lives.

“If the whole nation is told, ‘boo-hoo-hoo, come and get a medication, come and get treatment, talk about mental illness,’ you know what you wind up with? You wind up with Obama in the White House and lawyers in every phase of the government, that’s what you wind up with,” Savage ranted. “It’s a weak, sick nation. A weak, sick, broken nation.”

Savage called modern men “a bunch of losers” and said, “You need men like me to save the country. You need men to stand up and say stop crying like a baby over everything.”

Today’s men, he said, “are so weak and so narcissistic” that they deserve to be beaten by ISIS.

Listen to audio of Savage’s remarks, embedded below:

https://soundcloud.com/rightwingwatch/savage-vets-with-ptsd-a-bunch-of-losers-who-are-destroying-America

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Peter Stoffer, MP regarding Bill C-58 and the three proposed new benefits for veterans and their families

Please see the following note from Peter Stoffer, MP regarding Bill C-58 and the three proposed new benefits for veterans and their families

 

Last month, the federal government introduced new legislation (Bill C-58) that will provide three new benefits for veterans and their families under the New Veterans Charter.  This proposed legislation will only apply to Canadian Forces veterans.  It will not apply to RCMP veterans and their families as they do not fall under the New Veterans Charter.

 

I have reviewed the bill and participated in a briefing session by VAC departmental officials.  In brief, the proposed bill will help some veterans and their families but the federal government could do much, much, more.  As the bill will be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, I encourage you to send me your thoughts on this proposed legislation.  I have attached the bill to this email for your information.

 

Please see a short summary of the proposed new benefits:

 

Retirement Income Security Benefit

The proposed new Retirement Income Security Benefit would provide monthly income support payment beginning at age 65 for disabled Canadian Veterans who are receiving the Earnings Loss Benefit due to being totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of their service to Canada. The Retirement Income Security Benefit would ensure that an eligible Veteran’s total annual income is at least 70% of what he or she received in Veterans Affairs Canada financial benefits before age 65. Monthly payments would be calculated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account how much the Veteran was receiving before age 65 and other sources of income he or she may have beyond age 65.  Veterans survivors are also eligible for the benefit.  Departmental calculations estimate that by 2020, approximately 5,800 Veterans and survivors would qualify for the Retirement Income Security Benefit upon turning 65.

 

Critical Injury Benefits

This benefit will provide a $70,000 tax free award to support the most severely injured and ill Canadian Forces members and veterans.  Veterans are eligible for the payment from 2006 forward under the New Veterans Charter.  The Veterans Affairs Minister has estimated that more than 100 veterans injured since 2006 will receive this payment. The initiative is expected to cost about $200,000 annually if the current deployment situation remains the same.  This means that only about two or three people a year would qualify.

 

Family Caregiver Relief Benefit

The proposed new benefit will provide veterans with an annual tax-free grant of $7,238.  This benefit would allow relief options for the caregiver at home such as covering the cost of having a professional caregiver come into the home or covering the cost for another family member or friend to travel to the veteran’s home.  The new benefit is expected to provide relief to approximately 350 spouses or caregivers of the most seriously ill and injured Veterans by 2020.

Peter’s Comments:

I will be pushing for changes to this proposed bill.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Increase the amount of the Retirement Income Security benefit from 70% to 100% of what the veteran received in VAC Financial benefits before age 65 to ensure the veteran’s financial stability.
  • Increase the family caregiver relief benefit.  The current proposed amount of $7,238 per year is not enough, especially for those caregivers who have left their careers to take care of their veteran spouse.  The amount of the family caregiver relief benefit should be similar to the attendant allowance available to those receiving a disability pension under the Pension Act.
  • Provide an increase in the rates for the lump-sum disability award for ALL veterans along with the critical injury benefit.

 

I look forward to your feedback.  As always, please include your phone number so I can call you personally.

 

Sincerely,

Office of Peter Stoffer, MP | Bureau du député Peter Stoffer

Official Opposition Critic for Veterans Affairs  | Le Porte-Parole de l’Opposition Officielle pour Les Anciens Combattants.

New Democratic Party | Nouveau Parti démocratique

______________________________________________________

2900 Hwy #2 Fall River, NS  B2T 1W4

Phone: (902) 861-2311 | Email: stoffp0@parl.gc.ca

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CINDY FORSTER MPP WELLAND – PRIVATE BILL (ONTARIO) PRIORITY FOR LONG TERM CARE FACILITY MODERN for VETS

CINDY FORSTER MPP WELLAND – PRIVATE BILL (ONTARIO) PRIORITY FOR LONG TERM CARE FACILITY MODERN for VETS

 

It’s a private members bill that would essentially extend priority to modern day veterans to long term care beds in all long term care facilities in Ontario. I can forward you the link to the bill as soon as the Legislative Assembly puts it up on its website. I know this is something that Veterans have wanted and very much needed for a very long time. The current “class system” is not  right and isn’t fair to modern day vets who need long term care.

N.S. veterans’ plight echoed nationwide

http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1280986-n.s.-veterans%E2%80%99-plight-echoed-nationwide

 

NDP calling for changes to federal policy regarding vets long-term care http://globalnews.ca/news/1942665/ndp-calling-for-changes-to-federal-policy-regarding-vets-long-term-care/

 

Peter Stoffer urges Ottawa to open veterans hospitals to all vets

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/peter-stoffer-urges-ottawa-to-open-veterans-hospitals-to-all-vets-1.3035491

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 16, 2015

VETERANS DENIED ACCESS TO CARE WHILE BEDS SIT EMPTY

HALIFAX – Today, New Democrats joined veterans and their families to repeat their call for the federal government to allow all veterans access to Department of Veterans Affairs run hospitals and long-term care facilities across the country.

“Today there are over 10 empty beds at Camp Hill here in Halifax, yet these beds cannot be filled by post-Korea veterans due to strict eligibility criteria,” said Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore), Official Opposition critic for Veterans Affairs.

Federal regulations limit eligibility to veterans long-term care centres like Camp Hill and Sunnybrook to only World War II and Korean War veterans. Veterans who served in the Canadian Forces “post-Korea” are not eligible for care at these types of facilities.

“A veteran is a veteran is a veteran.  With empty beds, it makes sense to allow a younger generation of veterans’ access to these exceptional veteran care centres,” added NDP MP Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour).

The federal government is effectively downloading the cost of long-term care for this younger generation of veterans to the provinces. Veterans not eligible for a placement at Camp Hill turn to provincial long-term care facilities.

“The federal government has a responsibility and moral obligation to provide the same federally funded level of long-term care to all veterans, regardless of where and when they served,” said NDP MP Megan Leslie (Halifax).

 

-30-

 

For more information, please contact:

Heather Finn, Press Secretary, 613-355-9940 or heather.finn@parl.gc.ca Office of Peter Stoffer, MP 902-861-2311

 

 

POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE

16 avril 2015

 

DES ANCIENS COMBATTANTS PRIVÉS DE SOINS ALORS QUE DE NOMBREUX LITS SONT VIDES

HALIFAX – Les néo-démocrates se joignent aux anciens combattants et à leurs familles afin de demander au gouvernement fédéral de permettre à tous les anciens combattants d’avoir accès aux hôpitaux et aux établissements de soins de longue durée gérés par le ministère des Anciens Combattants.

« Aujourd’hui, plus de 10 lits sont vides à Camp Hill à Halifax. Or ces lits ne peuvent pas être occupés par d’anciens combattants post-guerre de Corée en raison d’exigences d’admissibilité trop sévères », a affirmé le porte-parole du NPD en matière d’anciens combattants, Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore).

Les règlements fédéraux limitent l’accès aux centres de soins de longue durée tels que Camp Hill et Sunnybrook aux vétérans de la Seconde Guerre mondiale et de la guerre de Corée. Les anciens combattants qui ont servi dans les Forces canadiennes après la guerre de Corée n’ont pas accès à ces établissements.

« Un ancien combattant est un ancien combattant, point final. Si les lits sont vides, pourquoi ne pas permettre aux générations plus jeunes d’anciens combattants de profiter de ces centres de soins exceptionnels ? », a ajouté le député du NPD, Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth-Cole Harbour).

Le gouvernement fédéral refile aux provinces les coûts liés aux soins de longue durée de la plus jeune génération d’anciens combattants. Les anciens combattants qui ne sont pas admissibles à Camp Hill se tournent vers les établissements de soins de longue durée de la province.

« Le gouvernement a le devoir moral d’offrir le même niveau de soins de longue durée à tous les anciens combattants, peu importe le lieu ou l’année où ils ont servi notre pays », a conclu la députée du NPD, Megan Leslie (Halifax).

 

– 30 –

 

Pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez communiquer avec : Heather Finn, attachée de presse, (613) 355-9940 ou heather.finn@parl.gc.ca

 

To unsubscribe from these announcements, login to the forum and uncheck “Receive forum announcements and important notifications by email.” in your profile.

 

You can view the full announcement by following this link:

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/Board2/index.php?topic=15379.0

 

Regards,

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

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David Desjean – not much of a happy camper with VAC these days

not much of a happy camper with VAC these days.. about a year ago, my councelor at VAC told me I was intitled to earning loss. GREAT… filled out all the paperwork, gave all the information required, (maximum yearly income from work, pay stubs… etc etc..

This march, after loosing my employment, they send me a letter stating that they overpaid me and of course I must pay them back.

So to get this straight…they have the paperwork, they do the calculations, they start paying out …. 10 months down the line.. sorry we fucked up but we will blame you for it….I DONT THINK SO !!!

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