ONE VETERAN’S VOICE by Wolf  William Solkin



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Not too many moons ago, this old Algonquin Regiment “brave”  sent up a smoke – signal that spelled out what I personally knew about the commendable conditions and standards of care THEN extant under Veterans Affairs Canada at my current billet, Ste. Anne’s (Veterans) Hospital . In that opinion piece,  I contrasted the present  positive performance with my fearful forecast and core conviction that, no sooner will Ste. Anne’s fall from grace at VAC by being transferred (kicking and screaming all the way) into what I see as the    quagmire of Quebec’s unhealthy Health Dep’t., then all bets are off, and we will  become orphans in the storm of poorer provincial protocols and crass cost-cutting, courtesy of  “Bully-Boy” Barrette and his bunch of  benighted  bureaucrats and  political pals.

That column was titled “TODAY AND TOMORROW(?)”, and it was my (naive) assumption that the egregious era of “TOMORROW” would be yet a while before making its foreboding appearance on the scene….certainly not before the  “Transfer Tremors” takeover.. Not so, I regret to remark upon and report !
Even now, the  portentous cracks in the very foundation of Ste. Anne’s unique culture of care and concern are visibly spreading, and showing , on the surface, what further fissures lie below, awaiting their turn and time of eruption.

At this juncture, I refer particularly to the employee/staff situation which , like the recent stock market behaviour, has taken a sudden downturn in the quantity and quality of its customary “blue chip” elements. Those “securities”, in our case, are the knowledgeable  nurses and the extraordinary orderlies who attend to us 24/7… least, what remains of them, after the many early retirements, resignations  and other ship-jumpings that have already taken place , due to rampant  job insecurity and general frustration with the administration’s misbegotten modus operandi.

Of late there has been a spate of sudden and/or lengthy absenteeism on the part of an unacceptable number of essential employees, frequently leaving the shift staff seriously short-handed, and, by the same token, leaving us Vets in the uncertain and spotty care of far less experienced (and betimes strictly unilingual )  “newbies”*** ; retirees pressed into service long after their shelf life has expired, or, even less desirable, simply no replacements whatsoever, causing standards to be sacrificed on the altar of austerity, or perhaps even that of insouciance,  while “marching in place” and marking time until the problem falls within the province of the Province.

I have just been informed that the main reason for deliberately calling in “newbies” to fill staff shortages , rather than experienced and available “veteran” employees, appears to be that the latter must be paid at a higher rate than the former, thus helping “Management” to show a better “bottom line”!  All at the expense (no pun intended) of the pre-existing higher standards of care…yet another step down that slippery slope which endangers  Ste. Anne’s erstwhile reputation for its stellar services to Canadian Veterans.

While some absences may be lscheduled vacations or days off, more and more seem attributable to other  causes. Overwork has caused some blazing burn outs, resulting in prolonged medical leave; and what has previously been the familiar “Friday Flu”,  that now ubiquitous virus seems to have significantly spread  not only into Saturdays and Sundays, but is wending its way into weekdays as well.

The consequences are as self- evident as they are unavoidable, especially due to the seeming regrettable rush  to cut costs, no matter the cost.  The current consensus /’vox populi’ is that employee morale is sliding downhill on a slippery slope, with diminished standards of care as the booby-prize at the bottom. The reliable staff members that still show up as scheduled are often requested/entreated/pressured into “doing a double” (shift), often until they are too tired to stand  on their feet; orderlies and nurses are switched from floor to floor, or even wing to wing, at will and without notice; muted mutterings have replaced happy ‘hellos’, and every exhausted employee seems to be bearing the burden of two, as they breathlessly hurry hither and thither to try to properly attend to the needs of  their above normal assignment/quota of patients in a timely fashion, while still attempting to maintain  their usual high levels of care and attention…..for the most part, like Sisyphus, facing an ever-impossible mountain to climb.

Moreover, these staff shortages can cause delays in meals and other essential services which, in turn, create a domino effect whereby previously tightly scheduled appointments with clinicians such as physio and/or occupational therapists, as well as with a wide variety of visiting medical specialists,  must, of necessity, be rapidly rescheduled or, as is too often the case, postponed for a prolonged period of time….hardly a desirable outcome, nor is it, in the slightest, up to Ste. Anne’s standard “standards of care”.

Again, due to staff shortages, some patients have even had to miss their once-weekly(!) bath on more than one occasion, which is totally unacceptable, and  an augury contrary to the oft-repeated and avowed /proclaimed VAC pledge that the vaunted high standards of care at Ste. Anne’s will never be reduced   Don’t get me wrong….if one has to reside in a long-term care facility, this  is still a darn good place to be….but it is definitely becoming less so with each passing day, as it anxiously awaits the provincially-suspended Sword of Damocles to plunge into its very essence.

I say, enough of the present on-site administration fantasizing  that all is ‘tickety -boo’, and ‘business as usual’ is ongoing until the  onset of Nirvana,  in the form of their vision of a seamless transfer/transition which they trumpet will yet occur. God may be in his heaven, but all’s not well with the world of Ste. Anne’s.  Hypothetically, it would be ideal if someone with some savvy  from VAC’s HQ could come here  and just mingle and talk with a random sampling of the floor nurses, orderlies and patients, to determine whether or not I’m babbling  through my beret. If my observations and evaluation of this incipient situation prove to be correct, then concrete corrective measures should/must be implemented immediately,  from the top down, before the proverbial fan gets hit too hard.

On second thought, the above suggestion would be impossible to act upon, as the floor staff have been instructed, in no uncertain terms, that it is forbidden for them to speak to patients about  anything pertaining to the hospital, other than matters related to their immediate duties at hand, under penalty of serious consequences. In effect, if they rock the boat, they risk being made to “walk the plank”. And as for speaking out to “outsiders”… why, that would be courting a veritable court martial !

We  Veterans will undoubtedly lose a lot of things on a number of fronts during and due to the transfer troubles that we will soon be facing. Notwithstanding, the one element that must be protected and preserved above all else, and is germane to our sense of security and satisfaction which comprises the essential aspect of our life at Ste. Anne’s, is the culture of peerless care combined with the wonderful work ethic which has hitherto permeated the rank-and-file personnel.  The SAH patients and floor staff have for decades enjoyed a mutualistic/symbiotic relationship , which should be permitted and encouraged to flourish undiminished and undamaged, without fear or favour.

That is what we Vets were promised. That is what we  Vets deserve. That is what we Vets expect.

What was once a warm and welcoming work place is fast becoming one of conflicts and complaints, and this inevitably shows up in the reduced degree of care and time allotted, plus unraveling of reciprocal relationships, all contra-indicated for the patients’ well-being.  And all this starting to simmer this summer,  long before the actual transfer is even consummated !

I lay no blame whatsoever on the employees. The fault lies in their confounded confusion and uncertainty about what they do not yet know about their future, coupled with their basic distrust and discontentment with what little they do know of that which lies ahead.

Just reading my diatribes and nodding  your concurrence to yourself as you nod off,  won’t accomplish diddly squat, unless YOU write a letter, make a call, or send an email to the person whom YOU are personally paying to represent YOU as your Member of Parliament , and instruct him/her  to respond to (y)our “S O S” ………”SAVE  OUR. STAFF” !!!

And please,   Lest We Forget……

Wolf William Solkin.



A VETERAN’S VOICE: Intro / TRANSFER of Ste Anne by Wolf Solkin WWII Veteran
VETERANS’ VOTES ARE VITAL by Wolf William Solkin
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by Wolf William Solkin


I have, in previous columns, expended much emotional energy and many woeful words voicing my vituperative views about what I perceive as the bad behaviour and negativism of some senior staff at Ste. Anne’s (Veterans) Hospital, along with similar symptoms evinced by some of the bungling bureaucrats at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), notable also for their niggardly notions of austerity cuts affecting Veterans.

Having spent all that valuable time and  talent, without any adequate assurance that those paltry people (let alone their indifferent Parliamentary patrons) were paying any heed whatever to my “sour gripes”,  I felt it was high time to remind them of  why and to what end they have been hired,  and on whose tab, so that perhaps they will stand back a bit from their dandy desks, long enough to gain a better perspective of what truly should be their real responsibilities and relationships with the vulnerable  Veterans in their charge, of whatever war they waged at their country’s call, be it WW II, Korea, “peacekeeping” missions in countries that may never see peace,or the latest FUBAR in SNAFGHANISTAN.

That brings me to what I have termed “The Ten Commandments” for all VAC employees, setting forth in no uncertain terms, how and why Canada’s War Veterans are to be treated by those employed by our government to do so. This apparently  long forgotten and sadly ignored Government of Canada document was given to me after it was discovered in an an obscure storage room at Ste. Anne’s Hospital.  It is a straightforward  statement, prepared by an anonymous authority within the venue of Veterans Affairs, in the good old days when the word “Veteran” was still virtually venerated.  It is  presented in the form of a Middle-Ages illustrated manuscript, expounding ten basic principles  and precepts to be observed and embraced by ALL  Veterans Affairs civil service employees, regardless of grade, dealing with Veterans at any level, in any matter.

The verbatim text of those ten tenets is displayed below:

are the most important persons to all of us.

VETERANS are not an interruption of our work;
they are our work. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

VETERANS are dependent upon us;
our reputation is dependent on them . :::::::::::::

VETERANS have a right to call us;
we are not doing them a favour by serving them.

VETERANS are not people to argue with,
But individuals to comfort and assist .  :::::::::::::

VETERANS are part of our business,
not outsiders.  ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

VETERANS are not cold statistics; each one is
a flesh-and-blood human being with feelings
and emotions like our own.  :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

VETERANS bring us their problems; our duty
Is to justify their faith in us.  ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

VETERANS deserve the most courteous and
attentive service we can give them.  ::::::::::::::

Remember always, if VETERANS did not have
problems there would be no need for Veterans
Affairs.  :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Government of Canada
Veterans Affairs

The ten adjurations contained in this inspirational major manifesto were intended to be held in the heart and seared into the mindset of each and every staff member of Veterans Affairs. However, I’m afraid that more than a few of them may have misplaced that mantra  in the process of focusing on other issues of greater import to them, such as (perhaps) seniority, authority, promotions, pensions and other matters more momentous to them than the core cause for their very employment, as delineated in the above “Magna Carta”….caring for Canada’s Veterans !

If I had my druthers , I would first filch some funds from the budget allocations to Veterans Affairs Canada’s Department of Human Resources and their Public Relations/Promotions programs. I would then deploy those dollars to duplicate many dozens of copies of “The Ten Commandments “,  and make it mandatory that every desk jockey whose livelihood is derived from ensuring the welfare of our old war horses ( and their younger comrades-in -arms, as well), MUST permanently post that protocol in a prominent position on his/her  office premises, so that those civil servants will be ever mindful of their primary purpose and the processes by which to achieve its avowed fulfilment, each and every time they chance to look up from their pile of paperwork.

Then maybe…just maybe… we could all, together,  gather at the river in “The Promised Land”, where all Veterans will receive the care, the attention, the respect, the value and the dignity to which they are deservedly entitled , as embodied in VAC’s very own “TEN COMMANDMENTS”.

That’s about it for now, except for my recurrent plea that we all should always remember., to…….



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

VETERANS’ VOTES ARE VITAL by Wolf William Solkin


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by Wolf William Solkin


TODAY, It is  reasonably accurate to say that, by and large, we Veterans at Ste. Anne’s Hospital are   still “enjoying the good life”, with excellent health care standards, attentive and experienced employees,  an effective staff-to -patient ratio, ready access to overarching medical and dental treatment, plus ample recreational/entertainment activities and facilities.  The whole is  embodied within a “hands-on”  employees’  culture of concern and compassion,  to the substantial satisfaction of all of us on the receiving end of such bounty,  which we now consider to be “normal”.  That is a fair assessment, based upon my personal experience, of the “facts of life” at Ste. Anne’s, as they stand…..”TODAY “.

BUT, and it is a very BIG “BUT” we are now perilously perched on the precipice of a very steep cliff,  and will soon  (next April Fools’ Day ! )  be pushed over the perilous edge,  into the deep, dark  pit of the formal transfer/transition of Ste.Anne’s from the caring hands of Ottawa’s Veterans Affairs, to the clawing clutches of Quebec’s Health Department and its heavy-handed Minister Barrette, whose main mantra appears to be…”My Way, or the Highway!”.

“TOMORROW” is when , where , and how our pains and problems will increase exponentially, in spite of the well-meaning and sincere  assurances from Veterans Affairs Canada,   that nothing of significance will change for us here.  Those soothing statements stem from the recently signed Transfer Agreement which, among other crucial concessions, commits  Ottawa to pay Quebec  a substantial ” per diem” financial subsidy,  to be used for the express purpose of providing each of us with our accustomed high standards of  care.

So much so, to the extent that VAC plans to create and operate a “Two-Tier” system, wherein we Vets will receive a higher grade of care than the forthcoming “civilian” patients. Realistically, it is patently not feasible that such a duality of programs be implemented,   with all of us housed within the one hi-rise building, containing only one clinic floor, one pharmacy, one physio/occupational therapy facility, one kitchen, and  so on, unto one indivisible set of “common elements” (e.g., auditorium, library, , staff offices, etc.), albeit entirely administered and completely controlled  by the Province of Quebec, as  “The New Sheriff in Town”….starting “TOMORROW”.

I I can but envision the ensuing confusion, confrontations and contradictions, as a re-make of the iconic “Abbott & Costello” classic comedy routine of “Who’s on First ?….What’s on Second ..?..
Why’s on Third ?”…and so on , until major meltdown inevitably moves in.

I do not doubt the sincerity of VAC’s belief that their “Dream Scheme” will work out as planned, but I fear that, before long, Ottawa (and we Vets) will be low man on Quebec’s totem pole. We all know  that the tail should not wag the dog, and that the fox should never be assigned to guard the hen-house, but that is exactly what I predict will happen to us at Ste. Anne’s,  on the morrow, unless “TODAY” we exercise our own due -diligence. keep our own eyes wide open, report our own complaints, protect our own rights, and defend  our own way of life by speaking up, acting out, and participating prominently to mitigate what surely promises to be a traumatic transition….”TOMORROW”.

If it is axiomatic that ” only the squeaky wheel gets the oil”, then just picture the possible production of petroleum we might be provided with, if we are willing and able to raise one helluva holler in the hallow halls of the legislatures in both  Ottawa and Quebec, BEFORE “they” hammer the final nail to close the coffin  of transfer tribulations, with us still inside,  while there is yet some “wriggle room”. And even after that, we must  keep banging loudly on the lid until the public, if not the complacent and compliant politicians on our  payroll , hears us  and calls for our release from the potentially harsh conditions of our confinement,  and the restoration of all our rightful rights,versus only some residual remnants.

We “grass roots” Veterans at Ste. Anne’s MUST  be included, in one form or another,   as part and parcel of the Transfer/Transition process, becoming truly and directly represented on  and heard by the VAC “Oversight Committee” and/or the hybrid “Transition Team… ignore that, would be the worst “oversight” of all !  Otherwise, we could well wake up one not-so-fine morning, only to find that Ottawa’s subsidy for/to SAH has somehow mysteriously  wandered its way over to some new bridge to nowhere, or some other obscenely overpriced  construction projects, or (Heaven forbid !)  even to some  plump political pockets , or some bagman’s  snazzy sox !

In the final analysis , the bottom line is : who, in Ottawa , is going to be responsible for properly transmitting the “per diem” subsidy funds for Ste. Anne’s Veterans ? ; who, in Quebec, is going to be responsible for disbursing those  funds to Ste. Anne’s ?; who is going to be responsible for keeping track of the application of said funds ?; who is going to be responsible for reporting any discrepancies , anomalies or just plain, old -fashioned fraud and  chicanery ?;  and to which body?; and who, if anyone,  is going to have the full authority and responsibility for enforcing meaningful  measures to rectify any wrong-doings ?

In essence, who will be charged, on an ongoing basis ( far beyond the initial three-year “guarantee” period), with the ultimate responsibility  of closing the barn door before too many prized horses are gone ?   Or, to go further forward with the rural metaphor, who on God’s green earth will watch over the proper and promised  use of the per diem dollars in the Ste. Anne’s Hospital hen-house….the feral fox from Quebec,  or the more fair-minded but unpredictable, fickle farmer from Ottawa ?

We must all be ever-vigilant and protest aggressively against  various terms of the  Transfer Agreement and its more roughshod regulations and collateral repercussions…of prohibitive  parking fees  for visitors , volunteers and employees…of less qualified and fewer staff, as linked to protection of seniority and retention of the very special current crop of nurses and orderlies…of inadequate security measures…of increased meal charges for all non-Veterans…of the potential for misapplication of  private funds donated specifically to the Veterans for their exclusive use …of who gets to enjoy the fruits of the SAH Foundation’s labours in raising funds for the welfare of “their” Veterans, and many, many more factors that could well  become “Game-Changers” for all of us who are here “for the duration”.

Good faith and good intentions alone will not prevent us from being overcome by the powerful and destructive force of the Transfer/Transition Tsunami  now on our near horizon. Our only chance for any survival at all, is if we work our bony butts off NOW, to preserve and inject more of what we treasure “TODAY”, into what I fearfully foresee will be coming down the pike  “TOMORROW” !

And, as ever, please remember to….


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

VETERANS’ VOTES ARE VITAL by Wolf William Solkin


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by Wolf William Solkin


It has indeed been the iconic Biblical “Threescore years and ten” since our generation of WW II Veterans finally forced the foes of our freedoms , the Nazis and the Fascists, to abandon their destructive and dastardly efforts to rule over us by dictatorship defeating democracy. At that time we were all so truly proud and happy that autocratic rule over most of the world was replaced by the democratic process, whereby we were primarily granted the (“God-given”?)) right to VOTE,  to select and/or reject our nation’s leaders. There were, of course, many other precious rights and freedoms that we gained, but they could not have surfaced, let alone thrived, without our first having the cornerstone upon which they could be built…free and fair elections, whereby we could express our desires and demands for our preferred way of life by (s)electing those legislators whom we felt would best represent our best interests. However, and sad to say, as the years came and went, so too did our enthusiasm and interest for engaging ourselves and concerning ourselves with governing ourselves, wane and decrease to the point of diminishing (electoral) returns. To quote from a recent article written by Pete McMartin  of the ‘Vancouver Sun’, …”In all,the adjusted turnout for the 2011 federal election was 58.5 per cent, second lowest in the country’s history…The largest voter turnouts came in the decades after the Second World War.. Perhaps the visceral connection between sacrifice and the democratic process was more evident to voters…(and Veterans)…then, because it was literally paid for in blood…”. Right on ! There is no question that many of us, have slowed down, drowsed off and grown fat…OK, no need to be ashamed of our weight. But there is a great need to be deeply ashamed of not carrying our weight, when it comes down to our real responsibility to act as responsible citizens, in determining the continuing way of life for that very same country of ours for which we few fought so fiercely to keep our freedoms flourishing. “Our” war of yore may be long over, but there are still battles to be fought for our country within our country…..not with bullets, but with ballots ! Both as Veterans and as part of the total  Canadian citizenry, we are faced with myriad problems which affect us today, and will affect our children and grandchildren tomorrow and the day(s) .following. Not only what will become of my vanishing vintage of Vets, but also, and equally if not more important,  the current and future treatment of our “younger” brothers -in-arms, who fought just as hard and bled just as much, trying to keep the peace in perilous places like Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda,Haiti,  the Middle East and many others, plus “the pick of the litter” being Afghanistan. Enough said !! And that is by no means all that should concern us as Veterans. What about such things as the economy , higher taxes, cost of living increases, unemployment and so on down the very long line of important matters affecting not only you, but your family, your neighbours, your community and, for that matter, your/our  whole darn country ? Or do you just not care anymore, and have become indifferent to what’s happening in and to the world outside your own little comfort zone ? “So what?”, you say….I’ll tell you ” what” !   We Canadians have a national election coming up this 19th of October, and while I will never presume to tell anyone whom to vote for, I do dare to demand that we all get off our bony butts to participate in our cherished democratic process. Help to elect the representative(s) whom, after due diligence, you decide will best act on your/our personal and collective behalf, as Veterans of all ages and all military operations. Check him/her out very carefully, satisfy yourself that your choice will  not just talk the talk, but actually walk the walk, and is prepared to do so in your old service boots ! Your duty as a Canadian /Veteran is far from over. You fought for and preserved  a democratic  way of life; now is the time for you to benefit from your victory  by voting for those candidates who will most truly and consistently recognize, respect and reinforce the rights of all true Veterans all across Canada. Voting is not simply a right or a privilege. I look upon voting as an obligation that we Veterans should/must fulfil at all costs, and I sometimes even consider the possible advantages of enforceable mandatory voting laws, such as now exist in some forward-looking countries. Whatever your view, let your views be known to the people who are even now submitting their resumes and applying to you and me for the pretty cushy yet highly critical job of performing as OUR public servants and doing OUR bidding for the forthcoming  years. So do yourself, your family, your friends and your fellow-Vets a forever favour, by going out to VOTE,  and getting out the VOTE !!!! And always remember to….                                          …LEAVE NO VET BEHIND !

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Standing Committee on VAC – Continuum of Transition Services June 16th

Standing Committee on VAC – Continuum of Transition Services June 16th

General framework for the study

When members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are ill or injured, whether or not the injury or illness is service-related, they may be medically released if their condition causes their long-term inability to be deployed with their unit. This release also means that responsibility for the member’s rehabilitation and compensation will be transferred from the Department of National Defence (DND) to other stakeholders, in particular, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP). The process that begins the moment a member becomes ill or injured can be complex, and the programs established to support the member’s transition are numerous. As a result, it can be difficult for members, veterans and the public to navigate them, and misunderstandings may arise.

With this study on the continuum of services, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs wishes to determine the key steps in this process, identify the programs available to serving members, veterans and their families at each of these steps, and establish an outline of the respective responsibilities of the various parties involved. The Committee hopes that this study will help point up the stronger and weaker points along this continuum in order to facilitate a sound transition to civilian life for injured members.

This document provides an overview of the transition process based on testimony heard from witnesses during the seven meetings the Committee held on this topic between February 26 and April 23, 2015. Its purpose is to outline the steps and time frames of the transition process and to highlight the issues identified by witnesses. The continuum of transition services is divided into three phases:
• The period starting when an injury or illness appears and ending when the decision is made to release a CAF member for medical reasons;
• The period between the decision to release a CAF member for medical reasons and the actual release;
• The adjustment period, of approximately two years following the release, and during which Veterans Affairs Canada services replace those provided by the Canadian Armed Forces.

The purpose of this report is not to provide another review of all the programs and services that Veterans Affairs Canada can offer to veterans; rather, it is to highlight the lesser-known elements of the transition process, such as what programs are available from the Canadian Armed Forces before the Veterans Affairs Canada programs take effect, what coordination measures are taken by both departments during the transition process, and what initiatives are available through third-party organizations that complement government measures.

Report 6 – Continuum of Transition Services (Adopted by the Committee on June 16, 2015; Presented to the House on June 18, 2015)

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Dangerous Déjà Vu for Veterans: Send the Omnibus Plate Back to the Chef By Sean Bruyea

From Sean Bruyea, full transcript of Hill Times Article

Dangerous Déjà Vu for Veterans: Send the Omnibus Plate Back to the Chef
By Sean Bruyea

In a bizarre and never-ending déjà vu, government is ramming through Parliament the fourth piece of veterans’ legislation in a decade. It is plainly bad legislation swallowed inside yet another budget omnibus bill.

The proposed veterans’ programs are joined by a torrent of feel-good political announcements. Does the hype match reality?
Do the programs fill the identified gaps and address the evidence-based recommendations?

No and no. The proposed veterans’ legislation should be sent back to the kitchen until what was ordered by veterans is finally served after 10 years of painful hunger.

Retirement Income Security Benefit

A new Retirement Income Security Benefit claims it will top up to 70% of what the veteran received from government prior to age 65. However this is based upon the veteran’s income loss benefit which already reduces military salary to 75%. This income loss benefit is inadequately adjusted for inflation to a maximum of 2% since military release from 1953 onwards. In the past twenty years, inflation has been above 2% nine of those years. Seventeen of the previous 20 years were above 2%.

For example, veterans released in 1996 have had their earnings loss benefit increased by approximately 30% while military salaries have increased 80%.

The retirement benefit therefore equates to the veteran effectively receiving 52.5% of their military salary, inadequately adjusted for inflation. The Ombudsman, Guy Parent, was quick to endorse this program during a partisan political announcement. Yet, Mr. Parent’s office clearly recommended a retirement benefit matching 70% of release salary, fully indexed for inflation.

The majority of veterans’ groups active in advocacy, the ombudsman, VAC’s own advisory groups and Parliament in 2010 have all repeatedly recommended that the 75% earnings loss benefit be substantively increased to anywhere from 90 to 100% of release income matching salary increases of a typical career of promotions. Civilian courts have been doing this for decades. Implementing this universally supported recommendation would result in a dignified income loss program which would in turn provide a dignified retirement benefit for our most injured veterans.
The consequence of government’s repeated dismissal of this evidenced-based research and recommendation: a paltry payout from this proposed retirement benefit which will go to just 261 veterans with disabilities by 2020.

Family Caregiver Relief Benefit

The Family Caregiver Relief Benefit is another puzzling creation. Only 351 family members by 2020 will qualify out of the anticipated 6000 totally impaired and disabled veterans.

No veteran group, parliamentary committee, ombudsman or advisory group asked for a benefit in this form. What others have asked for is everything from matching the DND Caregiver Benefit which pays up to $36,500 over any 365 cumulative days to providing spouses of disabled veterans with their own benefit to compensate for lost income in their poorly appreciated efforts to care for their struggling veteran spouses. One of the easiest solutions would be merely to open up the existing attendance allowance program to all injured veterans. The proposed family caregiver benefit pays $7238 per year equivalent to the lower levels of attendance allowance which pays up to $21,151.44 annually.

Critical Injury Benefit

The Critical Injury Benefit will provide a one-time payment of $70,000 to Canadian Forces members and veterans “for severe, sudden and traumatic injuries or acute diseases that are service related, regardless of whether they result in permanent disability”. Countless veterans have come forward telling us that disabling PTSD, traumatic brain injury or loss of organ function are being low-balled below the approximately $40,000 average lump sum payment for pain and suffering. How can government justify to veterans enduring lifelong disability that their pain and suffering merits far lower a payment than a veteran who temporarily suffered an injury?

This leads to the obvious question: from what obscure bureaucratic orifice did this proposal originate? Absolutely no one in the veterans’ community, the ombudsman’s office, parliament or advisory groups asked for this benefit. We know little of the criteria but we know it is highly restrictive: only two or three individuals per year will receive it from a totally disabled and permanently incapacitated population of 6000 veterans in 2020 and a current CF serving and veteran population of nearly 700,000 individuals.

How is this in any manner fulfilling Canada’s obligation to all of our veterans and their families? It does not. Why did government not do what all have been asking: increase the amount of the lump sum benefit to at least match court awards for pain and suffering? Why have so much time and tears been expended by suffering veterans for a potpourri of political pretense grudgingly helping too few.

Canada’s Obligation to Our Veterans and Their Families
We are inundated by slick PR campaigns and political photo shoots as to the importance of military service but when it comes to addressing shortcomings for those most in need, government delays, deflects and unfortunately dances on the suffering of our veterans and their families. Much of this rhetoric is centred upon how much Canada is indebted to our veterans and their families.

The new legislation proposes an obligation to our serving members, veterans and their families to provide “services, assistance and compensation”. It is more encompassing than some previous legislation but all offer little substance and are mostly meaningless. To what end is this obligation? To rehabilitate, re-establish, to offer opportunity, well-being, quality of life, education, retraining, employment or provide a clear service standard?

Professing an obligation absence a goal is hollow at best.

Why does this proposed obligation only recognize assistance to injured members, veterans and their families? Is Canada not responsible for all veterans? The duty of the Minister in the Department of Veterans Affairs Act is “the care, treatment or re-establishment in civil life of any person who served in the Canadian Forces” and “the care of the dependants or survivors”. At one time this included “retraining”. Is all of this not what government keeps claiming the new veterans charter accomplishes but has so far abysmally failed to deliver?

Why the Legislation Should be Sent Back to the Chef

These programs if passed without substantive change will set dangerous precedent.

First, they create yet more classes and subclasses of inequity between veterans. Second, unnecessary programs result in more red tape and more work for overstaffed frontline workers when merely expanding and improving existing programs will do more. Third, they will encourage government to create discriminatory policy under a political facade while simultaneously dismissing evidence-based research and widespread consensus of those directly affected who truly understand the options available.

Finally, government’s bullying with ‘it’s better than nothing’ attitude intimidates an already subserviently indoctrinated military culture to accept paltry scraps to compensate for genuine sacrifice and life-altering disabilities. Caving into bullying disguised as sweet-talk effectively endorses shoddily concocted programs. This gives license to government again to do nothing for the next five, ten or more years to fix these abominations while government ignores a host of outstanding programs veterans and their families need now.

Veterans must realize they deserve what they need and have it delivered in a timely fashion. Why would anyone swallow that which was never ordered or a spoonful from the menu haphazardly fried up a decade ago? Veterans deserve to have the dish remade as requested. Isn’t a fair and square meal the minimum that lifelong sacrifice deserves?

And let’s stop hiding veterans, let alone any unrelated legislation, in omnibus bills or otherwise ramming veterans’ programs through parliament.

Almost 120,000 Canadians have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more have lived and continue to live with lifelong disabilities. They have done this to serve our nation in protecting democracy and its vital pillars of transparency, accountability and due process. Surely Parliament can do better for its veterans. Send the programs back to the chef.

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

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Sit Rep. Bill C-59 -Democracy bastardized?

Sit rep. Just received a phone message from Peter Stoffer , Veterans critic of the NDP. He has informed me the conservatives will not consider resolutions that the CVA has proposed to ensure their is equality in recognition in serious wounds, whether they be physical or mental in nature. Nor will others testimony be considered. (Unless, of course, they agree with policy) This is profoundly disappointing, tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money have been expended bringing witnesses to Ottawa, hearing testimony… only to have our voices completely ignored.

Were they ever intended to be heard? Was all the time and effort that I and other witnesses took to prepare and attend these events in Ottawa just part of some political charade… and at what expense? Is this how the government respects our tax dollars? Dog and pony shows to speak to issues already decided months ago?


Here is what the CVA presented before committee last Tuesday evening so that you are up to date.

Good evening. My name is Michael Blais, I am the president and founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy. Thank you for inviting me to attend committee to tonight to speak to Bill C-59 and the creation of new programs designed to improve the quality of life for Canada’s disabled veterans.

It is very gratifying to me to note that several of the primary issues that I founded the Canadians Veterans Advocacy in 2010 have been recently addressed and while there is a certain degree of skepticism within the veterans community I serve as to the timing of the these announcements and the looming election, I am hopeful that the government is acting in good faith and that there will be merit to these discussion.

I understand there is only so much we can do with the limited time available to us and to that end, I should like to focus on shortcomings that I believe that can be, if the government is acting in good faith, resolved at this time to ensure the proposals which have been brought forward will be inclusive to all veterans, not just those who experience physical trauma.

Critical Injury Benefit – I believe that this is a positive development, however, what is very troubling to me is the fact that many who have sustained mental wounds will be excluded due to the “Immediate” prerequisite within the proposal. This exclusion is detrimental to our collective objective to eliminate stigma, to ensure those who have sustained mental wounds are assured that the pervasive, health insidious stigma does not relegate the seriousness of their sacrifice, as this does, to a lower state of recognition.

There must be equality in acknowledgement of all serious wounds, physical or mental and I would respectfully remind committee members that mental wounds are just as lethal as physical wounds. We must acknowledge the grim fact that more of Canada’s Sons and Daughters have died as a consequence of suicide than the nation sacrificed during the War on Terror and without effective intervention, this number will only rise. Furthermore, we must be cognizant that these intensely tragic numbers speak only to one segment of the issue as Veterans Affairs Canada does not track suicides within the veterans community, that these numbers may be exponentially higher.

We know now that mental wounds, when incurred during an operational period, are often not recognized or acknowledged by the individual until returning home and the cycle of despair begins to ravage the mind, adversely affecting self and the the family unit. We also understand that many of our heroes suppress acknowledging the seriousness of the wound, fearful of stigma and career ending ramifications until mental discord occurs and finally, the treatment that is so necessary provided.

We must consider all serious national sacrifice equally. It should matter not whether you have sustained a physical or a mental wound, should it qualify to the requisites of the CIB yet, for a mental wound is bereft of immediate hospitalization, that amendments will be made to respect the national sacrifice of those who have sustained serious mental wounds as a consequence to their service, that they to will be included in this compensatory proposal.

Caregivers Allowance. This too is a positive step forward, aligning the NVC provisions with that of the Pension Act and providing annual respite for primary caregivers who have been consigned to a lifetime of caring for a seriously disabled veteran. Once again, however, caregivers who are caring for veterans who have sustained serious mental wounds have been virtually excluded. Spouses who care for their husbands 24/7, fearing the spectre of suicide on a daily basis, are not accorded the opportunity for dedicated respite knowing their loved ones are cared for.

There must be equality, recognition that the impact that a mental wound bears upon the caregiver is extraordinary, that the threat of the wound manifesting catastrophically is clear and present long after a physical wound has been deemed non life threatening. I would encourage you to recognize the travail caregivers of mental wounds are experiencing, amend the legislation to include the plight of families that are dealing with mental wounds.

Retirement Income Supplementary benefit. This has been a cornerstone principle of the CVA since conception, the plight of our disabled veterans when reaching age 65. Disabled veterans, ladies and gentlemen, disabled. The foundation of the RISB, a comparative to the average Canadian’s post retirement income at 70% of 75%, negates the Disabled quotient completely. We are not speaking of ordinary Canadians, but disabled veterans bereft of a lifetime of opportunity to prepare for retirement. Disabled veterans do not retire from being disabled, indeed as they grow older, they require additional supplements such as VIP.

We believe that there should be no reduction, that the 70 of 75 percent equation does not respect the needs of a disabled veteran and that the RISB should ensure that quality of life provision to which they have been accorded, which is the foundation of VACs mandate, is maintained at 75%.

We also find it disingenuous to include the Permanent Impairment Allowance, an award that recognizes the fact that seriously disabled veterans require financial support to cope with their wounds in addition to the 75% ELB/SISIP provisions. into the harmonization of income requisites. Once again, these are seriously impaired veterans, to negate the PIA’s mandate through the RISB clawback formula, despite the fact that they are still seriously disabled and have already sustained a significant fiscal reduction when reaching age 65, will consign them to a life of poverty. We have also grave concerns of the proposals of 50% of 70% to dependents should the veteran pass prior to the spouse is grotesquely insufficient.

There must be equality in recognition of national sacrifice, a serious, life altering wound must treated with the same level of respect regardless of whether it is physical or mental in nature. I have come here to attempt to convince you to fulfill this obligation, this Sacred Obligation, to the Valiant who have sustained serious mental wounds and their families who have offered such profound sacrifice on behalf of this magnificent nation.

Thank you

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Status Update On OVO Priorities And ACVA Recommendations – Veterans Ombudsman : Mise à jour sur les priorités du BOV et les recommandations d’ACVA – Ombudsman des vétérans

Status Update On OVO Priorities And ACVA Recommendations – Veterans Ombudsman

Hard to keep track of all the improvement recommendations that have been made for Veterans? I’ve created a series of easy to read tables that highlight recommendations by my office and ACVA and clearly show where things sit and what remains to be done to support Veterans. Have a look at it and share it with others!


Mise à jour sur les priorités du BOV et les recommandations d’ACVA – Ombudsman des vétérans

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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,………….


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