Is Conservative Gov’t abandoning most vulnerable veterans?

Click for CTV item.

Click for CTV item.

It appears that the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper, deliberately or inadvertently, has abandoned some of the men and women who, while risking their lives for this country, have been badly wounded mentally or physically or both.

How?

Well, a few months after the Conservative Party was elected in January, 2006, following up on a campaign promise, they passed the new Canadian Veterans Charter or Bill of Rights into federal law on April 4th of that year.

In fairness to the previous Liberal Government, however, consultations had been ongoing for a number of years. As well, as I recall, there was much fanfare at the time of the implementation because all three main political parties voted in favour saying changes had been long overdue.

So, if no excuses, how can we account for the fact that a political party that was pro-military and a government that has increased military spending over the last seven years by at least $5 billion dollars (even after reductions), is now short-changing our veterans? I mean, how much of that increase is actually going towards veterans programs and services — or is it all going to the Department of Defence?

Regardless of where the money is going, the Veteran’s Charter appears to be a disaster for the most vulnerable. Check out the Ombudsman Report (H/T CTV), particularly the summary on pages 8-10:

  1. There are inadequate supports for veterans trying to transition to a civilian career;
  2. There are insufficient financial supports for veterans once they reach 65; and
  3. There are insufficient lifetime financial allowances because pensions been replaced with lump sum payments.

For example, regarding # 2 and 3, Dan Scott (H/T JNW) was injured by an anti-personnel land mine in Afghanistan in 2010. He lost two organs and injured another. So, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize he is going to require health care services and financial assistance for the rest of his life.

Of course, Scott had thought he could count on a veteran’s lifetime pension because that is the way it has been for the last hundred years. I mean, my grandmother told me she received a veteran’s survivor’s pension after my grandfather was killed in 1917 — a very modest pension she collected until her death in 1960.

Yet, for Scott’s dedication and commitment to his country, his country sent him a cheque in the mail for $42,000.

Now, think about that for a moment. Imagine, instead of being injured serving his country, Scott had received his injuries in a car accident at home. What do you suppose his pay out would be from his insurance company? Certainly not what he got. More likely one or two million.

There are, unfortunately, many more such examples. Which means, the verb abandoning is right on the money.

The crux of the matter is, then, that since citizens who vote conservative tend to respect their military, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that this issue could lose the current government their majority in 2015.

We honoured our veterans yesterday. Let’s also honour them tomorrow with a Bill of Rights they can rely on.

[…]

Update: Wednesday, November 13th: Here is a National Post column by Shaun Francis about doing more for our military than wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day. It touches on many of the issues raised here. If things are not as they seem, the PMO should get out front of this matter and make sure the problems are corrected now.

10 thoughts on “Is Conservative Gov’t abandoning most vulnerable veterans?

  1. fhl — The problem with your link is that the gov’t is still denying the lump sum problem. If there wasn’t a serious problem, the vets themselves would not be so angry. It’s about broken trust and something needs to change to deal with the feeling of betrayal between the citizens of this country and those who sign up to fight on our behalf. Lifelong pensions are far more expensive than a lump sum. So, at the end of the day, denial aside, it is about saving money. Actually, there should be more than a monthly pension. There should also be the equivalent of the lump sum on a need basis — say replacing a prosthesis every two years, which is the usual time for an artificial limb to wear out.

    Reminds me of how the Ontario Liberal government can close a local Niagara hospital and say it is to “improve” health care. Why is it an improvement? The spin says it is an improvement because there will be qualified staff at the urgent care centre 40 miles away. Yea right! We have had far too many people die in ambulances because of that 40 miles and the 45 minutes it took to get them to health services.

    So, unfortunately, the way most of the answers are written regarding the veteran’s charter are pure spin.

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  2. Well fhl — That last link you have provided seems to suggest all the anger now is for nothing. Yet, something is going on. Vets don’t normally pull together to go after the government of the day with a class action suit. Dan Scott did only receive a lump sum payment of $42,000. It seems strange that someone who has lost two major internal organs and damaged another, does not qualify for lifetime financial assistance in the way of a veterans pension.

    Maybe some Afghan vets can leave a comment here and explain in more detail.

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  3. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Vets benefits, long term disability, and retraining, but I don’t believe this Govt would ever fail our Vets or design programs that would be to the detriment of our brave soldiers.
    Looking for solutions for those who fall thru the cracks is needed.

    After the changes were made, the Ministry polled Vets on the effectiveness of the lump sum payments:

    “Almost 70% of them (said) they prefer receiving a lump sum,” he said, adding for him that’s the majority and the issue is now closed.

    The survey found 3% of respondents blew their cash on gambling, alcohol and illicit drugs, while 85% reported using their money well.

    Veterans Affairs notes younger and middle age respondents were more likely to say they preferred a monthly pension. Younger respondents and those with mental health conditions were also more likely to spend on drugs and booze.’…

    A quick check on the Vets website show that the lump sum payout is not the only benefit offered our Vets.
    Younger Vets need help getting on with their lives, retraining and long term disability monthy benefits are there for them.

    Perhaps contributions to the Vets group health plan, which includes a monthy payment, should be mandatory instead of voluntary.

    There was a report last week that a reservist, who was on medicial leave for hearing problems, ptsd and insulin needs, was a year from the 10 years needed to qualify for an indexed pension.
    There have to be time limits to every program. Perhaps this program could be available after 5 years, with the payments increasing incrementally to 10 years….

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  4. I agree Wilson to some extent but in terms of pension, there should be no time limits. If a soldier goes to a place like Afghanistan for two years and comes home disabled, he or she should still qualify. The time limits could apply to someone in the forces who does not choose to go into a military zone. Otherwise, why on earth would anyone serve their country? I mean, my father served for six years in WWII and because he was wounded qualified for a vets pension for life. He didn’t use it until he was 65 but he was eligible. It’s part of the implicit soldier-citizen compact.

    So, while I support this government I don’t do so automatically. I want to know the truth about these lump sum payments and pension eligibility and I figured the only way was to post this column to get some answers. So far I haven’t heard from a vet on this thread but I did on the Remembrance Day thread — Dave. He says he still supports this gov’t but wants changes to the Charter.

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