The following letter is submitted by Michael L. Blais CD on behalf of all vets who support Pat Stogran in his efforts to help the public understand the failure of Veteran Affairs and its programs to address the real needs of today’s homecoming vets.
Veterans standing up for Colonel Stogran as he has stood up for us.
Last week, retired Colonel Pat Stogran, CO of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry battalion that led Canada’s deployment to Afghanistan, was informed by the Canadian government that his services as the Veterans Affairs Canada ombudsman would be no longer required. Veterans across the nation were appalled, fearing the important issues championed so vigilantly by Colonel Stogran would be ignored or delayed beneath the guise of Minister Blackburn’s claim of need for a new vision. I can assure all Canadians, there is nothing wrong with Colonel Stogran’s vision; the issues he has identified and condemned during his tenure are very, very real. Furthermore, during the past three years, he has truly earned the trust of our veterans through action and word, a refreshing source of support for many who are living with the debilitating consequences of war and peace.
Many Canadians are unfamiliar with the hardships young and old veterans are confronting.
I would like to clarify this situation with the sincere hope that once you understand how veterans are being mistreated, you might be inclined to support them at 1100 hours, November 6th, 2010 when we assemble in front of our MPs’ offices to respectfully ask for support redressing five principle areas of concern.
The widow’s aka death benefit tax. Sadly, the families of the fallen, already deeply grieving the loss of loved ones are subject to a great deal of financial hardship through this unjust taxation policy. Veterans Affair Canada is not an insurance company and the pension/awards they provide are specifically for pain and suffering, not income replacement. We believe that the families of the fallen deserve the same standard and should be provided a tax exception on all VAC death benefits.
Lump Sum Award. Sadly, hundreds of Canada’s sons and daughters have sustained grievous wounds in action and/or suffer from a variety of service related physical and physiological issues. We have borne witness to the struggle of the armless, the legless, blind, deaf… hundreds of veterans are returning to Canada from Afghanistan with serious health problems. Financially, the New Veterans Charter is particularly deficient. I will demonstrate by comparing the two systems. Hypothetically, two veterans are severely wounded, age twenty-five, wife, child. One receives a lump sum payment of 276,000 dollars. The other receives the standard before the New Veterans Charter implementation, roughly 3,000 dollars a month. Both live to the age of 85. The new veteran receives 276,000 dollars during this period, about 380 dollars a month. His colleague, on the pre-New Veterans Charter, receives over TWO MILLION dollars and includes an additional supplement for his wife and each child till they reach the age of 18. This vast disparity, particularly when one considers the consequences of modern combat, is obscene.
Clawback of Veterans Affairs pension/Maritime Life SISIP program. Canadians might well imagine how difficult, if not impossible, it is for a soldier to find life insurance! We participate through a government-approved program administered by Maritime Life called the SISIP program. This is a standard LTD insurance policy that, if necessary, subsidizes soldiers other pensions to a percentage based on severity of injury. Prior to the New Veterans Charter, Maritime Life deducted the veterans VAC award from this payment even though it quite clearly states that the Veterans Affairs Canada pension is for pain and suffering and not to be considered income replacement. The New Veterans Charter rectified this injustice through legislation but inexplicably, not for all veterans. Today, 6,500 airmen, sailors and soldiers continue to be adversely affected, a fact that is prejudicial and grotesquely unfair. We have all served this nation. There should be only one standard, inclusive of the financial considerations promised when we have Tread in Harms Way on Canada’s behalf.
Reduction of service pension at age 65. Imagine, you served your entire career, dutifully paying into your pension fund only to discover that the government is arbitrarily going to reduce your service pension the moment you hit 65. This is fundamentally unfair, particularly in the sense that of all governmental offices, only the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces are adversely affected by this financial hardship. We believe that this is a burden for veterans and Mounties; this discriminating policy must be repealed.
Agent Orange/PTSD. We respectfully request that a comprehensive program be implemented to assist those who were affected by Agent Orange chemicals at CFB Gagetown for many years. The current settlement covers only those affected over the course of one, even though it has been proven that hundreds, if not thousands of veterans through time may have been exposed. The consequences are fatal, cancers inherent with great discomfort and pain. Many veterans have already died. To deny responsibility and care for those suffering a terminal disease yet provide for others similarly affected, but only during the one-year period, is morally wrong. Post traumatic stress issues have also become an urgent issue as more and more of our veterans find it difficult coping with their wartime experiences after repatriation.
These are the facts and with these facts in mind, I would invite all Canadians to join veterans throughout Canada on the 6th of November 2010, at 1100 hours in front of your local MP’s office. We shall unite as brothers and sisters, sing O Canada, respectfully present our petition to our local parliamentarians and provide him/her an opportunity to address these issues in a public forum. Conservative, Liberal or NDP, it matters not. Our veterans need the support of all parliamentarians if we are to change the Veterans Charter through legislation. Just as we, the veterans of Canada, need the support of all Canadians.
Stand up for veterans! Stand up for veterans as we have stood up for you.
Michael L Blais CD,
Niagara Falls Ontario