The website, Veterans of Canada.ca, has posted an article written by the Calgary Herald’s Marilla Stephenson. Attached to the article is a link to the Actuarial Analysis by AON Canada for the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman. The results justify the veterans peaceful protests scheduled for Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 1100 hours in front of the local riding offices of their MPs.
Tue, Aug 31 – 7:12 AM
Canadians now have a better glimpse into all the fuss over poor benefits for military veterans, and the pathetic hypocrisy of a government that is pretending to promise change about what are in reality long-standing complaints.
Politicians are always ready for the carefully staged photo ops with soldiers in the field, or aboard ships headed to sea, or on hand for the somber ramp ceremonies for those killed in action. But, how often is a politician photographed standing up to defend our wounded veterans after they return home, after they realize how their lives and families, along with their shattered bodies, will never be the same?
Outgoing ombudsman Pat Stogran, who publicly decried the “penny-pinching” treatment of veterans under the federal benefits plan, has been the guy standing up for these veterans. As a reward, Harper’s Conservatives have told him his three-year appointment won’t be renewed.
Now an independent report, obtained by The Canadian Press, gives a clearer picture of the shortcomings Stogran has tried to address during his frustrating time as ombudsman. Veterans Affairs has been sitting on the report by consultant Aon Canada since last year. The report, which CP described as a detailed actuarial study, compares the benefits soldiers received under the previous plan to the pension supports available under the New Veterans Charter.
Ordinary soldiers wounded in combat, vets with families and the most severely disabled are the biggest losers under the changed program. And the less a soldier makes, the more severely he or she is penalized, the report says. “Based on our assumptions, we are of the opinion that the actuarial present values of benefits identified in our evaluation offered through the (New Veterans Charter) are lower, in the majority of cases, than the actuarial present values of benefits offered under the Pension Act,” says the 2009 report.
Stogran has a few months left in his tenure and has made it clear that he intends to spend them trying to better inform Canadians about the system’s shortcomings. He says his beef is not with the political leadership but with senior bureaucrats at Veterans Affairs and their inability or unwillingness to improve the pension plan.
Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn is making all the correct political noises about Stogran’s accusations, publicly expressing a willingness to address the shortcomings outlined in the actuarial report and suggesting he will consider changes to the veterans’ pension plan. “For clients for whom the NVC seems less advantageous, this is something that we are currently looking into,” Blackburn told CP.
“Therefore, as I said many times, the (New Veterans) charter is a living document and something I am ready to act on. Soon, I will receive a full evaluation of all the services and financial aspects of the charter and I will be in a position to make decisions.”
This is laughable. Veterans Affairs has been well aware of shortcomings in the program for years and has yet to do anything to fix them.
A study published in 2008, undertaken jointly by Veterans Affairs and a researcher at the University of Alberta, had already highlighted many of the shortcomings in the pension system. It included a detailed survey completed by 142 veterans whose disability levels were 78 per cent or higher. Their spouses were also invited to respond.
The report called, Wounded Veterans, Wounded Families, does not mince words. “The results of this survey are stunning,” the researchers wrote in the report’s introduction. “Family members who support these younger high-needs veterans are at substantially higher risk of poor financial, social and health outcomes than any other group of caregivers we have examined in more than 20 years of research on families and care.”
A full 57 per cent of respondents said there were not enough financial resources available to get the support they needed in order to provide for their disabled spouse. “Every penny from Veterans Affairs you have to fight for,” one respondent told the researchers.
“We’ve appealed six times now, reliving every detail, dwelling on it all . . . on the pain.”
“He won’t anymore — it’s too much for him. It’s such a strong emotional cost.”
Another said expected benefits for necessary medical aids were promised but not available. “You have to fight for everything you get from (Veterans Affairs).”
In 2008, the ombudsman described the clawback of benefits under new taxation rules as unfair.
Thanks to Stogran’s outspoken approach — basically, doing his job — his services are no longer required.
It’s much like all those veterans who went into battle with the Maple Leaf on their shoulder. Those who come home disabled have nobody watching their back.