I’m sorry to read that once again Ottawa is deliberately DOING NOTHING to help our vets. In the last six months Veterans Affairs has received 271 applications for the Agent Orange Ex-Gratia payments, but if the Order in Council is not extended these applications are buried warns Col. Pat Stogran, our veterans ombudsman, on his blog as copied with permission. If we do not raise our voices to support our troops, our vets and Col. Stogran with letters to our MPs demanding the government respond to his letter and to the urgent need to extend the Order in Council for the Agent Orange Ex-Gratia payment, we become as guilty as the government in our neglect. Please read and add your voice to ours.
Agent Orange Ex-Gratia
Ottawa – 10 September 2010
You have heard me say that I feel duped in that I believed that the “system” truly wanted a Veterans Ombudsman that could provide an objective viewpoint on various issues and that it would listen to the advice and recommendations of that person.
As the Veterans Ombudsman, one of my tasks is to advise the Minister of Veterans Affairs. So one would think any counsel that I provided on unfair practices affecting Veterans and their families would be welcomed. It would certainly allow the Minister to have a viewpoint that is unencumbered by any Departmental concerns.
On June 21, 2010, I sent a letter (Opens in a new window) to the Minister asking for an extension to the Order in Council for the Agent Orange Ex-Gratia payment due to the fact that the “nature of the illnesses and the four decades that have passed combined with existing application process issues are creating an unfair situation for eligible stakeholders.”
The extension would require no new money as the program is undersubscribed (only $58.8 Million spent of the $95.3 Million originally allocated) partly due to the problems identified in my letter. I provided the Minister with ample time to work the machinery of government to seek an extension before the Order in Council expires on October 1, 2010. To date, I have received no response to my letter.
I understand that my recommendations are not going to be accepted every time, but if a recommendation is not going to be accepted, then the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman should be informed as to why. Since my letter has not even been acknowledged, I am left with the impression that the Government is going to quietly let the Order in Council expire.
Are there actions going on that I am not aware of? I am just as much in the dark as any other Canadian on this – and as the Veterans Ombudsman I shouldn’t be.
There are now less than 20 days left before the Order in Council expires and to further tighten the deadline, according to VAC, they will stop accepting applications on the 17th of September. In the last six months alone VAC has received 271 applications so it is obvious that there are many out there who are struggling to meet the demands of the application process. Is the Government considering extending the Order in Council or is it just patiently waiting for the issue to go away? I don’t know and I need to know, so do Canadians, especially Canadian Veterans and their families.
What I do know,however, after having personally talked to Canadians across this country, is that this is a real issue, affecting real people with real consequences. What I do know is that the Government announced this program ( Opens in a new window) in December 2007 stating “today, we are acting. We are moving in the direction of fairness and compassion”. What I do know is that the then Minister in his speech (Opens in a new window) announcing the Ex-Gratia payments even quoted the following from President Teddy Roosevelt: “In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
So where is the compassion and fairness now? Decision time has arrived! It’s time to do the “right thing” for Canadian Veterans and their families. They deserve no less! So, are you still wondering why I feel duped? Stay tuned for more.