Saturday rally to bring attention to veterans’ pension changes

Across Canada for the next two days will be news reports previewing local marches or veterans’ protest rallies on November 6, 11 a.m. local time, to bring to public attention inadequate care and compensation programs for Canada’s disabled vets and families of fallen soldiers. The one closest to me is in Trenton, Ontario. Here is today’s local news.

Reported in the Trentonian, November 4, 2010 by Ernst Kuglin

Canadian Forces veterans are taking to the streets in Trenton, Saturday, during a rally aimed at forcing the federal government to make changes in the new Veterans’ Charter, which “clawbacks” pensions.

Retired Captain Lance Usher said veterans are calling on the government to end the new charter’s lump sum payment and restore the lifetime pain and suffering pension to veterans, not only those who have served, but for current Canadian Force personnel as well.

“I’ve seen the anguish on the faces of hundreds of family members,” said Usher. “I’ve known injured soldiers. If the New Veteran’s Charter isn’t changed soon, there’s going to be a whole lot of additional anguish. Those families won’t be able to survive financially.”

Usher retired from the army in 2009 after serving for 24 years and 68 days.

A painful non-deployment related back injury forced the former captain to quit the military. Usher has served in trouble spots such as Rwanda, Haiti and Bosnia during his career.

He is now a member of the Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Unit, commonly known as 1 CAV and has attended more than 100 repatriation ceremonies at CFB Trenton.

Saturday’s rally will be held at the municipal parking lot, just west of the Metro Store in Trenton. Usher, one of three local organizers, said he hopes other veterans and the public will be at the 11 a.m. rally.

“We’re asking the public to stand up for veterans the same way tens of thousands of veterans have stood up for them (the public) on dangerous missions around the world,” said Usher.

Veterans are demanding the government ends the dollar-for-dollar Canada Pension Plan clawbacks from their pensions.

“If that’s going to be the case, then why did I have to pay full CPP contributions in the first place. You don’t see government MPs giving up any of the their gold-plated pensions or benefits and they only have to serve six years to get them,” said Usher.

Usher says there’s a “vast disparity” between what veterans will earn under the new charter, and what veterans are earning prior to the changes.

“Hypothetically, two veterans are severely wounded. One is 25 years old with a wife and child. One receives a lump sum payment of $276,000. The other receives the standard (before the new Veterans Charter implementation) about $3,000 a month,” said Usher.

Both soldiers live to 85.

Usher said the new veteran receives only about $380 per month.

His colleague, at $3,000 a month prior to the new Veteran’s Charter, receives more than $2 million. It also includes an additional supplement for his wife and each child until they reach 18.

“This vast disparity, particularly when one considers the consequences of modern combat, is obscene,” said Usher.

Veterans are also taking issue with the Service Income Survivors Pension, or SISIP.

“The government claims the SISIP top up to 75 per cent of a veteran’s wage is a great system… but that’s only if you are a higher rank,” said Usher. “As a captain, I am topped up to $68,000. A corporal released with the same injury is topped up to $40,000. It has created two classes of veterans. Under the old system, we both would receive the same medical pension.”

Veterans are also demanding the government end the so-called widow’s tax. They say families should be entitled to a tax exemption on all death benefits.

Usher called it an “unjust taxation policy.”

Usher said there should be no tax on pensions or benefits of soldiers killed in action.

“The families of the fallen, already deeply grieving the loss of loved ones are subject to a great deal of financial hardship through this policy,” he said.

Veterans are also demanding an end to the repeal of veteran’s military pensions at age 65.

“Imagine you have served your entire career and paid into your pension fund only to discover the government is arbitrarily going to reduce your service pension the moment you hit 65,” said Usher. “This is fundamentally unfair considering that out of all the government services, only the RCMP and Armed Forces are adversely affected. It’s a huge burden for veterans and Mounties and should be repealed.”

Usher said he met with local MP Rick Norlock last week.

“All he did was give us a handout of what the government has done,” said Usher.

But Usher did receive a phone call from Hastings Prince Edward MP Daryl Kramp.

“He told me that he was going to take our concern directly to Veterans Affairs Minister Jean Pierre Blackburn,” said Usher.

Usher added Quinte West Mayor John Williams will be at the rally.

“He’s promised to support,” he said.

Neither Norlock nor Williams could be reached for comment.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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