Canadian Vets on back burner — more forked-tongue posturing to the public


Once again, Veterans Affairs wastes taxpayers’ money to ramp up self-grandiose propaganda.  Mike Blais explains it fully in his message to members of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy. More than ever Canadians need to support our vets in this unethical drive to misrepresent their claims to the public. BONNIE

Minister Blackburn’s cross-country tour to nowhere.

Mike Blais Rcr Cfds January 13 at 11:42pm ReplyReport

One can only wonder why Minister Blackburn and his staff are going through such exorbitant expense of an eight city, cross-country tour considering the press-release stated reasons the journey has been designed to highlight. Thousands of disabled veterans living in substandard conditions these past four years have good reason to be disappointed with the government after Minister Blackburn’s well-publicized promises to provide legislative relief were subsequently ignored during the dying days of 2010’s parliamentary session. Despite months of promises, despite the government’s acknowledgment 2000 disabled Canadian veterans urgently require relief through Minister Blackburn’s proposed a $40,000 minimum annual income base, despite the fact that 3500 veterans will not qualify for the proposed changes to the ELB, have received nothing but shallow promises that fail to address the serious hardships they have suffered as a consequence of the New Veterans Charter.

Further discouraging is the fact that none of Min. Blackburn’s financial relief proposals are retroactive. Every month the government delays implementation on this file deprives these 2000 veterans of over 600000 dollars and will continue to deprive them of this relief until the proposed legislation passes through Parliament and the Senate. Should there be an election this spring, the delay of legislative relief for these veterans could very well extend into next year, depriving serious injured veterans millions upon millions of dollars and inflicting untold hardship. Is this fiscal conservatism? Do Canadians understand the consequences?

What precisely are these improvements deserving of a cross country trip that will undoubtedly cost tax payers thousands of dollars at the expense of the VAC budget? First, improving the standard time for rehabilitation eligibility requests to two weeks from four weeks? Admittedly, this is an improvement BUT… Considering the VAC’s dedicated staff, why are disabled veterans waiting any more than 72 hours for approval? These rehabilitative measures have been ordered by doctors and specialists who have been entrusted to our disabled veterans care? Why does it take two weeks for a bureaucrat to render a decision on a doctor’s professional opinion? What medical qualifications do those who make these decisions have that they can over rule the veteran’s primary physician?

Secondly amongst these so called important announcements is news that veterans will have less paperwork to complete when applying for VIP services. Golly! Then there was the claim that 20 caseworkers have been added in areas of high demand, something that was announced already last fall around the time Pembroke Hospital abruptly discontinued care for hundreds of veterans from nearby CFB Petawawa. Last amongst these important announcements was the fact that veterans will now only have to wait for 2 min. before speaking to a VAC representative through a national call center. One vet I mentioned this to immediately joked that they must have moved the call centre to India… another claimed they will simply answer the phone in two minutes then put you on hold for an hour.

Of course, it would be very unfair to management/staff at Veterans Affairs Canada, those Canadians who do deserve credit for these administrative improvements, were I not to acknowledge their efforts and compliment them for improving the efficiency of their departments. Bravo Zulu. Now we can only hope the Minister will exhibit this same devotion and focus on improving the serious issues that are confronting our troops and veterans today; the grotesquely unjust lump sum payment for Canada’s sons and daughters should they be injured in combat, the widows tax, the claw back of pension at age 65, rectified through parliamentary vote via Bill C 101; democracy denied to RCMP officers and veterans through governmental intransigence. The SISIP LTD claw back on 6500 veterans pensions, an issue that will move forward through the courts compliments of a Supreme Court Ruling in veterans favour after the government spent millions of tax-payers dollars to prevent Canada’s sons and daughters from exercising their legal right to unite to stand tall against this unjust practice?

How about focusing on providing care and compensation to ALL Canadian veterans adversely affected (CANCER) from exposure to Agent Orange and not just those who were in Gagetown for seven days 1966 and 67. Prime Minister Steven Harper promised justice for all veterans affected by Agent Orange during the 28 year program when he was in opposition, now five years later with an election looming, is it not too much for veterans to expect the PM do the honourable thing and fulfill his promise them?

Michael L Blais CD.
Founder, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Niagara Falls, Ontario

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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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4 Responses to Canadian Vets on back burner — more forked-tongue posturing to the public

  1. The following is a press release provided by Senator Percy Down that responds to Mike’s concerns expressed in today’s post. Bonnie

    January 14th, 2011

    In the ongoing struggle for the fair treatment of Canadian veterans and their families, the end of 2010 gave us all reason for optimism on a couple of fronts.

    As I mentioned in December, the Auditor General, Ms. Sheila Fraser, informed me in writing that she would embark on the long-awaited audit of the New Veterans Charter. Although the results of the audit will not be known until the Fall of 2012, it has been my experience in government that the prospect of a visit from the Auditor General has a tendency to “focus the mind” of those responsible for Government departments, causing them to anticipate likely problems and solve them before they become part of an official, and very public, report. However, the Auditor General must be made aware of specific problems, so I would encourage you to spread the word among fellow veterans and organizations to get in touch with her directly, to let her know your experiences and concerns with the New Veterans Charter. She can be reached at:

    Ms. Sheila Fraser
    Office of the Auditor General of Canada
    240 Sparks Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0G6
    Email: communications@oag-bvg.gc.ca

    The second piece of good news concerns the outstanding efforts of Dennis Manuge. I would like to congratulate Mr. Manuge, his fellow veterans, his lawyers and supporters on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to allow his class action lawsuit to proceed in the Federal Court. While the case is far from settled, it could mean that as many as 6,500 veterans can fight the Government clawback of their disability payments. Their refusal to give up the fight has been a tremendous inspiration to many veterans.

    Media coverage and public pressure led to a small victory in December 2010 when the government announced it was extending the deadline for applications for the Agent Orange ex gratia payment. This is a far cry from what is needed – and indeed, from what Stephen Harper promised he would do – but that it happened at all is a testament to the importance of keeping public pressure on this government. When I received an answer to a Written Question I tabled in the Senate last October, we found out that one-third of the money allocated for this program was going back into General Revenue (that is, it wasn’t even going to be made available for other veterans’ programs) and the reaction of the Canadian public was such that the Government was embarrassed into reversing its decision.

    The latest example of this attitude is the issue of veterans’ funeral and burial expenses. I recent issued a press release describing the situation, which I have included below. Currently, the Government of Canada allows serving members of the Canadian Forces to receive up to $12,700 for funeral and burial expenses, but only provides $3,600 for veterans, an amount unchanged since 2001.

    In March of last year, in response to a Written Question I tabled in the Senate, Veterans Affairs Minister Blackburn advised that the program “is currently being reviewed.” Eight months later, at the November 17th Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meeting, I questioned the lack of progress in resolving the issue, and Blackburn had this to say:

    “You said that I had talked about that in March and that this matter has yet to be resolved. You are right. This brief was even drawn to my attention approximately a month ago, and I am the one who said that this was not the time to talk about this matter (…)”

    Thus, by their own admission, the Harper Government is refusing to heed the advice of department officials with regard to increasing funding for the funeral and burial expenses of veterans. They owe Canadians an explanation as to when they think would be the right “time to talk about this matter”.

    The clear lesson is to keep the pressure on this government. Keep sending emails and writing letters to Members of Parliament and Senators – of all parties – to keep them informed of your issues and concerns.

    I would like to emphasize the importance of media coverage of veterans’ issues. There is no doubt that Canadians massively support veterans and their families receiving the benefits they need and deserve. When the media reports on the shortcomings of the benefits available to veterans, the public is often shocked, and it is this pressure that forces the current government to take corrective action. Stories need to be heard, and without media coverage, we would not have the results that we have been able to achieve to date. I would urge all veterans to continue contacting the media with any issues they may be experiencing.

    Letters to the editor and other forms of commentary serve to keep issues in the public eye, which is essential to getting this government to change its position and live up to its commitments. With their obsession with image and messages, this government is very sensitive to publicity: they don’t mind breaking their promises, but they hate being caught.

    In closing, I would like to commend the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association for announcing on December 15th, 2010, that they will help veterans in that province to “access and maintain benefits under the compensation programs offered by the Government of Canada.” At a time when the Federal Government is spending millions to fight veterans seeking the compensation they are due, it is good to see others stepping forward to do what is right.

    Best wishes for 2011,

    Percy Downe
    Senator, Charlottetown, PEI

  2. This is another press release provided by Senator Percy Down that responds to Mike’s concerns expressed in today’s post. Bonnie

    Senator Percy E. Downe (Charlottetown)
    Media Release
    January 13, 2011

    Minister of Veterans Affairs Ignoring Departmental Advice

    At a recent Senate Subcommittee Meeting on Veterans Affairs, Charlottetown Senator Percy Downe confirmed that the Harper Government is refusing to heed the advice of department officials to increase funding for the funeral and burial expenses of veterans.

    Currently, the Government of Canada allows serving members of the Canadian Forces to receive up to $12,700 for funeral and burial expenses, but only provides $3,600 for veterans, an amount unchanged since 2001.

    In March 2010, in response to a Written Question tabled in the Senate by Downe, Minister of Veterans Affairs, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, advised that the program “is currently being reviewed.” Eight months later, at the November 17th sub-committee meeting, Downe questioned the lack of progress in resolving the issue, and Blackburn had this to say:

    “You said that I had talked about that in March and that this matter has yet to be resolved. You are right. This brief was even drawn to my attention approximately a month ago, and I am the one who said that this was not the time to talk about this matter (…)”

    At their National Convention held in June 2010, the Royal Canadian Legion passed this resolution:

    “(T)hat the Minister of Veterans Affairs take necessary action immediately to increase the Veterans Funeral and Burial Program funeral services allowable maximum to an equivalent level established for the RCMP and Canadian Forces.”

    The resolution, identical to one passed at their 2008 convention, reflects the Legion’s longstanding concern about the slow pace of reforming this Government’s policy. Indeed, in October 2010, Patricia Varga, Dominion President of the Royal Canadian Legion declared that her organization is “extremely concerned that this important issue is being swept under the rug.”

    Unfortunately, Ms. Varga’s concerns are justified, as the Minister has decided he doesn’t want to address the problem. She went on to say that: “(I)t is time that Veterans Affairs Canada made up its mind as to whether it will increase these payments substantially or not. Will we let our veterans die knowing that they could go to a pauper’s grave? One would hope not.”

    “The Harper Government owes Canadians an explanation as to when they think would be the ‘time to talk about this matter’. Veterans and their families cannot afford to wait any longer,” concluded Downe.

  3. Oscar Tuohy says:

    Hi, I just thought I’d post and let you know your blog layout is messed up on the Samsung Mobile phone browser. Anyhow keep up the good work.

    • Bonnie Toews says:

      Thanks for letting me know, Oscar. I don’t know what we can do about that. I read recently where this is happening to other bloggers as well — so many gadgets, I guess.

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