Vets screwed under New Veterans Charter


When is the Conservative government going to understand that our veterans are not stupid? They can add and subtract. They get it. The feds are using monies in the Veterans Affairs budget that should go to support homeless vets to finance their cross-Canada propaganda tour to sell the public on their hypocritical programs.

Let’s look at what the New Veterans Charter is NOT doing from our veterans perspective (figures from March 2011, Legion Magazine, pg 58):

NEW PENSION RATES FOR 2011:

Veterans under the old charter:

50% Assessment for a single pensioner paid monthly is $1,239.04. or $14,868.48/ yr or $371,712 total over 25 yrs.

The veteran under the new charter (2007):

50% Assessment paid in one lump sum for a single pensioner is: $142,659.74 or $5,706.39 per year for 25 yrs.

Say again? Before — $14,868.48 per year. Now — $5,706.39 per year

One vet’s comment — Sad, eh? Pathetic what the Government thinks of our Veterans — is the kindest grossest understatement ever uttered.

This crippling reduction in support is downright incomprehensible and brutal. Think of it in monthly terms and your stomach churns:

$5,706.39 per year in monthly terms is $475. 53 PER MONTH. How can anyone survive on this?

The mentality of PM Harper and Veterans Affairs Minister Blackburn is ludicrous!!

As one vet comments: “After seeing these numbers, it is no wonder why we have veterans who are homeless and/or living in squalor. They tell the public about these sweeping changes to make it better… in reality, it is much worse. Even if a veteran under each charter invests his/her money, the new veteran is still getting shafted.” 

This vet explained that the 50% rate is used as a median to show the inadequacies in the New Veterans Charter because “no one gets 100% as the government leads the public to believe, and the 10% is the basic amount paid out until you stabilize a year later at which time you get your remaining entitlement.”

What’s even more mind-boggling, and frankly scary, the Canadian Legion Editorial on pg 3 of its March issue thinks “these announcements are wonderful, and we applaud the minister and his department for their efforts.”

If you’re an Afghanistan vet, how do you react? “I almost choked on the bile that leaped into my throat upon reading this. How can an organization that outwardly supports the troops and Veterans say this????!!!! I want the money back that I paid for my membership.”

I guess! Are our old vets in the Canadian Legion all suffering from dementia?

On Blackburn’s propanganda tour, what does he stress? A vet highlights his most significant statements — vet’s comments are in square brackets; mine follow:

a) Turnaround times for a decision on rehab eligibility is now 2 weeks instead of 4 weeks. [It took me over 2 years to get a response –as is the case with many others I know. Utter BS from the Minister.] 

b) Vets now have less paperwork to complete when applying for the VIP program. [Misleading. It’s the initial application that requires streamlining, not the VIP application. The book War and Peace has less paper than what you have to do to get a pension award. This same paperwork is clearly designed to frustrate and overwhelm and confuse a Veteran. If he/she has PTSD, these feelings are aggravated to the point they often give up.] My observation: Another payment VAC doesn’t have to pay out.  A cruel way to save money, don’t you think?

According to a reservist, the situation is even worse. “Unless you get a medical release, you are not entitled to any benefits from VAC beyond a lump sum. A voluntary release voids the benefits as well.”

Do reservists know this when they sign up? Years ago when I signed up in the Navy Reserve, I did so because I wanted to contribute if my country needed me and I honestly never thought about the consequences if I were wounded or disabled as a result. Ah, youth eh! Never thinking ahead. Does this justify a gov’t. taking advantage of good patriotic Canadians?

I’ll tell you this: the more we spread the word, the fewer recruits the Canadian Forces will enlist. What next? Conscription? Well, at least military members would all have to receive the same benefits because there would be no volunteers.

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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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11 Responses to Vets screwed under New Veterans Charter

  1. amereminion says:

    Hiya Bonnie,

    I’d like some clarification with regard to just how veterans are getting screwed under the NVC, specifically because of the lump sum payment? To begin with, the lump sum is an award for pain and suffering, it is not a pension. Provision for the income support part of the NVC is actually under the rehabilitation program and whether before or after an election, every client on the rehab program is going to receive a minimum 40k per year. The program also affords veterans the benefit of case management, with a view towards furnishing clients the best chance they have at overcoming physical and psychological barriers. For those who cannot return to gainful employment, there are extended benefits under the NVC designed to provide ongoing financial support.

    I’ve heard criticism regarding VAC “getting rid of veterans after 2-3 years of being on the program” but that’s not the reality. Of course it’s the dept’s goal to furnish veterans with the tools that will enable them to return to society and not require social supports. But to say that VAC will arbitrarily discharge a client after 2-3 years is a little short-sighted IMO.

    Some of the archaic practices of VAC are clearly redundant, wasteful, and actually detract from the quality of life veterans are trying to regain. The good news in this, however, is that VAC is learning some lessons. Authority is being decentralized and field staff are going to be able to operate with much broader discretionary authority than they have had in past times. They’re not going to have to fight Charlottetown for permission to execute rational decisions that will benefit clients. And this measure alone will have an immediate affect on clients with regard to wait times for treatment and medical interventions/therapy etc. Clients will not have to hear that Charlottetown has refused a request, until added documentation is provided etc.. And Case managers will finally be able to do their jobs and deliver the services and benefits veterans need. I believe VAC is taking our concerns seriously and they’re working to steer the dept. into a new model of business.

    That’s not the same as saying there aren’t grave concerns that aren’t being addressed but it’s change nonetheless and VAC’s Deputy Minister, Mary Chaput, was brought into the dept. late last fall to steer these transitions.
    http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/sub.cfm?source=department/department-officials/bio-adm

    Are there going to be problems? Of course and over time they will be able to make course corrections that further support veterans needs. But I, personally, see real and substantive change coming. And I think it would behoove us as veterans who want to advocate for all clients of vac, to begin to actually understand the parameters of the NVC fully so that we can tackle issues with a measure of knowledge and concerns that the dept. actually can do something about.

    So far as I see it. 75% of a veterans’ imputed salary at release or a minimum of 40k a year isn’t getting screwed. And I’ll say it again, the lump sum is only an award for pain and suffering. The income supports come from the earnings loss program.. the permanent impairment allowance, the total and permanent impairment provision of the Act.. etc..

    In my mind a greater issue to begin questioning VAC about is where are our homeless and forgotten veterans? Why is it that the nation of Australia, which has 2/3rds the population of Canada, has twice the number of veterans on their books? Canada with a population of 35,500,000 (as at the time of this study) looks after 220,000 veterans while Australia, population of 21,200,000 looks after 415,000 veterans.

    I’ll tell you why.. because over the decades, VAC has said “no” to hundreds of thousands of veterans. If you extrapolate the veterans on Australia’s books if they had the same population of Canada, we’d have 600,000 veterans as clients of veterans affairs…. So my question is, where are our veterans? Is it really a shock to discover that vets are on the streets? Not really. And IMO this is one of the major issues we need to tackle. Why is VAC so heavy-handed in it’s decision making process? Why is the adjudication process too heavy-handed? Why is it that Canada, a G7 country, only offers up a budget of 3.4 billion a year for our veterans while Australia is only a G20 nation and yet offers up 11.13 billion?

    I’m not saying there aren’t other issues.. but one of our issues should be to work towards fighting the heavy burden of proof VAC demands of its clients. If Canada were managing Veterans Affairs with the same fairness of Australia, we’d have 600,000 of our compadres being taken care of instead of the 200,000 we have now. VAC’s culture of denial should be one of our most important issues! Where are our compadres?

    Another, in my mind, is to change the disgusting manner with which we treat reservists. They get half of what we do -to nothing at all. And there is a bias within the Dept. of Veterans Affairs that treats reservists with the utmost disrespect. Paperwork and applications pertaining to reservists are too often lost or misplaced by VAC! The practice of treating reservists in the way we do must change too!!

    It’s not my aim to discount anyone’s concerns but I see much more going on here than merely the lump sum issue. It really is only a part of the whole of the NVC.

    Sincerely,
    amereminion

  2. Thank you for reminding us of the positives achieved and refocusing our attention on the good things that have changed. We tend to focus on problems to the detriment to those behind the scenes trying to provide better service. Many VAC staff do have our vets’ best interest at heart and get as frustrated as our vets at the snags and loopholes in the system. We can only keep marching forward in the belief that one day we will have a system we can be proud of.

    Bonnie

    • YEG4ME says:

      Re: Are our old vets in the Canadian Legion all suffering from dementia?

      You suggest that the Veterans of the “other wars” (other than Afghanistan), are somehow demented because they feel the proposed VAC strategies are promising. Holding an opinion other than yours is not a criteria for dementia, and you do our older Veterans, and older persons in Canada a real disservice. Your comment is, plain and simply, derogatory and at a minimum…ageist. I am appalled.

      • Bonnie Toews says:

        The Canadian Legion had and has a responsibility to make sure that all vets and particularly vets fighting today’s wars are as protected in benefits and compensation as they were after World War II.

        The Canadian Legion had a responsibility at the time the New Veterans Charter was introduced to do due diligence to make sure there were no loopholes that could undermine the care and provisions of all vets coming after them before they endorsed the charter. Any promise to fix something after the fact by any government can never be trusted because too many variables can enter into events following the enactment of legislature. Vets from the first and second world wars fought too many battles with government bureaucracies in settling disputes and righting wrongs they endured to sign off on this new charter with such a convenient promise by the government without knowing the jeopardy at risk, but the Canadian Legion did.

        The Canadian Legion has not supported today’s veterans in righting these wrongs and forced them to form their own advocacy group. That’s like grandparents leaving their grandkids to fend off a pack of wolves alone, with no weapons and no support.

        I rarely refuse to apologize and rarely show disrespect for other human beings, but this time I am too outraged to cushion the reality for the sake of political correctness. Yesterday’s vets had and have an obligation to take better care of their next generation of military sons and daughters. So far, the Canadian Legion has failed miserably.

  3. Chris says:

    Bonnie,
    no need to apologize for your comments. You are calling a spade a spade. If someone gets offended too bad. They are more likely angered that someone is onto their shenanigans than offended. Political correctness be damned. Everyone is so worried about offending someone else we have become wimps in our own country. I commend you for saying what needed to be said.

    I would like to address “amereminion”.
    In reference to their comment: “Provision for the income support part of the NVC is actually under the rehabilitation program and whether before or after an election, every client on the rehab program is going to receive a minimum 40k per year.”
    That is great however it does not apply to reservists. What about the Reservist who who loses his civilian job because he went overseas to fight? How can you find any error in his judgement? He did what many couldn’t/ can’t. He answered the call of his country. When he comes home he stay on as Class A to put bread on the table, but can’t go regular force because of his injuries. All the while he is unable to get a medical release even though the military says he is unfit any trade. He hangs onto the Class A in hopes that something will come along and help his situation because he knows a voluntary release will be the final nail in his coffin. Will they receive $40,000/ yr minimum? No. They are not entitled.

    Now for general comment. This article touches close to home. in 2007 I was in Afghanistan as a reservist on a Class C Contract. I had a rather grim task that nobody wanted that has haunted me and caused me nothing but grief psychologically since coming home. I can relate to the troubles and feelings of the Reservist who wrote the original article. I know him personally. His psychological and physical injuries have cost him a lot. He was close to being homeless himself if it wasn’t for the charity of his friends. His family turned him away for over a year. He has been going through major hurdles to even get the lump while fighting Chronic PTSD and Major Depression. No easy task when your mind is broken and in Bat Country and everything you value is gone.

    A bit of background on his situation. His story is similar to other reservists I have spoke with. Since he is still serving, he cannot get any further benefits. eg… vocational retraining, lost wage earnings, health care plan (that he had while on full time contract and reg fc mbrs get after retirement). The lump is all he gets. He is seeing medical professionals for his psychological injuries, and is now receiving “Disability Compensation” from the Military. However he is told this is short term until they decide on a medical release or return to work. Presently he can’t work in the military and he can’t voluntarily release because anything he gets now will cease. He hopes for vocational retraining as his injuries prevent him from being fit for any trade. He hopes to be a productive member of society again.

    The Military has him in limbo on a time limited compensation plan. Insult to injury is further aggravated by the fact he was diagnosed with these injuries then had his Class B contract illegally terminated instead of being accommodated. This was made under the guise of budget cuts. Approx 13 were let go at the same time, but most if not all were all hired back at his former ASU (unless they had found civilian employment). Appeals have been made but with NIL results. In other words he feels it was a backdoor way to get rid of him. If if it wasn’t, it is still the way he feels and perceives it. People with PTSD perceive their world in a much different way than the average person. Therefore it is very real to him.

    He has done his research for the figures above. However these numbers are based solely on the figures presented in Legion Magazine. I have seen the original letters and he states that this doesn’t account for any other factors or figures. He knows he is no expert on the subject, but does know that what is happening is woefully wrong and has the “stones” to question it and to stand fast when an attempt is made to blow smoke up his ass and that of the public.

    Where is the fairness? No matter which way you view it, the new charter was designed to save a buck. Reservists are not entitled to anything in the new charter unless they jump through hoop after hoop. The only option available in the end is to to medically release but the military often won’t do it.

    So when they are deemed fit again where do they go? Their Class B is gone. Class A won’t pay the bills. Their moral is broken, their pride in their country and uniform is gone so why would they join the reg force? They have already seen that they will be treated like garbage if injured, so why should they join? They can’t voluntarily release because any shred of hope for assistance for them will be gone. Canada has an obligation to take care of its wounded Veterans. That obligation is not being met as Reservists DO NOT enter the equation in the new charter.

    The Legion is wrong to support such a ridiculous document as the new Veterans charter and the extremely minor irrelevant changes being proposed.

    I fully agree with the Reservist Veteran and Bonnie that the Legion has pulled an epic fail. By supporting Minister Blackburns veiled attempts at making positive changes they have proven this. People say there are changes coming. I don’t believe it. 20 years in the Army has taught me to believe nothing until it happens. “On the bus off the bus” syndrome. The other thing it has taught me is to trust few Senior Officers and fewer politicians. Minister Blackburn… please make me a believer. I doubt you can.

    We need the monthly pension brought back, and make the charter also clearly apply to all reservists with an injury. Not just the medically released.

    Blackburn can spend outrageous sums of tax payer dollars on frivolous travel for his staffers and himself, but finds it tough to spend a few dollars on an injured Veteran. Where is the justice? The Treasury Board website shows a breakdown of expenses by his department. Its mind boggling.

    Some will argue that it will take time. It only took a few pen strokes to erase the old charter which was significantly better no matter which way it was viewed. The new one is simply a hollow shell of the old one that is fluffed up pretty for a gullible public for votes. Veterans caught up in and slogging through the new charter know better they aren’t stupid. They know when they are being swindled. Read the article in the link below. The Government admits it is to save a buck.

    http://www.seanbruyea.com/2010/04/april-15-2010-house-standing-committee-on-veterans-affairs-new-veterans-charter/

    I have lost faith in my Military and my government. I was once proud to be a Canadian and wear the uniform of what I considered the best military in the world.

    A couple quotes come to mind. These are American quotes since I wouldn’t consider much our politicians say as memorable.

    “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”
    – George Washington

    “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” – Theodore Rossevelt

    Thank you “amereminion” for generating some very passionate discussion.

    Thank you for posting the letter Bonnie. Keep up the good work.

  4. Bonnie Toews says:

    Thank you, Chris, for sharing your experience and for bringing insight into the plight of today’s reservists. How does the U.S. treat its reservists?

    We must look into that for another blog topic.

    Bonnie

  5. Sandy Brace CD says:

    I totally agree that the RCL has lost it’s sense of purpose and should be ashamed of the way it has NOT reacted to the new charter. It sat on the fence when the veterans advocated for better treatment last November and continues to suck up to VAC and the politicians at the expense of our war torn veterans. The Legion is not what it used to be. It may never recover. I served for 38 years and was a member of the Legion since 1966 but did not renew this year. Lest we forget needs to be re-introduced to the RCL and the meaning explained to the Legion executive.

  6. Chris says:

    Amen to that Sandy!

  7. wayne gallant says:

    Why didnt the goverment keep the old pension,reason they save alot of money on the NVC,simple as that..Here is a Question i would like answer,If you were on wage loss with a 70% dissability,would you go out and work for less and risk losing your wage loss..PS I am on the low pay scale when i was injured over in gulf region,with a wife and 3 kids.Up to my eye balls in bills,no help in sight.thank for hereing me out.

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