NEW SERIES: The Canada Our Vets Want to Build — Their Fight for Rights and Compassionate Treatment POST EIGHT

Today, Kenneth H. Young CD gives us a background on the real failures vets must deal with under today’s governmental environment and his advice on how to judge who best to vote for in the upcoming election. BONNIE



Veterans for the past thirty or so years have seen a marked decline in the willingness of Ottawa to continue providing legislated and mandatory services to them through the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). With all the new and increasingly deadly chemicals, equipment and even metal compounds being used in war and training, there is no longer any doubt that the military is Canada’s most dangerous workplace and not only because of war.

The increases and innovations in medicine and medical techniques have made it possible for many severely injured, who in past wars and conflicts would have perished, to recover. It would stand to reason that for this reason, many of us would have thought that VAC pensions and services needed to be improved and increased too, if for nothing else but to keep up with the injuries and new gadgets used in conjunction with them. Alas! Instead Ottawa decided to reduce Government costs and responsibilities on the back of our injured and disabled soldiers and veterans, using the New Veterans Charter (NVC).

The NVC, although having many flashy bells and whistles portrayed as new and innovative, are often just repackaged and watered-down themes from the past with the same kind of services in mind, but as Ottawa would call it, made more cost-effective (cheaper).

A very few examples in my opinion are:

  • The retraining program, which only entails two years of schooling or college, when after the second world war returning soldiers were entitled to a University education.
  • The lump-sum payment of (an ever changing number) but somewhere around $267,000.00 as opposed to a life-long pension, which for many younger veterans would mean at least ten times the amount of the lump sum in a lifetime.

For some reason — and done in a way that most Canadians didn’t even know that it took place, the Canadian Government no longer covers our soldiers’ backs. Did you know, for instance, soldiers are now expected to pay their own disability insurance premiums? That’s right. Soldiers pay their own premiums, while at the same time the Government continues to take credit for the insurance payouts if a soldier is injured, as if it were they who were actually caring for the veteran.

Talk about wanting your cake and eating it too. Ottawa wants to have no cost of caring for their veterans, not even paying for insurance the premiums, but if a soldier is injured, Ottawa wants the credit for the insurance company payouts.

Don’t get me wrong. Some good things have come about as a result of the NVC’s action. One is the establishment of support facilities for vets and injured soldiers locally throughout Canada.

On the down side, however, the government is already proposing cutbacks to our military and veteran’s budgets, even before our troops are out of the war zone of Afghanistan. This raises a red flag, in my opinion.  We don’t have sufficient forces or equipment to meet existing missions, so how can we cut back some more? Our soldiers are already taxed past their physical limits because of repeated combat rotations, yet we are going to ask even more of them?

We veterans tend to blame VAC and the Veterans Review and Appeals Board (VRAB) for the changes that allow our indignities and denials of pensions, but is our anger properly placed? Are we not just blaming the cash-register person for the policies of the store, when it is the Government of the day, and every one of the 308 MPs in the house of Commons who are responsible for us? Are they not responsible for the direction, the eligible injuries and even which medical condition VAC can consider eligible let alone award a pension for?

This does not excuse the problems within VAC and its VRAB bureaucracy, however. If the policies of past governments had been adhered to, these problems could have been avoided, for their core lies in the lack of veterans employed in either VAC or the VRAB. We have people with no background to understand what vet applicants are even talking about.  Even worse, the lack of medical expertise on the VRAB.  Why should veterans have to bear repeated denials of their appeals with decisions based on prejudicial expert and medical evidence that dismisses claims as, “Not Creditable,” as in the Steven Dornan case?

There is also a Ministerial problem when a Union and its grievance process overrules the Canadian Laws as it did in the breach of privacy by 54 VAC bureaucrats to medical and private military files in the Sean Bruyea case. The Minister as much as openly stated that the Union prevented him from handing out anything more then a “Bad Boy” letter, three-day paid vacation and, in a few cases, a promotion as their punishment. How can he expect veterans to accept this when all he had to do was call in the police to investigate these 54 breaches to the Canadian privacy Laws and allow the courts to deal with the criminals involved? Who is protecting whose rights here? Again, veterans finish last in this bureaucratic maze.

May I suggest that each and every veteran for this upcoming election vote only for MPs who have publicly supported veterans and their issues or vote for candidates from political parties whose leader has publically defended and addressed veterans’ issues. And, if none of you do vote for anyone but the big four, make sure that no matter who wins the election, the result is they receive a lesser percentage of the popular vote.  There are MPs in every party who would vote to fix veterans issues, but not enough to make a difference, YET. After all, it was a unanimous and un-debated vote which put us here, so as far as I am concerned, all sitting political parties are fair game.

Please remember that although it has been repeated over and over again in the House that, “the Party with the most votes, wins,” this is not exactly true. “The legislation, debate, motion, and budget with the most MP support wins.”

That is what democracy is all about and the Canadian way.

So, in closing, Vote for any party but Vote and Vote for Veteran issues.

PS: Something more to consider — Ottawa and the Canadian Forces cannot have one standard for all military members when it comes to the risking of our lives by different standards of care for those who are injured serving their country. The issues of our Canadian Reserve Forces have yet to be addressed and soon, standards of compensation and care will be further affected by a change in our mission mandate for those involved in military training rather then a combat operation. It would seem to be a less dangerous assignment but when dealing with the Taliban their mission can be as dangerous as ever for any unfortunate ones wounded in the performance of their training duty.


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.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan vets, Canadian Armed Forces, federal government, Homecoming Vets, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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