Veterans in Parliament to support NDP motion to protect VAC from budget cuts witness gov’t. spin masters


Peter Stoffer, the NDP veterans affairs critic, asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, March 5, 2012.

The Canadian Press‘ Murray Brewster and CTV is in Ottawa following the debate in Parliament over the NDP motion to block budget cuts to VAC. They have to give fair and balanced reporting, which follows. After watching CSPAN, however, it is clear that the government bureaucrats assigned to respond to MPs‘ statements are demeaning in attitude and tone–almost as if they have been brainwashed in reading their prepared statements. They certainly are not listening to what the members are telling the House, which means the government is barely tolerating the “show” of support for veterans and their legitimate concerns.

Mike Blais, advocate for Canadian veterans, has been imploring all vets who live in the Ottawa area to attend tonight’s vote at 5 p.m. by being present in the gallery — to show the House that veterans are fed up with their treatment and their protest movement is growing and strong. PLEASE GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO JOIN HIM.

This is the government’s position: 1) more old vets are dying off so they don’t need as large a veterans affairs service to look after todays vets’ needs, and 2) they are reducing [dumbing down] the paperwork so it won’t confuse vets who have to make claims. Converse of this is that their denials of claims will also be explained in simple [Grade school] language, so it will be clear why their claim has been turned down.

If this tone and attitude doesn’t raise your hackles, it sure does mine. We send the finest Canada has to offer on combat and peacekeeping missions. On deployment, the PM tells them how proud he is of our Canadian troops, but once out of service, VAC and VRAB treat our ex-military like idiots. Sorry, I am too ticked to sugar coat what they are doing, for the feds are shovelling BS by the boatload in their response to some very dignified and dedicated Parliament members, who rather than spout party politics are bringing statesmanship back to these discussions.  

What VAC is hiding behind all their rhetoric is:

  • government responsibility for many of the disabilities and conditions afflicting our veterans. [Read: soldiers’ exposures to toxins such as depleted uranium and Agent Orange/Grey or to experimental drugs such as the anti-malaria drug mefloquine (Lariam) — our peacekeepers were the trial guinea pigs and U.S. scientists have already proved it.]
  • new warfare technology along with improved medical technology is sending back wounded with injuries troops in earlier wars could not survive. Reservist Trevor Greene who survived an axe attack that split his brain wide open is an excellent example. IEDs have caused incalcuable brain traumas. PTSD seems rampant but part of that problem has been deploying the same troops over and over again, exposing them to intolerable levels of sustained adrenaline rush that short circuits the brain. [The human being was not built to sustain repeated shock and trauma.] This means more medical treatments, psychological programs and physio therapies along with inventive techniological support for multiple amputees are required after our soldiers leave the military, not just when they are still serving. The government’s claim that they don’t need a full-bodied Veterans Affairs Service is pure bunk!! They don’t have enough front-line counsellors to look after vets and their families now!

That’s the real situation the government is not acknowledging.

In Diane Hill Rose’s post on Facebook under the Canadian Veterans Advocacy wall, she provides more specific cases that have fallen through VAC’s cracks.

After listening all day to CSPAN, there are serveral things of note. VA benifits should not be cut at all. Access to services needs to expand and a list of services available to disabled vets needs to be given to the disabled vet once his case is finalized so that the vet can access the services and not have to look all over the place for them. (Some vets with PTSD can barely get out of bed in the morning let alone spend hours online looking for things.) VRAB needs an overhaul. I can go to 10 vets right now in Niagara Falls who are all having problems proving their case to VRAB. Three were in the Medac Pocket, Bosnia, and have vetted files and cannot prove their case. One of those three will be dead within the next two years — she is so drugged up due to her illness, she can’t even begin to prove her case; the other is also drugged up on anti psychotic drugs to keep him from committing suicide. The third has dropped so low with depression, he is also drugged up just to partially function day to day. Their VA case workers and VA lawyers tell them that they need to do the work to prove their case and once they have the information, they can continue with their cases. These three in particular have been left hanging with no hope. These three are also “homeless” to the extent that they have to live with their parents just to get by day to day. So, for all of the good things that happen, I can list a hell of a lot of bad things. One vet got his disability approved for his wrist, but not his shoulder when he has had countless doctors prove that the shoulder injury goes hand in hand with the wrist injury. One vet had knee surgery on both knees while in the military and was told that because he had the surgery and rehab, his medical condition is not attached to the miltiary.

So you see, government negligence and injustice carries on against our veterans unpunished. Time to act and be heard as ONE VOICE!!!

PUBLIC, WAKE UP! If the Harper government can treat our veterans with such scorn, do you have any idea how that translates to its treatment of you? If more people knew history, you would see patterns emerging that have happened before when democratic republics became autocratic regimes. Digging your head in the sand and keeping unpleasantness at arm’s length is exactly how things dovetail into planned corruption. Good people do nothing and then become victims of the same depraved autocracy that robs them of their human rights. BONNIE

Please read these two reports from The Canadian Press as published in the Globe and Mail and from CTV.

Globe and Mail: Veterans review board abusive and demeaning, ex-soldiers say 
by Murray Brewster, Canadian Press March 6, 2012

They once referred to her as “the little woman” and suggested the post traumatic stress she’d suffered as a peacekeeper in the Bosnia war meant she couldn’t handle the rigours of service.

“It was so patronizing, it was unreal,” Rhoni Speed of Ottawa said of her 2008 appearance before a panel of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, the independent agency where ex-soldiers turn to fight for benefits.

The word “respect” repeatedly bounced off the walls in the House of Commons on Monday as MPs debated an opposition motion to halt possible cuts at Veterans Affairs Canada.

But Speed said there’s not much respect when the doors of the hearing room are closed.

She related her 1990s experience as a reservist intelligence photographer in the war-torn Medak region, where Canadian troops fought a violent battle with Croatian forces and uncovered a massacre of Serbian civilians. There was little appreciation, however, from the two civilians who sat in judgment of her claim.

“The whole feeling throughout was I was a little woman and I couldn’t deal with life,” said Speed, who finally was granted a disability benefit in 2010 after several appeals. “It was easier in Bosnia than it was here.”

It wasn’t the seemingly endless bureaucratic process that got her down as much as it was the snide, often disrespectful comments that rained down from a board that was supposed to provide an impartial but sympathetic hearing.

It’s a complaint heard over and over from ex-soldiers, many of whom loathe the quasi-judicial agency which they’ve described as a dumping ground for appointed, partisan hacks.

Liam Stackwood, a former master corporal, military police officer and amateur body-builder from Comox, B.C., was once told by one adjudicator that “if he wasn’t so fat” he wouldn’t have back problems. That was despite the fact he was injured on a mission in the Golan Heights.

Veterans advocate Murray Scott said he was recently accused by an adjudicator of forging a doctor’s certificate. When it was proven the document was authentic, the qualifications of his physician were questioned.

Frustration boiled over into rage for one Afghanistan veteran last December, who burst in on a hearing for another individual in Edmonton and attempted to spray board members with lighter fluid. The unidentified man was arrested and his case is pending.

Danielle Gauthier, a spokeswoman for the review board, acknowledged in a carefully-worded written statement that a “security incident” had taken place, but refused to discuss the details.

Current and ex-members of the appointed board, who asked that their names not be used, said questioning of claimants sometimes can be tough and clearly stressful. But they blamed both Veterans Affairs and National Defence for sloppy paper trails that make decisions tough to call.

A request to interview board chair John Larlee was turned down.

Gauthier’s written statement denied that veterans are being ill-treated.

“Members make every effort to welcome those appearing before them, to put them at ease, and to thank them for their service to Canada,” said the board spokeswoman. “They are courteous and attentive and explain that any questions they ask during the hearing are to help them better understand the veteran’s application.”

She said privacy legislation prevented her from discussing specific cases and suggested the agency has a zero tolerance for abuse.

“I can assure you that the board is committed to treating veterans and their families with respect, dignity, fairness and courtesy. Any show of disrespect is unacceptable to us.”

The board dealt with six complaints of disrespectful behaviour last year out of 3,600 review hearings, said Gauthier. Two complaints have been registered in the current year.

An advocate for ex-soldiers, Mike Blais, said he’s fielded hundreds of calls and emails from disgruntled veterans in the last year, many of whom either didn’t know they could complain or were afraid to open their mouths on the chance they’d jeopardize their case.

“We speak of disrespect, it starts on an individual level where people are personally slighted, but it’s a far greater magnitude than that,” said Blais, of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, who’s from Niagara Falls, Ont. “It’s an attitude that is pervasive at the highest levels of the VRAB.”

Current board member Harold Leduc, who claims to have been a victim of a smear campaign after his diagnosis of post traumatic stress was made the subject of gossip among his colleagues, revealed last month that agency staff members referred to adjudicators who often sided with veterans as “Santa Claus.”

Leduc said he was the target of harassment because his decisions often favoured veterans.

A spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney said the board is expected to show manners.

“The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is an arms-length, quasi-judicial organization comprised of qualified individuals,” Codie Taylor said in a written statement. “Minister Blaney expects departmental officials and board members to treat veterans and their families with the respect they deserve.”

As part of an agreement to settle a human rights harassment complaint with Leduc in 2010, the agency agreed to conduct sensitivity training for members and staff.

The sessions took place in October and November 2010, according to a letter from the board chair obtained by The Canadian Press.

Soldiers from Canadian Forces Gagetown, N.B., lectured the staff on the difficult transition soldiers face after being wounded and perhaps discharged, Gauthier acknowledged in her written statement.

She said it was one of a series of presentations and courses meant to help members “understand and appreciate the people they serve.”

In the aftermath of the Leduc case, federal bureaucrats also printed bilingual wallet cards for members containing the Veterans Bill of Rights, and fussed about where to “prominently” display the charter for the benefit of those served by the board.

CTV: Commons to vote on demand to exempt vets from budget axe
The Canadian Press
Date: Monday Mar. 5, 2012 1:56 PM ET

OTTAWA — Federal opposition parties and advocates drew a line in the sand, demanding the Conservative government protect Veterans Affairs Canada from any and all planned budget cuts.

An NDP motion to that effect will be debated in the House of Commons today at the same time as Harper government is putting the finishing touches on the March 29 budget.

The party’s longtime veterans critic, Peter Stoffer, warned that “not one penny” should be taken away from the department that cares for the health and pension needs of hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers and former RCMP members.

Veterans Affairs is planning to reduce its $3.5-billion spending plan by as much as $226 million in anticipation of fewer claims from dwindling Second World War and Korean War vets.

At the same time, the Harper government has asked each department come up with scenarios to cut their budgets by either five or 10 per cent in order to help wipe out the federal deficit.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney has said no programs or benefits will be cut, but Stoffer and Liberal veterans critic Sean Casey say other reductions will add to the workload of case workers and create even longer waits for service.

Blaney’s spokeperson Codie Taylor put out a statement saying, “We will never forget the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have served their country. Our Government has promised to maintain benefits for Canada’s veterans, including the enhanced benefits that we have introduced.”

Taylor added, “We are cutting into cumbersome, bureaucratic red tape and providing our Veterans with the hassle-free service they have asked for. The NDP is only interested in protecting big bureaucracy rather than benefits for veterans. We are disappointed the NDP has continuously voted against measures that aim to support our Veterans and our men and women in uniform. We will be asking the NDP to amend their motion to recognize the important difference between providing critical services and benefits to veterans and spending on inefficient bureaucracy.”

With files from CTVNews.ca

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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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5 Responses to Veterans in Parliament to support NDP motion to protect VAC from budget cuts witness gov’t. spin masters

  1. David Desjardins says:

    I’ll be there Bonnie, I’ve been invited to sit with the opposition during the decision. Should be interesting, but I’m not holding my breath. We’ll continue to fight on Canadian soil for what is right for our Veterans.

  2. Bonnie Toews says:

    Thanks, David. wish I could be there but I am in spirit.

    Bonnie

    • David Desjardins says:

      To be honest Bonnie, I now feel that every Canadian citizen should have to sit in on a chamber session once in their lives prior to a vote to see just how childish some political parties are. I mean, I’m pretty a political, I subscribe to all parties propaganda and form my opinions on whose doing what, why, etc… I’m not a firm supporter of any given party, but rather who I feel has done and is going to do the best job from my educated perspective…Anyway enough about my political views. While sitting there today and watching all the parties, I noted that from where I was sitting inthe wheelchair section, the ENTIRE right side of the room, (left from the speakers perspective) was taking the topic seriously and paying attention to what was going on. To the left of the room, not one was paying attention, all were joking with each other, laughing, sharing pictures, texting, typing doodling what have you. Our counrty is being run by children, who behave as such. If anyone carried on in one of my briefings in such a manner I’d have them up on charges, but not so for our “leadership”, or so it seems. If every Canadian was made to sit in, then and only then might we get a “responsible” government.

  3. Bonnie Toews says:

    An eye opener, David — but more’s the pity — few Canadians ever watch CSPAN to see the Conservatives’ childish shenanigans in Parliament. Once upon a time we taught history in school and our parliamentary procedure was taught and observed. Then Canadians understood how their government system worked, or should work. Since history has been yanked from our provinces’ curricullum, Canadians have been dumbed down to accept this outrageous behavior as ‘normal.’

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