Please find a summary below of the position paper by the Equitas Society. I encourage everyone to get behind Equitas – this is the starting point for the next Class Action Lawsuit. BONNIE
Some of the more important points being addressed …
This position paper is predicated upon facts known to the Equitas Society1 in April 2012 which prompt our reaching the conclusion that specific changes are required to the New Veterans Charter [NVC]2 in order to ensure that disabled Canadian Forces members receive equal, life-long benefits consistent with the standard that the majority of Canadian workers receive under existing, applicable workers’ compensation programs. These changes are required in a timely manner to accommodate disabled members who have recently returned from the Afghan War and all changes to the NVC need to apply to members who have made disability claims dating back to April 2006.
The Equitas Society has found four key areas in which the NVC fails disabled Canadian Forces members:
1) Severely disabled Canadian Forces members who receive a lump sum payout and long-term Earning Loss benefits under the NVC can be financially disadvantaged by approximately 30% compared with the previous Pension Act 3 benefits, due mainly to NVC benefit reductions at age 65.4 In addition, long-term NVC benefits are taxable and subject to claw back, which is not the case under standard workers’ compensation programs. The current NVC claw back provision is a disincentive for severely disabled members to seek any other employment.
2) Moderately disabled Canadian Forces members who receive a lump sum payout and short-term Earning Loss benefits under the NVC can be financially disadvantaged by up to 65% compared with the previous Pension Act benefits, due to gaps in the NVC settlement process.5
3) Partially disabled Reserve Canadian Forces members who are not medically released and who receive only a lump sum payout can be financially disadvantaged by up to 90% of what other workers’ compensation programs, and the courts, would award due to the NVC not including future earnings losses in the calculation of any settlement. Also, deficiencies in the NVC ‘Table of Disabilities’ are a contributing factor to these underpayments.6
4) The administration of the NVC is highly complex, and in many cases requires the assistance of lawyers from the Bureau of Pension Advocates7 to assist disabled members through the various levels of review and appeal. The benefits relationship chart in Appendix A8 demonstrates this complex process. Due to administrative delays under the NVC, many Canadian Forces “home units” have had to be quite generous and resourceful in providing support to their disabled members. However, these “side deals” have placed stress on recovering members, as there is no certainty to these acts of kindness
a) In 2006, the Federal Government passed the NVC, legislation which drastically altered the way in which disabled soldiers are compensated. The intent of the legislation, at least in part, was to provide speedier benefits and better retraining programs for disabled Canadian Forces members.
b) Unfortunately, while the NVC is adequate for some disabled members, it has proven to be ineffective – and insufficient, in some cases grossly insufficient – for other disabled members. Actual cases provided to the Equitas Society and a Queens University49 study demonstrate that the NVC reduced benefits for severely disabled members by about one third, as compared to what they would have received under the previous legislation, the Pension Act.
c) A Study by Veteran Affairs Canada shows examples of moderately disabled Forces members who have had their financial support reduced by two thirds, compared to the previous compensation available under the Pension Act, which loosely parallels other existing worker compensation programs.
d) The Equitas Society has identified cases where the compensation paid under the NVC is woefully inadequate. Example #1, one veteran returned home from Afghanistan with a shattered bone in his upper left leg and broken bones in his right ankle. After major surgery he was left with an inability to run or climb, and walks with a limp. In spite of this clearly ongoing disability, which disqualifies him from many fields of employment, his total compensation was a mere $13,500.00. Example # 2, another veteran returned home from Afghanistan with the loss of his spleen, a left pneumothorax, a fractured left 12th rib, a gastric ulcer, a damaged pancreas, and the loss of his left kidney. Through the New Veterans Charter this member was provided only $36,000.00 for the loss of his kidney, $5,500.00 for a reduced quality of life and nothing for his other injuries including nothing for the removal of his spleen.
e) Instead of providing disabled members with a comprehensive disability assessment (as would any private insurer or, indeed, any provincial workers’ compensation program), the regulations of the NVC simply have a table of disabilities which is referred to without any reference to the real world implications of individual member’s disabilities.
f) After failing to properly assess individual members’ disabilities, the Veterans Affairs Department in applying the NVC has failed to compensate members over the course of their lifetime for the reduction in their ability to earn a living compared to what they could have earned before their injuries.
g) The NVC needs to be amended to ensure that wounded or injured members are fairly treated. It must provide the same kind of “worker’s disability insurance” as is available to every other Canadian worker through provincial or federal workers’ compensation programs. The fact that their government deploys Canadian Forces members in “harms way” without a proper disability compensation program is considered unconscionable and needs to be fixed immediately.
h) In addition, a major amendment is needed to the methodology of assessing disability, and then to the provision of long-term benefits, so as to ensure that injured Canadian Forces members are protected during the entire period of their disabilities.
i) Benefit improvements to the NVC should be available to all members who have made a disability claim since April 2006.
David T. MacLeod CD, MA
East Coast Representative
Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society
Director Policy and Communications
Veterans Emergency Transition Services (V.E.T.S.)