Veterans feel betrayed and are taking on feds in court

APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
WOUNDED – Major Mark Campbell, formerly of St. Albert, lost both his legs in Afghanistan. He is now part of an upcoming class-action lawsuit against the federal government that alleges that the New Veterans Charter illegally discriminates against veterans by giving them less compensation for their injuries than they would get if they were not soldiers. Campbell estimates that he is receiving about 40 per cent less compensation under the charter than he would under the old Pension Act, which the charter replaced.
The following article appeared in the St. Albert Gazette, Alberta, May 16, 2012.
Byline: Kevin Mia

County soldier takes on government to fight for soldiers’ rights

The veterans’ battle widens against the federal government. I have to ask, how does our prime minister sleep at night? His recent comments in defence of government actions chills the very heart of Canadians. Sooner or later the electorate will see him for the bully he is. BONNIE

Maj. Mark Campbell is a very angry man.

On June 2, 2008, he had both of his legs blown off by an improvised explosive device during an ambush in Afghanistan. The blast cost him both legs above the knee, most of hearing in his right ear, some of his short-term memory, and one of his testicles. “I can’t describe the agony I was in,” he says.

And when he was recovering in hospital, he says he got another shock: under the New Veterans Charter, he would get about 40 per cent less compensation from the federal government for his injuries than he would have had he received them prior to 2006.

He gestures widely and thumps the table as he talks about it, often in a raised voice. “It’s just unjust. It makes no sense. Halfway through a war, and you cut disability benefits in half.”

Years of lobbying MPs and bureaucrats for help have gotten him nowhere, he says, so he’s turning to the courts. The Sturgeon County resident is one of a growing number of soldiers who have teamed up with the B.C.-based Equitas Society to start a class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

Canadian troops put their lives on the line for their country, Campbell says, and Canada has a moral obligation to care for them when they’re hurt.

“The government of Canada has broken faith with the defenders of Canada,” he says, furious. “We’ve been betrayed.”

A complex case

This is a complex issue, says Brian Archer, executive director of Equitas, a group created to lobby for changes to the charter, and the suit itself is still in development.

But it boils down to how soldiers are compensated for their injuries, he explains. Prior to 2006, this was governed by the Pension Act, which offered troops lifetime, tax-free pensions as well as supplements to support family members.

In 2005, the Martin government, with all-party support, replaced the act with the New Veterans Charter. The new act, which kicked in the following year, replaced lifetime pensions with a single lump-sum payment, eliminates many of its family supports and makes some of its benefits taxable.

Severely injured veterans get up to 30 per cent less compensation under the charter than they would under the Pension Act, Archer says, citing numerous case studies by Equitas. Moderately injured ones get about 65 per cent less. Some reservists can get up to 90 per cent less.

A 2011 Queen’s University study found that injured vets would get about 31 to 42 per cent less money under the charter than the old act. A 2010 report from Veterans Affairs Canada suggested a similar drop in compensation for moderately disabled veterans.

Soldiers also get far less compensation for their wounds than civilians, Archer continues. He cited one case of a reservist who lost a kidney, spleen and 1.5 litres of blood after being struck by a claymore mine. The reservist got $41,500 — about $630,000 less than he would have gotten had he received the same injuries at a civilian job in B.C. “What’s going on here?”

Campbell says he received the maximum amount of money permitted under the charter for his injuries (about $260,000), almost all of which had to be spent on making his home and car wheelchair-accessible.

“That’s supposed to compensate my family for their pain and suffering? The fact that I’ll never throw a ball in the backyard with my son again?”

It’s even worse for younger veterans, he argues. The charter bases its compensation on rank, which means a major gets more money for a lost leg than a private.

“The young guys are really getting screwed,” he says. “You want to see young guys rattling tin cups … keep the New Veterans Charter going.”

What’s next?

Don Sorochan, the lawyer for the law firm Miller Thomson LLP who has taken on the case for free, says the lawsuit will be based on Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which gives all Canadians equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.

The group still hopes this can be solved outside of the courts, Archer says, as a lawsuit could drag out for years. He called on Parliament to do the right thing and scrap or substantially revise the New Veterans Charter.

Westlock-St. Paul MP Brian Storseth, who sits on the federal defence and veterans committees, says he was unfamiliar with the class-action suit or Campbell’s concerns, and that they were not a prominent concern during a recent review of the charter. What the review committee did hear was a call for the charter’s payments to be made more flexible, which the government did by allowing troops to get them over time instead of all at once.

“Nothing is ever going to be perfect,” he says, and the charter is meant to be a living document — one that was passed, he adds, at the request of veterans dissatisfied with the Pension Act.

“There will be another review of the veterans’ charter in the future, and we’ll be more than happy to look at some of these issues.”

Campbell says he can take being legless, but what he can’t take is the effect this issue has had on his family.

“My family’s standard of living is going to drop about 50 per cent.”

His wife has developed a mental illness due to the stress of dealing with the bureaucracy, and his kids’ grades are suffering. “I don’t know how much more we can suffer before we fly apart.”

He pauses to wipe away tears. “What they’re doing to us is just not right.”


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, Canadian Peacekeepers, caregivers, federal government, Homecoming Vets, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs, VRAB and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Veterans feel betrayed and are taking on feds in court

  1. Randall S. Hill says:

    Wow, really, say it aint so! I have got to be politically incorrect right out of the gate here Bonnie! It is 4:20 am Fri. 18 May 2012 and I am awake cause well suffering from PTSD this kinda thing happens to one! I have watched my government, my military, my country allow beaucrates, polititions, and senior brass to make decisions that are flat out unrealistic, uneducated, and just plain rediculous throughout my entire life. Its a god dam blame game! No one, not a dam one of our leaders oh wait, I am going to have to say supposed leaders here, wants to have even the scent of something “politically untoward” stuck to him! Is there seriously NO ONE with any morale fortitude left in this world? When did it come to this? When did every dam polititcian and officer above the rank of Major. get his set lopped off! Speaking from personal experience and a bias that was created as a result of sheer stupidity such as this, one has got to ask. Why? Seriously? Why? What the hell were we doing in Afganistan or anywhere else on the planet? Playing games? We take the high road, we tell the world that Canada cares, here come Canada, we are the “Peace Keepers” Your broken, we are here to help, we can show you a new way to fix yourselves! This is how “WE DO IT”! Follow us let us show you an ideoligy that works and will better you as a People and Nation! Yaa! Canada, the hero’s of the downtrodden! The politician’s just love to pat themselves on the back, the generals get foreign assignments with exspense accounts and servants and the soldier in the field who did the job, showed up and stood up for the lie, that is CANADA today gets this! Am I just reading “EVERYTHING WRONG” am I simply missing the “BIG PICTURE” am I too uneducated, to low in the gene pool, to biased and bitter at how I have been treated to see what these Officers and Politicians apparently see so clearly! If thats the case and I am simply to moronic to see their plan for “My Canada” my well being and the well being of every Veteran who ever wore a uniform in the service of this country than I simply wish to request someone explain to this guy; HOW WE GOT HERE! and WHO IS GOING TO FIX IT? The # one movie at the box office today is “THE AVENGERS” They have a battle cry in that movie or they should (read the comic as a kid haven’t seen the movie, plan to go) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, perhaps whats needed today here in my CANADA is a new battle cry, VETERANS ASSEMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    JUST SAYIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Be Proud Stay Airborne

  2. Randall S. Hill says:

    So this is me apoligizing to Major Mark Cambell! In my first post which I posted on the removeal of services for our guys in Pet and then copy and pasted to this post I made mention of lopping off certain body parts above the rank of Capt. Wow, I can only say Holy @#$%^^&*^ FUPA Sir! My sincerest apoligies!!!!!!! Having read your articule I updated to the rank of Major while posting to this articule and please know that I most certainly camend your entegrity, morality, and fearlessness at taking the bastards on. Though being a Commissioned Officer your choice of language and expression may differ from mine, I chose to be crass, to be honest and I am after all a Non-Com. I salute you and your efforts which directly will effect me. Where there more OFFICERS like yourself in the world I wouldn’t have had to write this apoligy! God Bless Sir, we thank you for all you are doing for us!

  3. Pingback: The Stoney Stramash is coming! « Black and White World

  4. Joseph Murphy says:

    We went half way around the world to change a country, only to return to the reality that we need to band together, one more time, to change another country… our own! God Bless every Canadian, family, brother, mother, sister, or father, friend or neighbour who is forced to where the shame of their country because a soldier in their family is robbed of their independence and dignity. We will build a better future for our children despite the indignities heaped upon us by an unsympathetic political system. I have a huge Maple Leaf on the hood of my truck… people say, ‘you must really love Canada!’ … to which I always say, ‘it’s to honour those who loved Canada more’!

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