One veteran leads landmark settlement with feds worth $887.8M but award still fraught with unfair treatment

Dennis ManugeCanadian veterans have been waiting to see the results of a class-action lawsuit against the Government of Canada clawing back military pensions. Disabled veterans have seen their long-term disability benefits reduced by the amount of the monthly  Veterans Affairs disability pensions they receive, an unfair practice that led the chief plaintiff, Dennis Manuge, to fight it. He and group he gathered filed the class-action lawsuit in March 2007.

In comments on the CTV website, there are concerns that this still leaves a number of issues unresolved — such as no damages will be paid to the veterans; they will pay income tax on the  amount given them, and the interest is simple interest and not interest  compounded yearly and only from 1992 forward and not 1976 forward. “What most are  getting is the money that they are owed and a bit of interest” is the main complaint. 

Nevertheless, this is a banner accomplishment, and we are all proud of Dennis, who led the plaintiffs, and his law firm for a difficult job well done.

Here is the story in the Canadian Press. BONNIE

The Canadian Press  Last Published Wednesday,  Jan. 9,  2013 4:42PM EST


HALIFAX — Veterans who battled the decades-long practice of clawing back  military pensions have been offered up to $887.8 million by the federal  government in a tentative settlement hailed by the lead plaintiff in the  case.

“It’s just a phenomenal day,” Dennis Manuge said Wednesday. “I’m very  relieved.”

The law firm that represents Manuge, who led a class-action lawsuit against  Ottawa over the clawbacks, said the proposed deal includes $424.3 million in  retroactive payments to veterans that dates back to 1976. That includes $82.6  million in interest.

The rest of the compensation is an estimate of the amount the veterans will  be owed in the future and a $10-million scholarship fund for veterans and their  families.

Manuge said he expects disabled veterans in the class-action lawsuit will  strongly support the proposal, which goes back to the Federal Court in Halifax  on Feb. 14 for final approval.

Manuge was injured in an accident at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in  Ontario just before being deployed to Bosnia in 2001. He left the military in  2003, suffering from a lower back injury and bouts of depression.

He filed the class-action lawsuit in March 2007 on behalf of himself and  other disabled veterans whose long-term disability benefits were reduced by the  amount of the monthly Veterans Affairs disability pensions they received.

His legal team scored its victory last spring, when the Federal Court said  it was unfair of the federal government to treat pain and suffering awards as  income.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay later said the government wouldn’t appeal, and  appointed a negotiator to cut a deal with the disabled veterans.

Manuge said he expects there will be widespread support from the  approximately 7,500 veterans who are eligible under the agreement.

“It’s life-altering for some veterans,” Manuge said in a phone  interview.

The number of veterans initially thought to be eligible for payouts was  pegged at 4,500, but that increased after more detailed reviews of the  disability pension plan, Manuge said.

He said he stands to collect about $9,400 this year under the proposed deal,  along with $50,000 that the law firm would provide him for his role as lead  plaintiff.

He and other veterans would also receive future disability payments that  would otherwise have been clawed back, he added.

Manuge said he’s at the low end of the scale, and other veterans with more  severe disabilities could be paid up to $250,000 this year.

“You’re talking about being able to pay off the mortgage or buy a house or  put savings away as you age,” he said.

Peter Driscoll, the lead counsel in the class-action lawsuit, said if the  deal is approved, payouts could begin within six months.

Driscoll said he is pleased with the deal because the federal government had  originally sought to limit the retroactivity.

“By going back to 1976, we’ve obtained a major concession from the  government of Canada,” he said.

“Everyone who has ever been on the receiving end of the offset … will be  able to get their money back.”

In a statement, MacKay said the government moved swiftly to bring closure to  the six-year-old case.

“Acting quickly and fairly to resolve this matter is of the utmost  importance, and I am pleased an agreement in principle has been reached,” he  said.

But the Liberal veterans affairs critic said the agreement marks the end of  a long and difficult court battle that could have been avoided.

“We are pleased that the Conservative government has finally concluded a  settlement agreement,” Sean Casey said in a statement.

Driscoll said the law firm is asking for 7.5 per cent of the total  settlement, but that’s subject to court approval.

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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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