Backgrounder of Veterans’ Issues for the Public

Homecoming Vet



In unprecedented action, Canada’s veterans are rallying each other to bring their issues to the forefront of the election in May.

When people think of veterans, they picture the old vets they see on Remembrance Day, but today Canada is introduced to newer generations of soldiers who have served as peacekeepers and in combat missions like Afghanistan. Often the best of them have been rotated into the same actions repeatedly, from Cyprus and Bosnia to Canada’s longest war engagement of nine years in Afghanistan. These vets know full well what their service to their country has cost them, but the Canadian people have showed little concern until losses began to climb in Afghanistan.

Then, to honour those fallen in battle, the people created the Highway of Heroes to salute fallen heroes repatriated home. The route follows Highway 401 from Canadian Forces Air Base Trenton to downtown Toronto.

As more bodies returned home, more and more people lined the highway and bridges to honour these brave soldiers, especially the people of Durham Region. Countless times they have stood waiting in bitter cold and wind for the hearse and convoy of cars to pass their bridge.

Canadians’ recognition of its military’s sacrifice gladdened the hearts of those veteran peacekeepers who endured through years of public apathy. No one was interested in what they accomplished or what they sacrificed to complete a successful mission. Now, at last, they felt as honoured as those passing down the Highway of Heroes.

But, Ottawa’s new enthusiasm for its military masked callous treatment of the wounded returning home – these are the heroes the public doesn’t see. As good soldiers, the government never expected vets would break their code of silence to protest.

Traditional Royal Canadian Legion members refused to join veterans across Canada on Saturday, November 6, 2010 at the offices of their ridings’ member of parliament in an effort to bring public attention to their unjust and often arbitrary treatment. The one organization our vets expected to support them was the Royal Canadian Legion but then it came to light that today’s Legion is no longer a group of actual ex-service people. As old vets died, the Legion filled their ranks with associated social members and became an organization of members who have not experienced the world at war. This is not a slam against local Legion branches, which have done stellar work for their communities and for vets in their communities. They have been as misled as our vets, for it is the Royal Canadian Legions Command who endorsed the government’s New Veterans Charter in 2006 without proper due diligence. Veterans with real military experience never had a chance to participate in decisions made on their behalf.

On November 6, 2010, veterans gathered across Canada to introduce a dialogue with their MPs and the public to promote awareness of the government’s failure to provide a standard of care and maintenance of well-being for Canada’s veterans and those who support its Armed Forces.

Their proclamation stated:

“We seek to implement changes to the New Veterans Charter to reflect the honourable service of Canada’s sons and daughters and to ensure that there is only one standard of soldier, one standard of treatment, one standard of financial compensation that is a lifetime award for pain and suffering!

Through dialogue and, if necessary, protest, it is our objective to end the widows tax that imposes undue hardship on the survivors. To end the lump sum payment our new veterans face and ensure our wounded warriors are provided security through lifetime pensions commensurate with the injuries they have sustained in war and in peace. It is our goal to end the SISIP claw back on ALL VAC pensions. Let us demand that our Agent Orange victims be treated fairly – indeed, that all veterans receive compassionate care not dictated by stinginess on behalf of the federal government.

“Stand with us. These men and women, our veterans, have put their lives on the line for you. The least YOU can do is spare an hour of your time to support them.”

Following this protest, more veterans came forward with incredible proof of their unfair and inadequate treatment at the hands of a government who to all intent and purpose treated them as throwaways. At the time, their own ombudsman, Col. Pat Stogran (ret), observed the government preferred its soldiers come back dead.

Since their protest rally in 2010, veterans have fought singularly and as a group for improved treatment. The result is the passage of Bill C-55 in the Senate March 24, 2011. The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture) has dubbed it the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act.

On the face of it, C-55 goes a long way to address veterans’ concerns, but no one should suppose it solves everything. The legislation still has to go through a number of regulatory steps before coming into force, which should be completed within the next five or six months. As well, vets who have analyzed C-55 say the only real solution is to rewrite the New Veterans Charter, in which many measures in the old Pension Act need to be reinstated in the NVC. Consequently, veterans are not disbanding and fading away until all their issues are addressed and solved.

And so, across Canada, veterans are going to send political candidates these questions. Before they vote, they want to know where each candidate stands on veterans’ issues and they want their candidates’ answers in writing:

  • What is your position on – the Enhanced New Veterans Charter, Bill C-55?
  • What is your position on – stopping the lump-sum payments and reverting back to the Pension for Life for veterans’ disabilities?
  • What is your position on – the SISIP claw-back?
  • What is your position on – Veterans losing their disability pensions on reaching age 65?
  • What is your position on – 54 bureaucrats being rewarded with a three-day paid vacation and promotions, after invading Veterans’ private medical and military files?
  • What is your position on – the hiring of more veterans for both VAC and the VRAB including executive positions?
  • What is your position on – the CFB Gagetown toxic chemical defoliation program and its victims?
  • Would you support a public inquiry into the use of toxic chemicals in CFB Gagetown?
  • What is your position on – the hiring of more medically trained people (possibly ex-military medical staff) to sit in the VRAB?
  • What would you suggest can be done for homeless veterans across Canada?
  • How would you correct the need for veterans and even families of current serving members forced to use food banks in Canada?
  • What is your position on – the CFB Gagetown toxic chemical defoliation program and its victims?
  • Do you believe that a disability pension should be tax-free?
  • Do you believe that when a soldier is injured to a point of being 100% disabled that it is the correct thing to cut his salary to 75% when, in most cases, they will never be in a position of being employed again?

A “Veteran” – whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve – is someone who, at one time, wrote a blank check made payable to Canada, for an amount “up to and including” his or her own life. In exchange, they expect their country to look after them and their families. Canada has failed them, so it is fitting that our vets be the first to fight for their own ONE STANDARD OF TREATMENT for all.

In this election, all candidates and the public must get behind their vets. This is the most important tribute we can give our returning vets for the sacrifices they’ve made on behalf of our country.

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6 Responses to Backgrounder of Veterans’ Issues for the Public

  1. Pingback: A safe place for veterans to air their issues | Homecoming Vets at the Crossroads of Humanity

  2. Murray Scott says:

    My Fellow Veterans
    Every once in a while I hear from Veterans I have known and came to love over the last 45 years of being a disabled Veteran from the Reserve Forces. I consider myself very fortunate to have made some very good and long term friends. Many of us with a vast amount of experience to lend have never once been asked for thoughts by some of these Veteran Start Up Organizations. How can you fight for us if you don’t even take the time to know us?
    Recently my fellow Veterans have been very concerned about the various Veteran Advocacy Groups that are trying to unite Veterans under one roof. Most of us are concerned about one thing and one thing only, what will be the Safety of Veterans like me who want to join and add their Voice to the growing concerns of Veterans everywhere. How will you protect us when we speak out against VAC and perhaps the policy of Organizations we don’t agree with.
    One of the questions I hear from the more elderly Veterans ; Are there Veteran Groups who use Fear and Intimidation along with the dooms-day scenario to try and get our voice? Some of the older Veterans like me feel that this is becoming a more common trait and quite frankly it scares us. Let there be no mistake some of these groups have the best of intention but may be going about it in a wrong way.
    Many of us think that we should play it safe and support the Legion which has been established for some time now. However; we do realize that the Legion has its drawbacks and does not seem to attract a lot of the newer Veterans. We notice that some Veteran Groups run down the Legion that we truly like and find it a safe place to be heard.
    Many of us are concerned that some of these Veteran Organizations are only telling us what they want us to know and some of these Organizations and individuals are putting the Fear of God in us to scare us into doing things we do not want to do. They don’t seem to understand that their comments are driving us away and not toward them.
    Recently; the following information was posted on various sites:
    “Permanent Injury Award? Veterans Advocate Dennis Manuge (SISIP) confirmed through Minister Blaney’s office that only those awarded a 98% percent disability will be eligible for the 1000 dollar, tax free PIA {supplement}. Sadly, thousands of veterans have been rendered unemployable through the permanence of their injuries yet are not accorded such a high level of compensation. Why are they not entitled to the PIA?”
    I can report with 100% confidence that the above statement is not accurate and has not been reported in a manner that reflects the intention and accuracy of the of the New PIA Supplement.
    After talking with Veterans Affairs Canada and the people who have written the policy, I can report that the PIA Supplement has no percentage of Disability attached to it and the stands as is. The PIA Supplement will be awarded on the basis of being accepted to the PIA Allowance and that a member not be able to be gainfully employed making at least 66 and 2/3 of their pre-release wages.
    I believe that there was no intent to scare the Veterans that were counting on this supplement, however; it did scare and hurt many of the most Severely Impaired Veterans.
    This proposed amendment will add $1,000 per month to provide additional financial support to the most seriously ill or injured recipients of the permanent impairment allowance who are totally and permanently incapacitated, which is defined in section 6 of the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Regulations as unable to engage in “suitable gainful employment” as a result of the condition for which they are approved for rehabilitation. “Suitable gainful employment” is employment that provides at least 66 2/3% of the veteran’s monthly pre-release military salary.
    Another problem area that many of us do not want to speak out loud about is the Lump Sum Payment. I agree that it has been a disgraceful problem for many of the new Veterans who will be around for a long time and have lost a lot of money not being able to take their pension over time and with a monthly payment indexed to the cost of living.
    It seems that the new Regulations will provide an option for the new applications which is a step in the right direction. What a lot of these Veteran Organizations do not support is that many of us in our Elder years look forward to the Lump Sum payment. Many of us with severe and extreme health issues would rather have the Lump Sum Payment so we can make life a little easier in our last years of life. Who stands up for us?
    There seems to be a call to Unite but until some of these concerns such as safely being able to express our views without reprisal from VAC and other Veteran Organizations, I just don’t see it happening.
    It is not rocket science getting people to unite after all the current Government did it. Perhaps some of these groups need to look at an operative model like the Legion.
    Eventually things will get worked out but the last thing we need is any Organization trying to ram fear down our throats.
    Well I expect to get some heat from this article but myself and others who have been around for a long time has our way of seeing things and it might not be that different from some of the newcomers.
    All the best in health and strength.
    Murray Scott
    Edmonton Alberta

  3. Well where do I start, I am so happy that you and the elderly Veterans are doing so well. The thing is you had a monthly pension for many years that wasn’t taxed. Your spouse and kids also received money from the old pension act. You say that you would like to have a lump sum, that would be great for older Vets to retire on but the NEW Vets have small kids and young families and with the NVC thay don’t get alot of the perks the older Vets recieve. The New Vets are in their early years and if they are severly injured and can’t work they are screwed. When the ww2 Vets came back from the war they we given housing, university if they wanted it, priority hiring in a goverment job or start up money to start a business, and it didn’t matter if they went over seas or not, everyone got it, they didn’t have to be injured. But if they were injured, they were eligible for the old style of pension . So look at the difference.
    If the older Vets really cared about the newer Vets more of them would be standing with us, like John Labelle, who was a legion member for 30 years. Sadly, more are not, they are happy with the Legion and they should be the Legion caters to them. Believe me, I think it’s great that the older veterans get the respect and the treatment they do from the legion. I am a Legion member but I have to say there have been many oppritunities for the legion to get involved with the new Vets and stand with us but they don’t do it. I think they are afraid that by standing with us, they will lose the millions of dollars the goverment gives them each year so they just look the other way. The Legion’s membership consists of only 18% Veterans and the rest are civilians who never served. Don’t get me wrong, the civilians do a great job for the old Vets but they don’t understand the new vets, but why would they? The Legion membership is only 5% new vets.
    Regarding the issue with the PIA allowance, Dennis Manuge states that his information is confirmed through Mr. Blaney’s office. I know Dennis personally and he would not make a statement that he couldn’t back up with facts, he does his homework first. He has a team of lawyers representing him and the members of the SISIP class action who would also verify this information. It looks to me like you copied and pasted the information you have directly from the VAC web site. If that’s the case, you should know that the fine print and loop holes are never published on the website. The NVC is a living document that has some very good services, they just seem hard to acess.
    If I offended you in any way, I am sorry, I see what is happening to some of our Vets first hand when I help them get off the street. Thank you for your service, God bless you! This is the only time I have ever refered to new Vets and older Vets and it will be the last .. A Vet is a Vet we all die and bleed the same no matter what conflict you were in.

  4. Murray Scott says:

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to the issues at hand. Unfortunately you seem to pick the issues that we agree on. Unfortunately you do not say anything about the Fear Mongering that is wide spread by many groups. I agree 100% as indicated in my article that the new vets should have access to the Pension System, perhaps you forgot to read that?
    With respect to the PIA Supplement I take issue with your comments. There was nothing released by VAC confirming the supplement was to be issued at 98% only. If I missed it please refer me to the person in the Minister’s office that confirmed this.
    The Minister’s Office did not release any information to anyone at anytime. I am very aware of how policy is written and would suggest you call their office and inquiry first hand. Unfortunately the Fear Tactics used by publishing something that is not based anywhere in fact has hurt many people both old and new. It just is not true.
    You mention old Vets and New Vets, and unfortunately you are right there should be no division. However; you tend to omit that such things as education for our children which was granted under the old pension system was taken away from us as well as many other Benefits.
    You do the math, there are many of us with 5-10 years of life remaining, we would benefit by the Lump Sum Method of Award. We also feel (had you read the article with an open mind) that the Lump Sum Payment has hurt many of the newer Vets.
    With respect to the Legion and their system of support. You have not mentioned an alternative? Perhaps if you are a member of the Legion you will be at their meetings to advocate for change to their policy.
    We stand by the PIA supplement and until such time as you or anyone else can show anything that suggests it will be based on 98% I would suggest you stop trying to scare people.
    All the best
    Murray Scott

  5. carrie says:

    Mr. Scott

    I believe I understand your concerns coming from generations of veterans, but watching what my family went through in the past with VAC means things were not as good back then as today. Trust me, I was there, I’ve seen my mother, a war widow of 6 children go through absolute hell trying to raise us off of empty promises. We were tossed through the cracks. I also understand how past generations feel in speaking out in comparison to new vets today. There is a difference and I lived it, seen it and I recommend these groups are only trying to help where there was no voice before. The past VAC took advantage of vets and their families because they knew they would not speak out. It was the generations before, (and I am not criticizing because to do that would mean I would to my own grandparents and parents that served before me), but that is the way it was. It was a different generations of people. Today though, more people are more vocal about the wrongdoings of those in office supposed to serve us, that are not doing it. The world has changed is all! No one is using fear tactics that I know of and if they were I would certainly step in and stop it myself, being a 3rd generation vet. We do not need a divided front and although I understand your needs, using a lump sum might be more helpful to you, in the long run, one voice together helps all! Please stand united, Mr. Scott!

  6. Hi! Carrie
    Thank you for your response to my Article of Aug.2011. Whenever I hear from fellow Veterans or anyone for that matter I do my best to answer in a timely manner. I have read your response and want to thank you for taking the time to write with the conviction and passion that you seem to have.
    I went back and re-read my comments and I somewhat agree that a United Front is very important to any issue or cause.
    With respect to the PIA comment, you may be aware that my concerns were that any Veteran of any age should be told the truth based on facts and not fear. The truth of the matter is there were many Veterans of all ages looking forward to the PIA Allowance. When we use information that is not true to manipulate Veterans to see situations and events in a different way then we are no different than those who oppose our cause. As you may or may not know, the individual and Organization who published the comments that a person would need 100% disability to get this Allowance, to their credit retracted the statement. However; the damage was already done. There were Veterans of all ages who just gave up because they believed that the information was based on the truth. We do not present material that is not true and we do not manipulate Frail and Disabled veterans with false information to get them to join our cause or to Rally and Protest. These members have earned the Truth.
    When Veterans of all ages look to various organizations and individuals for the truth then we have a responsability to be there and to assure them that the information we give them is accurate and reliable. As Veterans we look for Organizations that take pride in building their foundation on Cement not on quick sand.
    With respect to a United Front, I agree with your comments, however; I think where we may disagree is how we as Veterans define a United Front. In any organization or group for that matter, we fine that diversity and differences represent their strength, growth and hope for all members. Differences represent the glue that binds us all and helps to keep those with a difference of opinion moving in the same direction.
    With respect to the Legion, as you are aware there are many organizations that pass the test of time. These organizations like all groups represent a large population and I can ssure you that their members also represent a diverse population.
    Currently there are several groups emerging as leaders and I believe that eventually they will find a path that works for them and their members.
    I am always concerned when individuals suggest that other members should quash their beliefs and values and most important their opinions.
    We need to remember that we fought for those that could not fight for themselves and who were not allowed to express their opinion openly.
    I want to thank you again for writing and sharing your thoughts in a passionate, caring and thoughtful manner. We need people like yourself to make sure that those of us who differ in opinion will be heard.
    Currently I have seen a lot of Growth and Leadership in the “Canadian Veterans Advocacy” (CVA) and believe that they are doing a great job in representing the various differences in Veterans beliefs and opinions.
    Again thank you and if I have not addressed all of your concerns I am sorry …just send me a note and I will get back to you.
    We do need more people like yourself with strong beliefs and who share those values with others.
    All the best
    Murray Scott

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