Canada’s veterans are getting short-changed with the new Veterans Charter that was released in 2006 by Veterans Affairs Canada.
Last month veterans’ ombudsman Guy Parent released his report comparing the new charter with the old system. The charter came up woefully lacking, especially for those severely wounded and disabled soldiers.
Two years ago town hall meetings were held across the country when (then) ombudsman Col. Pat Stogran heard harrowing accounts by struggling veterans of post-traumatic stress disorders, night terrors, crippling panic attacks, disabilities from lost limbs, life-threatening illness from past exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange, and their lives and those of their families in upheaval and on hold.
Stogran heard of an injured reservist released from the Canadian Forces due to his disability, who couldn’t return to his old job and was unable to do 75 per cent of what he once did for work. Yet Veterans Affairs said he only had a five per cent disability and paid him just $13,000 compensation. Where is there any justice in that?
Currently, according to Parent’s report, there are 1,428 veterans who are totally and permanently incapacitated. His key finding was that, of those wounded vets, more than 400 of them are not receiving any impairment benefits. They have difficulty finding work and, when they turn 65, any benefits from the charter will cease and they will be forced to live well below the poverty line. In fact, Parent identified the insufficiency of financial support after the age of 65 for at-risk, permanently incapacitated veterans the most urgent charter shortcoming to address. How did charter scribes ever manage to come up with such a formula?
These incredibly brave individuals who put their lives on the line in conflict situations abroad are now battling Veterans Affairs for benefits that are fair and appropriate for their condition. And so they should. But they shouldn’t have to.