Canada’s benefits system denies and delays until claimants die, veterans say

A loosely knit group of outraged ex-soldiers railed Wednesday against what it calls the insurance-company mentality of Veterans Affairs, demanding legislation spelling out the moral obligation Canada has towards its military veterans.

OTTAWA — A loosely knit group of outraged ex-soldiers railed Wednesday against what it calls the insurance-company mentality of Veterans Affairs, demanding legislation spelling out the moral obligation Canada has towards its military veterans.

Over the next two weeks, the group plans a series of protests on Parliament Hill to call public attention to a system they say has long been rigged to deny and delay benefits in the hope that the claimants will eventually die.

“We’re not talking to Stephen Harper. We’re not talking to Julian Fantino. I am talking to the Canadian public,” said Linda Magill, an ex-member of the military and the wife of a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You have to know what is happening to us because we’re the ones who had your back — and you need to have ours.”

Magill described the dizzying array of bureaucratic hoops that she and her husband have had to jump through as a “war of attrition” and said other troops in need of care often give up pleading for the benefits to which they are entitled.

The protest follows the 14 recommendations a House of Commons committee made Tuesday to make the system more responsive to the needs of former military members.

The veterans committee had some good ideas, but that’s all they will be until the government accepts and adopts them, Magill said.

The demonstrators hope to draw crowds similar in number to the demonstrations of the 1920s, when frustrated First World War veterans fought tooth and nail for recognition and a benefits system that’s been part of the fabric of military life ever since.

In its response to a class-action lawsuit launched by veterans of the war in Afghanistan, the Harper government has cast doubt on how secure that commitment might be.

Justice Department lawyers have said they intend to argue that the country has no extraordinary obligation to its soldiers, and that the current administration cannot be bound by the promises of previous governments.

That position enrages veterans, who say it violates the country’s sacred obligation to those who serve.

Among other things, the Commons committee recommended that the controversial new veterans charter be amended to include exact wording from its predecessor: that the law should be “liberally construed” in favour of veterans.

The protesters, however, say that rather fuzzy distinction is at the root of complaints about both the old and the new systems, because it has long given bureaucrats wiggle room to throw up roadblocks and deny benefits.

They say the only remedy is clear legislation or a military covenant, similar to the one in Britain which spells out that the nation has a “duty of care” to its soldiers.

“If they put it in legislation, we wouldn’t have people fighting the (class-action) lawsuit right now, where the government is saying they owe us nothing,” said Magill.

Another protest organizer, David MacLeod, who spent 27 years in uniform, said the government is guilty of spreading “half-truths” about the way veterans are being treated.

The government is quick to call on their service and call them heroes, but leaves them mired in a bureaucratic swamp when it comes time for compensation.

“If you can’t afford the wounded, you can’t afford the war,” MacLeod said.

The Conservatives have claimed they are cutting red tape at Veterans Affairs. Just last week, Fantino argued before the Commons committee that the government has injected an additional $4.7 billion into the system since 2006.

“In fact, the seriously injured veteran is eligible for thousands of dollars each month, up to and including after age 65,” Fantino told the committee.

“In some cases, a veteran can receive over $10,000 a month in financial compensation. This is in addition to two major tax-free award payments totalling in excess of up to a half-million dollars.”

Just Posted

Red Deer teacher contracts condemning same-sex relationships ‘not acceptable’

Eggen says Red Deer Catholic Schools assured him they no longer have employees sign the form

Second-degree murder trial on hold until January

Jury not back until Jan. 7 for 2015 stabbing death trial while lawyers argue evidence issues

Hospitalizations jump in Red Deer due to opioid poisonings

Small city hospitals impacted more by opioid crisis

Stray dog spotted in one Red Deer neighbourhood, could be missing for 1 year

Red Deerians asked not to feed this german shepard

Witnesses describe scene of fatal 2016 collision

Delburne man on trial for manslaughter after being accused of causing collision

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Dumba scores twice, Wild rout Canadiens 7-1

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Reeling and banged up, the Minnesota Wild were… Continue reading

Coach Hunter wants up-tempo Team Canada as world junior squad hits ice

COLWOOD, B.C. — Team Canada coach Tim Hunter says the team that… Continue reading

Study finds female-led films outperform male ones

NEW YORK — A study organized by Time’s Up, the organization formed… Continue reading

Price Is Right contestant wins winter trip to Winnipeg, Churchill

WINNIPEG — Who wants to visit Winnipeg in the dead of winter?… Continue reading

CBC Gem streaming service to launch exclusive content, partners with Wattpad

TORONTO — The CBC has launched a new streaming service featuring live… Continue reading

‘Part of the solution:’ Alberta seeks proposals to build new refinery

EDMONTON — Alberta is looking for someone to build a new oil… Continue reading

Most Read