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

Fire investigators comb through industrial fire wreckage looking for answers

Industrial building in north Red Deer was completely gutted in Wednesday morning fire

Time for a central Albertan in cabinet, says chamber of commerce

Central Alberta had no cabinet ministers in last government

Trump Russia probe finally delivers some answers

WASHINGTON — After nearly two years of waiting, America is getting some… Continue reading

Trans Mountain Pipeline deadline extended

OTTAWA — The federal government is delaying a decision on the Trans… Continue reading

WATCH video of Innisfail resident creating the world’s biggest caricature

Watch as Innisfail resident Dean Foster creates the world’s biggest caricature of… Continue reading

Lower price discounts to boost Q1 oil profits but uncertainty hangs over sector

CALGARY — Lower discounts on western Canadian oil prices have swollen producer… Continue reading

Local Sports: Hard training pays off for Red Deer runner Jared Howse

Jared Howse understands success doesn’t come easily. The 17-year-old has put together… Continue reading

CRA’s automatic benefit registrations give retirees reason to file on time

TORONTO — This is the time of year when procrastinators begin to… Continue reading

Study: Genetic test predicts middle-aged obesity risk

NEW YORK — Can a genetic test identify newborns at risk of… Continue reading

Downtown Red Deer Co-op Plaza Food store closing

Central Alberta Co-op is closing its downtown Red Deer Plaza food store… Continue reading

Earth, meet Polo: Ralph Lauren unveils plastic bottle shirt

NEW YORK — Earth, meet Polo. Polo Ralph Lauren on Thursday launched… Continue reading

Statistics Canada reports retail sales rose 0.8 per cent in February

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.8 per cent in… Continue reading

Inflation rises 1.9% on higher prices for fresh vegetables, mortgage costs

OTTAWA — Canada’s annual inflation was up last month as price pressures… Continue reading

Most Read