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Messages - Sylvain Chartrand CD

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31
Fantino should ‘walk the talk’



The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, pictured in this file photo.

By JERRY KOVACS |
Published: Monday, 02/17/2014 12:00 am EST
 
OTTAWA—Needless to say, the past few weeks have not been good for Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and the Harper government regarding the treatment of veterans. Many of the government’s wounds were self-inflicted. It’s true, as others have stated, that Fantino is not a good communicator. One might even say he is a non-communicator. He proved as much during his seven-minute, now-publicized scrum with veterans. Although other Conservative MPs, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Parliamentary secretary, have attempted to present the flimsy case for veterans support at Service Canada centres, the entire issue was bungled and mismanaged from the beginning when Fantino told veterans on Jan. 28 that “the decision has been made.” This is what Fantino considers consulting with veterans on important issues of concern to them.

One cannot help but wonder where Fantino is getting his advice on veterans’ issues and message delivery strategy. The Harper government says it supports veterans, but does the complete opposite when it closed eight Veterans Affairs Canada service offices on Jan. 31.

Fantino takes no responsibility for his actions or for the decisions of the Harper government. First, it was the veterans causing problems. Then it was opposition MPs raising the issue in the House of Commons. After that, the Public Service Alliance of Canada was agitating the veterans. On Feb. 4, during a Radio 1010 Talk Show, Fantino blamed others for spreading misinformation. Really?

The Prime Minister first said there were 584 Service Canada centres serving veterans. Then Fantino said there were 600 offices, or was it 620? Then, on Feb. 3, it was his Parliamentary secretary, Conservative MP Parm Gill, saying there are 650 Service Canada centres helping veterans. They wondered why veterans were complaining about the closure of eight offices when more than 650 Service Canada centres with no trained staff or Veterans Affairs Canada employees are here to help them.

On Jan. 31, I invited Gill to visit a Service Canada centre in Ottawa to ask a simple veterans question. He refused my request. On Feb. 3, I asked his office a second time and my request was ignored. On Feb. 3, I asked Fantino to visit a Service Canada centre to see firsthand how the process works. Personally, I know how it works. I’ve been to two Service Canada offices four times during the past 18 months. I asked a routine veterans related question. In each and every visit the response was the same: “We can’t help you.”

I guess the minister of Veterans Affairs and Parliamentary secretary are afraid to see just how terrible, or non-existent, the service is. So, in the end, if the answer is “we can’t help you,” it doesn’t matter if there are 650 offices, 6,500 offices, or 6,500,000 offices. The result is the same. It’s about service, not numbers.

Let’s look at other issues.

Parliamentary Offices. Is the minister of Veterans Affairs a veteran? No. Is the Parliamentary secretary a veteran? No. Is the Conservative chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee a veteran? No. One would think, given the number of Conservative MPs who are veterans, that at least one of these three important positions would be filled by veterans, but they are not.

Veterans Affairs Ministerial Staff. The minister of Veterans Affairs has 10 full-time staff. Does he hire veterans to work for him? No. Only one person out of 10 working in his office is a veteran. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the minister is ill-advised on veterans issues. The minister of Veterans Affairs does not want veterans working in his office. Veterans on staff might tell him what is of concern to veterans. We can’t have that, can we?

Bill-C11. Priority Hiring for Injured Veterans. Although this bill has received second reading, it’s without substance that has yet to be discussed at the House Veterans Affairs Committee. It’s obviously not a priority, because staff in the minister’s office cannot and will not provide information on private sector companies with which it has entered into veterans’ priority hiring agreements.

Veterans Affairs Stakeholders Committee. The last time this committee met was in December 2012, 15 months ago. Veterans do not have collective input to the ministry on veterans’ issues, a ministry which supposedly advises the minister.

Given the lack of veterans working in the minister’s office and the lack of input and consultation from veterans’ organizations, it’s not surprising that Fantino is poorly advised. The minister’s website constantly brags about partnerships with the private sector to hire veterans, although won’t say how many have been hired, and chooses not to hire veterans to work for him.

The message from veterans to Fantino is this: If you want other people to hire veterans, you should also do it. Show some leadership and good political judgment by hiring veterans to work for you. Would you take your car to a garage where there are no mechanics? Would you go to a hospital where there are no doctors? If Fantino were to hire more veterans to work for him, and he’s had offers, perhaps his days would be less stressful and more productive. 

Alternatively, if Fantino claims he is being adequately advised, then it’s evident that he does not care about veterans. He’s just following orders. I know one thing. It’s not positive dialogue when the minister of Veterans Affairs walks into a room full of veterans who want to talk about an important issue and says, before they have a chance to speak: “The decision has been made,” and then issues a misleading press release saying the minister had a “round table” discussion with veterans. As Stephen Harper said in 2012: “veterans deserve better.”

Jerry Kovacs is with the Canadian Veterans Advocacy in Ottawa.

news@hilltimes.com
The Hill Times

32
Veterans' medical records to be held by private American firm: NDP

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/veterans-medical-records-to-be-held-by-private-american-firm-ndp-1.1686574#ixzz2tJmFbaiS



The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 14, 2014 11:48AM EST

OTTAWA -- The NDP says the federal government is transferring veterans' medical records to the custody of a private American company.

MP Peter Stoffer says veterans seeking help will now have to wait while files are retrieved from a company called Iron Mountain Holdings.

He also says the government is closing what are known as treatment authorization centres, responsible for approving treatments needed by veterans.

Now, he says, that approval will have to come from a private company.

Stoffer says it is wrong to put medical files into the hands of a private, for-profit firm.

He says it would mean delays for vets who would have to wait for their records to be retrieved, then passed on through Veterans Affairs.

He also said a private firm shouldn't be deciding whether vets can get treatments they need.

"I find this absolutely unconscionable," he said. "What the Conservative government is now doing is taking what was a very good public-service work done by dedicated employees for many, many years and turning all that work over to the private sector ... with no consultation no discussion."

The Harper government has been harshly criticized in recent weeks over its moves to close some Veterans Affairs offices.

Veterans Affairs Canada said the decision to close nine locations was based on declining use. It said veterans will be handled through nearby Service Canada offices.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/veterans-medical-records-to-be-held-by-private-american-firm-ndp-1.1686574#ixzz2tJmQJgI

33
Budget 2013 / CANADIAN VETERANS ADVOCACY RESPONDS TO FEDERAL BUDGET
« on: February 13, 2014, 10:23:48 AM »
PRESS RELEASE

``CANADIAN VETERANS ADVOCACY RESPONDS TO FEDERAL BUDGET``

OTTAWA – After weeks of negative comments and adverse reactions from veterans of all eras regarding Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino`s boorish behaviour to Canadian veterans on January 28th, we are saddened to note that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty ignored an opportunity to sincerely make amends with the veterans community, in particular, the thousands of veterans across Canada who are negatively affected by the recent district office closures.
 
          ``The fact that there was nothing substantial for veterans in the Budget is extremely disappointing``, said Jerry Kovacs, a Director with Canadian Veterans Advocacy (CVA).  ``The reality is that the Harper Government doesn’t care about Canadian veterans and their families.  They say they have increased spending without acknowledging the fact that 150 valiant Canadians died and more than 2,000 were injured during the Harper Government`s stewardship of the war.”
         
Michael L Blais CD, President and founder of the CVA, expressed bitter disappointment that none of the major issues confronting veterans and their families were addressed in the Budget.  Mr. Blais said: “I find it unconscionable that with the high level of pain and suffering that Canada’s sons and daughters are experiencing as a consequence of the Afghanistan war, the war in former Yugoslavia and in Africa, that this government would give more funding for snowmobile trails than for the care of veterans.”
 
Blais cited as examples the plight of thousands of seriously disabled veterans on the VAC Earnings Loss Replacement program or War Pensioner Allowance who for years had their awards unlawfully offset by the amount of their pain and suffering awards.
 
“Why have these disabled veterans not been given the same retroactivity obligation as was accorded to those on the SISIP Program? Why does this budget not provide the mechanism to ensure that the monies taken away from them are returned? Why does this government continue to ignore their pleas for help?” asked Mike Blais.
 
Mike Bais cited grave concerns that the monies allocated to the Last Post Burial Fund will not be delivered and the 66% refusal rate of applications will be only marginally change. Two thirds of all applicants in the past have been refused. In addition, neither Mr. Blais nor Mr. Kovacs are confident that Bill C-11, the  ``priority hiring`` bill for injured veterans (not passed by Parliament) will have any impact under the current regime’s fiscal austerity programs and continuing efforts to downsize the public service. “This will just be another headline without substance”, Blais said.

          ``This Budget was extremely disappointing for veterans of all eras”, said Kovacs.  ``It`s obvious that Julian Fantino has very little influence in Cabinet and/or is not standing up for the rights of veterans and their families.  He says he cares, but it`s obvious he can`t persuade the Prime Minister or Finance Minister to make the important decisions that `support and honor` the sacrifice of the wounded.  Tuesday was a very sad day for veterans. It was worse than we expected.``
 
          CONTACT: Mike Blais (905) 357-3306 or Jerry Kovacs (613) 915-1516
 
-30-

34
9th Canadian soldier dies of apparent suicide

CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014 6:41PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 12, 2014 7:07PM EST

Check the Video: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/9th-canadian-soldier-dies-of-apparent-suicide-1.1683510



Another Canadian soldier has died of an apparent suicide, following a rash of military suicides dating back to late November.

The Department of National Defence has confirmed the death of Warrant Officer Martin Mercier, who was based at the 5 Canadian Division Support Base in Gagetown, N.B.

DND said Mercier was discovered by Fredericton RCMP at his off-base residence on Feb. 10. The exact date of his death has not been confirmed.

While DND did not mention the cause of Mercier’s death, CTV News has confirmed it was suicide. The RCMP is investigating.

“The loss of any soldier is difficult for the military community and our condolences go out to his family and friends,” DND said in a statement.

Eight other soldiers or veterans have died of suicide since late last year, prompting heavy criticism of the resources available to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues.

According to DND, Mercier joined the Canadian Armed Forces in April 1985. He had served in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Somalia and Cyprus.

The Opposition and veterans’ associations have lambasted the military and the Conservative government over the handling of troubled soldiers’ files.

Canadian Forces have said that everything possible is being done to offer services to soldiers with PTSD and provide crisis counselling.

In November, Canada’s top military commander, Gen. Tom Lawson, said the army takes “every death seriously and as such we will explore all facets of these situations to try and learn from them and reduce future occurrences.”

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson recently said that the military has assembled a special team to clear the backlog of technical investigations into soldier suicides.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/9th-canadian-soldier-dies-of-apparent-suicide-1.1683510#ixzz2t9lgQ4ne


35
Don’t jail cenotaph vandals – educate them, says retired general Romeo Dallaire

By Jordan Press, Postmedia News February 10, 2014

http://www.canada.com/news/jail+cenotaph+vandals+educate+them+says+retired+general/9491135/story.html



OTTAWA – A high-profile soldier-turned-senator is speaking against a Conservative MP’s bill to enact strict punishments for anyone caught vandalizing statues dedicated to Canada’s soldiers and veterans.

Independent Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire says he’d rather see some vandals ordered to spend a few hours listening to the tales of Afghanistan veterans than have them tossed in jail for vandalism. Hearing war stories from vets might turn a teenager who made a bad decision into an evangelist who will preach against defacing any of the almost 6,700 local monuments in Canada, Dallaire said.

The retired general, best-known to Canadians for his role as commander of the ill-fated UN peacekeeping mission during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, also guarded the Vimy Ridge memorial in France as a young soldier in the 1970s.

“A fundamental element of the (military) profession is to discipline within,” Dallaire said in a telephone interview Monday. ”You don’t use the hammer unless (wrongdoing) is wilfully or repetitively performed. I’ve commanded troops for 36 years … and I’ve kept that up in wartime.”

Bill C-217 is a private member’s bill from Conservative MP David Tilson. Under its terms, anyone caught desecrating a war memorial would face a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first offence; a second offence would bring at least 14 days in jail. Each subsequent offence would carry a minimum 30-day jail term.

Tilson introduced the bill after vandals tossed eggs at his community cenotaph in Orangeville, Ont., shortly before Remembrance Day in 2008. In a separate case, On Canada Day in 2006, three people were photographed urinating on the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

After failing to become law before Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament last summer, the revived bill passed second reading in the Senate last week, moments after Dallaire spoke against its mandatory sentences. A Senate committee will hear from Tilson on Wednesday afternoon as it begins studying C-217.

Unless someone repeatedly and wilfully targets and damages war memorials, Dallaire said, “this bill is going to be a very negative tool.”

“I don’t agree with these mandatory sentences,” he said. “You don’t educate a civilized society that way.”

If the bill passes the Senate, Canada will become one of the few countries in the world with a law specifically punishing war memorial vandals. Currently, such acts are covered by the mischief provisions of the Criminal Code.

The United States has a similar law, passed in 2003. In that time, there have been two convictions, according to Dallaire’s research. France and Great Britain – countries Dallaire describes as “replete with monuments” – don’t have such a law.

“The Brits don’t have a special sort of law,” Dallaire said. “None of those countries seemed to have felt it needed to have rules on mischief and social indecencies to places that we revere.”

Dallaire said he will ask the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee to amend the bill, and sort through details about how the law, if enacted, would extend to overseas memorials, including those at Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach.

If the Senate makes any changes to the bill, it will be sent back to the House of Commons where MPs could accept or reject the changes.

jpress@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/jordan_press
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

36
Canadian veterans do get their benefits

Some soldiers face 'unfair' fight for benefits (Feb. 6)

I wish to comment regarding the claims made by the Military Ombudsman that more should be done to ensure veterans receive the benefits they deserve.

In fact, approximately 85 per cent of all applications for Veterans Affairs Canada's disability benefits will ultimately result in a favourable decision.

Veterans Affairs requests additional details only when the veterans' medical information is missing from their military records or was not provided initially by the applicant. Having said that, we do need to ensure that the records we will use to make a decision are reflective of the veteran's current medical situation.

I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the fact that Canadian veterans have one of the most robust rehabilitation programs of our allies, designed to help veterans transition back to civilian life. The New Veterans Charter provides real support for medical rehabilitation, in addition to career enhancement and progression through complimentary tuition and related costs. Also, if a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces is injured in the service of Canada, these programs are in place and standing ready to assist.

Michel Doiron, Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery, Veterans Affairs Canada

37
EDITORIAL: Military needs mental-health reform

the chronicle herald
Published February 10, 2014 - 1:00am
Last Updated February 10, 2014 - 6:30am



http://thechronicleherald.ca/editorials/1185421-editorial-military-needs-mental-health-reform

Canada’s military, reeling from reports that about eight of its members have committed suicide in less than three months, is failing its members.

That’s what military ombudsman Pierre Daigle told a Senate committee last week.

Mr. Daigle painted a picture of a hypocritical organization that, on one hand, encourages members to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health problems, then promptly dismisses 90 per cent of personnel sent to support units as unfit for deployment.

Now unemployed, ex-members must convince Veterans Affairs that they do, indeed, suffer from whatever conditions got them kicked out of the military in the first place.

One ex-Forces member said the process was like “being pushed off a cliff,” Mr. Daigle told senators.

The pension system compounds the problem. Mentally ill members often won’t seek help until after 10 years of service when they can qualify for a pension, putting their health, not to mention that of family and friends, at risk.

The military has known for at least 10 years that it needed to beef up its mental health staff, with extra money in place since the early 2000s.

But DND insiders say bureaucratic turf wars, worsened by the government’s 2010 hiring freeze, have led to a slow, cumbersome system that paid lip service to new hires but actually stymied them. By the time top DND bureaucrats agreed to hire a highly qualified health professional — six months or more after he or she had applied — the applicant had taken another job and the process had to begin again.

The problem of mental illness and addictions, which affect one in five Canadians, will not disappear overnight for soldiers, sailors and air force personnel who have been in combat or on peacekeeping missions. One government study says mental illness among vets can double with the passage of time, years after traumatic events occurred.

And altering the bureaucracy of departments related to the military, with its strict top-down command structure, must surely be a daunting prospect for those trying to implement change. But the government, right now, needs to figure out how to fast-track the hiring of mental health professionals to help Forces members who need it.

And, as Senator Romeo Dallaire has recommended, it must alter the fitness-for-deployment rule to find work in its 68,000-strong continent for at least some of the 1,700 people, or 2.5 per cent of its personnel, who are forced out of the military each year.

Veterans Affairs provides both financial support or counselling and retraining for vets, but the government must ensure that those services are immediately available for members who can no longer serve.

Former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier has called for a public inquiry into how the military deals with mental health problems. In the meantime, our Forces members need help immediately.

Ottawa knows what is needed, and must act now.

38
Warrant Officer David Shultz ‘plunged into intense enemy fire’

'I think about it every day. It's tough not to,' says soldier who earned the Star of Military Valour for his actions.

http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2011/07/25/warrant_officer_david_shultz_plunged_into_intense_enemy_fire.html



Warrant Officer David Shultz was doing the good work in Kandahar province on May 6, 2008, protecting officers who were visiting village elders to talk about building mosques and schools, asking if they were threatened by the Taliban. Walking to the second shura of the day, they were ambushed, an attack they handled fairly quickly.

They were waiting for the Afghan National Army to take over and deal with the Taliban dead when the real trouble began and Shultz’s muscular heroism shone.

Shultz, now 41, was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He was a father of two, a patrol commander with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the son of an air force captain. He had joined the army at 18, looking for adventure.

It was a terrible day, he says now from Edmonton. “I think about it every day. It’s tough not to.” He imagines how it might have gone differently.

“We got hit hard: heavy machine-gun fire, large explosions, rocket-propelled grenades, everything went right to hell. It was hard to see and hard to hear, we had to process everything, to know where the enemy was and find our people.”

He called for airstrikes, but the Canadians were too close to the enemy. “They had us on three flanks and they were turning our area into frikkin’ rubble. Walls were caving in because their machine-guns were tearing everything to pieces.”

A medic, Cpl. Mike Starker, was wounded. There was blood everywhere. While trying to load the injured man onto a skid to carry him away, Shultz and the medic slid into an irrigation canal with water to their waists. “It was hard to pull him up, but I got him and carried him 25 metres, it doesn’t sound like very much, but I had some help. . . ”

Another man was also injured. “Blood was shooting out and he slid in the water, too. One of his guys got a tourniquet on him and kept on shooting.” But Shultz had him, too, yelling at him to move. He’d come to the rescue of two men. He says it wasn’t just him, of course. “It took every one of the soldiers that day. It was a team effort.”

Then, “things were getting stressful,” Shutlz says. “We were completely soaked, fatigued, dehydrated. Now both sides were firing rockets at each other because everyone was running short of ammo.”

Light Armoured Vehicles arrived to take the Canadians to their forward operating base. Men were throwing up, some were crying. The medic was dead. And Shultz’s heart was burning with revenge, an emotion he did not act on.

“I wish we could have done something better or safer to get us out of there quicker. But you can ‘what if’ to death and I’ve done it a thousand times, wishing for a different outcome.”

Now he works at a desk as a regimental warrant officer. He loves his time with his children. They go to the park. His yellow lab Rika loves to get in the water. “I live for the children. Ethan is 5 now and Jett is 3 — he was born just before I left in 2008. I kiss them every day and every night.”

Then there’s his wife: “If there’s any spot to say thanks to Jennifer for putting up with me. There have been tough times, with me away on training and two kids. It takes real tenacity and she’s a great woman.”

His service in Afghanistan has left him a different man. “When I’m outside, I’ve got a fairly serious look, looking around all the time, assessing what’s going on, instead of just enjoying what’s going on. I have kids, and they are frikkin’ hilarious, but sometimes I’m looking for danger instead of being happy.”

He adds: “It’s getting better.”

“We’re back in Canada and things are great. I’ve got a beautiful family. Fresh water, food and all the luxury of being in this country. Holy smoke, everything is fantastic.”

He was awarded the Star of Military Valour in 2009. “I didn’t win the medal; I wear the medal on behalf of all my soldiers. I wish all of them had a similar thing to put on their uniform. Every guy was fighting for his life and for each other.”

The citation reads: “Regardless of the risk, Warrant Officer Shultz plunged into intense enemy fire to . . . direct his soldiers and engage the enemy. He repeatedly re-entered the danger zone.” He was an inspiration to his soldiers.

40
Former Soldier Who Lost Part Of His Brain For Canada Says Sacrifice Being Demeaned

Posted: 11/10/2013 8:54 pm EST  |  Updated: 01/23/2014 6:58 pm EST

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/10/bruce-moncur-disability-award-veterans-affairs_n_4252112.html



As he lay dying, his brain exposed by a piece of shrapnel the size of a bottle cap, Cpl. Bruce Moncur's thoughts drifted to Pleasure Beach.

It was Labour Day weekend at home in Canada, which seemed like a different planet than the Panjwai district of Afghanistan.

He guessed his family had finished the chili cook-off at their spot by the water in Essex, Ontario. Maybe they were playing horseshoes.

Everyone would be together, blissfully unaware of the friendly fire. The bloody mess in the sand, the yellow liquid coming out of his ears and nose.

His peace made with God, Moncur tried to reach them — somehow — by repeating the same simple message.

I just want you to know that I love you.

Then, he gave up. He resigned himself to the fact he wouldn't be going home.

He was 22 years old.

He had been in Afghanistan for three weeks.

***

How much is a leg worth?

Rather, how much is the pain of losing a leg worth?

What about an arm? A left thumb? A spleen? A right foot?

These are the kinds of questions Moncur didn't have time to ask after the incident that changed him. The focus, then, was survival.

He was caught in a friendly fire mishap on Sept. 4, 2006, in which an American aircraft mistakenly opened fire on a Canadian platoon during Operation Medusa — a Canadian-led offensive. An A-10 attack jet inadvertently strafed soldiers huddled around a garbage-lit fire at the base of the rugged hillside of Masum Ghar, west of Kandahar City. Pte. Mark Anthony Graham was killed.

Moncur was eating breakfast at the time.

"The next thing I know I was tossed in the air. Just flung," he said recently from his home in Windsor, Ont., seven years later. "And I landed with such impact it knocked me unconscious."

When he came to, his right arm was flailing "like a fish out of water." He was certain it was detached but soon learned he still had two working arms, two good legs.

Then, the blood began to pour, ceaselessly, down his face.

Moncur tried to catch it, cupping his hands and letting them fill, before conceding the futility of such a move.

Bruce, you can't use that anymore, he thought.

Moncur crawled on his belly — his face scraping against rock because he couldn't lift his head — until he reached fellow soldiers who had little idea how to help him. He was also hit with shrapnel in the back and buttocks.

His friends loaded him on a stretcher and kissed his cheek, convinced they'd never see him alive again.

Moncur was airlifted to Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, where he underwent a surgery in which his odds of survival were pegged at 50/50. He had a second surgery in Landstuhl, Germany, but a piece of uranium was lodged too far inside his head to be removed.

A week later, he was sent to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto to begin his long road to peace.

In total, five per cent of his brain was removed.

How much is that pain worth?

***

In 2005, Canada changed the way it compensates disabled and injured veterans with the unanimous adoption of the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, better known as the New Veterans Charter.

Though enacted by the Liberal government of former prime minister Paul Martin, the charter came into force on April 1, 2006, under Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

Up until that point, the Pension Act ensured Canada's injured veterans received monthly allowances and pensions, dependent on the severity of disabilities and marital and family status. According to a 2011 Queen's University study, a maximum disability pension of up to $2,397.83 a month was available tax-free for the rest of a veteran's life, with hundreds extra to provide for a spouse and children.

The charter, however, brought in one-time, lump sum payments dependent on disability, military rank and eligibility for work. The maximum amount of these awards — meant to compensate for pain and suffering, not replace income — was set at $250,000 in 2006. After being indexed for inflation, it now sits at $298,588.

With a focus on helping veterans transition to civilian life, the charter contains rehabilitation and vocational services not available under the old system. It also offers a monthly, taxable earnings loss benefit that ensures, for at least two years, veterans taking part in rehabilitation programs receive up to 75 per cent of their pre-release salary. Vets who are deemed to be permanently incapacitated can have this benefit extended until the age of 65.

In 2011, Conservatives increased the allowance for the permanently incapacitated and gave eligible vets the option to receive disability awards as annual installments, instead of all at once.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino says the Conservative government has invested almost $5 billion new dollars in retraining, rehabilitation and medical and financial benefits.

But the workers-compensation-style model of paying for pain and suffering, for those body parts irreparably damaged or gone forever, hasn't changed. An arm or a leg should get a soldier the maximum payout, but other body parts are assessed differently according to what soldiers refer to as a "meat chart."

And the message from the veterans ombudsman, veterans groups, former soldiers and the Royal Canadian Legion on that particular issue is clear: injured Canadian soldiers deserve better.

***

$22,000 and change.

That's what Cpl. Bruce Moncur says he received back in 2006 for that chunk of his brain and other injuries.

Moncur would later get a lump sum compensation for the post-traumatic stress disorder he was diagnosed with in 2010. He says that most vets he has spoken to say they have received a one-time payment of $120,000 to $150,000 for a PTSD diagnosis.

The military covered a year of his university education at the University of Windsor as part of the regular officer training program. After he "went civilian" in 2010, he paid for the rest of his history degree on his own.

At the time of his injury, he was assessed against the maximum of $250,000, meaning Veterans Affairs pegged his disability level at less than 10 per cent. If he had been confined to a wheelchair, he would have had a disability level of 100 per cent.

"I couldn't believe it. I was expecting at least six figures," he said. "I mean, I lost brain."

Moncur said the cheque arrived without explanation while he was recovering at his aunt's home in Harrow, Ont.

They assumed it was a mistake. It had to be.

After all, he was working through intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy, learning how to speak properly again, to read, to walk without help. The headaches were excruciating, the fatigue was seemingly endless.

Moncur decided to appeal, but had no idea what to do. He felt Veterans Affairs representatives weren't interested in explaining the process, but they did tell him his lawyer for the appeal process would not be covered. His local MP Jeff Watson conceded he had "no idea" how the process worked, Moncur said.

For the first couple years, he felt he was banging his head against a wall, uranium in there and all.

But after claiming PTSD, he was given a helpful case worker in Veterans Affair Windsor, a district office that will close due to cuts in February, 2014. She pointed him in the direction of a Legion representative who used to work for the government department.

The rep explained to Moncur that while he could get unlimited physical reassessments, he would only get one formal appeal on his award.

"The guy from the Legion had to tell me that you didn't want to use your only appeal," Moncur said.

The wounded soldier feared he was getting the runaround from the government all along.

Royal Canadian Legion representative Andrea Siew says the government doesn't do enough to help vets understand how the new system works.

And with cuts to Veterans Affairs, it will be even more difficult to have knowledgeable people in district offices.

The message is often "go online and figure it out," she said, or go into a Service Canada and submit applications at a kiosk. Veterans need someone to talk to, she said, particularly the injured ones.

"If I'm in my mother's basement, I'm 23 years old, I'm a reservist who served in Afghanistan… now living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where they're closing a district office, how do I find out about all this stuff?" she asked.

"There's lots of things that are there, but it's really complicated."

Legion reps from 25 service offices across Canada are going to every single reserve unit to let them know they can apply for disability benefits.

"But Veterans Affairs isn't doing that," she said.

Siews says the Legion wants disability awards raised to what is provided to injured civilian workers.

"The problem with the disability award is it's not consistent with federal court decisions for injury cases. It's lower," she said. "Probably $50,000 lower than what civilian courts are providing for workplace injuries."

Moncur's physical reassessment — which he said amounted to a basic check-up — came back with no change in February, 2013.

But his biggest frustration was still to come.

***

Nearly 100 years ago, before the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Prime Minister Robert Borden made a vow to troops that laid the groundwork for decades of government policy, but has never been enshrined in the Constitution.

"You can go into this action feeling assured of this, and as the head of the government I give you this assurance: That you need not fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service to the country and Empire in what you are about to do and what you have already done," Borden said.

"The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of people at home… that no man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith with the men who won and the men who died."

Today, the Harper government is facing a class-action lawsuit from soldiers who served in Afghanistan and feel that solemn promise has been broken.

These veterans say the 2006 charter discriminates against them by providing less than what veterans of the Second World War and Korea received.

One of the plaintiffs, Maj. Mark Campbell, lost both legs above the knee, a testicle, and had an eardrum ruptured after a roadside explosion in 2008.

He received a lump sum payment of $260,000 for pain and suffering, on top of his military pension, earnings loss benefit and permanent impairment allowance.

The government's defence is that it isn't bound by the promises of previous governments, dating back to the First World War, in the care of wounded soldiers.

Gordon Moore, the Dominion president of the Legion, has called that argument "reprehensible."

"There is only one veteran, whether you are 19 years of age or 105," he said in a recent interview.

The suit is largely a result of the advocacy of Jim Scott, whose son, Dan, was injured in Afghanistan after he was hit with discharge from a Canadian mine in 2010.

Dan, then a part-time reservist, lost a kidney, spleen, and part of his pancreas. He was awarded $41,500.

"My wife actually works on litigated bodily injury claims for an insurance company, so she knew that was disproportionately low," said Jim, a retired police sergeant in Surrey, B.C.

He said he checked with a workers compensation program in British Columbia and found a similar injury in a logging accident would pay around $1,400 a month.

Dan told his father there were plenty of other soldiers receiving low settlements.

After the Scott family was told by Veterans Affairs that this was how things work under the new funding formula, Jim set out to find a law firm that would have the charter impartially reviewed in court. They all told him the Crown Liability and Proceeding Act prevents soldiers from suing on matters of remuneration.

Jim believes the government "picked on soldiers" because they were unable to sue for more and the feds wanted to liquidate their liability, not unlike someone wanting to quickly settle things after a car accident.

National firm Miller Thomson agreed to take the case pro bono, Jim said, because it's something that needs fixing. Jim founded an organization, The Equitas Society, which is handling the disbursement costs — expert medical opinions, court filing fees — which he pegs at a minimum of $100,000.

There's no money to be made in this lawsuit, but Jim hopes a judge will order the government to change the way it compensates injured veterans.

"These kids who are missing parts of their legs or have their legs reconstructed with steel rods and plates, you can tell when they walk down the street that they're disabled," he said. "The compensation that they got is basically nothing in comparison to what other Canadians would get and I just don't know why you would want to select soldiers as the people we want to compensate the least."

Jim, a former Conservative Party riding president, said while this isn't about blaming the Harper government, Tories own the issue now.

"Personally, I just think that the government's priority is to balance the budget by 2015 and this would blow a big hole in that plan," he said.

***

Michael Blais has a simple message for veterans who receive disability awards: appeal.

"They always low-ball you," he said.

The president and founder of The Canadian Veterans Advocacy says vets from the war in Afghanistan are being treated in an "unconscionable" manner on the issue of pain and suffering.

Blais, himself a former soldier on a monthly disability pension, said Moncur's case is another "obscene" example.

"Injuries like that to the brain, they don't just heal up," he said. "You don't just stick a Band-Aid on it."

While conceding the new charter has good elements, Blais says that by weighing the sacrifices of one soldier differently than another, a "sacred obligation" of equal respect and care is not being met.



Blais presents the comparison of "Sergeant Juno Beach" and "Sergeant Panjwai Valley." Both are about 25, married, with two kids.

Sergeant Juno Beach loses two legs in 1944, and is provided, under the Pension Act, a monthly pension based on his disability for the rest of his life.

"Let's say he lives 60 years. When you add up all these pensions, pain and suffering awards, the sum comes up to almost $2 million, if not more," Blais said.

Today, Sergeant Panjwai Valley loses both legs in the Afghan war and receives, under the new rules, a maximum of $298,588 for that suffering.

Blais calls that maximum number "disgusting."

"As we assess the consequences of war, as we see those returning to our community bereft of arms and legs, scarred emotionally, mentally and physically, we have to recognize that sacrifice is equal to those who served in generations before," he said.

At a minimum, he says disability awards should be raised and tells vets who receive them to ask if they truly reflect their level of sacrifice.

"We must stand together and fight to ensure that the standards our forefathers set in blood, courage and incredible sacrifice are extended to those today who bear the same cross, who have offered the same level of sacrifice, who have suffered the same consequences of war," he said.

***

Cpl. Bruce Moncur, now 30, keeps his military medals in his underwear drawer. When he sees them, he knows it’s time for laundry.

Reminders are helpful for someone with short-term memory loss.

"I can't tell you how many appointments I've missed, how many parties I've forgotten," he said. "Sometimes I feel like an old man."

Moncur has a large, visible scar of a few inches on his head. He says he sees a psychiatrist twice a month and gets a neurological exam each year. He often gets dizzy spells and requires 12 hours of sleep. His dreams are horrible and the fatigue makes the PTSD worse. He has anger issues, at times, and doesn't do well with crowds.

His head aches, often.

And he is absolutely petrified of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease robbing him of a happy life with a wife and kids, someday. He fears his brain injury has increased his risk of those diseases.



He says completing his history degree this past January was one of the hardest things he's ever done. It took him weeks to recover after exams.

"I would push myself to a level that it would literally drain the life out of me," Moncur said.

But despite all this, Moncur said he learned this past summer from a Veterans Affairs employee that his injury had been placed in the category of "headaches."

He said it took him seven years to learn that chunk of information and resents the classification deeply.

"It's not just headaches," he said. "It's being shot in the head."

The former soldier will continue with the next steps of his appeal: answering in detail questions about his quality of life and getting a doctor to complete a 15-page questionnaire. But he says he'll do so at his own pace.

Or, if it's easier, Moncur has another offer for the government.

"I'll give you the $22,000 back. I still have the $22,000, I didn't spend it. I didn't squander it," he said.

"You can give me my brains in a jar and I'll put it on my mantle."

***

Canada's veterans ombudsman has said, as a "first step," the maximum amount for disability awards should be raised to $342,000 — the current judicial cap for non-pecuniary damages awarded by Canadian courts.

Ombudsman Guy Parent's long-awaited assessment of the charter, released last month, meticulously weighed benefits and entitlements under the new charter with those from the old pension-for-life system.

In the most noteworthy revelation, Parent highlighted that hundreds of severely disabled veterans will take a major financial hit once they retire because some benefits will end at 65.



But the review paper only briefly touched on the issue of disability awards, which have not been increased, beyond annual indexing, since 2006.

In his report, Parent urged Veterans Affairs to revisit how they compensate veterans who have suffered in the line of duty. He said the government needs to conduct research and talk to veterans about what the maximum compensation should be.

As of March 2013, there were 38,380 veterans in receipt of the disability award, with that number expected to increase by 5,000 per year over the next five years.

Parent's analysis shows that increasing disability awards would cost taxpayers about $70 million.

A review of Bill C-55, which enacted the enhancements made by Tories in 2011, is required by legislation and expected this fall.

***

Moncur doesn't want to sound bitter.

At a Windsor bar called Rock Bottom, where they still let you throw peanut shells on the ground, he says almost dying puts everything in perspective. So too does his job working with the developmentally challenged at Community Living Essex County.

On Remembrance Day, he says he’ll have a drink and remember his buddies who died, the families they left behind.

"And how close my family was to losing me," he said.

But he won't dwell. That's just too tiresome.

Would the kid who went to war looking for adventure do it all over again? No chance. And, when asked, he tells young people to avoid joining the military unless there is no other option.

"Don't get caught up in the romance of fighting for your country," he said. "Don't get caught up in all the stories they tell you."

Still, he knows he can't change the past, what happened to him.

And while he feels betrayed, at times, by the government whose call he answered, he says he doesn't want to be angry anymore.

"I just want this to end," he said. "But I'm not willing to be treated in such a way that is demeaning or under-represents my sacrifice."

Despite it all, Moncur says he hasn't been this happy in years. Sure, he's missing a part of himself and the money he thinks he has more than earned. But he's alive.

He's found a girl he can't stop talking about.

And he gets to see sunset glow.

A spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs said staff were unavailable for an interview about this story with The Huffington Post Canada.

CHECK OUT OTHER PICTURES: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/10/bruce-moncur-disability-award-veterans-affairs_n_4252112.html


Canadian Veterans Advocacy

http://canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html
FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

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Medically released vets being denied benefits in 'unfair' process: ombudsman

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/medically-released-vets-being-denied-benefits-in-unfair-process-ombudsman-1.1672104#ixzz2sU3mORx9



The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014 3:35PM EST

OTTAWA -- The country's military ombudsman says some soldiers being hustled out the door on medical discharges find they don't qualify for benefits because Veterans Affairs uses its own, more stringent criteria, in what has become an unfair process.

Pierre Daigle, whose term ends in a few weeks, is telling a Senate committee that many ex-soldiers have to fight to prove that the conditions that made them ineligible to serve are in fact a result of their service.

Once they are released, Veterans Affairs demands that the ill and injured be subject to a separate assessment above and beyond whatever examination has been conducted at National Defence.

For veterans, it can be an infuriating, bureaucratic process that too often leads to a denial of benefits and a lengthy, unnecessary appeals process.

Daigle says it is unfair and needs to be addressed.

His comments echo similar complaints from the country's veterans ombudsman, Guy Parent.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/medically-released-vets-being-denied-benefits-in-unfair-process-ombudsman-1.1672104#ixzz2sU45axkn

42
Internal Procedure / 2012 - Rehabilitation Program Plan
« on: January 26, 2014, 09:22:01 PM »
[pdf]http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/about-us/policy/download/1213[/pdf]

43
[pdf]http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/about-us/policy/download/1217[/pdf]

44
[pdf]http://www.veterans.gc.ca/fra/about-us/policy/download/1458[/pdf]

45
Internal Procedure / 2013 - Career Transition Services Internal Procedure
« on: January 26, 2014, 09:17:49 PM »
[pdf]http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/about-us/policy/download/1458[/pdf]

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