Author Topic: December 22, 2011. Steven Blaney?s Office Claims Harper Government Delivered  (Read 1305 times)

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Steven Blaney?s Office Claims Harper Government Delivered on Agent Orange Promises But Veterans Ombudsman Calls VAC Actions ?Scandalous?
December 22, 2011. 11:12 pm ? Section: Defence Watch

NATALIE STECHYSON, POSTMEDIA NEWS has the latest about the Agent Orange issue:

OTTAWA ? Canada?s veterans ombudsman stood up Thursday for the caregivers of those affected by Agent Orange who are being excluded from government payments.

Veterans Affairs Canada is denying claims from caregivers based on ?very narrow? interpretations, Guy Parent said in a statement released Thursday. While no one questions the need for eligibility criteria, these criteria must respect the spirit of the legislation, Parent said.

?The definitions used by Veterans Affairs Canada would not withstand public or legal scrutiny. This is nothing short of scandalous,? Parent said.

?One wonders how many other individuals have been denied the ex gratia payment unfairly.?

The Agent Orange ex gratia payment program is meant to compensate those who were exposed to the defoliant chemical and are suffering from medical conditions related to the testing. The spray program took place at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick in 1966 and 1967. The program allows primary caregivers to apply on behalf of an individual who would have been eligible but died.

Jean-Christophe de le Rue, a spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, said the government promised to deal with the Agent Orange issue and has delivered on that promise.
In 2007, the government announced a $20,000 ex gratia payment. In 2010, the government enhanced the eligibility criteria and extended the deadline for a medical diagnosis and the deadline for applications to June 30, 2011, de la Rue pointed out.

?We went beyond our initial commitment by providing additional funds to the program to ensure all those who are eligible for the ex-gratia payment receive it,? he said in an email to Postmedia News.

?Until December 31, 2011, Minister Blaney will continue to monitor cases to ensure fair and accurate decisions are being made. This is concrete proof that our government is delivering transparent and measurable results for our veterans and their families.?

The office of the ombudsman has received a number of requests for help by people whose applications have been denied, Parent said. In one instance, the widow of a former soldier was denied payment because her husband of 50 years was living in a long-term care facility at the time of his death.

One of the criteria is that the primary caregiver must have been living in the same home as the deceased for at least one year prior to that person?s death and was primarily responsible for caring for the individual.

?The widow in question ensured that her husband received the care that he needed by placing him in a facility when she could no longer care for him at home, and she visited that facility every day to assist staff where possible,? Parent said. ?Unfortunately, the department narrowly has interpreted the order in council to mean that care must be provided directly by the caregiver.?

Parent also raised the case for individuals who have been denied because of late applications.

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