Frustrated veterans give MPs an earful

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Frustrated veterans give MPs an earful

Post by ArtyRMS on Wed 21 Jan 2015, 13:44

http://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/news/article_feb4d822-a129-11e4-955e-97fbd2455334.html

Veterans blasted Conservative MPs over bad communication and long waits for disability benefits at an emotional gathering in Kelowna.
Soldiers who served in five conflicts turned up Tuesday at the Royal Canadian Legion on Bertram Street to hear MP Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre) lead an hour-long presentation on how the Veterans Affairs department is trying to improve services across the country.
Some of the 30 in the crowd became frustrated halfway through Hawn’s slide show on a screen so small that few could read the words. When he tried to explain how Veterans Affairs Canada is delivering services after closing its Kelowna office, Korea veteran Lawrence Crosthwaite had had enough.
“Why didn’t you tell us this a long time ago?” he said. “You guys kept your mouths shut about this; you have for years … All of a sudden all of this stuff is available. To whom? The people here?”
“I understand your emotion,” Hawn said.
“No you don’t, no you don’t! That’s the trouble.”
Hawn, accompanied by Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan and Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, said the Kelowna veterans office, which was closed, was lightly used compared to other cities, getting two or three visits a day.
Don Stirling, a service officer for local vets, said people who sought help at the office were achieving little and gave up.
Hawn, a veteran himself, has been touring the country trying to repair some of the political damage caused in part by former Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, who was removed in December. He admitted “we’re crappy communicators,” but said the shortfalls are being addressed.
An improved Veterans Charter promises to provide counselling for family members and training for caregivers. Once enacted, it will ensure suicidal veterans will be medically released only when they’re stable, a case manager is in place and all the benefits they expect from the department are adjudicated, he said.
“(People) say the government is abrogating its sacred obligation to veterans, which is just not true. It’s just not spelled out in the constitution … We’re introducing new legislation to amend the Veterans Charter to put the wording in there.”
Patrick Wilkins, who served two tours in Bosnia and one in Afghanistan, told Hawn he has post-traumatic stress disorder and is considered 93 per cent disabled. His wife is unemployed because she had a mental breakdown looking after him.
Wilkins, 44, got a lump-sum payment of $190,000 from a “bureaucracy that’s killing us.” He wonders how much time he has before he loses his house.
“You come out with a statement like ‘This is what we’re doing for you; this is all the money we’re giving these people.’ I’m one of those people, sir. And I do not receive that.
“When? Is it after I’ve committed suicide and left the building?”
Hawn said there’s no silver bullet — every case is adjudicated on its merit. The department is trying to make it easier on vets so the burden of proving a military-related disability is less onerous, the backlog of claims is shorter and there’s better access to help so the suicide rate declines.
Dan Deveau, who served in Bosnia/Croatia, said Veterans Affairs was disingenuous by failing to reveal the $200 million in new money it announced in November to improve access may take 50 years to distribute.
“What we’d like to see on the ground is more transparency and better communication to make it more understandable so we’re not in an information void,” he said.
“You can throw 100 slides up there that none of these folks can read, and you can say what you want to say, and it’s not doing us any good.”
Hawn said the culture should improve with the recent appointments of Erin O’Toole as minister and former chief of defence staff Walter Natynczyk as deputy minister. He promised it will get better for veterans.
“We’re working on it. It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “This is a work in progress. We’re restrained by … regulatory requirements, financial requirements, fiscal demands.”
Soldiers from the Second World War and Vietnam War also attended the meeting. Stephen Fuhr, Liberal candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country and a 20-year air-force veteran, was out of town but sent an email mocking the Conservatives for bringing in new faces to handle the portfolio.
“This is a diversionary tactic,” he said. “The Tories need to stop talking and start acting to help our vets. How is it our veterans are forced to take the Conservative government to court just to access benefits they deserve?”

ArtyRMS
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Re: Frustrated veterans give MPs an earful

Post by Trooper on Wed 21 Jan 2015, 17:09

Arty,

You are good at finding interesting topics for discussion - keep em coming as I enjoy the read.

I am sure I read that Mr. Hawn will not be running in the up coming election.

It sure looks from the comments that some Veterans really spoke their mind, and that is what is needed.
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Trooper
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