On the march again for fair treatment

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On the march again for fair treatment

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:57

By Sean Bruyea- THE OTTAWA CITIZEN-November 06, 2010, p. B.7

Serving and retired soldiers know all too well what a wonderful country we have. We know this more than most because we promised to die unquestioningly for Canada and Canadians.

Those of us Canadian Forces veterans who survived the missions to the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan, and so many more forgotten deployments, returned having sacrificed our bodies, souls and minds. But we did this proudly and with the reassurance that, while we took care of the world and protected Canada, Canada promised to protect and take care of us. Sadly, the government has failed to do this for far too many. And it is all about money.

We understand that there is a limited pot of money to hand out. So we remained silent as the country prospered, building itself into a beautiful, productive and much-admired nation, mortgaged on our sacrifices and the promises to care for us.

But we are starting to ask questions. For instance, why is it that Australia with half the veteran population of Canada, actively cares for twice the number of veterans and families, and spends three times as much as Canada in caring for its injured soldiers and their families?

We do not want to get rich on our disabilities and we certainly did not want to be disabled. More painfully, we did not want to see our families torn apart, unable to deal with our psychological and physical wounds. But we cannot understand why the same Canadian government which ordered us to sacrifice ourselves refuses to make payments on the debt owed to us.

We have been silent, hoping Canadians would care for and protect us as we cared for and protected Canadians in uniform. Unfortunately, the federal government decision makers earning over $250,000 per year and collecting annual “risk bonuses,” have used our shame and silence against us. They incorrectly tell Canadians that we are all cared for, that we don’t deserve any more and therefore Canada can save money by restricting spending on our disabled veterans.

Prior to April 2006, injured soldiers could rightly and fairly access a lifelong monthly compensation for their injuries and suffering. Why is it that Canada replaced that lifelong dignity with the indignity of a one-time lump sum of up to $276,000? The United Kingdom provides a similar lump sum of up to $920,000 plus tax-free monthly compensation. Is the life of suffering and career-ending sacrifice of a Canadian Forces soldier worth only one year’s salary of a senior civil servant?

Veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War, whether disabled or not, were given access to university, college and apprenticeship education, re-establishment grants and low interest loans to start a business, study or equip a farm, as well as land grants and farm grants. If they were injured, they were also provided a lifelong monthly compensation for their pain and suffering. Canadian Forces veterans were never given access to these same programs and only the disabled veterans are given any access to limited college education. The so-called New Veterans Charter doesn’t provide university education, even though its cornerstone public service priority hiring has targeted a host of positions in the federal government — almost all of which require university education.

Of course this was about saving money as the architect of the new veterans charter bragged to Parliament in 2005 calling this savings Canada’s “wellness dividend.”

Veterans and their families watch as Canada goes into debt for a myriad of reasons, all of which seem to exclude justly compensating military sacrifice. We know that caring for injured soldiers can be expensive if done properly and justly.

Canada budgets extra costs for parts and repairs of its military equipment anticipating loss and failure. No such moneys were or are set aside to care for and compensate the injuries of each military person sent into harm’s way. Of course, if the cost of caring for our wounded and the surviving families is too much, Canadians have the right to decide that. But this would apply to future missions and wars. Now, there are 680,000 Canadian Forces veterans who have already fulfilled their side of the contract, many have suffered what the government calls the obligation of our soldiers for “unlimited liability” up to and including loss of life. Why is it then that the Canadian government has a very limited liability caring for our injured soldiers and their families?

This is why at 11 a.m. today, Canadian veterans will be joined by their families and all those Canadians who believe our sacrifices worthy in a day of dignified protest. We will peacefully march across this great nation, maybe only in small numbers in the smallest of towns and even on Parliament Hill, but each of us holding our heads high for the more than 680,000 serving and retired Canadian Forces members as well as the remaining 160,000 veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War who have given so much so you may live in peace. Please defend us for we cannot defend you anymore.

Sean Bruyea is a retired Canadian Forces intelligence officer and advocate for the rights of veterans and improved government.

Credit: Sean Bruyea; Citizen Special

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2010/11/on-the-march-again-for-fair-treatment/

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Veterans Affairs Canada Has a Perverse Understanding of ‘Consultation’

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:01

By Sean Bruyea-THE HILL TIMES-March 21, 2011.
In a most bizarre déjà vu, history repeated itself on March 11 when the House passed Bill C-55. The bill was sold as the fix-for-all that ails veterans’ legislation originally passed in 2005, legislation which replaced lifelong payments for pain and suffering for injured soldiers with a one-time lump sum.

The tactics which forced through Bill C-55 as well as the original 2005 legislation are near mirror images of disturbing bureaucratic processes.

Setting aside the multiple flaws of the legislation itself or Canada’s failure to provide and administer adequate programs for its veterans, it is the process to create veterans’ legislation which has been deeply flawed over the past decade. At the heart of the process is Veterans Affairs Canada’s perverse understanding of the process of “consultation.”

In May 2005, the government of the day rushed through Bill C-45, now known as the New Veterans Charter. Indisputably this was the largest change in how veterans were compensated for their injuries in more than 90 years. But the bill received less than one minute of discussion in the House for second and third readings. Fortunately, a few veterans, including myself, held a press conference. In spite of media frenzy over a possible snap election, CBC carried the story on national news. This forced a hastily prepared Senate committee hearing the next day.

During the hearing, the minister, VAC officials and hand-picked stakeholders declared that the legislation was the result of “widespread,” “broad” and “extensive” consultations. Ministerial briefing notes claimed that “consultations on the New Veterans Charter have been the most comprehensive in VAC history.” Is there truth to any of this?

Veterans Affairs Canada had commissioned a couple of studies since 1999 following reports of the scandalous quality of life issues suffered by serving CF members. In 2000, the VAC-CF Advisory Council was created. It was chaired by a historian and included medical practitioners and representatives from a select few veteran groups. Only one individual, retired general now Quebec Sen. Roméo Dallaire, represented the specific interests of disabled veterans. No one represented the families of veterans and none of its meetings were open to the public nor were minutes ever made publicly available.

Some members of the council held sessions on Canadian Forces bases. To the question of a preference of lump sums or lifelong pensions, one council member testified that all six of the CF bases he interviewed responded overwhelmingly they preferred a lifelong pension.

The council, in March 2004, did eventually publish its report with 17 recommendations. VAC would later claim that the New Veterans Charter followed the report’s recommendations. A read of the report will show that the New Veterans Charter fails to respect all but one recommendation. Unfortunately, Veterans Affairs Canada stopped organizing further council meetings after publication of the report. The council has never been able to officially respond to whether the new veterans charter actually follows their recommendations.

Then in January 2005, representatives from just six veterans’ organizations met in secret with Veterans Affairs officials. The representatives agreed to blindly support the coming legislation. They were not permitted to discuss the legislation with their membership or see the wording until three months later less than 48 hours before the bill was tabled.

Ironically, the entire membership of two of those veteran organizations and the majority veteran members of the Royal Canadian Legion were World War II veterans eligible for lifelong disability payments. Why were these organizations allowed to have any say in giving less to post-World War II CF veterans than their own members received?

As for the other three organizations, even if their membership was allowed to be informed of the details of the legislation, their combined membership was and still is probably less than 2,000 CF veterans.

Is this what Veterans Affairs Canada considers the “most comprehensive” consultation in its history? Maybe this was a play on semantics as Veterans Affairs Canada is an applied title given in 1984 to the legal name of the “Department of Veterans Affairs.” In this light, the consultations were indeed the “most” of everything since they were apparently the only consultations Veterans Affairs Canada carried out since 1984.

However, the department had previously engaged in much more substantial consultations. During and following World War II, more than a dozen federal departments, every provincial government, all major municipalities, universities, hospitals, veteran groups, the military, businesses and communities across Canada were brought together in more than 14 committees to create the original Veterans Charter. This was true consultation. And it was far more “comprehensive” or “widespread” than Veterans Affairs Canada’s secretive efforts to consult with as few as six individuals on behalf of more than 600,000 serving and retired Canadian Forces members and their more than one million family members.

That Senate hearing in 2005 had another valuable consequence—the creation of two Veterans Affairs advisory groups: the Special Needs Advisory Group (SNAG) and then later on, the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group (NVCAG). Between these two groups, they have produced six substantial reports encompassing more than 380 recommendations to improve the New Veterans Charter. However, only the report from NVCAG is publicly accessible and all of SNAG’s reports are only available through an Access to Information request.

The House Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs also produced a report with 18 recommendations. I have submitted to the same committee another 55 unique recommendations.

What is the response from Veterans Affairs? Bill C-55 and its four “enhancements.” The VAC bureaucracy never responded to any of the advisory group recommendations and contrary to custom, failed to respond to each of the House Committee recommendations. Instead, the minister read into Hansard the following statement from the president of the Royal Canadian Legion on March 11, 2011: “This bill, as a first step, makes great strides in improving the New Veterans Charter and encompasses many of the recommendations made by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.”

Would the two advisory groups agree with the president of the Legion? We will never know because Veterans Affairs Canada suspended the meetings of these two groups last fall, just prior to tabling Bill C-55. However, as the chair of SNAG testified last summer, the changes to the New Veterans Charter over the last five years have been “minimal to nil.” As to the legislation itself: “It is not working.”

There are more than 400 recommendations outstanding. Clearly the president of the Legion is not speaking to the facts. The reason for this could be that the Legion itself has lost touch with the Canadian Forces veterans with more than two-thirds of Legion members having never worn a military uniform.

According to Treasury Board guidelines, consultation must be “clear, open and transparent” amongst many other requirements including the need to incorporate or account for input from stakeholders into the legislation. Consultation is, even by bureaucratic standards, supposed to be a two-way process. It cannot merely consist of Veterans Affairs Canada allowing someone to speak and then refusing to either respond to, or, more importantly, refusing to include the wishes of the stakeholders in the final product.

Why the refusal to truly enter into bilateral, equal, and transparent consultations with the veteran community? Reportedly, not one EX level position in Veterans Affairs Canada has ever served in the military. Veterans Affairs Canada’s concept of consultation looks more like paternalistic condescension.

Parliament has held only one committee hearing on Bill C-55 and it is set to be fast-tracked through the Senate due to the threat of…as in May 2005… a federal election.

It took six years to address just four of the 400 recommendations. At this rate it will take more than 600 years to address the remaining recommendations. During the one and only Committee hearing on Bill C-55, Elphège Renaud, President of the Association du Royal 22e Régiment spoke of C-55, “Sadly, this is all just for show.”

Perhaps the VAC bureaucracy should remember that 100,000 Canadians have not died and almost 300,000 have not incurred lifelong injuries in military service merely for “show.”

Sean Bruyea is a freelance writer and retired Air Force intelligence officer who writes about issues of governing with a conscience.

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http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/03/veterans-affairs-canada-has-a-perverse-understanding-of-consultation/

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Veterans Affairs Canada Has a Case of Premature Closure

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:03

By Sean Bruyea-THE HILL TIMES-April 11, 2011

OTTAWA—Just prior to the election campaign kick-off, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn showed just how out of sync he and some in the department are with veterans and Canadians, not to mention Canadian law and Treasury Board policies. He recently made a number of public comments in Alexandria, Ont., (“The Review,” March 23, 2011) in response to widespread privacy law breaches by Veterans Affairs bureaucrats.

Last fall, nationwide revelations showed that department bureaucrats had illegally and widely trafficked in my private financial and medical information. To date, 54 individuals have been disciplined mostly with letters of reprimand although some received up to three-day suspensions. It is not known whether these were paid suspensions. The minister justified disciplinary leniency, emphasizing it was as if privacy protection “didn’t exist” and that “no one had a system adapted to the new requirements [of the Privacy Act].”

Curious thing these “new requirements” which escaped the attention of the widespread “culture” of ignorance in VAC: the Privacy Act took effect on July 1, 1983. Of course, ignorance of the law has never been an excuse. Twenty-plus years of ignorance are even less of a non-excuse. The terms of employment for all federal public servants require that they specifically abide by Canadian laws (just in case they didn’t realize all Canadians must abide by Canadian laws). The “Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service” pointedly emphasizes the need to abide by seven laws, one of which is the “Privacy Act.”

Breaking the law is absolutely inexcusable for our highly-paid federal government employees entrusted with great power and knowledge over the lives of all Canadian citizens.

The disciplinary measures for the 54 individuals was a result of an internal bureaucratic investigation. The so-called investigation of 614 individuals was restricted to just those individuals who accessed the files on the Veterans Affairs computer system. The internal investigation never consulted me, the person whose privacy was violated, and it does not appear that the investigation was carried out by those trained in truly independent investigations.

As such, the “internal investigation” did not follow certain key Treasury Board requirements for investigative procedure. Furthermore, the department has thus far failed to provide me the names of the 54 individuals the department unilaterally determined had illegally or inappropriately viewed my personal information. Bureaucrats now consider “this matter has been successfully addressed and is now closed.”

However, the so-called “investigation” did not address the damning findings of the privacy commissioner. Due to unavailability of the computer logs at the time, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, instead found widespread breaches of the Privacy Act in briefing notes for ministers. Many of the participants in the briefing notes were EX level employees. Furthermore, at least 400 individuals trafficked in my highly personal medical and financial information through emails as well as the briefing notes.

The department refuses to confirm at this time whether anyone has been disciplined for breaking the law as a result of the Commissioner’s findings. In fact, the three EX level bureaucrats who orchestrated the briefing notes (and named in my lawsuit) all received promotions after they wrote and circulated the notes.

The minister also claims that “there is no one that used [his information] to reduce the services of veterans, or transmitted it in a public place. We looked at their intentions.”

The minister’s statement is disingenuous at best. The briefing notes were part of a well-documented plan to inappropriately tie gross distortions of my medical condition to my public efforts to improve new veterans’ programs. You see, I was not and never have publicly advocated for my own services and benefits. The new veterans’ programs never applied to me.

However, bureaucrats briefed ministers that the only way to deal with me was to force me into a week-long or more “in-patient assessment” in a Veterans Affairs facility. Results of that assessment were written up by non-clinician bureaucrats and provided to the minister before the assessment ever occurred. The pre-determined assessment intended, amongst other things, to cut off all my treatment. If I refused, the minister was informed that Veterans Affairs would, you guessed it, cut off all my treatment. These officials sought legal advice to carry out this plan.

It was an obvious no-win situation for me. For the bureaucrats who broke privacy laws it was a win-win game, playing with my life. Either way, I would be without treatment, and my condition would worsen as documents show they were well aware. This plan dovetailed sweetly with non-medically trained or qualified bureaucrats predetermining, without any medical evidence, that I was already mentally unstable.

Whatever happened, the plan would ensure that I would not be able to speak credibly in defence of veterans or their families ever again.

Through the strength of my belief in Canada and the loving support of my wife we fought back.

More than 16,000 pages of emails and briefing notes clearly document the privacy breaches. That is why the Privacy Commissioner found in my favour. What the documents also reveal is that although the minister claims my information was not transmitted in a public place, it was seen by at least 857 (and counting) individuals including two ministers, a Parliamentary secretary and served as briefing material for my Member of Parliament’s staff, the staff of Stephen Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office and likely a high-ranking Canadian Forces general as well as other Canadian Forces personnel.

This was highly inappropriate under any circumstances, especially considering I had been out of uniform for more than a decade.

During the last six years not one individual from Veterans Affairs has ever sat down with me to seek resolution. Veterans Affairs did it all through lawyers. In spite of the minister’s and the bureaucrats’ claims of compassion and understanding in this matter, none of the so-called internal investigations have ever involved speaking with me. It is difficult to imagine a police investigation which doesn’t involve speaking with the victim.

My lawsuit has been settled out of court. There has been no public announcement of what constituted that settlement contrary to some media reports (see The Hill Times, March 14, 2011, “Ouimet to testify along with AG on AG’s scathing report”). As is custom with out-of-court settlements, I am not at liberty to discuss my settlement. However, setting the resolution of my case aside, I am not aware of any settlement which provided the full amount of what was being claimed. I am and always was conscious that whatever I asked for was to come from Canadians. Justice was my guiding principle not avarice.

The amount we requested ($400,000) was in response to Veterans Affairs bureaucrats repeatedly breaking Canadian laws and government policies which destroyed much of our lives for five years. This amount is noticeably less than the more than the $500,000 payout Ouimet actually received in dramatically failing to uphold what Canada, Parliament, and whistleblowers expected and deserved from her three-year tenure. This is not surprising as Ouimet’s reward is in keeping with promoting Veterans Affairs bureaucrats after laws have been broken.

This is all more serious than just my private information. The message is clear to bureaucrats throughout the federal public service. Whether they are looking at your soon-to-be submitted tax forms, your immigration papers, your old age and CPP information, your social insurance numbers or your disability medical files: there is far greater reward to break the law than there are punishments.

It is a classic case of an all too common disease: highly contagious bureaucratic inadequacy, reward and premature closure. This is not the Canada I and more than 300,000 other Canadian casualties sacrificed in war to defend.

Sean Bruyea is a freelance journalist, advocate for the rights of disabled veterans and a retired Intelligence Officer who served in the Persian Gulf War.

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http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/04/veterans-affairs-canada-has-a-case-of-premature-closure/

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Caring for Injured and Retired CF Personnel: Universality Instead of a Patchwork Quilt

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:05

An unnecessary bruise upon the CF’s reputation is the continued practice of deducting pain and suffering payments from injured veterans’ reduced income under long-term disability.

By Sean Bruyea-THE HILL TIMES (Defence Policy Issue)-May 30, 2011.
It is often said that a nation is judged on how it treats its most vulnerable. Canada’s treatment of injured and retired Canadian Forces (CF) personnel and their struggling families is beginning to reflect poorly not just on Canada but upon the CF itself.

It is sometimes difficult to perceive veterans who once brandished the latest in weaponry as vulnerable. However, the consequences of the complete and profound transformation of military indoctrination results in large numbers of veterans unable to fight for appropriate care against the very government for which they were willing to die.

For the greater part of the past 60 years, successive governments have had very little reason to fret about the treatment of injured and retired men and women of the CF. There have always been eager volunteers. In FY 2009-10, more than 7,500 young Canadians willingly replaced nearly 5,300 retiring or medically released members.

We are a compassionate people. Only the most jaded cynic would justify neglecting our releasing military and their families merely because Canada’s youth is a steadfast and fertile garden for recruitment. However, such cynicism appears justified.

Canada’s 600,000 CF veterans have been denied the comprehensive and universal programs given to the one million veterans of World War II and Korea. Injury rates for the CF over the past fifty years have been approximately 7.5 per cent versus an 8.5 per cent casualty rate for World War II. In fact, more Canadians have died or been injured in Afghanistan than suffered the same in Korea.

Why is a CF veteran with multiple tours in Bosnia, Rwanda and Afghanistan given far less benefits than a World War II veteran who spent a year in uniform safe in Canada or a single day overseas? CF veterans have been denied the universal programs for post-secondary education, business start-up assistance, mortgage assistance, land, house, and farm grants as well as multiple financial benefits afforded World War II veterans.

As a result, Canada has failed to benefit from investing in its CF veterans the way this nation benefitted from widely investing in its World War II veterans. Although the CF has been complicit in this unjustified neglect, most of the blame can be laid at the doorstep of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

Veterans Affairs Canada

In 2006, VAC enacted legislation which replaced lifetime payments for pain and suffering with one-time lump sum payments. This new program, known as the New Veterans Charter, was passed in the House without a second of debate and only one committee hearing. Canada has since learned of the heavy-handed tactics some at VAC used to silence critics and manipulate the leadership of a select few veterans’ groups to blindly support the legislation.

In the past five years, more than 400 recommendations to fix the New Veterans Charter have been tabled by Parliamentary committees and VAC’s own advisory groups. Veterans Affairs makes fantastical claims that four partial fixes included in legislation rushed through just before the election addresses the 400 recommendations.

The list of VAC failings is long but the causes are few.

Not one director level employee or above has ever worn a military uniform. Few in VAC have any concept of the extreme hardships and sacrifices of serving in the CF. Fewer have the necessary insight into the psychological cost of such service for not just the soldiers but the families. Allowing such bureaucrats to design programs is akin to allowing a lawyer to design a nuclear reactor. As a result, highly vulnerable and injured CF soldiers, veterans and their families experience real-life meltdowns trying to break through endless red tape.

Veterans Affairs casually brushes aside criticisms as mere ‘communication problems,’ thereby placing most of the blame on the CF and veterans for not understanding the good intentions of VAC’s efforts.

Such smugness misses the point. The reality is that CF members are better educated about VAC than ever before and they don’t like what they see. Unfortunately, compassionate frontline employees at VAC must absorb the justified frustration of veterans and serving military. Much initiative and autonomy of frontline staff has been robbed in favour of shifting decision-making authority to faceless and distant central offices which have minimal comprehension of military service or have no contact with the individual asking for assistance.

The result is a department which, at its design, operations, and decision-making levels, has very little understanding of the veterans and families they claim to serve. VAC is the only federal department with its head office located outside Ottawa. Isolating such detached arrogance in Charlottetown, P.E.I., only compounds the extreme disconnect.

DND-CF

The scandals of Somalia, the Croatia Board of Inquiry, and other public revelations of the CF resulted in much needed improvements to military quality of life. The result is that the CF has taken the lead in assisting the injured and releasing military members far more efficiently and comprehensively than VAC. There have been some notable successes such as the Integrated Personnel Support Centres which combine administrative points of contact for programs within the CF and VAC.

The CF however needs to rethink its “universality of service,” the standard for which decisions to release under medical limitations are made. For the past half decade or more, CF commanders have accommodated individuals in the military longer than “universality of service” would otherwise permit. Such accommodations have provided dignity and flexibility for the injured wishing to remain in the CF but offer no guarantee that commanders won’t change their mind.

An unnecessary bruise upon the CF’s reputation is the continued practice of deducting pain and suffering payments from injured veterans’ reduced income under long-term disability. This affects no more than 6,500 of the most vulnerable veterans. Considering that approximately 10,000 serving military continue to collect full salary as well as payments for pain and suffering, refusing to fix this is hypocritical at best. That the military just spent $130-million to buy 1,300 smart bombs when that amount would address all retroactivity for this unfair practice sends the message that personnel are expendable and equipment is far more important.

The Fix

Mandatory levels for hiring veterans and their families in DND and VAC are a necessity as such expertise is essential to developing and running effective programs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employs more than 30 per cent veterans with more than 25,000 disabled veterans on staff.

The U.S. also puts Canada to shame in funding more than 23 million veterans and their families in post-secondary institutions. A similar universal and retroactive program for the CF would not only benefit the dignity of the injured and retired members but the increased opportunities and income provided by such education would pay Canada back many times over.

Unlike the Forces, Veterans Affairs has not had a public inquiry in more than four decades and has never had a public inquiry about issues affecting CF veterans. A judicial royal commission would offer the independent perspective Parliament, veterans, the CF and Canadians need in order to understand the plight of CF injured, veterans and their families while recommending much-needed solutions.

Such an inquiry would ask and answer many questions such as the continued wisdom or lack thereof in having VAC senior management located outside the interplay of ideas and necessary accountability in Ottawa.

The CF continues to over-extend its mandate in filling the many gaps in VAC’s patchwork of often inadequate programs. A new universal approach which has veterans, the CF, their families, medical, and business experts needs to be driving veterans’ policy. Canada does not have to reinvent the wheel.

We did it right after World War II. The ingredients are the same: income bridging, comprehensive post-secondary education, business start-up assistance, housing assistance and extended medical care all working towards a program of complete and universal financial, professional and psychological transition.

Either Canada relearns a universal and comprehensive approach to caring for its releasing and injured military or one day the eager recruits may dry up. Otherwise, a military collective bargaining unit may be the only way to force government to act where once Canada was only too eager to care.

Sean Bruyea is a freelance journalist, advocate for the rights of disabled veterans and a retired Intelligence Officer who served in the Persian Gulf War.

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http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/05/caring-for-injured-and-retired-cf-personnel-universality-instead-of-a-patchwork-quilt/

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Why Do We Neglect Our Veterans?

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:07

For the first time in decades, a federal election witnessed all parties promising assistance for our serving and retired Canadian Forces personnel. Debate on the issue quickly died, but the problems confronting our veterans remain painfully alive.

Those problems escalated in 2006 when a 90-year proven system of payments for lifelong injuries was unilaterally replaced with a one-time lump sum. Studies by Queen’s University and Veterans Affairs Canada’s own advisory groups show that, when all benefits are counted over the lifetime of the injured soldier, the lump-sum program pays out about half of what the lifetime payments provide.

Don’t let Ottawa make financial scapegoats of our veterans
But it isn’t just about money. This lifetime commitment provided the security that injured veterans needed to pursue opportunities to make their lives somewhat whole again.

Returning Second World War veterans were treated better. All of them, injured or not, were provided comprehensive income assistance as well as extended medical and dental care. All were given a choice of land, housing and farm grants, schooling and income assistance or a generous government credit to help them optimize their potential to fully participate in the society for which they’d sacrificed so much.

If the veterans were injured, they were also given lifetime payments for pain and suffering as well as comprehensive medical care.

Inexplicably, only lifetime payments and scaled-back medical care were granted to injured Canadian Forces veterans. Now, these lifetime payments have been replaced with the one-time lump sum.

Injured and retired Canadian Forces members and their families have never understood this discrimination. Why would a veteran who had multiple tours in the Persian Gulf War, Cyprus, the Golan, Rwanda, Yugoslavia and/or Afghanistan that spanned 10 or 20 years receive none of the benefits of a Second World War veteran who may have enlisted for only a year safe in Canada or spent only one day overseas?

Although the casualty rates for the Canadian army in the Second World War are more than 10 per cent, the rates for the 700,000 serving and retired members of the Canadian Forces are 7.5 per cent (46,000 and climbing). They are higher than the Second World War casualty rates for service in the navy (2.1 per cent) or the air force (6.9 per cent).

Canada understood that the rigours of military service meant that all those serving needed comprehensive assistance to transition out of uniform. Just as civilians need basic training to enter the military, our soldiers need basic training to re-enter civilian life. Canada also understood that we must mobilize a nation to care for our returning soldiers.

This investment in our veterans was repaid many times over. University campuses doubled their enrolments in only five years. The energy and skills of returning soldiers fuelled Canada’s economy and social machinery. Veterans’ programs produced almost 3,000 doctors, 5,000 teachers and 8,000 engineers, not to mention 85,000 veterans entering more than 250 trades.

Sadly, these programs were denied to our country’s 700,000 serving and retired Canadian Forces personnel. Instead, those who retired have had to muddle through life without any universal programs. Those under the lump-sum program returning from Afghanistan are particularly affected. Veterans Affairs’ own studies show that the lump-sum recipients are having far greater difficulty adapting to civilian life. These veterans and their families have incomes not only lower than those uninjured but lower than the recipients of the lifetime monthly pain and suffering payments.

South of the border, the U.S. has put Canada to shame for more than 50 years, providing postsecondary schooling to almost 23 million military men and woman and their families.

Last year, when issues affecting our injured and retired Canadian Forces personnel made headlines, the government promised $2-billion. The number even made it into the budget, but not into the accounting. That’s because this $2-billion represents $40-million annually over 50 years, an amount to be paid long after most of us will be dead.

While the costs for the F-35 fighter planes are being grossly underreported, commitments to care for our injured and retired Canadian Forces members and their families are being overreported in some bizarre multigenerational hyperbole. Must we now have a rule against politicians taking credit for funding commitments that exceed the lifespan of the recipients?

Canada is all too willing to accept debt in sending young Canadians to war. Why can’t we make a modest fiscal sacrifice in welcoming home those who’ve already made the sacrifice caring for us?

Sean Bruyea is a freelance journalist, an advocate for the rights of disabled veterans and a retired intelligence officer who served in the Persian Gulf War.

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/06/why-do-we-neglect-our-veterans/

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