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How to Make Positive Change for Serving and Retired CF, RCMP and Their Families? (Hint: Only Veterans Affairs and Treasury Board Win When Veterans are Divided).

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How to Make Positive Change for Serving and Retired CF, RCMP and Their Families? (Hint: Only Veterans Affairs and Treasury Board Win When Veterans are Divided).

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:11

By Sean Bruyea

Exclusive to VeteranVoice.info and VeteransofCanada.ca-Published July 15, 2011.

Far too many veterans shoot the messenger instead of aiming their sights on government. This is worsened by the impulsiveness which the internet encourages in instantaneous messaging. Veterans have much to contribute to determining their own destiny. The question is how to focus that energy to maximize chances of successful positive change.

There are many veterans active on the internet which is a good thing. Information portals like VeteranVoice.info, VeteransofCanada.ca, CanadianVeterans Advocacy and HomecomingVets as well as a number of other fine initiatives have provided a valuable service. Up until their appearance, the only message being delivered was from government and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). The message has been something akin to “all’s well” and “veterans are overwhelmingly satisfied with VAC services.”

The dedicated volunteers running these portals have often provided a more transparent and truthful interpretation of this official broken record.

Beyond these portals, a select number of veterans have established an email client base. To this base, they send news stories and information on veterans’ assistance, all while sharing ideas within the community. Sylvain Chartrand, Billy Willbond, John Labelle, David Palmer, Kenneth Young, Jacques De Winter and many other dedicated veterans give generously of their time and energy to informing veterans.

Rob Gallant also caters to an extensive mailing list in a service Dennis Manuge (lead plaintiff on the SISIP Class Action Lawsuit) passed on to Rob. It was Rob who provided me with the incentive to write this article.

In the flurry of internet traffic, misunderstandings often occur and veterans’ anger and suffering are frequently misdirected…at the messenger. That is why the work of Rob, Dennis and others, including portal managers, advocates and experts is really the work of true loving charity. The reward is minimal but the cost of receiving misdirected anger is discouraging.

Why so much frustration and anger in the veteran community? Far too many veterans are suffering and may not always understand why. For many of these veterans, the unaddressed hurt can stem form a sense of having been abandoned by their government for which they were willing to sacrifice their lives.

For a military member to be summarily kicked out of the Forces by a unilateral government decision due to injuries sustained defending that same government is a difficult, soul-destroying pill to swallow.

Unfortunately, for many veterans, it is easier to attack each other than it is to admit the following reality:

The overwhelming majority of politicians and senior bureaucrats have never and will never make the same sacrifice caring for veterans as veterans and their families have sacrificed giving up everything to care for government and Canadians.

That is why it is so ironic and frankly sad that so many veterans focus on criticizing each other…as if a fellow veteran has the power to change government policy. Far too many veterans play this “blame game” upon their fellow brothers and sisters. Veterans and injured soldiers likely feel powerless to force change in how they have been so shamefully neglected for far too long.

Veterans themselves may not be able to change policy. However, veteran groups certainly can. Certain high profile groups must stop rubberstamping change such as they did unilaterally, blindly and hastily in endorsing the so-called New Veterans Charter back in 2005 and 2006.

Had the leadership of these six veteran groups not blindly offered their support, the New Veterans Charter would have been, at the very least, forced to a House and more appropriate Senate Committee and then back to debate on the floor. As a consequence, many of the more than 400 unaddressed recommendations made by official advisory bodies since 2006 could have been raised and addressed before the New Veterans Charter was passed.

Sadly, we all know this did not occur.

Astoundingly, leaders of most of these same veteran groups then repeated the same misguided and blind endorsement of Bill C-55, the “newer” New Veterans Charter (with fresher spring scent). Bill C-55 was passed without substantive debate which otherwise could have effected change in either Parliamentary Chamber.

Politicians could get away with this because the leaders of all or most of these six groups supported rapid passage of the C-55 without close scrutiny.

For these prominent veteran groups, it appears far too many of their leaders prefer a select seat at closed door proceedings held with VAC. This clandestine relationship and unquestioning support of VAC consequently excludes those with ‘needs’ who most need to be heard, including their own membership in many cases.

These groups must undergo some soul-searching. They represent far less than 10% of the more than 700,000 serving and retired CF members and their families. If this closed door system works so well, those half dozen leaders of the same number of veteran groups must ask themselves exactly what positive change has occurred in the past six years because of closed-door lobbying?

Is this miniscule positive change, if any, worth the isolation and indignation of keeping the vast majority of veterans and their families in darkness, in silence, and most importantly, feeling powerless over their future?

One might also ask if this miniscule change was worth abandoning the lifelong security once provided by the Pension Act benefits and allowances.

Ultimately, what right do these leaders have to decide your destiny?

If the goal of the leaders of these six veteran groups is to meaningfully help veterans and their families, why is maximum public pressure not being brought to bear by these groups on the system?

Leaders of some of these groups will one day have to account for this apparently conspiratorial alliance with VAC and their accompanying inaction.

Meanwhile, whether such pressure is brought to bear by veteran groups or veterans themselves, where should it be focussed?

Of course those with the actual power to make decisions which will change the situation are not other veterans, but the senior mandarins who work in Veterans Affairs, Treasury Board and Finance. What is also clear is that these mandarins will not take the initiative to change the shameful status quo which prevents veterans and their families from direct participation in deciding their own destiny.

When veterans attack other veterans we all lose. Veterans should instead focus their energies upon government and upon leaders of organisations who have power to effect change. Otherwise, the only ones to benefit are senior mandarins and those few veteran leaders rewarded with appointments for supporting or remaining silent on poorly thought-out initiatives such as the New Veterans Charter.

Certain Veterans Affairs senior managers have also played an adept game at encouraging division in the veteran community. One can only speculate the benefit to senior mandarins. These senior bureaucrats are not only provided with disproportionately high salaries but they also receive “at-risk” and performance bonus lumpsums annually. For instance, a senior DM at VAC could be earning the maximum salary of $309,600 plus an annual bonus of up to 39% or $120,744.

Even though such senior mandarins claim to serve our interests, such bonuses are awarded for reasons which are not disclosed. Nevertheless, it is safe to speculate that the criteria for a $120,000 bonus is based upon minimizing payments to veterans and limiting increased expenditure for veterans and their families.

It is hardly comforting to realize that a DM in one year can earn a total of $430,000. This is 50% more than the amount 134 veterans have received for a 100% disability award of $285,000…an award to compensate for substantial lifelong pain and suffering.

The only way to force mandarins to serve the public they claim to serve is to in turn force Ministers and Cabinet as a whole to skip a few photo ops. Ministers could thereby actually manage their Departments in a manner which truly provides dignity to veterans and their families.

And the only way to motivate these politicians to act on our behalf is to have the public and media carry stories of outrage, protest and suffering from veterans and their families. For the media to carry these stories, veterans must overcome their fear of criticizing the system for which we were willing to die.

We as serving and retired military have to also learn to manage our anger. This is because far too many managers in VAC are well-disposed to ignoring, belittling, disempowering and demeaning veterans. When veterans subsequently become either angry or suicidal as a consequence, VAC then quickly shoots back that such veterans are not credible because they are obviously mentally unstable. Of course, VAC seems to forget their significant role in provoking and causing such instability.

Memorials, ceremonies and vigils have their place but they do not carry a message of much-needed change. They instead carry a message of continuing status quo; as long as participants remember, we need not change anything.

Hoping and praying that the government system which we honoured will somehow spontaneously honour veterans and their families while we suffer in silence is a highly misplaced and futile hope. More and more veterans are awakening to this reality. We are thereby showing that we have indeed ‘grown up’ beyond the ‘yes sir’ indoctrination of the military.

Once a critical mass of veterans and organizations accept these realities, then the “fire for effect” of so many can finally concentrate on the target of those who can indeed make the change, i.e., the political party in power and, by extension, the senior mandarins. Influencing the party in power can only occur through the media, including internet, courts (in the longer term) and any other vehicle to get the message out there to change law and policy.

Public demonstrations, individual acts of protest and poignant personal stories in the mainstream media are the most powerful tools. These vehicles send the message that veterans and their families will no longer tolerate being ignored by politicians. Nor will they continue to be dictated to by civilian senior bureaucrats who are glaringly disconnected from the realities of what veterans and their families need.

Otherwise, the politicians have absolutely no reason to risk taking on what are in fact far more powerful senior bureaucrats. If these senior bureaucrats are not confronted by politicians, veterans will continue to be a very low priority indeed…except when the PM or Minister need a photo op and a rubberstamp on misguided VAC Workfare programs like the New Veterans Charter.

Sean Bruyea is a freelance columnist, advocate for the rights of disabled veterans and a retired Intelligence Officer who served in the Persian Gulf War. He is also a graduate student in the Masters of Public Ethics program at St. Paul University. Last fall, Sean settled his lawsuit with the federal government after the Privacy Commissioner ruled VAC had violated the Privacy Act in multiple breaches

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/07/how-to-make-positive-change-for-serving-and-retired-cf-rcmp-and-their-families-hint-only-veterans-affairs-and-treasury-board-win-when-veterans-are-divided/

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Sleight-of-hand Tricks Once Again at VAC

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

Veterans Affairs is trying to slip under the summer radar a sleight-of-hand approval for regulations on injured soldiers’ benefits. We should not be surprised.

By Sean Bruyea

The Hill Times: Published July 18, 2011

OTTAWA—Just as the sun will rise and we all will one day die, Veterans Affair Canada can always be counted upon to pull a fast one. The federal department mandated to care for injured and retired military and their families is trying to slip under the summer radar a sleight-of-hand approval for regulations on injured soldiers’ benefits.

We should not be surprised.

More than 90 per cent of Canada’s approximately 700,000 serving and retired Canadian Forces members do not belong to any advocacy organization. This is why it is paramount for Veterans Affairs to truly reach out, engage and risk being changed by the needs and perspectives of all veterans and their families.

Should the 2006 regulations as well as the new regulations released last week in the Canada Gazette be changed? Certainly, but VAC’s heavy-handed steamroller approach also fails to live up to a promise of transparent and accountable government. All regulations must be created and finalized in strict accordance with Cabinet and Treasury Board rules. As these rules unequivocally state, merely posting a draft on Canada Gazette “is not a substitute for consultation.”

Yet, this is exactly what VAC is doing. The department admits that it merely “briefed” a very limited and select body of stakeholders, mostly through media releases outlining the intended legislation back in September 2010. The department has excelled in refusing to consult bilaterally with anyone on not just these regulations, but VAC has ignored just about every recommendation from committees and advisory groups for the past six years or more.

A closer look at the regulations would reveal some “very upsetting” details, laments Don Leonardo, president and founder of VeteransofCanada.ca. VAC has previously claimed that “the most seriously injured” veterans would earn a minimum of $58,000 annually. What the regulations affirm is that over a 10-year period, only a total of 219 will receive this amount. Furthermore, only 128 annually will receive the miserly managed allowance for the most seriously wounded, the majority of whom, if not all, receiving the minimum amount of $500 monthly.

One of the professed cornerstones of these four programs is a minimum long term disability income of $40,000. The regulations reveal that this is only $3,000 above the Statistics Canada “low-income cut-off.” A mere 245 injured soldiers annually will benefit. As Leonardo explains, “where is the fairness when you have to live just above the poverty line?”

It gets worse. A reserve soldier with less than 180 days service suffering any disabling injury would be guaranteed a minimum of only $32,400 annually, well below the “poverty line.”

Make no mistake about this; it is all about money and the perception thereof. When scandals involving poor treatment of veterans erupted last year, the Conservative government silenced critics with the boast that $2-billion would be dedicated to the new programs. The regulations state otherwise.

The total cost for 10 years of all programs is a mere $130-million. VAC boasts that government will then benefit by taking back $40-million in taxes from the empty pockets of the most disabled soldiers. The actual investment from the new programs is a mere $9-million annually. “It’s all just smoke and mirrors,” commented Leonardo.

Equally “upsetting” is that it took five years to bring just four changes to what VAC insists is a “living charter.” VAC has ignored the remaining 396 recommendations from two of its own advisory groups and the House Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Consultation, as Treasury Board tells all federal departments, “entails a two-way exchange in which stakeholders are given an opportunity to provide input and affect the outcome of a regulatory proposal.” This has not occurred. Consultation is the “cornerstone” of the regulatory process. Veterans Affairs has widely danced around, shirked, misled Parliament, veterans and Canadians, and just blatantly ignored consultation.

For a department mandated by law to provide a service, why would Veterans Affairs senior managers risk career oblivion in ignoring Cabinet and Treasury Board directives?

It boils down to this: instead of Veterans Affairs doing everything possible to change how it operates to alleviate the suffering of veterans and their families, the department does everything possible to maintain the status quo. It is as if all senior managers in VAC are so determined to believe in their own infallibility that they cannot imagine that VAC is actually failing in its mandate.

By the way, it is the customers with the greatest needs who determine whether VAC is fulfilling its mandate, not management. That is another thing we can count on from Veterans Affairs: that the customer they claim to serve is almost always wrong.

Sean Bruyea is an advocate for the rights of disabled veterans and a retired intelligence officer who served in the Persian Gulf War. Mr. Bruyea has settled his lawsuit with the federal government.

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/07/sleight-of-hand-tricks-once-again-at-vac/

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Here’s the Real Skinny on How Power Works in Ottawa

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:15

The reality is that the senior mandarins are the ultimate arbiters of power in Ottawa, not the politicians. And the oft-criticized hyper-centralized culture is centered not in the PMO but in Treasury Board and the PCO.

By Sean Bruyea
The Hill Times: Published September 19, 2011
OTTAWA—We should be forgiven if we believe that ministers, or in the case of this government, the Prime Minister’s Office is in complete control of Ottawa. This dogma of the Westminster model of government stands in the way of reality. Given the need to restore Canadians’ faith in our federal government while managing the inevitable cutbacks requires we fully understand Ottawa if we are to make its powerbrokers truly accountable.

The reality is that the senior mandarins are the ultimate arbiters of power in Ottawa. They exercise control through departmental agendas and complex Treasury Board processes that often have little to do with the public their namesake institution claims to serve.

It has become a near truism that the Prime Minister’s Office under the Harper government has carried out unprecedented centralization of our federal government. This does not mean he is in control. Even with 130-plus staffers, the PMO is vastly outnumbered by 1,000 or so public servants in the Privy Council Office.

Beyond that, there are less than 500 mostly inadequately experienced political staffers to direct, control and oversee almost 400,000 public servants. These are odds more akin to the Fellowship of the Ring fighting the armies of Sauron.

Clearly the public service does not deserve near so malevolent an image. Let’s take the case of Veterans Affairs Canada. The minister has five or so dedicated political staffers (and a driver) to manage a department of more than 4,000 employees. This government has promised deep cultural reforms in the department. They are intended to both serve veterans and prevent scandals such as those resulting from the damning findings of the privacy commissioner in my own case last fall.

Given six against 4,000, is it any wonder that nothing meaningful has changed in the operations of the department? Should we be surprised that not a single bureaucrat has been disciplined as a direct result of the commissioner’s findings of widespread breaches of the Privacy Act?

A not-so-complex game is being played in Ottawa (and in Charlottetown, where Veterans Affairs is headquartered) wherein senior public servants control the show. They decide most of the minister’s agenda outside of the House, control the flow of information and—most importantly—spell out the limited options available to the minister. Carefully-vetted briefing notes represent the only perspective accepted by most ministers.

For example, public servants will answer any query from the minister. This perpetuates ministers’ belief in their ascendancy at the hierarchical summit. However, these answers ultimately reflect the narrow perspective of the department’s senior executives. Should a minister make the fateful decision to ignore advice, there is always the looming threat of brown envelopes showing up on a reporter’s desk.

In this way, public servants essentially hold politicians captive.

Make no mistake about it: all public servants give their loyalty first and foremost to Treasury Board (which determines policies, processes and long-term strategic planning). A close second is their loyalty to their own careers, third to ministers, and a distant fourth, loyalty directly to the public interest. Ministers, not having the resources to question the intricacies of Treasury Board policies and processes have little choice but to go along for the ride. Ministers, in effect, become subsumed under Treasury Board and therefore, deputy ministers’ agendas.

Furthermore, public service careers are ultimately decided by other public servants, not ministers.

Of course the political party in power does have some leeway to implement party agendas. Such initiatives are usually restricted to about one or maybe two issues per minister per election. Even then, though, all initiatives are reworked and ultimately rewritten by bureaucrats prior to implementation. This is why legislation like the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act (a.k.a. the Whistleblower Act) is ineffectual in identifying, investigating and disciplining public servants for wrongdoing.

This begs the question: why were public servants allowed such a free hand to shape a law governing their actions, and determining consequences for their misconduct? Wasn’t the conflict of interest obvious? Would we ask criminals to write the penal code?

Because ministers generally repeat word for word what is in the briefing and Question Period notes written by public servants, they become unwitting players in the public perception game that claims the Whistleblower Act provides “ironclad protection” for whistleblowers. Yet, the only people who have been protected so far are those committing the wrongdoing (including the former integrity commissioner herself, Christiane Ouimet).

Being ultimately subsumed under the senior mandarins also means that ministers often find themselves defending programs which were begun under previous governments. In the case of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Transport Canada, safety and security initiatives that have had tragic consequences were first pushed by officials in the Chrétien government as a way to save money on inspection and keep business happy. Now the bureaucracy and therefore ministers continue moving mainly by momentum. The small ‘Fellowship of the Ministers’ is unable to slow down let alone stop such inertia.

Meanwhile, at Veterans Affairs Canada, the Harper government has spent the past five years defending the lump sum compensation given to injured soldiers when it was a program they were justly and properly correct in questioning while in opposition.

The ultimate result is that no one controls the senior bureaucrats. This is why an individual like Christiane Ouimet can operate for more than three years following Treasury Board policy to the letter while not finding one case of wrongdoing in the public service.

And the rewards for ignoring the public interest are immense. Ouimet walked away with more than half of a million dollars and a pension which will be mostly based upon a salary of $236,000 per year. Even though Ouimet reported to Parliament, it was PCO that “encouraged” her departure.

The oft-criticized hyper-centralized culture is centred not in the PMO but in Treasury Board and the PCO.

These institutions are the heart of a bureaucratic culture hypersensitive to any opposing views. Woe to the public servant who rejects this culture and dares represent the public interest in pointing out illegal activities, financially wasteful and harmful practices or questioning a system which rewards unethical behaviour in the senior management.

No law will protect whistleblowers in such an environment. Bureaucrats who apparently break the law will not be punished—leaving wrongdoing as an option with many rewards and little if any downside.

This is why the public service has what Professor Gilles Paquet, Canada’s leading expert on governance, identifies as a “malaise.” He argues that most of the bureaucracy is forced like “automata” to follow the “arrogant logic” of bizarre internal processes instead of allowing Canadians to participate in their own democracy; hence, Canadians’ malaise with Ottawa.

If the law or any other body fails to punish senior mandarins when they commit wrongdoing and the politicians can’t control bureaucrats, who is looking after Canada’s largest bureaucracy spending more tax dollars than at any point in our history?

We expect the politicians to be in charge. We can indeed blame (and punish) senior mandarins for pursuing any means to justify their ends. However, we all pay for and depend upon a system that promises politicians will hold the bureaucracy accountable. As such, it is ultimately the politicians’ fault for not standing up to the public service.

Politicians should not be held captive by senior bureaucrats. Substantial and real protection for whistleblowers would ensure the wrongdoing reported in “brown envelopes” is rigorously investigated and thoroughly disciplined so it need not be leaked.

Any plan to make government more efficient (and ethical, and law-abiding) depends upon protecting those who would report waste and wrongdoing. Otherwise, senior managers responsible for wrongdoing and inefficiency will remain during the coming austerity measures. These senior mandarins will be the ones culling the bureaucratic herd of those who would otherwise represent the public’s interest, not the “arrogant logic” of the bureaucracy.

There is more of Yes Minister than actual ‘ministering’ going on in Ottawa. The result is Canadians are laughing less as their tax dollars and declining faith in Ottawa continues to be needlessly wasted.

Sean Bruyea is a columnist, former intelligence officer and graduate student of a Masters in Public Ethics. He is a director of Canadians for Accountability. His privacy case was settled last fall.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/09/heres-the-real-skinny-on-how-power-works-in-ottawa/

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It’s time Ottawa fix its broken trust with Canadians

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:18

Our democratic building can withstand removing the bureaucratic and political façade which fails to cultivate trust through collaboration, coordination and cooperation.

Photograph by Jake Wright, The Hill Times
Power and Parliament: Should we care that we have lost substantial faith and much trust in Ottawa and its institutions, asks government accountability advocate Sean Bruyea.
By Sean Bruyea
The Hill Times, Ottawa: Published Dec. 05, 2011
OTTAWA—It has become a sad truism that Canadians’ faith and trust in our federal government has been consistently declining.

This is hardly news. Over the past decade, federal government studies from the likes of Public Works and Government Services in 2001 and independent studies from the World Economic Forum in 2005, Conference Board of Canada in 2009 as well as the Nanos and the Manning Institute reports both in 2011 show how prevalent and persistent is Canadians’ declining trust and faith in government.

What to do about it is of greater importance. Ottawa’s own Gilles Paquet (University of Ottawa) offers a hope-fired torch to lead Canadians from our growing “malaise” and disaffection with Ottawa into a new era of “collaborative” government. His often colourful diagnoses of the problems are matched by his inspiring call to duty of all levels of society including citizens, bureaucrats, and intellectuals.

Should we care that we have lost substantial faith and much trust in Ottawa and its institutions? Not only should we care, the foundations of a modern democratic society depend upon such trust. Declining trust in government not only results in adverse economic impacts (witness the growing economic crisis in Europe) but trust is fundamental to creating a peaceful and productive society. All our interactions, be they with companies, government institutions as well as with each other, require trust in some form. Ultimately, trust in government is inseparable from the sense of trust we feel with institutions or one another in our communities.

Canada’s federal government has suffered a rash of distressing crises over the past decade which have justly shaken our confidence in government. The tainted blood scandal, the sponsorship scandal, the public sector integrity commissioner scandal, and the Veterans Affairs privacy scandals are seen increasingly as the tip of an endemic iceberg. They represent actual and perceived widespread public service incompetence and associated arrogance centered principally at the senior levels of the bureaucracy.

How does Paquet propose to guide us out of Canada’s crisis of trust in Ottawa? A number of his more than 50 books and hundreds of articles carry a similar theme: government must stop perpetuating the myth that any government institution or person is in charge. In a diverse modern democracy, no one can be “in charge.” However, over the past 40 years, Ottawa, like many seats of western democracies, has managed to convince its citizens that we must pay our taxes and vote but otherwise shut up.

How has Ottawa accomplished this? The growing distrust of government in the 1960s resulted in many, including Ottawa, finding a way to legitimize its own existence while imposing a “top-down” scientific model of management. Ottawa immersed itself in ever-increasing complex technical processes to control not just Canada’s growing federal public service but an increasingly centralized version of federalism.

The legitimate moral concerns, passions, interests, and even outrage felt by active citizens came to be lost in labyrinthine Treasury Board and other departmental processes. Most Canadians could never hope to have the time to understand such technical complexity in order to have their voice heard. In fact, most public servants in Ottawa are at a loss to understand the full gamut of what we have come to see as mountains of red tape.

As very few, mostly senior bureaucrats, claim to understand the ‘big picture’ of such technical barriers, Ottawa has effectively hijacked the human concerns of a nation and placed them in the “mental prisons” that Ottawa is in charge and only her “leaders” know what is best for us.

This amounts to a coup d’état of our sense of right and wrong, robbing us of all but the most simple of our duties and responsibilities as citizens. All we are left to do is pay taxes and vote and we haven’t exactly been enthusiastic about doing the latter.

Ottawa has made the Canadian public feel like a “nuisance,” annoying in our apparently naïve wish to have the public service actually serve the public through collaboration and cooperation. Since the mid-90s, the public service has been bolstered in its “special status” to be our “guardians.” Jane Jacobs’ 1992 book, Systems of Survival has decorated many a senior mandarin’s desk and, according to Paquet, is seen as a “gift from the gods.” As self-proclaimed guardians of our destiny, bureaucrats no longer see themselves as carrying out a job. Instead, their “exceptional qualities” are required for their “missionary” work as Canada’s “state clergy.”

Such arrogant detachment from and patronization of Canadians does much to explain the multiple scandals in Ottawa’s bureaucracy. Jacobs’ emphasis upon bureaucrats’ loyalty to the public good naturally leads to a consequence which is highly destructive to a healthy democracy. Since the bureaucracy ultimately designs, interprets, and implements public good, bureaucrats are led to wrongly believe that they are “obviously much better-suited” to this vocation than the “non-descript bunch of individuals churned out by the electoral process,” i.e., Parliament. In this manner, misleading or managing the perspective of ministers and the PMO (not to mention the public) through acts of omission or commission is not seen as being disloyal to the public good.

Paquet rightly emphasizes that neither the politicians nor the bureaucracy is or can be in charge. Our quest for the mythical leader to take us to the Promised Land is doomed to fail. No leader can negotiate the overwhelming complexity and diverse viewpoints of modern democracies. Perhaps this is why the current government has focused instead upon unprecedented centralized control. Canadians have contributed their share as we have the impossible expectation that leaders must hit the ground running, knowing all while being infallible.

How can innovation and learning occur when government is centrally controlled by the infallible? Innovation is clearly squashed in such a rigid top-down structure and risk aversion becomes an epidemic. The symptoms of this plaque are all too well-known: cushy foreign postings and cash payouts (remember Christiane Ouimet) to reward the incompetent while punishing success and crucifying through “organizational violence” those who would otherwise speak up to defend the public interest (Allan Cutler, Joanna Gualtieri, Brian McAdam, Ian Bron, and Shiv Chopra, to name a few).

Repairing trust in such instances is crucial: those who commit serious wrongdoing must be seriously punished.

Clearly, encouraging a culture of retribution and punishment for the victims and rewarding the culprits is not working. What we need instead are public officials who act as facilitators of community-building and consensus, not leaders terrified to allow innovation and experimentation. These facilitators or “stewards” are needed to guide the collaborative process which coordinates a diverse collection of interests, points of view and shared destinies.

For instance, government often applauds its role in encouraging multicultural diversity. Yet, Ottawa does very little if anything to bring these communities together. Instead it perpetuates the isolation of cultural and ethnic groups from one another creating undesired ghettoization.

Citizens are not blameless in this process. Yes we have rights but we also have a “burden of office” as the most important players in our democracy. Our right to speak out must fully respect that others have that same right to engage in robust, yet respectful debate. Our points of view may not have equal validity, but they do have equal merit to be heard. Listening to one another while having government required to listen and act upon what we say is key to building trust in a new Canadian approach to government.

We must shake off the learned helplessness of 50 years of a burgeoning welfare state. We cannot wait for government to find the money for and initiate programs which embrace our concerns. We must be creative and innovative while we seize upon the lessons we learn from inevitable mistakes along the way.

With the public service acting as facilitators, we must work within communities of common interest while collaborating with other communities. This is the new horizontal world of “multi-logue” which must replace the ineffective vertical world and “condescending ear” of dialogue. Such dialogue (usually held behind closed doors) has allowed bureaucrats and politicians to easily play communities off against one another.

One final key component in this new collaborative process is the renewed importance of the public intellectual, someone much more than an academic. He or she is an individual willing to confront taboos, authority and the despotism of political correctness in order to “reveal an alternative reality that people were not aware they were missing.” There was a time when the great independent minds of Marshall McLuhan, George Orwell, Milton Friedman and Alvin Toffler spoke and the government and the public listened.

Since then universities have increasingly become bastions of political correctness where open debates are often stifled and administrators exile those who do not conform to a particular viewpoint. Rousseau understood this more than two centuries ago when he anticipated that individuals would not be physically beaten in a democracy for holding different ideas, they would merely be ostracized.

Intellectuals must come down from their ivory towers and speak to us in plain language. We need them to be the pebble in the government’s shoe or the sand in the oyster that irritates until the idea becomes a treasured pearl. We need intellectuals to make sense out of what politicians would oversimplify and bureaucrats would overcomplicate. In a political era where education is often condemned by elected officials and ignorance is lauded, we need the public intellectual now more than ever. And government must stop treating ideas like a terrorist bomb or a virulent infection.

Paquet challenges us to trust that Canada’s cherished democracy is a solid building sturdy enough for us to remove the “scaffolding pretending to hold it together—the state.” Our democratic building can withstand removing the bureaucratic and political façade which fails to cultivate trust through collaboration, coordination and cooperation.

Ultimately, each of us needs to cultivate trust in ourselves, our rights as well as our “burden of office.” Through such self-empowerment we can learn to not only trust in our right to speak out but show and compel government how to trust and thereby become trusted by the Canadians it claims to represent.

Sean Bruyea is a columnist, former intelligence officer and graduate student of a master’s in public ethics at St. Paul University. He is a director of Canadians for Accountability. His privacy case was settled last fall.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2011/12/it%E2%80%99s-time-ottawa-fix-its-broken-trust-with-canadians/

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Just One More Reason for a Commission of Inquiry into Veterans’ Issues

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:21

For Canada’s injured military, veterans and their families, there are few government agencies so singularly reviled as the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Photograph courtesy of Sgt. Lance Wade, DND, Combat Camera
Maj.-Gen. Jonathan places poppies on every plaque on the Memorial of the Fallen at Kandahar Airfield at the last Remembrance Day ceremony in Southern Afghanistan on Nov. 11, 2011.
By Sean Bruyea, The Hill Times, Jan. 23, 2012.
OTTAWA—For Canada’s injured military, veterans and their families, there are few government agencies so singularly reviled as the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. The federal quasi-judicial body which hears reviews and appeals from injured soldiers and veterans applying for disability benefits has stolidly played a leading role in cultivating such scorn.

For almost a century, Canada’s injured soldiers have been awarded benefits for disability and living assistance. From their inception, awards and benefits have not always been justly granted to those who have sacrificed in our nation’s name. This is where the VRAB or the “Board” comes in. Serving members, veterans, RCMP and their survivors (collectively called “applicants”) seek recourse through VRAB when the Department of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has failed these applicants in need.

The board has existed in various incarnations over the past century with its latest version morphing in 1995. In all of its incarnations, it has attracted much vitriol from the military, veteran and family community. In fact, Canada’s most prominent veterans’ organization, the Royal Canadian Legion, grew rapidly and came together largely as a result of leading the public outcry widely condemning VRAB’s predecessor in the 1920s. At that time, the Board was comprised of highly-paid political appointees who had never served in the military, setting up endless red tape for injured veterans and widows to negotiate. The legion’s more pro-active and public advocacy has largely disappeared. However, recently emerging veterans’ organizations are more willing to take on the sacred cows of Ottawa, such as VRAB.

“The problem with the Board is that its patronage at its worst” explains Mike Blais, president of Canadian Veterans’ Advocacy, “…people are appointed to that board not for their ability to educate or understand the issues that Canada’s sons and daughters are encountering overseas or the repercussions of war and peace. They’re placed there because they are political, they’re friends of the government at the time.” Like the legion of the past, in 2010 and 2011, Canadian Veterans Advocacy held the first national public demonstrations by veterans in almost a century.

Of the 24 members of the Board, only two have any medical experience, both as nurses and only five have served in the Canadian Forces, one as a musician in the reserves. The remaining members are predominantly lawyers with the remaining being career political appointees, politicians, political staffers or bureaucrats. For their appointment, they are paid from 104,300 to 122,600, about the same as a Lieutenant-Colonel commanding a 200-person fighter squadron, a battalion of infantry or a Commander of a modern helicopter frigate with more than 200 sailors and aircrew.

Perhaps the predominance of lawyers in VRAB is most telling. Like most federal agencies, VRAB and Veterans Affairs Canada have become increasingly complex, creating what Gilles Paquet, Ottawa expert on governance, terms the “arrogant logic” of bizarre internal processes in the federal government. The result is a bureaucracy which baffles and intimidates many injured military members and their families to give up.

Such complex red tape “demoralizes” the veteran, says long-standing NDP Veterans Affairs critic Peter Stoffer who enjoys passionate loyalty from the veteran community for his dedication to veterans’ issues. Such a system, Stoffer says, “does what the Department wants you to do. If they say no long enough, you might go away.”

By the time an applicant ends up in front of the Board, he or she has already been turned down by Veterans Affairs Canada at least one or more times. The board offers two advertised avenues of recourse: a review hearing held in person and, should the review hearing be unfavourable to the applicant, an appeal hearing, which is essentially a paper trial with the applicant having no right to appear in person, making the “hearing” somewhat absurd.

Last year, the board rendered 3,497 review decisions, 1,745, or 50 per cent, of those turned down the applicants’ request. The stats on appeal hearings are even bleaker: out of 970 decisions, 647, or 67 per cent, were turned down. “If you have to end up at VRAB, that means a whole group of people before them don’t trust you, or don’t believe you, or don’t believe the medical evidence. If an individual has peer reviewed medical evidence, that’s all they should have to have in order to receive a benefit from the government of Canada,” says Stoffer.

Disturbingly, that is not what is happening. Take the case of Steven Dornan, a CF veteran who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2002. CF medical doctors attributed his cancer to depleted uranium dust Dornan encountered during his tour as a weapons inspector in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Canada’s top court directed VRAB to recognize this fact. The board has instead repeatedly denied Dornan’s application. It wasn’t until sheer desperation and despair drove his wife, Roseanne, to stage a sit-in at the office of former Parliamentary Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Greg Kerr, that the board relented and sent Dornan’s file back to the minister last year for “reconsideration.” Dornan has since been granted a disability award for his condition.

What is so troubling about the Dornan case is that legislation governing both the board and the Department of Veterans Affairs Canada clearly state that “reconsideration” by the minister is an avenue open to applicants. However, VRAB has repeatedly failed to advertise this option or provide clear criteria as to how an applicant might exercise the option in sending a file back to the minister. The reality is that the board feels they have “control” over the file and that the “minister loses jurisdiction and cannot regain it unless the board so directs” as written by the previous chair Victor Marchand in correspondence to a veteran attempting to seek a reconsideration.

“That’s just stupid and undemocratic. What right do they think they have that they can own a veteran’s life and refuse to send it to the Minister? Does the Board work for the Minister or the Minister for the Board? The Board certainly doesn’t work for the veteran,” says Perry Gray, chief editor of VeteranVoice.info, a veteran community with more than 100,000 subscribers. “People in VRAB do not even know what they can and can’t do. They just make it up as they go along. It really is quite ridiculous.”

The stats tell an even more troubling story of a board thumbing their nose. Setting aside a special court order for all hearing-loss claims to be returned to the minister, in the past five years, the board has permitted just two files to be sent back to the minister for reconsideration. Such smug proprietary over the lives of veterans easily rankles the innate sense of justice of most veterans.

“This is wrong. Once VRAB has finished with a file, the veteran should have right to have that file returned back to minister. The veteran should always have a right to reconsideration by the Minister,” emphasizes Don Leonardo, president and founder of VeteransofCanada.ca, an internet-based social networking community for veterans.

The laws that created the house of VRAB installed a number of doors, with review, appeal and reconsideration by the minister being doors one through three. Door No. 4 is an even less advertised option, called a “compassionate” award under the VRAB Act. The board may grant a “compassionate award” when doors No. 1 and No. 2 are exhausted (the board pretends that door No. 3, reconsideration by the minister, effectively does not exist). In the past 10 years, there have been a total of six applications for compassionate awards, granting just one “compassionate” award.

“It makes the blood boil,” laments Perry Gray.

Don Leonardo says “I would hate to be the chair when he tells the judge he is standing in the way of door numbers three and four.”

The chair, John Larlee, receives between $168,500 to $198,200 for managing what has become a nightmare for far too many disabled Canadian Forces members, veterans, RCMP and their families. Mr. Larlee is not a veteran, but a career lawyer.

“I don’t think we need a VRAB. They cost the taxpayer $11-million a year and that $11-million can be going into veterans’ benefits and RCMP benefits and their families,” says Stoffer.

Prime Minister Harper at one time thought with equal rationality and compassion. The Conservative election platform of 2005-2006 promised to “fix” VRAB and remake it into something which better served veterans and families.

VRAB has begun a round of information sessions. Veteran groups are hopeful change will come about. Such hope is naively misplaced. An email from VRAB’s communication section confirms that these sessions are not “consultations” but merely the board is “interested in finding ways to share information about its program and values opportunities to hear from Veterans organizations.”

Such ‘feel-good’ sessions with stakeholders are a plague in Ottawa these days, from VAC and VRAB, to the Public Service Integrity Commissioner’s Office, and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada. Departments and Agencies condescendingly share information with the public whom public servants assume could never understand the complexity of the bureaucratic rationale. Senior officials politely listen and then provide more red-tape justification as to why the status quo is unchangeable.

The next time Canada feels overwhelming compassion to send our military into a war-torn or disaster-ridden nation, can we imagine Forces members politely listening and ignoring the order to enter harm’s way? Perhaps not, but the military and the public will eventually realize just how “compassionate” federal agencies like VRAB are towards those same military when disability forces them to sadly depend upon Canada’s compassion.

Sean Bruyea is a columnist, former intelligence officer and graduate student of a master’s in public ethics at St. Paul University in Ottawa..

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2012/01/just-one-more-reason-for-a-commission-of-inquiry-into-veterans%E2%80%99-issues/

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Why is Canada Kicking Injured Soldiers When They’re Down?

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:33

Chris Wattie/Reuters

Comment
By SEAN BRUYEA
Special to Globe and Mail Update
Published Wednesday, Mar. 07, 2012 7:36AM EST
Last updated Wednesday, Mar. 07, 2012 7:45AM EST
Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls enlisting in the military the “highest form of public service.” Why then is Veterans Affairs, the department which cares for the Canadian Forces when its members are injured, facing the largest proportional cuts of any other public-service department?

The budget axe has been looming over all federal departments. The current “strategic and operational review” is a euphemism for reigning in a federal public service that is out of control. In the last 10 years, the core public service has grown by 34 per cent (versus 12 per cent at Veterans Affairs) and total government program expenses have swelled by 84 per cent (versus 67 per cent at Veterans Affairs).

Perhaps most galling for Canadians who have passed through two recessions in two decades and have seen no real growth in their earnings, public service salaries have increased by 22 per cent over and above inflation.

Few could credibly argue against the need for Ottawa to be managed better.

However, the axe started swinging at Veterans Affairs well before the current budget. As early as 2010, the department offered up more than 500 job cuts to begin this fiscal year. Bureaucrats eager to please Treasury Board then subsequently followed with $223-million in spending cuts in each of the next two years.

The government justifies these planned cuts by arguing the rapidly declining population of Second World War requires fewer employees to care for them. But ministers and senior bureaucrats rarely mention the fact there are nearly 700,000 veterans of post-Second World War conflicts. Last year, the casualty rate of injured Canadian Forces veterans reached 8.9 per cent, surpassing the casualty rate suffered during the Second World War.

Sadly, the department’s policies have been so restrictive that all of the universal programs that improved the well being of Second World War veterans, and Canada economically, have been denied to other Canadian Forces veterans. These programs, to name a few, included a choice of university or trade school as well as housing and business start-up grants. We often look disparagingly at our neighbour to the south but the G.I. Bill has put more than 22 million veterans and family members through post-secondary education and upgrading in the United States.

Such economically sound programs as well as the hundreds of ignored recommendations to repair the department will be impossible if there are any cutbacks at Veterans Affairs. The department has 3,753 full-time-equivalent positions spread among 4,457 employees. Eliminating 500 positions actually represents almost 600 jobs or more than 13 per cent of the department’s employees.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney has repeatedly promised there will be no cuts to benefits or pensions. This is misleading. Departmental reports confirm that almost all of the annual $223-million in cuts will come directly from compensation and income programs.

In addition to these draconian measures, Veterans Affairs is also facing an additional cuts of between 5 or 10 per cent of this current budget. Since employee costs represent about 10 per cent of the department’s budget, it would be impossible not to cut programs and benefits or else there would be zero employees at Veterans Affairs.

Should the department sadly succeed in transferring its last remaining hospital to Quebec, an additional 1,400 jobs will be lost. Whatever plan goes forward, the result will reduce Veterans Affairs to its smallest size since it was created nearly 70 years ago.

Being the only federal department with its head office in Charlottetown, where it employs more than one third of its workforce, Veterans Affairs is a management nightmare for the government. The department is often criticized for having an insurance mentality. In some aspects, veterans and their families could only be so lucky. Stunningly, Ottawa does not set aside money for potential or real injured soldiers as insurance companies must do.

The government’s poor fiscal planning is in effect punishing veterans long after they have made their sacrifice. Broken bodies and broken minds are the soldiers’ end of the contract. Cutting programs and services when Canada has failed to uphold its end of the deal is wrong. Making proportionally greater cuts is easy when the targets are disabled veterans and their families, reluctant to defend themselves against the country for which they were willing to die.

Such cutbacks for veterans are not only mean-spirited; they are a clear breach of Canada’s contract with its troops.

Sean Bruyea is a retired Canadian Forces intelligence officer and a graduate student in public ethics at Saint Paul University in Ottawa

For original article, please click here (may require subscription)

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2012/03/why-is-canada-kicking-injured-soldiers-when-they%E2%80%99re-down/

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Federal Court Rules on Side of 6,000 CF Members, and Feds Should Not Appeal It

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:35

This isn’t a game. Pain and suffering payments are often the only thing left for the military to know that their sacrifices meant something to Canada and to Canadians. To continue deducting their value also ‘extinguishes’ the value of military sacrifice.

By Sean Bruyea -THE HILL TIMES
Published: Monday, 05/07/2012 12:00 am EDT
OTTAWA—A Federal Court ruling on May 1 unconditionally sided with the “harsh” plight of up to 6,000 disabled medically-released Canadian Forces members. They have been fighting the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court and back again for five years.

At issue is how the federal government is, in effect, discriminating against injured CF soldiers once they are medically released.

Since World War I, Canada, like many nations, has honoured disabling military injuries with pain and suffering compensation. This compensation is paid out by Veterans Affairs Canada through the Pension Act as a monthly disability payment.

That such injuries need to be compensated is not in dispute. Compensation for pain and suffering is a cornerstone of how most developed nations respect the profound loss of quality and enjoyment of life due to disabling injuries.

However, soldiers also need income support if they are no longer able to work. The CF has its own long-term disability plan (LTD) for just that reason. The Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) pays out 75 per cent of a person’s last salary in the CF if a military member is not medically fit to stay in uniform. The SISIP LTD program is highly limited as it does not reflect the lost potential in earnings due to promotions, advancing education, or even extra allowances to care for family members.

What the SISIP plan does do is deduct from the 75 per cent income any additional payments for pain and suffering. There is no other private or public insurance plan in Canada reportedly which is allowed to deduct pain and suffering payments from income. The courts have long recognized that they are as different as chairs and desks. They both work together but they serve completely different functions…and one cannot reasonably replace the other.

The CF knows this well. At the time of SISIP’s creation in the 1970s, members injured overseas were entitled to collect full salary plus full pain and suffering compensation from Veterans Affairs. In October 2000, any disabling injury suffered in military service at home or abroad allowed members to collect 100 per cent of salary plus full compensation.

When the class action was first launched in 2007, almost 10,000 serving members received 100 per cent salary, plus full pain and suffering compensation. As of Dec. 31, 2011, there are 6,014 serving members who still receive full salary plus pain and suffering payments, as many as the almost 6,000 who are possibly affected by the court decision.

It hardly seems fair that these affected by the decision not only lose full salary and a fulsome career, but the full equivalent of their pain and suffering payments. As a result of the decision, this practice is now illegal.

There are details in both the court decision and in the deduction practice that are disturbing. For instance, disabled CF members are also provided compensation for having a spouse and children. Such compensation is commonly understood today to help compensate for the loss of quality of life for the disabled person with his or her family, but also the loss suffered by the family members when their spouse or parent is no longer the same person after the military injury.

Sadly, in some petty administrative act, SISIP deducts the amounts for family members and yet the long-term disability provides no additional amounts for family members. Perhaps this is why Judge Barnes, who is well qualified with an extensive background in insurance litigation, could write the following: “The practical consequence of the [deduction] is to substantially reduce or to extinguish the LTD coverage promised to [those receiving SISIP LTD] with particularly harsh effect on the most seriously disabled CF members who have been released from active service. That is an outcome that could not reasonably have been intended and I reject it unreservedly.”

The injustice and unethical nature of deducting the pain and suffering payments have not been lost on either Parliament or federal service oversight bodies. Two previous DND/CF ombudsmen have soundly condemned the practice. One of them, Yves Côté, was an articulate champion for the disabled CF members who could not defend themselves, calling the deductions “profoundly unfair.” Coincidentally, he is now the associate deputy minister of justice.

The Senate National Defence Committee has unanimously called for the deductions to cease. Even the House Standing Committee on National Defence as far back as 2003 unanimously called for the unfair deductions to end the deductions “forthwith.”

Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, Treasury Board President Vic Toews and Prime Minister Stephen Harper were all associate members of the House National Defence Committee back in 2003.

Members of Parliament, ministers, and the Prime Minister, as well as senior public service officials, have their own long-term disability plan. This plan specifically instructs that the first item to exempt from deduction is Pension Act pain and suffering compensation.

Indeed, no provincial or territorial workers’ compensation plan is allowed to deduct Pension Act pain and suffering payments.

As Judge Barnes astutely points out, the continued deduction practice asks: “Of perhaps greater significance is whether a CF member who suffers a catastrophic combat injury at a level approaching 100 per cent disability would expect to effectively receive nothing more than 75 per cent of his CF income and to be treated the same as a CF member with a disability of lesser functional significance arising outside of his military service.”

No law needs to be passed to honour the Federal Court’s findings. The minister of National Defence, Cabinet, and Treasury Board need merely order the cessation of deductions of Veterans Affairs pain and suffering payments from long-term disability income.

To give the government credit, this court decision came about because the federal government fully agreed to ask the court to answer whether the pain and suffering compensation can legally be deducted from long-term disability income. Ottawa has also agreed upon the salient facts surrounding the case.

So why would Ottawa appeal?

The matter is now in the government’s hands. It is no longer before the courts. This removes MacKay’s and the government’s reasons for not stopping the deductions as they claimed it was a matter before the courts.

The courts have decided.

For the government to appeal would not only be wrong, it would be punishing for disabled CF members and their families. It would be akin to agreeing to a hockey match with disabled CF members and then arguing with the referee once the government is called for kicking the injured soldiers when they already down on the ice.

Except this isn’t a game. Pain and suffering payments are often the only thing left for the military to know that their sacrifices meant something to Canada and to Canadians. To continue deducting their value also “extinguishes” the value of military sacrifice.

The question will soon become not whether to appeal or not to appeal or even whether Ottawa will play by the rules or not. Instead, Canadians will ask themselves whether they would risk their lives in the military when the government and the bureaucrats are waiting on the sidelines to kick them once they have fallen.

Sean Bruyea is a columnist, graduate student in a masters of public ethics and a former CF intelligence officer. He is also affected by the Federal Court decision.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

For original article, click here (may require subscription)

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2012/05/federal-court-rules-on-side-of-6000-cf-members-and-feds-should-not-appeal-it/

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Highly-marginalized, Vulnerable Disabled CF Veterans Now Pawns in Federal Government Negotiations

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:37

The government continues to effectively and illegally deduct pain and suffering payments from their LTD income.

By SEAN BRUYEA
.
Published: Monday, 07/02/2012 12:00 am EDT
.
OTTAWA—Disabled Canadian Forces veterans and their families breathed a collective sigh of relief on May 29 when Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the government would not be appealing a Federal Court decision that said it was illegal to deduct pain and suffering payments from the veterans’ long-term disability (LTD) income. This was quickly followed by an announcement from the minister two weeks later that beginning July 1, the illegal deductions would cease for all payments going forward.However, as with far too many decisions by the federal government that affect Canada’s veterans, the devil is in the details. And the details show that Canada’s most disabled and unemployable CF veterans have been sidelined yet again. Government continues to effectively and illegally deduct pain and suffering payments from their LTD income.
It was hoped that Ottawa’s decision to not appeal ended a five-year court battle for Dennis Manuge, the lead plaintiff, and the initial 4,500 to 6,000 members who are all equally represented alongside Manuge in the class-action lawsuit. This hopefully also ends a nine-year battle for a number of these individuals who have been fighting a practice long before the court action against deductions that previous DND ombudsman André Marin condemned in 2003 and his successor Yves Côté labelled “profoundly” and “fundamentally unfair.”

Such strong words were used for good reason. Pain and suffering payments are indeed substantially different from lost income. The two have long been separated in workers’ compensation programs and insurance plans, including plans affecting the federal public servants who nevertheless ensured that pain and suffering payments were deducted from disabled Canadian Forces veterans’ long-term disability [LTD] income since as far back as 1976.

The courts are also adamant that pain and suffering payments are categorically different and the two cannot be mixed.

The LTD income for disabled CF members pays 75 per cent of a CF member’s release salary until age 65 if the member is unable to be suitably employed. This 75 per cent LTD income limit is a top-up which understandably deducts all other pension and disability income but also illegally deducted the pain and suffering payments.

By illegally confusing pain and suffering payments with income, the 75 per cent limit is easily exceeded for “the most seriously disabled CF members” noted Justice Robert Barnes in his May 1 ruling. The result is that the LTD policy is no longer obligated to pay anything. The “practical consequence” is to “extinguish the LTD coverage promised to [CF members]…with particularly harsh effect on the most seriously disabled CF members.”

The greater the disability, the greater the pain and suffering payment. As such, it has been the most disabled who, with the LTD extinguished, have watched while other less disabled members continue to collect their disability income cheques. The more seriously-disabled CF veterans are what are known as “zero-sum” clients. They are totally disabled and are put on the books but with zero dollars owing to them by the Canadian Forces LTD income plan.

On June 20, the LTD income cheques were deposited in many disabled veterans’ bank accounts for the first time without deducting pain and suffering payments. Meanwhile zero-sum clients looked helplessly on as once again they received nothing from the Canadian Forces LTD income plan. In effect, they therefore receive nothing from MacKay’s promise that the illegal deductions of pain and suffering payments “will not be deducted on any future cheques.”

The devilish detail in this announcement is that the most disabled had stopped receiving cheques perhaps last month, last year, or 10 years ago due to the illegal practice of including pain and suffering payments in the LTD income 75 per cent calculation. The “practical consequence” for the most seriously disabled is that they continue to suffer the illegal practice. There is no indication on the government’s part to start giving them a July, August, or any cheque for that matter. These highly-marginalized and vulnerable disabled CF veterans are now pawns in federal government negotiations.

These negotiations quickly stalled after the minister’s most recent announcement. They have since been restarted thankfully. However, zero-sum disabled veterans must wait yet again to see if government will stop the illegal practice which has a “particularly harsh effect” upon them and their families.

MacKay followed up his mid-June announcement with these words: “Our government’s strong action on this file is another example of our support for our men and women in uniform and our commitment to continue to meet the needs of those who need these benefits.”

Are disabled CF members, their families, and now Canadians to look at such words as empty platitudes which they have heard far too often when it comes to injured military and their families? The reality is that MacKay and the Prime Minister can instruct that initiatives be taken immediately to restart the LTD income benefits for these zero-sum veterans. Why is this not happening? Is there an administrative laziness at work here or perhaps a compassion paralysis so common in the federal bureaucracy?

Whatever the reasons, the delays, and complex processes are once again placed ahead of real people enduring needless suffering for far too long. All the zero-sum clients are disabled because of their unconditional commitment in military service to Canadians and to the Canadian government. It would be a pleasant and dignified change if Canada’s commitment to them was returned in kind, sooner rather than later.

Sean Bruyea is a columnist, graduate student in a masters of public ethics, and a former CF intelligence officer. He is also affected by the Federal Court decision.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

For original article, click here (may require subscription)

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2012/07/highly-marginalized-vulnerable-disabled-cf-veterans-now-pawns-in-federal-government-negotiations/

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Sean Bruyea: Veterans under attack

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 13:39

Sean Bruyea, National Post | October 28, 2013 | Last Updated: Oct 24 2:51 PM ET

Veterans are in an uproar after Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino fanned the growing blaze of discontent amongst our former service men and women by penning an op-ed in which he claims there is a “tangle of misinformation regarding how Canada treats” its veterans, and that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.”

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), the department mandated to care for our veterans and their families, provides economic benefits to a mere 11% of the almost 700,000 Canadian Forces veterans. It is impossible for Mr. Fantino to know whether the remaining 89% are having their needs met, since no effort is being made to track this population.

Canada is one of the few Western countries that does not provide identification cards to veterans. And VAC has consistently refused to track veteran suicides. By contrast, Australia provides economic benefits to approximately 80% of its veterans.

The Minister focused his comments on legislation enacted in 2006, which replaced lifelong monthly disability payments with one-time, lump sum payments for injured veterans. This “wholesale change to veterans’ support and services,” known as the New Veterans Charter, was implemented in the midst of the Afghan war, which had a profound impact on many of our troops. Our military members had no say in the dissolution of the lifetime disability payments.

Since that time, Mr. Fantino’s government has wrongly taken credit for the $4.7-billion that has been cumulatively added to the department’s budget. Cost-of-living increases that are required by law account for nearly 50% of that total. Most of the remaining money was allocated in 2005 when bureaucrats anticipated the upfront cost of replacing lifelong payments with lump sums — a move that was intended to save the department billions of dollars.

The Minister insists that the lump-sum program does not “simply throw money at a problem or a person.” This is a richly misguided claim. The policy is designed to transfer money to veterans and their families now, while leaving most recipients without anything to show for their lifelong injuries in the decades to come.

And veterans are worse off because of it: Even with all the veterans programs taken into account, the Veterans’ Ombudsman concluded that the “overall value” of the New Veterans Charter programs is below the benefits paid under the old lifelong disability program. Moreover, the New Veterans Charter provides economic benefits for less than 1% of Canadian veterans.

The Minister asserts that his Department implemented “over 160 recommendations that were determined after wide consultation.” However, repeated efforts by the Royal Canadian Legion and other veterans’ groups to obtain a detailed accounting of the ethereal changes resulting from these recommendations have yet to materialize.

Mr. Fantino promises an upcoming review of the lump-sum legislation in Parliament will work towards “appropriate change” to address the “needs” of veterans and their families. However, the previous Parliamentary review proposed 16 areas of change, each necessitating a handful of specific remedies. The result: The bureaucracy ignored all but four specific remedies.

The Minister’s factual cherry picking has served to further inflame veterans and their families, who are far too bruised by bureaucratic insensitivity and empty political rhetoric. Veterans and their families must define what is “appropriate change” and what they “need.” It is nothing less than condescending paternalism for a government department to tell a veteran what he or she “needs.”

National Post

Sean Bruyea is a retired military intelligence officer and frequent commentator on veteran, military and government issues.

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Re: How to Make Positive Change for Serving and Retired CF, RCMP and Their Families? (Hint: Only Veterans Affairs and Treasury Board Win When Veterans are Divided).

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