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“Parliament Has No Obligation to Fight for Veterans, Even though Veterans Fight and Die for Us”

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“Parliament Has No Obligation to Fight for Veterans, Even though Veterans Fight and Die for Us”

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:16

Canadians will hopefully remember this before they walk into a Canadian Forces recruiting centre.

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Veterans want respect: In the coming days, Parliament will release a highly-controversial report on the embattled veterans legislation known as the New Veterans Charter. Will this report help repair or will it contribute to the immense broken trust government has provoked within an increasingly-disillusioned veteran community?
By SEAN BRUYEA | Published: Monday, 05/12/2014 12:00 am EDT Last Updated: Monday, 05/12/2014 12:24 am EDT


In the coming days, Parliament will release a highly-controversial report on the embattled veterans legislation known as the New Veterans Charter (NVC). Will this report help repair or will it contribute to the immense broken trust government has provoked within an increasingly-disillusioned veteran community?

The forthcoming report is part of a legally-mandated “comprehensive review” in spite of the attempt by the minister claiming that he personally called for this review. Such politicking of veterans’ issues has plagued far too much of the Conservative questioning during the hearings. In place of substantive investigation, many Conservative members of committee, such as Parliamentary Secretary Parm Gill, have asked politically rhetorical questions, especially of those witnesses who questioned the government’s inaction: “Can you tell us you are aware that more money is spent today under the new Veterans Charter than under the Pension Act?”

The question was directed to Jim Scott who heads up Equitas Society, which is spearheading a lawsuit claiming the NVC violates fundamental Canadian rights while disadvantaging those veterans under the new legislation compared to the previous Pension Act. Scott obviously did not have internal departmental statistics leaving this categorically incorrect assertion uncontested. However, in 2012-13, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) paid out $1.6-billion under the Pension Act and only $552.3-million under the New Veterans Charter.

Conservative MP Ted Opitz continued the political badgering of Scott: “Sir, the New Veterans Charter was designed to support wellness, and it was designed to encourage independence over dependence. Would you agree with those principles, overall?” I would have liked to respond, “A low income Canadian stole gold from the Bank of Canada and distributed it to homeless persons. Would you not agree that ensuring Canadians have adequate income supports the principles of independence and well-being?”

Gill asked VAC bureaucrats cakewalk questions such as that given to ADM Walter Semianiw: “Would you please explain the history of how the new Veterans Charter came to be?”

Herein lies the problem. Elected government and senior bureaucrats are far more loyal defending each other than serving veterans. Too often, they quickly attack those with a dissenting view rather than listening, hence destroying the possibility of making real and substantive changes to improve the lives of veterans and their families. Veterans meanwhile scratch their heads and question their hearts: what was it about democracy for which they sacrificed their careers, families and formerly healthy lives?

Focusing “the review on how the [NVC] serves the most seriously injured, how our government supports Canadian veterans’ families, and how Veterans Affairs delivers the programs that have been put in place” is what Fantino asked but the senior bureaucracy appears not to want.

Whatever the bureaucrats want or do not want from a policy perspective should be irrelevant except for one question: does the bureaucracy have the resources to administer any proposed change? Policy development should remain with Parliament and Canadians, not with bureaucrats.

The House committee can learn much from the Senate study on the NVC released in March 2013. The report of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs took two years to prepare and was hard hitting with testimony lasting over a year. The conclusion was unequivocal: “Those who die or are injured in the course of duty deserve the best program of compensation and benefits Canada can provide.”

Veterans Affairs Canada essentially ignored the report. Fantino’s response did not arrive in the Senate until April 10, 2014. It is a nine-page used car sales pitch replete with the usual bureaucratic and political rhetoric justifying that bureaucrats know what is best for veterans. The clear message through such condescension was that the three-year Senate study did not directly result in any substantive changes.

Part of the blame for bureaucratic obfuscation can be laid on the Senate and the report itself. Except for calling government to “table a document that articulates and promotes the social contract between the people of Canada and their veterans,” the few recommendations were riddled with vague generalities and fluffy language. Whereas there is near universal endorsement to increase the income loss benefit for disabled veterans to match 100 per cent of military salary and compensate for lost potential earnings increases, the Senate recommended government “continue to review the [income loss program] to ensure veterans are receiving the appropriate level of compensation.”

Fantino could easily claim that the bureaucracy determined that the status quo of 75 per cent is effectively “appropriate” and that no change need be made. Civilian workplace compensation programs pay an average of 125 per cent of current profession earnings to seriously disabled workers. This appears to be lost on Prime Minister Stephen Harper who in 2006, during the launch of the New Veterans Charter, promised “our troops’ commitment and service to Canada entitles them to the very best treatment possible.”

The committee can help repair some of the broken trust brought about by the government’s unquestioning loyalty to senior bureaucrats. Parliament must reinforce who is boss. Parliament works directly for veterans and the rest of Canadians, not for bureaucrats. Recommendations that allow senior bureaucrats to shirk their obligation through vagaries and ‘fluffy’ direction allows bureaucratic responses and consequent actions to be equally or more vague and fluffy.

With only a few weeks preparation, Canada’s military expeditiously began deployment of more than a half-billion dollars in Air Force equipment and 228 personnel for an eight-month or longer deployment to Eastern Europe. Veterans and their families, meanwhile, languish waiting nine years for promised ongoing substantive changes to the New Veterans Charter.

The minister deflected much responsibility to committee, including claiming Parliament was a better venue than the courts to determine what is the nature of Canada’s obligation to her military veterans and their families.

Surely, if military members are willing and have died to serve Parliament’s ends, the least of these obligations should require a committee to write a forceful report with numerous clear and specific recommendations. Harper must enact substantive changes to the New Veterans Charter expeditiously and comprehensively and not use them as campaign promises to hold veterans prisoner during the coming election.

Otherwise, the committee and the Prime Minister will have clarified only one thing: Parliament has no obligation to fight for veterans even though veterans fight and die for them. Canadians will hopefully remember this before they walk into a Canadian Forces recruiting centre.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

For full article:

http://www.hilltimes.com/opinion-piece/politics/2014/05/12/parliament-has-no-obligation-to-fight-for-veterans-even-though/38434

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Veterans trapped under government’s sweeping budget omnibus steamroller: Sean Bruyea

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:19

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Finance Minister Joe Oliver, pictured with his top officials Brian Ernewein and Jeremy Rudin May 6 at the House Finance Committee. The omnibus budget bill is a perversion of democracy and ramming through legislation without proper scrutiny is an insult to the dignity of all that the military has sacrificed in Canada’s name and at Parliament’s orders, writes Sean Bruyea.
By THE HILL TIMES
Published: Monday, 05/19/2014 12:00 am EDT Last Updated: Tuesday, 05/20/2014 4:07 pm EDT


OTTAWA—Government budget omnibus bills are abominations of democracy swallowing huge swaths of policy revisions in one gulp, often for the bad. Hidden in the depths of Bill C-31, the latest omnibus budget bill, is a veterans’ benefit time bomb set to explode on both politicians and our most disabled veterans.

On May 29, 2012, coincidental with the announcement to not appeal the class action lawsuit involving the Canadian Armed Forces long-term disability insurance plan known as SISIP, the Government of Canada committed to cease the offsetting of pain and suffering monthly payments from Veterans Affairs Canada’s own long-term disability plan known as the earnings loss benefit or ELB.

ELB is a key pillar of the controversial legislation commonly known as the New Veterans Charter. The omnibus budget bill provides retroactivity in returning to veterans the Pension Act pain and suffering deductions of ELB from May 29 to September 30, 2012.

During the launch of the New Veterans Charter including the earnings loss benefit program on April 6, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised “Our troops’ commitment and service to Canada entitles them to the very best treatment possible. This Charter is but a first step towards according Canadian veterans the respect and support they deserve.”

If government has decided that the policy of offsetting monthly Pension Act payments from ELB is not what our “troops deserved” on May 29, 2012 did our troops deserve the unfair deductions on May 28, 2012? For that matter, did our troops deserve the unfair deductions any day back to April 6, 2006, when the earnings loss benefit was created?

ELB is clearly an income loss program. The Pension Act is indisputably a program for pain and suffering. Our courts have long stipulated that income loss is to be maintained completely separate from general damages otherwise known as pain and suffering payments. No other provincial civilian workplace compensation program in Canada deducts pain and suffering payments from income loss programs. Why are our disabled military veterans and their families subjected to an unjustifiable lesser standard from April 6, 2006 to May 28, 2012?

Even if we ignore the strong legal precedent of not deducting pain and suffering payments from income loss programs, this arbitrary retroactive date of May 29, 2012 comes across as petty.

The indefensible retroactive date creates additional classes of veterans yet again. Those in the SISIP class action lawsuit had the problem rectified back to the date SISIP began offsetting Pension Act payments in 1976. Why are disabled veterans in receipt of ELB not accorded the same dignity back to 2006? Both the reality and appearance of justice being done are plainly not reflected in Bill C-31.

Omnibus budget bills are insidious and not just because of their scope and size. Although changes to budget bills are not necessarily matters of confidence, they can provoke votes of non-confidence. Because of this, Bill C-31 will likely remain unchanged. For the most disabled veterans under the flagship Conservative veterans’ benefit program, the New Veterans Charter, they will be forced to enter the paralytic morass of years of unnecessary and bitter legal battles to seek the retroactivity that is rightfully theirs.

This inevitable legal battle will sap the health, family stability and dignity of military veterans and their families.

We say we honour our injured veterans as a nation and a government, but Parliament’s actions often speak otherwise. Parliament, in the case of veterans has been far too hesitant to make substantive positive changes because of cost or insensitive obstinacy. Parliamentarians fail to remember these disabled veterans never hesitated when Parliament ordered them into situations knowing full well many would die or be disabled for life.

Major Todd, the architect of the Pension Act philosophy of pain and suffering payments stated in 1919, “Those who give public service do not so for themselves alone but for the society in which they are a part. Therefore, each citizen should share equally in the suffering which war brings to this nation.”

We keep promising to repay the debt owed to our veterans but, as a government and a nation, we do not.

What is also troubling about Bill C-31 is the absence of further debts we are failing to pay to our disabled veterans. The earnings loss benefit is not being increased to 100 per cent of military release salary while providing lost potential career earnings. Yet civilian workplace compensation schemes recognize this lost potential. Boosting ELB to 100 per cent has been emphatically pushed by the major veterans’ groups, the two VAC advisory groups tasked to study the matter as well as the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

There are also no provisions in Bill C-31 for providing childcare and spousal income assistance to the most disabled veterans even though serving military that are injured receive both. These most disabled are not supported for education upgrades or to pursue any employment opportunity to better themselves and improve their esteem. The monthly income supplement provided to veterans under the New Veterans Charter is denied those exceptionally incapacitated veterans under the Pension Act.

Inherent in these omnibus budget bills is a dismissal of the concerns of all Canadians. Ignoring the concerns of veterans and Canadians is a perilous road for democracy.

Undoubtedly, Parliamentarians and the public service work hard for democracy. However, none can claim to have sacrificed what our military has sacrificed to preserve our democratic way of life. The omnibus budget bill does not meet Canada’s democratic standard. It allows a multitude of changes to Canada’s laws to enter the backdoor of government policy without full participatory and democratic due process.

Ramming through legislation without proper scrutiny is an insult to the dignity of all that the military has sacrificed in Canada’s name and at Parliament’s orders. The omnibus budget bill is a perversion of democracy. For this democracy, almost 120,000 Canadians have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more have lived and continue to live with lifelong disabilities as a result of serving our nation.

Surely Parliament can do better. Surely Parliament can get its act together and act upon what veterans want and need, not what bureaucrats deceptively hide in omnibus bills.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues. Mr. Bruyea is not a recipient of ELB.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

https://www.hilltimes.com/2014/05/16/veterans-trapped-under-governments-sweeping-budget-omnibus-steamroller-sean-bruyea/28514/38514?page_requested=1

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Government doesn’t care about whistleblowers

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:22

Whistleblowers in our federal public service have become caught in a bureaucratic and political propaganda meat grinder.

By SEAN BRUYEA-THE HILL TIMES
Published: Monday, 06/02/2014 12:00 am EDT


OTTAWA—Canada’s public service integrity commissioner, the clerk of the Privy Council, the president of Treasury Board and Democratic Reform Minister of State Pierre Poilievre all need some serious schooling from the University of Saskatchewan’s recent uproar over the unjust firing of a whistleblowing professor. Maybe then public servant whistleblowers who truly care about the public will be protected and not persecuted by an insular and out-of-touch senior bureaucracy.

Robert Buckingham, a tenured professor, was fired May 14, 2014 from the University of Saskatchewan. His crime: speaking out against a money-saving plan to restructure and reduce faculties and staff. Buckingham reported the usual litany of whistleblower reprisals, including attacks to his credibility, management isolating him, intimidation and even an escort off campus after his dismissal.

What was unusual for Canada was the reaction. Students held mass demonstrations, politicians waded in, and academics worldwide pressured both the university and the provincial government to defend a whistleblower. Buckingham had his tenure restored the next day. The following week, the university provost, author of the letter firing Buckingham, resigned. The university president was fired from her post but offered another position and a hefty severance.

“It is so rare to have this kind of happy ending for a whistleblower in Canada,” David Hutton of FAIR Whistleblower told me on the telephone, “where the whistleblower comes out relatively unharmed, the wrongdoing is stopped and the sanctions against wrongdoers are strong enough to be a deterrent. This almost never occurs.”

Although sanctions were minimal, resolution was extremely quick, minimizing harm to Buckingham.

Now to reality in Ottawa. Whistleblowers in our federal public service have become caught in a bureaucratic and political propaganda meat grinder. The government claims it cares about whistleblowers but does everything possible to make their lives a protracted living hell.

The Public Service Integrity Commissioner’s Office and its accompanying tribunal were created in 2007 purportedly to defend whistleblowers. Since that time, the two commissioners, Christiane Ouimet and Mario Dion both lifelong bureaucrats, have been harshly criticized by the auditor general. It is difficult to find a whistleblower who has emerged without suffering serious harm. No wrongdoer or perpetrator of reprisals against a whistleblower has been meaningfully punished.

In fact, Ouimet was the first case of wrongdoing reported under the law, which she was appointed to administer. After not finding a single case of wrongdoing during her three-year stint, Ouimet was rewarded with a half-million dollar package, pension, and a gag order.

In seven years, the office has tabled just eight cases of wrongdoing before Parliament and referred a mere six cases of reprisal to the tribunal. Only the tribunal can punish the aggressor or order remedies for the whistleblower who has suffered reprisals. Investigations into reprisals by the Integrity Commissioner’s Office have taken a year or more. We have no idea how long the tribunal will take as it has never ruled on a case. One case ended in what Dion calls a “successful conciliation” in 2012-13. In his last annual report, Dion indicated he is “very proud of our achievements.”

Pierre Poilievre championed this legislation and the Commissioner’s Office, promising “ironclad protections” for “all whistleblowers regardless of the approach they take to expose the corruption,” including to the media.

This is clearly not happening. Sylvie Therien worked as an Employment Insurance (EI) fraud investigator when she reported that each investigator was tasked to identify targets of $485,000 in fraud per year. After her supervisors dismissed her concerns, Therien went to the media.

Her reward: she was fired with cause, therefore making her ineligible to receive EI. The government’s vicious streak did not stop there. Assistant Deputy Minister James Gilbert wrote on the Departmental website, “If Ms. Therrien or any other government employee feels compelled to disclose serious wrongdoing in the workplace, they have the ability to do so under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, which gives federal public sector and other employees a safe and confidential disclosure process and protects them from retaliation. She instead went directly to the media.”

How much clearer can government be in admitting they sought reprisals against Therrien? Didn’t Poilievre promise to protect whistleblowers “regardless of the approach they take”? Whether or not Therrien knew of the Integrity Commissioner’s Office, one clearly understands that her chances of success there are about as good as winning a national lottery.

The problem here is simple: bureaucrats idolize self-serving policies, whether or not these policies serve the public. Without such smug certainty, compassion would otherwise abound in government. Tragically, compassion bleeds away in a rigidly-insensitive technocracy.

Just prior to being appointed integrity commissioner in December 2010, Mario Dion wrote a report on Correctional Service Canada’s treatment of Ashley Smith. He found that CSC did nothing wrong in injecting drugs into the incarcerated teenager while she was forcibly restrained despite her “unequivocal refusal.” In an interview last year, Dion defended his findings on Smith: “She was already dead when I did the review so it would not have changed the outcome.”

Dion’s director of communications, Edith Lachapelle, indicated in a telephone interview with me that she was unaware of Buckingham’s case, in spite of international headlines. When asked if Dion feels responsible to expedite decisions that might protect a whistleblower from reprisals, Lachapelle responded that Dion feels “responsible for the act.”

Curiously, Dion does not appear to push Treasury Board to review an “act” which has been resoundingly condemned, a review that was legally mandated to begin two years ago.

Sadly, Buckingham’s happy ending is a fairy tale in Canada. Why would we expect Canada’s senior bureaucracy to protect whistleblowers and punish wrongdoers?

Privy Council bureaucrats effectively choose fellow bureaucrats to oversee their buddies. The Integrity Commissioner’s staff consists largely of bureaucrats who transfer in and out of the bureaucracy they are supposed to be policing. Under Treasury Board guidance, departments write up codes of conduct, which criminalize whistleblowing. Treasury Board is then given responsibility to review the shoddy law that the Treasury Board wrote.

Meanwhile, politicians selfishly think of the next election, encouraging an increasingly authoritarian, byzantine and nasty senior bureaucratic sandbox.

The public service is ‘hived off’ from government as shown by the recent report tabled by Ottawa’s top mandarin, Wayne Wouters. His senior bureaucrats live in a world increasingly distant from the reality, input and wishes of the rest of Canada not to mention their own frontline public servants. The resolution at the University of Saskatchewan has much to teach Ottawa. We can only hope our senior mandarins are schooled before the remaining integrity is bullied and squeezed out of a once more proud and more innovative federal public service.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and a frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

https://www.hilltimes.com/2014/05/30/government-doesnt-care-about-whistleblowers/28626/38626

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What we owe those who fight our wars

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:24

War is a terrible business. That is why we commemorate the fallen with two minutes of silence once a year, or on the anniversaries of battles, like June 6 for D-Day.

What troubles many Canadians is our government’s inability to remember the survivors of war and their families for the remaining half-million minutes that make up a year.

What is the debt we owe our military veterans and their families? How do we clearly define this debt, so that it means something tangible?

This debt has been called a “social contract” or “covenant”. President Barack Obama and others call it a “sacred trust”.

Canadian veterans are now engaged in a bitter court battle with Ottawa over the terms of the so-called New Veterans Charter, which offers veterans a lump sum payment instead of a lifetime pension. The federal government, which is fighting the lawsuit, has argued that “at no time in Canada’s history has any alleged ‘social contract’ or ‘social covenant’ … been given effect in any statute, regulation or as a constitutional principle written or unwritten.” Veterans and Canadians are rightly shocked.

But that’s the trouble with lofty expressions like “sacred trust” — they mean different things to different people. It’s their vague nature which makes them so powerful. Soldiers live and breathe morally-charged words — and are ready to die for them.

Government casually parrots those words, but with little or no commitment. Sacrifice. Duty. Honour. Keeping faith. The eternal gratitude of a grateful nation. All of these words and phrases have become little more than political platitudes. The ‘debt’ becomes muddied while veterans are abandoned and denigrated.

To clear the waters, let’s understand why we owe veterans and their families this unique debt in the first place.

The military is unlike any other profession. When a citizen puts on a military uniform, he or she must forfeit all manner of rights for the clear purpose of doing what Canada wishes, when she wishes, to whom and how she wishes, without protest. Government can and does legally order the military into harm’s way, with both soldiers and government knowing full well that soldiers will be killed or disabled for life.

Much of this we understand. What we don’t understand, or openly discuss, is how soldiers do this so willingly when most Canadians would be repulsed by the idea of making such a personal sacrifice.

There is, in fact, a clear quid pro quo — not just an intangible social contract or sacred trust. In making a soldier, the nation takes all that makes someone a free citizen.
The answer is indoctrination — a dirty word from the Cold War days. Indoctrination is alive and well. It is an extreme form of persuasion to convince an individual to do something he or she would otherwise consider ludicrous. Military indoctrination is the most intense and legally permissible secular form of persuasion.

Military indoctrination brings individuals together into tightly knit, hierarchical units. The individual is, as the cliché goes, “broken down” and then built up in the image of the military. The Canadian version of this is the doctrine of “mission, soldier, self”. Each military member devotes all psychological and physical resources first to the mission, next to protecting comrades, and last (if there’s anything left over) to self-preservation. Is it any wonder that 80-year-old veterans still show up on Remembrance Day wearing uniforms they only wore briefly in their youth?

Military indoctrination is reinforced by a unique, enormous and byzantine legal system which punishes everything from infractions of grooming regulations to war crimes. It also punishes desertion — which is another word for quitting a job, a right all other Canadians enjoy. The military machine makes these soldiers profoundly dependent upon the state and the military in all aspects of behaviour, perspective, career management, housing, finance, family support and medical care.

Eighty years ago, renowned Marine General Smedley Butler gave his personal insight: “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”

So there is, in fact, a clear quid pro quo — not just an intangible social contract or sacred trust. In making a soldier, the nation takes all that makes someone a free citizen. After military service, Canada and Canadians are expected to return that soldier to everything that makes for a healthy, independent citizen. If wounded, Canada must comprehensively care for and compensate that soldier for all he or she has sacrificed for Canada, especially lost future potential.

It’s cowardly of any government to claim that fiscal austerity prevents fulsome public assistance after soldiers have kept up their end of the bargain. It makes for an absurd and clearly one-sided contract — one where government takes everything it can from the citizen soldier, but is miserly when it comes to giving back.

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

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

http://ipolitics.ca/2014/06/03/what-we-owe-those-who-fight-our-wars/

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Parliament Throws Veterans under the Bus, Yet Again

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:28

The government had better start fighting for veterans soon or Canadians will stop fighting for government.

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Veterans pictured last week protesting on the Hill. Sean Bruyea says veterans have every reason to be disillusioned with Ottawa over the New Veterans Charter.
By SEAN BRUYEA- THE HILL TIMES
Published: Monday, 06/09/2014 12:00 am EDT
OTTAWA—Veterans have every reason to be disillusioned with Ottawa once again. But this time, the disappointment could become the nail in Veterans Affairs Canada’s coffin.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee released its much-anticipated report reviewing the New Veterans Charter. The legislation required a “comprehensive review” to begin last November in spite of Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s claim that he called for the review to be comprehensive.

The minister did, however, call committee to focus on the “most seriously injured, support for families and delivery of program by Veterans Affairs Canada [VAC]”.

The report’s 14 limited recommendations received unanimous and glowing accolades from all parties.

Let’s dig a little deeper. The most positive recommendation proposed a detailed procedure for injured leaving the military, transferring to VAC and receiving care in their communities. Ensuring that veterans in isolated and rural areas receive adequate care, a longstanding problem, was not addressed.

Most of the remaining 13 recommendations range from poorly defined to bizarre.

The New Veterans Charter results in serious inequities, providing less to reserve force veterans than those in the regular military. The report recommended that reserve force veterans “be entitled to the same benefits” as regular force veterans.

However, the bureaucracy could easily respond that reservists are already “entitled to the same benefits,” just lesser amounts with greater barriers.

Poorly-defined words populate 11 of the 14 recommendations: “greater flexibility,” “better access,” “as required,” and that VAC “consider.” These weasel words substantially suck good potential from the recommendations. They also allow bureaucracy to easily avoid making substantive positive changes.

The Toronto Star reported committee member and veteran Laurie Hawn “insisted the report eliminated ‘any wiggle room’” for Fantino.

Instead, there is enough space for a dozen dancing elephants as well as the minster to avoid doing the right thing for disabled veterans and their families.

Perhaps the most galling will be the recommendation on the lump sum benefit.

Unprecedented unanimity of veteran, legal, and rehabilitation experts agree the maximum lump sum for pain and suffering associated with disabilities needs to be greater than the current $300,000. Payouts averaged under $40,000 last year.

A growing consensus calls for a return to the lifelong monthly payment which the RCMP injured still enjoy as well as almost 94,000 other veterans as of September 2013.

The committee took seven months to study the problem. Veterans, academics, and experts, including me since 2005, have been highlighting the lesser standard provided by the lump sum when compared to lifelong payments. In what sounds more like a self-justifying political treatise, the report speciously claims that “more seriously disabled veterans” would “probably” not want the lifelong recognition the monthly payments provide.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, but surely a massive disappointment, that the committee completely avoided making a clear recommendation.

The committee lazily suggests the bureaucracy carry out its own “comprehensive review” of the lump sum amount, with no set deadline.

Another delaying tactic is unnecessary to learn that Canadian courts pay out a maximum of $356,695 as of April 2014 or that the United Kingdom pays its veterans a maximum of £570,000 (just over a million dollars) for injuries. Veterans Affairs Canada’s internal audits indicate the lifelong payments provide substantially more to most veterans than the lump sum.

Families were also the “focus” of the comprehensive review and yet received just two recommendations. Increasingly, family members, such as Jenny Migneault, have been calling for assistance to care for their permanently-disabled veteran spouses.

I tabled specific recommendations to provide financial assistance (and medical support) to the spouses who often forfeit their careers to do the caregiving work VAC should be doing.

The committee recommended that financial support be limited to spouses of those veterans who are either within one year of being moved to a long-term care facility or within one year of death. This will not help Migneault.

Otherwise, the committee recommended family members be sloughed off to the Military Family Resource Centres. The centres do good work but they are not-for-profit organizations. They are not meaningfully accountable to government should they fail to provide services. They also do not have reliable sources of funding, a problem afflicting Veterans Affairs lately.

Perhaps some recommendations could improve the lives for a limited number of veterans and their families, only if bureaucrat policy writers are uncharacteristically generous. However, one particular ill-conceived recommendation will make life worse.

In addition to a limited pain and suffering lump sum, injured veterans if medically released from the Forces or unable to work due to military injuries rely upon income loss payments. Currently payments are pegged to 75 per cent of gross military salary. The ombudsman recommended that this be boosted to 90 per cent.

Rehabilitation experts, VAC advisory groups and eleven prominent veteran organizations called for 100 per cent while adding in future lost potential for the most disabled. The Veterans Affairs Committee called for 100 per cent in their more comprehensive report four years ago.

Mysteriously, this same committee recommended that the benefit be made non-taxable and pegged at 85 per cent of net salary, limiting the net salary to $70,000.

The disability plan serving MPs and bureaucrats does not impose limits. Why would parliament push for a lesser standard for veterans?

I did further research with WorkSafeBC and an Ottawa-based accounting firm. Let’s take two veterans with two typical ranks, corporal and captain. They each have 10 years of service, four annual pay increases, a spouse, two kids and live in Ontario. They are unable to work again due to military injuries. The corporal earned $60,000 in the Forces. Under the current income loss program, after tax income would be no less than $42,597. Under the committee proposed program, income loss payments would be no more than $37,758.

For the captain earning $85,632, the current program would pay $54,885 and the proposed program would pay $51,130.

WorkSafeBC would pay $41,112 for an equivalent salary to the corporal and $52,473 for a salary equivalent to the Captain.

Not one witness recommended this puzzling 85 per cent, let alone a maximum threshold, although WSIB Ontario uses 85 per cent of net income and a similar threshold.

The report decries the current income loss program for being modelled on the military insurance plan. Instead, committee proposes to replace a military insurance program and imitate civilian workplace insurance programs.

Fantino hyped this review only to have committee deliver a largely evasive list of bizarre or underwhelming recommendations. His response to the report was to promise a response by fall.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called military service “the highest form of public service.” Fantino’s escapades and inept management fall far short of respecting veterans and their families. Increasing neglect by government and certain organizations will encourage increasing desperation by veterans. The government had better start fighting for veterans soon or Canadians will stop fighting for government.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and a frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

https://www.hilltimes.com/2014/06/07/parliament-throws-veterans-under-the-bus-yet-again/28748/38748

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