Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

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Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by Trooper on Wed 11 May 2016, 05:37

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr has been non-committal on pensions for injured soldiers, group argues

A legal truce between the federal government and wounded and injured soldiers over the New Veterans Charter is in danger of falling part, according to a letter sent to Liberals MPs by a lawyer representing the veterans.

The peace agreement of sorts reached by the previous Harper government and the six Afghan war veterans who initiated a class-action law suit over pensions and other benefits is set to expire on May 15, 2016.

The agreement, formally called an "abeyance agreement," put litigation on hold while the two sides tried to reach an out-of-court settlement. That agreement continued after the election of the Liberal government last October.

But in the letter obtained by CBC News, it now appears that justice department lawyers are threatening to return the case to court if the veterans do not drop their litigation entirely and accept an undisclosed settlement proposed by the federal government.

According to the letter, justice department lawyers said that they would attempt to shut down the lawsuit by reviving some of the arguments they initially used during the Harper government era to block the case.

The lawyers argue that Canada does not have a social contract or covenant with veterans, and that a "scheme providing benefits cannot be said to amount to a deprivation merely because claimant views the benefits as insufficient."

The Harper government spent over $700,000 fighting this class-action lawsuit in court.

The plaintiffs have argued in court that the lump-sum payment wounded veterans receive under the new charter as opposed to the lifetime pension that was previously offered to veterans before 2006 is inadequate compensation, as they receive less money over the course of a lifetime.

They've also argued that it violates their rights the right to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Proposed settlement rejected by justice lawyers

The letter, penned by Donald Sorochan, the lawyer representing the class-action lawsuit plaintiffs pro bono, is written to Liberal MPs and former Liberal candidates who were actively involved with the veterans file during the last election campaign.

"At a recent Ottawa meeting on April 11, 2016, we and our clients met with justice counsel, the minister and ministry officials," Sorochan writes.

"We had expected that there would be a discussion with ministry officials instead of discussion occurring, justice counsel requested us to put a proposal in writing and stated that if the matter was not resolved by our clients dropping the litigation, the Court of Appeal would be invited by the Crown to render its decision."

Sorochan writes that his clients did draft a proposed settlement in writing, but it was rejected by the government on May 9, 2016.

"Our proposal was rejected, but I cannot tell you more than that because of confidentiality constraints insisted upon by the government," the lawyer tells Liberals MPs.

The plaintiffs proposed that the government confirm its commitment to "recognizing the moral, social, legal and fiduciary obligation between the people and the government of Canada to provide equitable financial compensation and support services to past and active members of the Armed Forces who have been injured," among other demands.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that it would be inappropriate to comment on the matter as it is before the courts, but said that it will continue its work to "restore critical access to services and support for financial independence."

Frustration with dearth of details

Sorochan said that the Liberal government had campaigned on restoring veterans benefits, but Veterans Minister Kent Hehr has so far been frustratingly non-committal as to the schedule and timing of some of his top priorities, namely implementing lifelong pensions for wounded veterans and improving survivor benefits.

The 2016 budget did allocate more than $4.6 billion over three years to boost support for veterans, namely reopening services offices, increasing the disability award and boosting the earnings loss benefit for injured veterans and expanding access to the permanent impairment allowance but it was silent on pensions, the biggest sticking point.

The Liberal platform in the last election explicitly promised to restore that benefit. "We will re-establish lifelong pensions as an option for our injured veterans, and increase the value of the disability award," the platform reads.

Sorochan said that his clients cannot be expected to drop their lawsuit against the government while they remain in the dark about some of their most pressing concerns.

"Many veterans were disappointed to see what was not included in the 2016 budget, including the promised lifetime pensions which campaign materials suggested would be introduced in the 2016 fiscal year," Sorochan writes to Liberal MPs.

"While the direction from the government to the minister and the department is very encouraging, as much clarity as possible is sought as to what reforms are likely to be reflected in the 2017 budget," Sorochan writes. "It is necessary to know these details in order to assess the potential for positive enhancements in the treatment of the representative plaintiffs, class members and veterans generally."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/government-new-veterans-charter-1.3575845
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by teentitan on Wed 11 May 2016, 11:14

I believe we all now know why there has been zero information on the lifelong pension. It's going to court.
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by Trooper on Wed 11 May 2016, 13:20

I just hope that D Sorochan has washed his hands with trying to swing a deal with the government , the process will be long enough without having to go back an forth trying to negotiate with a government who is clearly not going to commit to what the Equitas suit wants.

Time to get on with the suit , enough delays already !
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by teentitan on Wed 11 May 2016, 13:33

Here's the Catch-22 if the Equitas lawsuit goes forward. If the Liberals want to they can stop all policy groups, reviews, planning to bring the life long pension back until the lawsuit is finished.

The life long is part of the lawsuit.

So the question is this...did the Liberals make the promise knowing they can drag the Equitas lawsuit on in courts to delay their promise?

Or...

Are the Liberals going to let the court decide if they have to bring back the life long pension?
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by bigrex on Wed 11 May 2016, 15:58

IMO, they should keep chugging away in both the courts and in the advisory groups. If the Liberals reintroduce the PA pension, as it was, then the court case can be dropped. If they bring something forward that falls short, then we can wait to see what the courts feel is adequate. If the Liberals put everything off, on the pretext of waiting for the courts to decide the outcome, they know that there will be massive repercussions. They've already seen the backlash just from not including it in this year's budget, so I don't think they want to risk what will happen if they freeze all the ongoing discussions. After all, their promise was to bring back the pension, not just wait and allow the courts to tell them if they have to.
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by teentitan on Wed 11 May 2016, 16:18

Well if they do go on with the advisory groups then Mark Campbell is out. There is no way in the legal world can you sue the government and sit on an advisory group at the same time. It is the classic conflict of interest.

That said I hope the Libs ignore the Gov. Lawyers and do carry on with the advisory groups.
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by RCN-Retired on Wed 11 May 2016, 22:33

I cannot see how Trudeau can do anything but not listen to the lawyers as he is on record of running an election that government does have a social covenant to veterans as well as personally stated this many times. To have government lawyers again pipe the Conservative line that there is no agreement, while can't see that going to far as a PMs words is pretty much what have have always gone on. Maybe a few hundred legal suits against Trudeau personnaly may be in order if this whole thing goes sideways because if it does he obviously lied to Canadians.
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by Trooper on Thu 12 May 2016, 06:22

I think the Liberals already know exactly what they will be bringing forward in terms of lifelong pensions , they also know that there's going to be a lot of disappointed Veterans.
I think that is what's holding everything up , they are working on the fine print to make it as pretty as they can knowing full well that the backlash is going to be huge.
It's a stall tactic , at least that's what I'm thinking.
Dragging it out as long as they can.
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by Guest on Thu 12 May 2016, 14:30

Pigs Will Fly before life long pensions will be restored.

We MUST move on,life long pensions,WILL NEVER HAPPEN!

Fight for the benefit improvements that are in the works.

Its like Lamp lighters,human alarm clocks and switch board operators----Over and out!

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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by Trooper on Thu 12 May 2016, 16:36

Like Rex said , anything could be a lifelong pension.

What happened here is that the Liberals promised something (Bringing Back Lifelong Pensions) under the influence of what was explained to them from certain Veteran groups during the Liberal campaign.

Our Minister confirmed this in one of his speeches.

Once the Liberals got elected and appointed our Minister , the bureaucrats got a hold of our Minister and put some reality checks forward with respect to the aspects of bringing back lifelong pensions , and what Veterans are expecting in terms of this lifelong pension.

It all went down hill from there as our Minister has been dodging questions asked about this particular promise , even as of late with respect to the last Stakeholder Summit.
The Equitas suit does not seem to be happy with the answers they are getting either.

It's all a game and the politicians and the bureaucrats are experts at playing the game.

In the meantime we wait yet again for info concerning bringing back the lifelong pension.
Like I said in my above post , I'm sure they have a plan in place , it's just a matter of dressing up the plan to suit Veterans.
By dressing I don't mean anything that resembles the PA tax free lifelong pension , what I mean is dressing it up to make it seem as though it is a good deal for Veterans.

JMO
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Ottawa's legal manoeuvre on veterans benefits called 'a betrayal'

Post by Trooper on Tue 17 May 2016, 18:47

Lawyer for injured Afghan veterans says court action turns 'Liberal election campaign into a lie'

The federal government is taking veterans back to court to try to block certain benefits for injured and wounded soldiers, despite a Liberal campaign promise to better support them after an era of Conservative cuts.

"It's a betrayal," said Donald Sorochan, the lawyer representing the six Afghan war veterans who initiated a class-action lawsuit over pensions and other benefits.

"They have turned the Liberal election campaign into a lie. I sat at tables [during the campaign] with some of the people who are now in cabinet. Those ministers have been turned into liars by the Department of Justice," he said Tuesday, noting the election platform explicitly promised that no veteran would have to "fight the government" for the support and compensation they have earned.

A peace agreement of sorts reached by the previous Harper government and the veterans, the plaintiffs, expired Sunday. The two sides failed to reach an out-of-court settlement, and now government lawyers have informed the B.C. Court of Appeals that they will pick up the lawsuit where it left off.

The plaintiffs have argued in court that the government has a sacred obligation to its injured soldiers and that the lump-sum payment wounded veterans receive under the New Veterans Charter as opposed to the pension that was previously offered to veterans before 2006 is inadequate compensation, as they receive less money over the course of a lifetime.

They've also argued that it violates their rights the right to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The social covenant is this promise that our country, Canada, has promised service people they will be protected when they get maimed and their families will be looked after if they are killed," Sorochan said.

Government lawyers outraged veterans by asserting that the federal government has no extraordinary obligation to those who have fought for the country, and therefore the litigation has no merit.

The justice department lawyers tried to block the case during the Harper era by arguing that Canada does not have a social covenant with veterans, and that a "scheme providing benefits cannot be said to amount to a deprivation merely because claimant views the benefits as insufficient." They also said that the plaintiffs "seek to advance a pure economic interest."

Erin O'Toole, who was brought on by Harper to replace Julian Fantino on the veterans file, ultimately repudiated those arguments and tried to put an end to a political headache that had been dogging the Tories for months.

Moreover, all parties voted unanimously in favour of a motion introduced by NDP MP Fin Donnelly last May, which recognized a "stand-alone covenant of moral, social, legal and fiduciary obligation exists between the Canadian people and members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have been injured, disabled or died as a result of military service."

O'Toole also removed the lead government lawyer, Paul Vickery, from the case and replaced him with Joel Watson, a litigator from the private sector and himself a former veteran.

But Sorochan told CBC News that the government lawyers have told him they will now revive the argument that the government does not have a sacred obligation to veterans to try to kill the class-action lawsuit once and for all.

The Liberal government has also put Vickery back on the case.

'Charging into the valley of political death'

The plaintiffs agreed to drop their lawsuit if the government provided timetables for implementing Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr's mandate letter, which included pensions for injured veterans among other key promises.

But Hehr has so far been frustratingly noncommittal as to the schedule of some of his top priorities, Sorochan said.

"He's personable, but I don't think he engenders a lot of confidence that he's going to get things done for veterans," he said. "Usually, when you have a rookie minister, you have politically savvy minders that keep them out of trouble. He doesn't have them."

A spokesperson for the minister said Tuesday that Hehr "remains committed" to re-establishing lifelong pensions for veterans "and to all items in his mandate letter," but added that because the matter is before the courts it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Now, Hehr has signed off on sending the issue back to court, Sorochan said, which is a slap in the face to veterans who sought to find a mutually agreeable resolution.

"Why are others in his caucus allowing him to retreat to a position that contributed, at least in part, to the Conservative defeat? When you're told you're charging into the valley of death, by me, you'd think you'd stop charging.

"We walked down that path of reconciliation and we attempted to find a solution that would be in the best interest of all parties. But, for some reason, this minister has accepted arguments by the Department of Justice that they should slam the door on it and go back to court and re-ask the court to accept arguments that had been repudiated."

The Liberal platform in the last election explicitly promised to restore the pension benefit. "We will re-establish lifelong pensions as an option for our injured veterans, and increase the value of the disability award," the platform reads.

Justin Trudeau promises lifelong pensions for injured veterans
The 2016 budget did allocate more than $4.6 billion over three years to boost support for veterans, namely reopening service offices, increasing the disability award and boosting the earnings loss benefit for injured veterans and expanding access to the permanent impairment allowance but it was silent on pensions, the biggest sticking point.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/kent-hehr-veterans-court-benefits-1.3586013
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by teentitan on Tue 17 May 2016, 19:10

Well there goes the advisory group. As much as this sucks at least we won't hear Hehr chirp about his mandate letter because he just used it to blow his nose!
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by Guest on Tue 17 May 2016, 19:25

"Now, Hehr has signed off on sending the issue back to court, Sorochan said, which is a slap in the face to veterans who sought to find a mutually agreeable resolution."

"A spokesperson for the minister said Tuesday that Hehr "remains committed" to re-establishing lifelong pensions for veterans "and to all items in his mandate letter," but added that because the matter is before the courts it would be inappropriate to comment further."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/kent-hehr-veterans-court-benefits-1.3586013

MVA Hehr knew all along that the Liberals would not reinstate the life long pensions. And since the matter is going back to court, MVA Hehr does not have to answer any questions siting that it is before the courts jargon. I admit I drank the Liberal Kool-Aid and believed they would make good of their campaign promises and what is outlined in the mandate letter.

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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by RCN-Retired on Wed 18 May 2016, 01:16

Yup, been burned by the Liberals far to many times, never did believe they had morals. Trudeau must be so proud to carry on his families tradition of lieing, cheating and stealing from Canadians.
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Re: Legal truce over veterans benefits on shaky ground, lawyer warns MPs

Post by Dannypaj on Wed 18 May 2016, 07:59

It is not over.
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