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Ottawa must fulfill ‘sacred obligation’ to injured veterans

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Ottawa must fulfill ‘sacred obligation’ to injured veterans

Post by Bruce72 on Mon 18 Dec 2017, 11:04

Ottawa must fulfill ‘sacred obligation’ to injured veterans

The costs of the best possible care for our veterans should be built into any decision that puts soldiers in harm’s way.


Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan stands during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Tuesday, December 5, 2017.  (FRED CHARTRAND / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  


By STAR EDITORIAL BOARD
Mon., Dec. 18, 2017



In opposition and on the campaign trail Justin Trudeau was unequivocal about the federal government’s “sacred obligation” to those who have fought, and especially those who have been injured, for Canada. Yet in office, his commitment to veterans, to this moral duty, has not always been apparent. This week, when the government finally announces its overdue plan to restore lifetime pensions for injured soldiers, Trudeau’s rhetoric will be put to the test.

Sadly, reports of the frugal sums the government is purportedly set to offer suggest this is a test Trudeau may fail. According to unnamed government sources in the Globe and Mail and CBC News, Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan plans finally to deliver on the Liberals’ promise to restore the lifetime pensions scrapped by the Harper government, but at a hugely reduced rate. So much, it seems, for the sacred obligation.

That a country that chooses to send soldiers into harm’s way has a duty to care for them upon their return may seem self-evident. But in Canada it has long been a matter of some controversy.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, responding to a 2012 class-action lawsuit from six injured Afghan war veterans, claimed the government did not in fact have a “sacred obligation” to veterans. The lawsuit revolved around the Tories’ stingy New Veterans Charter, which, among other things, replaced lifetime pensions for injured veterans with a lump-sum payment, the value of which many veterans will simply outlive.

In opposition, Trudeau repeatedly denounced his rival’s dereliction and called on the Harper government to “start giving our veterans the help they deserve.” He promised, if elected, to bring back the lifetime pensions.

Once in office, the Trudeau government did invest significantly to restore services for veterans that had been cut under Harper. Yet progress on the pension front proved maddeningly slow. In the Liberals’ first budget, they ignored the issue. In their second, they still provided no money, committing only to establish a lifetime pension option by year’s end. Now, just under the wire, the government is set to announce a plan that critics say falls well short of what’s needed.

Apparently, under the new plan, veterans who qualify for benefits under the New Veterans Charter will, as of 2019, be entitled to a pension of up to $1,200 per month, with a maximum benefit of $376,000 over time. That’s the same total offered under the current policy, amortized over 30 years, and it amounts to less than half of the maximum $2,700-per-month benefit awarded to severely injured soldiers who left the military before 2006.

Advocates are understandably upset that the new amounts are insufficient to guarantee veterans a dignified post-military life. Many are also rightly concerned by the inequity that a soldier disabled early in the Afghan war, for instance, will be significantly better off than one who was injured later.

The government’s plan, as reported, would also consolidate a number of other benefits, simplifying a dauntingly prolix system. That’s a welcome move, but surely improving access to still-inadequate benefits fulfills neither the government’s promise nor its duty.

O’Regan, the veterans affairs minister, claims the specific amounts of the new pension have yet to be determined. If true, that’s good news. The government should listen to the critics, recall its earlier commitments, and finally fulfill Ottawa’s sacred obligation. The costs of the best possible care for our veterans should be built into any decision that puts soldiers in harm’s way.


https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2017/12/18/ottawa-must-fulfill-sacred-obligation-to-injured-veterans-editorial.html

Bruce72
CSAT Member

Number of posts : 732
Location : Newfoundland
Registration date : 2014-03-13

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