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Canadian Government maintains the barricades against veterans

May 6, 2013
The following open letter from Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society to The Hon. Steven Blaney, PC, MP – Minister of Veterans Affairs – lays out the ongoing roadblocks and mistreatment of our injured soldiers by the Canadian Government. It is printed in full and speaks for itself. Please read it.
An Open Letter to The Hon. Steven Blaney, PC, MP – Minister of Veterans Affairs
The Hon. Steven Blaney, PC, MP – Minister of Veterans Affairs, OTTAWA
Dear Minister Blaney:
Re:   Requesting Your Plan to Address Disproportionately Low Disability Settlements Made Under the New Veterans Charter
On behalf of the Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society we respectfully request a copy of the Government’s plan to properly compensate the many Canadian Forces members (“members”) who have received disproportionately low disability awards under the New Veterans Charter (NVC). Some of these disability settlements are only 10% of what Canadian citizens would receive under other compensation programs for the same workplace injuries. Please see the publicly available examples of deficient awards that are provided herein.  At issue is whether your Department actually accepts responsibility for these low NVC settlements. Specifically, Equitas is concerned about the motivation behind recent taxpayer-funded advertising by your Government that appears to oversell the NVC by emphasizing the maximum benefits available to a defined category of disabled members, and does not fairly represent settlements provided to partially and moderately disabled members.
The Equitas Society (“Equitas”), based in White Rock, B.C., was formed in 2011 to provide  support for disabled members, specifically “new veterans” returned from the Afghan war who have been disenfranchised by the NVC settlement process. Their cases illustrate major problems with some contents of the NVC legislation passed by Parliament with All-Party agreement in 2005, as amended in 2011 by your Government.
Since 2011, like many veterans organizations, Equitas has approached your Department on behalf of disabled members who are seeking better NVC settlements for their injuries.  In response to our outreach with senior officials of your Department in early 2012, your staff requested that Equitas provide, in writing, specifics of NVC problems in relation to these low disability settlements. To accommodate this request, in April 2012 we submitted to your Department, as well as to every Member of Parliament and Senator, a copy of our 72-page position paper outlining the negative aspects of the disability benefits provided under the NVC as amended by Bill C-55, often referred to as the Enhanced NVC.
Upon receiving Equitas’ position paper, the Veterans Affairs critics from both the Official Opposition New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party of Canada, along with the former Veterans Ombudsman – Colonel (Ret.) Pat Stogran, immediately contacted us, expressing support for this position paper. Unfortunately, over the past 12 months no one from your Department, and not one MP or Senator from the Conservative Party, has shown the courtesy of even acknowledging receipt of our position paper.
By late 2012, it became apparent that your Government was satisfied with the NVC as amended by Bill C-55, and there was no plan to address the disproportionately low settlements at issue for many disabled members returning from the Afghan War. Therefore their only option was to seek a legal remedy. As a result, on October 31, 2012 an application was filed by the law firm Miller Thomson LLP – acting in a pro bono capacity for several soldiers disabled during the Afghan conflict – in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. This action seeks to certify a class action lawsuit, which would apply to all Canadian Forces members who obtained low disability settlements under the NVC, or other representative class as certified by the Court.
The six representative plaintiffs describe their disability benefits received under the NVC in the filed Notice of Civil Claim. Two examples of the inadequate benefits received by the representative plaintiffs include the instance of a single lump sum award of $13,500 for both crushed legs that were put back together with metal rods/pins and plates; and, another single lump-sum award of $41,500 to a member for a wartime injury that resulted in the removal of his kidney, the removal of his spleen and permanent damage to his pancreas.  A third representative plaintiff, who is a senior officer, was injured in battle and had both of his legs amputated above the knee. He was awarded the maximum lump sum payment, and the maximum monthly support benefits.
The first two above-mentioned members did not receive any earning loss benefits from VAC, and their one-time, lump-sum payments are disproportionately low compared with the previous Pension Act, or with what other Canadians typically would receive for similar work-related injuries, and given the same disabilities (e.g., comparable Court awards and workers’ compensation benefits). The member with the double amputations will receive monthly earning loss benefits. However, under the NVC the total monthly support for this member will be reduced at age 65, and his monthly benefits are subject to less favourable tax and claw-back treatment than what applied to Canadian Forces disability benefits prior to the NVC.  Also, many of his injuries were not addressed under the NVC because he reached the maximum compensation level that he was allowed to receive.
We remind you that in its report released on April 4, 2013, entitled Improving the New Veterans Charter: The Parliamentary Review (enclosed), the Veterans Ombudsman’s Office placed considerable emphasis on the negative aspects of benefits for Canada’s most severely disabled veterans under the NVC, and especially the issue of reduced benefits at age 65. In April, the NDP Veterans Affairs Shadow Spokesman, Peter Stoffer, MP supplied Equitas with a copy of his Party’s Fair Treatment for Canadian Forces and RCMP Veterans and their Families document. It sets out a policy that was approved at the National NDP Convention in Montreal early last month. The NDP policy provides guidance on how the NDP believes cases of disproportionately low disabled benefits under the NVC should be treated. We note that the Federal Green Party has standing policy to address the failings of the NVC. We also note that on April 29, 2013 the Canadian Labour Congress released a statement taking issue with the NVC and its low settlements for many disabled soldiers as compared to the compensation provided the average Canadian worker.
Given the unresolved concerns surrounding disproportionately low settlements to disabled members under the NVC, we find it disingenuous that Conservative MP Russ Hiebert saw fit, during April 2013, to distribute to the constituents of his South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale riding – where our national veterans group is headquartered – a “householder” labelled Supporting Veterans and their Familes (also enclosed). This document stated that under the NVC seriously disabled veterans receive $40,000 per year in minimum income support, plus $1,632 per month in allowances and up to $300,000 in transitional payments. It then quotes Peter Stoffer, MP (NDP Veterans Affairs Shadow Spokesman) as having stated, in 2009, that the NVC now is “right at the top” of veterans’ benefits among leading Western countries.
This householder created the false impression that virtually all disabled soldiers are obtaining all of the benefits Mr. Hiebert cited, as a matter of course. The benefits identified in the householder actually are well beyond the award which many injured members have received. The benefits portrayed by MP Hiebert actually are reserved only for Canada’s most severely disabled soldiers (e.g. double/triple amputees).  Although he would have been factually correct to state that some members do receive such benefits, the real question that Mr. Hiebert’s householder avoided is: “What is your Government planning to do for those disabled members who have received, and continue to receive, disproportionately low settlements under the NVC?” We also find it difficult to understand why MP Hiebert quoted a 2009 NDP statement, when that Party’s Shadow Veterans Affairs Spokesman, Peter Stoffer, MP clearly was on record since then supporting more equitable and reasonable treatment of disabled members through needed NVC changes regarding the deficient lump-sum payments system, a position which became federal NDP policy at its last annual national Convention.
We note that you wrote a letter to the editor of our local community newspaper endorsing MP Hiebert’s message (copy – BELOW). With all due respect, nothing in your letter addresses what you are going to do for disabled members who have received disproportionately low settlements under the NVC.
In the spirit of trying to move forward, I am pleased to offer you an opportunity, at your convenience in the near future, to meet in the South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale riding with disabled members concerning their settlements under the NVC. The Equitas Society would be pleased to host such an event, further to a similar invitation we delivered to MP Russ Hiebert at his Constituency Office on April 8, 2013. Mr. Hiebert has responded in writing that for legal reasons he is unable to meet with disabled members in his riding in a town hall format set up by Equitas. Despite the position of our MP, we hope that now that you have taken such an interest in our community you will take the time to come here to discuss the complaints with the NVC of disabled members in a face-to-face meeting with them.
Please be advised that on May 6-9th, 2013, the Advisory Council to Equitas is coming to Parliament Hill as a non-/cross-partisan delegation to meet with MPs, Senators and Ministers so that members’ concerns about the need for improvements to disability benefits – and particularly to address the deficiencies of the lump-sum payment system – under the NVC can be recognized, and acted upon. The question for you to answer is a simple one, Mr. Minister: “What is the Government’s plan to properly compensate the many individual members who have received disproportionately low disability awards under the NVC?”
Note: The Equitas Advisory Council is comprised of notable Canadians, former parliamentarians representing the major federal political parties, plus a national community leader:  namely, two former House of Commons Speakers (Progressive Conservative Hon. John Fraser, PC, OC, O.B.C., QC. and Liberal Hon. Peter Milliken, PC, MA, LL.B), as well as a former Deputy Commons Speaker (New Democrat Hon. Bill Blaikie, PC, M.Div.); and, in addition, Mr. Prem Singh Vinning, President of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.
To facilitate these Equitas Advisory Council meetings, official requests have been made for our Advisory Council to meet with the Prime Minister, yourself and your colleague, the Minister of National Defence, as well as with the Leaders of the Official Opposition and of the Liberal Party of Canada, along with their Veterans’ Critics. We understand, from a recent e-mail we received from your Parliamentary Secretary, Eve Adams, MP, that the Government is not interested in meeting with the Equitas Advisory Council. I strongly encourage you to use your influence to ensure that our panel of distinguished Canadians is well-received by the Government on Parliament Hill next week.
On May 8, 2013 lawyers for the Federal Government and lawyers for the above-described Afghanistan War veterans will appear in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver before Mr. Justice Weatherill for a judicial management conference. Our understanding is that your Government’s lawyers will be seeking to strike down the application for certification, or in the alternative will seek an order permitting them to avoid filing a defence to the allegations of disproportionately low payments provided these Afghanistan War veterans under the NVC, until certification is granted. This will be an open court proceeding to which members, the public, and the media will be able to attend to witness how your Government is treating Canada’s disabled veterans.
In summary, we urge you to attach a high priority to providing a plan that – first, acknowledges that the NVC has provided, and still does provide, disportionately low settlements in certain cases; second, retroactively provides compensation at a level equal to the previous Pension Act and no less than awards under Canada’s workers compensation systems; third, includes meeting disabled members and their families face-to-face in order to appreciate the harm that the NVC has been creating for them; and lastly, ends the damage to disabled members and the Canadian public alike which the overselling of selective benefits under the NVC in Government announcements and publications creates. We look forward to your prompt reply.
Yours truly, Jim Scott, President
Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society
Peace Arch News – Published: April 16, 2013 9:00 AM
Re: MP under fire over veterans, April 9.
Canadian veterans have available to them one of the most comprehensive suite of benefits and services of any of our allies. Combined, Canadian veterans who are the most severely disabled from their service will receive a minimum income of $56,000 per year, in addition to home adaptation, rehabilitation, medical and personnel support, home cleaning and yard-maintenance services paid by our government. Given this level of support, my NDP critic is absolutely right; Canadian veterans’ benefits are right at the top, a fact which I believe we can all be proud of.
Steven Blaney,
Minister of Veterans Affairs, OTTAWA
For more background on our government’s failure to care for our wounded veterans, visit Equitas Society’s website, and my previous article on the subject: The Plan for the ‘Last Post Fund’ . Please come back to visit.
One Comment leave one →
  1. May 6, 2013 5:39 pm

    I hope Equitas gets a good turnout on May 8th. MP HIebert and Minister Blaney should be embarrassed and ashamed. And where are all the other government members who happily pose with veterans on November 11th?

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